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Concordia’s 3 new honorands describe a crucial turning point in their lives

An internet Hall of Famer, a Quebec business leader and a member of the Grey Nuns order recall their formative educational experiences
October 21, 2014
By Tom Peacock

Words of wisdom: Richard Stallman, Sister Jacqueline St-Yves and Michael Sabia Words of wisdom: Richard Stallman, Sister Jacqueline St-Yves and Michael Sabia.

At the 2014 fall convocation ceremonies, Concordia is welcoming three new honorands: Michael Sabia, president and CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation; and Sister Jacqueline St-Yves, on behalf of the congregation of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal.

On October 28, these distinguished recipients will address more than 1,900 students from across the university’s four Faculties and School of Graduate Studies.

In anticipation of the wise words to come, we asked them to describe their most formative educational experiences.

Michael Sabia on 3 phrases he’ll never forget

Michael Sabia
President and CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
Concordia convocation address: John Molson School of Business — 3 p.m. on October 28

Luck has played a big role in just about everything I’ve done in my career. In particular, I’ve been lucky to have had great teachers — in the classroom and beyond it. Two stand out.

Professor Ed Lindblom who taught me economics and politics when I was a graduate student at Yale. He was relentlessly demanding. Rigorous to a fault. He taught me how to think. He once said to me, ‟Academics often begin their work five places to the right of the decimal point. I want you to focus to the left of the decimal point.” From him, I learned the importance of the big picture.

Paul Tellier was my boss for 11 years, both in the Government of Canada and then at CN. He has a lot of qualities, but in particular two great phrases. “You are paid to bring me solutions, not problems.” And, “There are two categories of people in the world: simplifiers and complicators. I only work with the first bunch.” From him, I learned a lot about leadership and how to get things done — or as he puts it “getting the puck in the net!”

Richard Stallman on loss and resilience

Richard Stallman
President of the Free Software Foundation
Concordia convocation address: Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science and the Faculty of Fine Arts (combined) — 7:30 p.m. on October 28

In the 1970s, I was happy working in the informal free-software community of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. In 1982, a greedy spinoff company destroyed the community (see Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steve Levy).

I lost essentially everything I valued in my life. I spent two years denying that company what it had hoped to gain by destroying our community, but then I wanted to do something constructive. So I launched the GNU operating system to be the base of a new free software community, and with it the free software movement.

Sister Jacqueline St-Yves on the power of confidence

Sister Jacqueline St-Yves
Congregation of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal
Concordia convocation address: Faculty of Arts and Science — 10 a.m. on October 28

My life has been blessed by the presence of many and varied persons who helped me to believe in myself — one example is that of the principal of my school, Jean Philippon, in my small hometown in Saskatchewan.

Due to family circumstances, as a 15-year-old, I was away from school for the first two months of grade nine. Upon my return, it seemed to me that it would be impossible for me to remain in the same grade, to catch up for this lost time. Mr. Philippon insisted that I would be able to do it — he even announced to the class that this would happen. It did. With hard work and with his confidence in me, I was able to have a successful year.

He is but one example of all the people in my life who, in various circumstances, have believed in me, who have challenged me to go further and to not doubt of myself. They have been, in sorts, the "wind beneath my wings." I am grateful.

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