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Honorary degree citation - Mary MacCormack*

By: James H. Whitelaw, June 1975

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Sister Mary MacCormack of the Congregation of Notre Dame, a distinguished educator, who has made a major contribution to the evolution of English-language post-secondary education in the Province of Quebec.

A native of Prince Edward Island, graduate of universities in Montreal and in the United States, where she specialized in Theology, Sister MacCormack's varied career in the field of education brought her some twenty years ago to what was at the time a small, although well established, Catholic college in Montreal, and the remarkable development of Marianopolts College has been closely associated with her, first as a professor of Theology, and, since 1961 as President.

Church-related institutions have been perceived by many as symbols of rigidity and traditionalism. Marianopolis, under the guidance of Sister MacCormack has once again shown, this time most strikingly, that this perception is usually false. In the nineteen-sixties, Marianopolis, as a four-year women's liberal arts college, affiliated with the University of Montreal, developed a wide range of innovative programmes. Programmes, however, cannot flourish unless they are flavoured by the atmosphere in which they are given. One of Sister MacCormack's outstanding achievements is to have brought about an active and effective participation of students, faculty and administration in the running of the institution, at a time when this very issue was to cause unrest or even upheaval on many North American campuses.

In the late nineteen-sixties, creation of the collegial level in Quebec forced upon Marianopolis the difficult decision between attempted survival as an undergraduate institution, probably as a small and relatively insignificant part of an existing university, or consolidation at the collegial level. Thanks to the courage, foresight and persuasiveness of Sister MacCormack, the latter route was chosen, but without abandonment of the traditional innovativeness of Marianopolis. Thus it is that Marianopolis, on the one hand, became coeducational and, on the other, introduced a programme for women with young children, whereby the mother could study while her children were being looked after.

The result of this imaginative approach to dramatic change is clearly manifested in the existence of an institution whose reputation for quality places it in an envious position in the English language collegial system. The College stands as a monument to Sister MacCormack's imagination and conviction, and if the English language collegial system is in need of a model, it cannot do better than turn to Marianopolis.

Mr. Chancellor, I am honoured to present to you, on behalf of the University Senate, and by authority of the Board of Governors, Sister Mary MacCormack, that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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