November 17, 2010
Hélène Desmarais is one of four eminent Montrealers who will join the ranks of the Academy of Great Montrealers this evening, bringing their number to 114. The prestigious event, organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, has been saluting exceptional Montrealers for 30 years now, for their outstanding contributions to the community in their respective spheres of activity, whether that be economic, social, cultural or scientific.
Ms. Desmarais has been Chair of the Board of Directors of HEC Montréal since 2003. She 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, the first technology incubator of its kind in the country, and serving as its Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. Since then the Centre has helped launch and fostered hundreds of start-ups, particularly in the fields of information technology, multimedia, industrial technology and life sciences. Ms. Desmarais also founded and chairs the boards of the Société de développement économique Ville-Marie and the Société d’investissement jeunesse, two non-profit organizations.
Ms. Desmarais is also Chair of the boards of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) endowment fund and the Montreal Economic Institute and, as well as of the advisory board of the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal. She is Deputy Chair of the Board of the MSO and of the HEC Montréal International Advisory Board, which she was instrumental in creating. One of the leading figures on the Quebec business scene, she serves as a director of many other organizations and sits on the Board of Governors of the Conference of Montréal. Among the boards of directors she has chaired in the past is the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
Ms. Desmarais holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Finance specialization) from HEC Montréal, and was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in April, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to Quebec’s socioeconomic and cultural development. In 2009, she received two honorary doctorates: from the Université Lumière Lyon, in France, and from St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia. Also in 2009, she received the gold medal from the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine. In 2007, the Université de Montréal alumni association granted her its Order of Merit, its highest distinction. In 2002, she 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.
The other three individuals elected to the Academy of Great Montrealers in 2010 are Claude Montmarquette (scientific sector), Professor Emeritus at the Université de Montréal and President and CEO of CIRANO, comedian Yvon Deschamps (cultural sector), and Dr. Gilles Julien (social sector), social pediatrician and President and CEO of the Fondation du Dr Julien.