Honorary degree citation - Eric McLean*
By: Sandra Paikowsky, June 1995
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you the eminent Canadian music critic, Eric McLean. For fifty years, Mr. McLean has encouraged, supported and celebrated the music of the past, the present and even the future for the benefit of Montrealers. His insightful writing in three Montréal daily newspapers and numerous journals was consistently admired and respected for its integrity, its intellect and its honesty. Even those who were reluctant concert goers, vicariously enjoyed what they had missed through Mr. McLean's superb analyses.
Born in Montréal, Mr. McLean graduated from McGill University's Conservatory of Music. He joined the Montreal Standard in 1945 as an entertainment critic, becoming the assistant editor the following year. From 1949 and for the next thirty years, he was the music critic for the Montreal Star. He then went to The Gazette and was named its music critic emeritus when he retired in 1988. He was also the President of the Music Critics Association of America and the Montreal's Critics Circle. A pianist himself, among his many early "discoveries" was Glenn Gould.
In addition to his work in the performing arts, Mr. McLean had a second career in the visual arts. His purchase and restoration of the Papineau House in Old Montréal in the early sixties began the revitalization of Montréal's most historic quarter. Prompted by his actions, the Viger Commission was created in 1963 to advise the city planning department on the conservation of Old Montréal. He was later honoured for his pioneering work by the Montréal Historical Society, an organization almost as old as the Papineau House itself. In addition, Mr. McLean was a Member of the Canada Council, on the Board of Governors of both the McCord Museum and the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal as well as McGill University and a member of the Montréal Arts Council. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1975. Without "skipping a beat", he also translated Jean Palardy's classic study The Early Furniture of French Canada and a year later, in 1964, he published his own research, The Living Past of Montreal.
When Eric McLean was honoured by the Montréal Symphony with a dedicated concert in 1971, one musician commented: "The fact is that he is simply the best there is"; and that is undoubtedly, the single most important reason why we are honouring him today.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege for me, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, to present Eric McLean so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.