December 17, 2009
The Université Lumière Lyon paid tribute to Hélène Desmarais, Chair of the HEC Montréal Board of Directors, by conferring an honorary doctorate on her at the opening ceremonies for the 22nd Entretiens Jacques Cartier, in late November. Eight other people from Quebec and elsewhere in Canada received similar recognition from eight universities and grandes écoles in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, at the traditional honorary degree award ceremony, held this year at the Opéra de Lyon.
This great honour was in fact the third for Ms. Desmarais in 2009 alone. Earlier this year, she received an honorary law degree from St. Francis Xavier University and the gold medal from the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine.
Hélène Desmarais is known for her unflagging commitment to the community, particularly in the areas of education, economics and finance, health, culture and support for young people. Her name is also closely linked with entrepreneurship and innovation. She was in fact a pioneer in this respect, founding the Centre d’entreprises et d’innovation de Montréal in 1996, of which she is Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. The Centre has helped to launch some 300 enterprises over the years, and three-quarters of them are still in operation.
One of the leading figures on the Quebec business scene, she serves as a member or chair of some twenty boards of directors. These include the boards of the Montreal Economic Institute, the Ville-Marie economic development corporation, the Société d’investissement jeunesse and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Foundation. She is also the Deputy Chair and founder of the HEC Montréal International Advisory Board, Deputy Chair of the Board of the MSO and Chair of the advisory boards of the Faculty of Medicine and the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. She sits on the boards of the C.D. Howe Institute, Génome Québec, the HEC Montréal – Concordia Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations and the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, among others.
Ms. Desmarais holds a Bachelor's in Business Administration (Finance specialization) from HEC Montréal, and in 2002 was awarded the Jubilee Medal to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, for her exceptional and exemplary contributions to Canada. In 2007, the Université de Montréal alumni association granted her its Order of Merit, its highest distinction.
The Entretiens Jacques Cartier, created in 1987, is a major annual event held in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, and once every three years in Quebec. Every year, it brings together some 3,500 academics, decision makers, businesspeople, artists and political figures from all over the world, to propose initiatives in the economic, socio-political, scientific and cultural sectors.