What do you find most inspiring about your work at the University?
The work environment at the University of Ottawa is really outstanding. The energy students put into study and research make the University a truly stimulating and unique place, and that’s what I like most here.
What project is taking up most of your time right now?
Preparing the Facilities Improvement Capital Plan budget for next year. We’ve made huge investments over the last few years, from $25 to $30 million a year, and we intend to continue, based on the University’s Destination 20/20 plan, focusing on action to improve student meeting and work spaces, as well as laboratories.
We also intend to increase the number of places in residence, not only by planning new residences but by trying to take advantage of existing buildings that can serve as residences right away.
For example, we converted two small houses into residences over the last few months to accommodate more students on campus, and we rented part of the Église Sacré-Cœur to create an additional 150–seat classroom.
What has been the proudest moment of your life? OR What are you most proud of?
My grandchildren, without a doubt. It’s so extraordinary to see them grow and develop and understand their new environment. For example, Emerick, at one and a half, is able to turn on his father’s iPad and find his favourite game in a few seconds. And to think that I had to ask the Bookstore clerk to show me how to use one…
Who has the biggest influence on your life today and why?
It’s hard to say. I’d say that many people have influenced my way of thinking, be it Gandhi with his non–violent approach, or the Dalai Lama, with his unbelievably deep understanding of human nature and the issues that every person must deal with in his or her life. He understands that every human being must deal with the same issues, regardless of background, culture or language. Victor Hugo also wrote a lot on this and his books, which are among the greatest classics, are still current today, for me.
What would your coworkers be most surprised to learn about you?
That I’m a poet at heart, reflective by nature. The fact is that I am perceived as a manager who worries about budgets, it seems, but in reality I draw many ideas from research and meditation.
What are your favourite pastimes?
I love being on water. The region is full of remarkable bodies of water, whether it’s the Ottawa River, with its deepwater bays bursting with an incredible variety of migratory birds, from geese to swallows, whose numbers are starting to return, as if to show that steps taken for sustainable development are beginning to bear fruit in the wild.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do?
First of all, I’d share some of it with my parents and friends, to help them out with their lives, but I think that what I would like most would be to give of myself to humanitarian organizations involved in developing better housing, such as Vilaj Vilaj in Haiti. I strongly believe in building housing from recycled containers because they can be easily transported anywhere in the world where they’re needed. I really like the idea of public gardens for the homeless.
Which five people, living or deceased, would you like to invite to dinner at the Food Court and why?
My three grandsons and my partner’s granddaughters. I’d want to show them how exciting and stimulating the student world is by having them meet students, professors and staff, and— why not—the president, whom we run into quite often on campus talking with people from the University community. Actually, once I had Eliott, my oldest grandson, who’s seven, on campus. It’s incredible how he managed to make contact, not only with my co–workers, but with administrative staff, students and even the VP academic and provost at the time, Robert Major, who shared a meal with us in the cafeteria.
What is your favourite place on campus? Why?
Indoors, it’s without a doubt the Library. Not only does it contain a large amount of documents and knowledge, but is also a place where one fully experiences the thirst for knowledge of the students working there. Outdoors, the green park next to the Unicentre is pretty remarkable for its number of daily happenings, and the heavy traffic of 40,000 students in between courses.