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Mulroney dons the maroon and gold

by Archives December 7, 2005

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney received an honorary doctorate degree at Concordia’s fall convocation at Place des Arts on Monday. The degree, awarded by the John Molson School of Business, honours Mulroney for his achievements as Prime Minister and his contributions to the business world.

Mulroney was elected in 1983 as Canada’s 18th Prime Minister. His Conservative party remained in power for nine years and introduced significant policies such as free trade, the Canada-U.S. acid rain treaty, and the Goods and Sevice Tax. In addition, his government played a leading role in ending apartheid in South Africa.

Concordia’s President Claude Lajeunesse, who made his ceremonial entrance with the alumni, hailed Mulroney as an exceptional leader.

“He had the courage to introduce phenomenal changes.to question fundamental structures.and to persist in difficult conditions,” Lajeunnesse told the graduates.

Mulroney, who spent four and a half months in hospital for an infection of the pancreas earlier this year, was set to receive the honour at last June’s convocation, but was too ill to attend. In his 20-minute address, the former leader spoke candidly about the challenges he has faced in the past year.

“I had a pretty rough year,” Mulroney, 66, admitted, “I’m happy to be here with you today, I’m happy to be anywhere today!” he said, causing laughter in the crowd.

Throughout the ceremony, a smiling Mulroney looked well and seemed in high spirits. Throwing the audience for a loop, he jokingly exclaimed, “I may be running again!” adding that, after all the current Prime Minister is older than he was. He even managed to crack a joke about the much-publicized secretly recorded Mulroney interview book.

On a more serious note, Mulroney connected with the new graduates on a heartfelt level by touching on his working class roots and the importance of getting a higher education.

“My father told me, ‘Brian, the only way out of a paper mill town is through a university door.'”

Paying brief tribute to his father, an electrician for a paper factory, he said, “My father carried a lunch pail, so we didn’t have to. Your parents have provided the inspiration and sacrifice.without your parents, and mine, none of us would be here today.”

Mulroney urged the class of 2005 to think of their new diplomas as ‘passports,’ and to use them to become leaders at the local and international level.

“Idealism and principle are the great gifts of the young,” he told the Concordia delegation.

A graduate from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, and from Laval University law, Mulroney has received several other honorary degrees including one from the University of Missouri, in 1998. Prior to entering politics, he practiced law in Montreal and was President of the Iron Ore Company. He was also a member of Concordia’s Board of Governors from 1978 to 1983. He is currently a senior partner at the Ogilvy Renault law firm.

Also honoured at the ceremony were film producer Michael Spencer, who received a doctorate of humane letters for his contributions to Canadian film and, in an earlier ceremony, Allan Gotlieb, who was presented with a doctorate from Arts and Science, in recognition of his achievements as a diplomat, scholar and community leader. Mulroney, Spencer and Gotlieb will join a long list of honorary degree recipients which includes Paul Martin, Shirin Ebadi and, Marc Garneau. Concordia conferred 1,599 diplomas from the business, engineering, computer science and fine arts faculties at the ceremony.

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