Honorary degree citation - Ronald E. Lawless*
By: June Chaikelson, December 2003
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present you Mr. Ron E. Lawless, local businessman and philanthropist.
Born April 28, 1924 in Toronto, Ontario, Mr. Lawless would go on to achieve great success in his life, a success built on half a century of patient effort and hard work. Mr. Lawless joined Canadian National Railways in 1941, pausing to serve in the Royal Canadian Airforce from 1943 to 1946 before returning to resume his duties at CN. These early years with the railway were spent progressing through the ranks of the express department and into senior management, followed by increasing responsibilities in the development of inter modal services.
Mr. Lawless went on to become vice-president of freight sales in 1972, and vice-president of marketing in 1974. Five years later, he would be appointed president of the rail division and chief operating officer in 1982. In 1985 his authority was extended once again with an appointment to president and chief operating officer of Canadian National, with a seat on the board of directors.
His achievements did not go unnoticed, and he was named Canada's Transportation Man of the Year in 1986. Not content to stay put, he became president and CEO of Canadian National on January 1, 1987 and in May 1989 he assumed the additional position of president and CEO of VIA rail. Mr. Lawless retired from the rail business in 1992, but he continues to put his skills to good use as the principal of R.E.L. Consulting Services. He is also the current vice-president of the Old Brewery Mission, which has provided food and shelter to needy Montrealers for over 110 years.
M. Lawless devient vice-président des ventes marchandises en 1972, et vice-président du marketing en 1974. Cinq ans plus tard, il est nommé président de la division des services ferroviaires et chef de l'exploitation en 1982. En 1985, il devient président et chef de l'exploitation du Canadien National avec un siège au conseil d'administration.
Sa réputation ne cesse de s'accroître et il est nommé «Homme de l'année» du transport au Canada en 1986. Il ne s'arrête pas là et devient président et chef de la direction du Canadien National le 1er janvier 1987, puis président et chef de la direction de Via Rail en mai 1989.
Mr. Lawless's endeavours extend into the realm of education as well. He currently sits as President of the Bishop's University Corporation and occupies a seat on Concordia's Board of Governors. He served as the dedicated Chair of the University's Pension and Benefits Committees for many years, sharing his wealth of experience for the benefit of Concordia employees. Mr. Lawless has lived a life marked by success, the kind of success that arises not from luck or inheritance, but through persistent work of the highest quality.
Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Mr. Ron E. Lawless, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.