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‘Concordia becomes more than just a place of work’

The university celebrates employees who reached long service anniversary milestones or retired during the pandemic

Woman with long, blonde hair and glasses and wearing a suit, standing a speaking at a podium. Associate Vice President, Human Resources, Carolina Willsher: “You’ve contributed to making Concordia what it is today.”

On January 25, 2023, 257 Concordia employees were invited to a celebration in recognition of their 20+ years of service anniversaries that occurred in 2020, or retirements that took place in 2019.

“This is the first long service and retiree event that we have held since the pandemic. It’s great to have so many people in the room,” began Carolina Willsher, associate vice president of Human Resources.

Addressing the crowd, Willsher continued: “Imagine all that you’ve seen over the years. There’s been a lot of change at Concordia that our long-serving employees would have witnessed, participated in, and made happen. The university’s achievements don’t happen by themselves. They happen because there are people making them happen. And that’s you. You’ve contributed to making Concordia what it is today.”

Selvadurai Dayanandan, professor and chair of the Department of Biology, was celebrating 30 years of service at the university. He spoke to his fellow honourees and reflected on his career at the university.

“We have been part of the Concordia family for at least 20 years — and it can even be up to 50 years. We have been here for this long, which means we have a lot of trust in and loyalty to Concordia. I think we should be very proud of that.”

Man with short, greying hair and a large moustache, wearing a dark suit and standing on a city street Mike Babin: “The opportunities to learn and grow were constant.”

‘The time passed by so fast’

Mike Babin retired from his role as the director of Client and Infrastructure Services with IITS in January after more than 36 years at Concordia. Some of his favourite memories from his time at the university include a staff summer softball league and the Concordia Shuffle in the fall.

He was first hired by the university in 1986 as a communications analyst after a few years of working as a part-time computer resource in the Centre for Research in Human Development.

“My field has seen incredible change since I started,” says Babin. “There was no wifi, internet, or e-mail in 1986.” Back then, he says, heavy computing was performed on specialized mainframe computers as opposed to the current servers, and today’s typical desktop is unimaginably faster and has significantly more memory and storage than when he began his career.

According to Babin, the department has transformed in many ways over the years to better the delivery and support of IT services at Concordia and keep up with the ever-changing nature of the field, which was a major factor that kept him coming back year after year.

“The opportunities to learn and grow were constant,” says Babin. “The time passed by so fast — I must have been enjoying myself.”

'I want to thank all of you for that work'

Another event was held on January 26, to celebrate 216 employees who reached long service anniversary milestones in 2021 or retired in 2020.

Together, those being honoured represented 4,395 total years of service at the university.

Anne Whitelaw, provost and vice-president, Academic, welcomed and congratulated the attendees: “If you look at the impact that you have on making Concordia the great university that it is today, it’s remarkable, and I want to thank all of you for that work.”

President Graham Carr also thanked the attendees for their dedication.

“Long service awards speak to a number of qualities — for me, one of which is citizenship of the university: feeling that you have an important role to play and that you are in an environment that values you and your contributions towards making the university better. Thank you for your support in helping us achieve our many successes,” he said.

‘Welcomed and supported by the Concordia community'

For the past 16 years, Tatyana Bobrova has worked as a department administrator at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

Tatyana began her journey at Concordia in the Labour Relations Department in 2000 and has also worked in the Marketing and Communications Department (now University Communications Services) and the Office of Rights and Responsibilities.

“As a recent immigrant to Canada and as a single parent, I felt welcomed and supported by the Concordia community,” says Tatyana. “It was not always easy, but I was able to study part-time towards my MBA degree while working full time.”

In addition to that opportunity, Tatyana says she is grateful for all that the university has given to her, as its infrastructure is set up as a community that supports its employees and allows them to thrive both in work and in life.

“Concordia gets under your skin. It becomes more than just a place of work,” says Tatyana. “My colleagues have become my extended family. I've gotten to know them well over the last 16 years and built a bond with them. I have seen them join Concordia as young faculty or staff, start their careers, start families, have children, and have seen their children grow up and go to colleges and universities [...] Working with people I respect and admire is the best part of my job.”

Woman with long, dark hair standing and speaking at a podium. Zineb Bencheikh: “Concordia feels like a second family, and a place that I proudly call home.” | Photo: Julian Haber

Zineb Bencheikh, director of administration in the Office of the Dean at the Gina Cody School of Engineering was celebrating her own 20 years of service. Bencheikh spoke on behalf of the year’s honourees, recognizing their dedication. “Concordia feels like a second family, and a place that I proudly call home.”

“Every one of you does their best to make everybody next to them look good. And that’s community.”

‘I feel privileged’

Last September, Silvy Panet-Raymond served her final day as professor and chair of the Department of Contemporary Dance in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Having taught on a part-time basis beginning in September 1980, she eventually became a full-time professor and director of the Modern Dance program, before becoming chair of the department.

“At the same time, Montreal was becoming one of the most thriving centres of dance — a context where students were expected to be versatile movers, technically savvy, and creatively equipped to embody new choreographic ideas,” says Panet-Raymond.

After several moves over the years, the dance studios are now located on the 7th floor of the JMSB building, which Panet-Raymond lovingly calls “7th Heaven”.

“My [now-retired] colleague Michael Montanaro worked closely with planners to design studios easily converted into performing and experimental spaces equipped with state-of-the-art technology where trained students gain hands-on production experience,” says Panet-Raymond. “Highlights are often shaped by people who have had the opportunity to shine [...] because the mission of the department has always emphasized the development of each student’s particular artistic vision.”

Some of those memorable moments for her include seeing graduates who are recognized as outstanding choreographers, artistic directors of companies and institutions, performers, teachers, and more.

“I feel privileged to have witnessed their wonderfully inventive student projects and to have accompanied them on their journey,” she says.

Three people wearing name tags standing together, smiling. Helene Medeiros, Jose Medeiros and Michel Gendron at the long-service celebration last May.

‘The people have been a highlight’

Last May, Concordia held another celebration in recognition of 231 employees who reached long-service anniversary milestones in 2022 or retired in 2021.

“How many organizations do you know who can say that they have people who have been celebrating 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years of service? It’s really extraordinary,” said Carolina Willsher, associate vice president of Human Resources, to cheers from the crowd as the event kicked off. 

Concordia President Graham Carr reflected on the successes and recognition the university has seen since the employees in attendance would have joined the university, particularly in research excellence.

“We’re all part of the same team in terms of putting together winning conditions,” he said, “and that’s something we need to be immensely proud of. I think we are achieving phenomenal things thanks to our community.”

Smiling woman with shoulder-length, curly dark hair, wearing a colourful top of navy, blue and yellow diamonds. Linda Dyer celebrated her 40-year anniversary at the university in 2021.

Motivated throughout her 40-year career

Having celebrated her 40-year anniversary at the university in 2021, Linda Dyer, a professor in the Management Department, says she is always happy to tell people she works at Concordia.

Dyer became an assistant professor in 1982 — a time where there was only one tenure-track woman in the department and only two in the entire business school.

“Today the department’s composition is close to 40 per cent women,” Dyer points out.

Dyer went on to co-found the annual Graduate Research Exposition, an event showcasing the research of students in the PhD and MSc programs that has now served as a meeting place and source of fun and learning for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and more for 15 years.

In terms of what kept her coming back throughout her time at Concordia, Dyer says she feels the university is an integral part of the city of Montreal.

“I like the traditions from which our university arose. Sir George Williams was born in the YMCA and allowed working people to take evening courses that helped them better their lot in life, and Loyola’s Jesuit roots recall the traditions of intellectual rigour and community service,” says Dyer. “When I find these values in my students and colleagues, I am motivated!”

Richard Courtemanche, associate dean of academic programs in the Faculty of Arts and Science, spoke on behalf of the honourees, reflecting on his career over the past 20 year at Concordia.

“Definitely, the people have been a highlight — people who value students, imagination, innovation, and who work very hard so that Concordia thrives.”

From work colleagues to friends and family members

Denis De Melo, senior faculty financial officer in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been working at Concordia for 21 years since he started as a budget analyst in the Budget Office in Financial Services in May 2002.

Throughout his time at Concordia, Denis has witnessed numerous changes to the faculty, including working with four different Deans and seeing the faculty’s budget, external research funding, and number of faculty members double in size.

“With all these changes came an increase in the number of accounts we needed to manage and, most recently, a new information system to work with,” says Denis.

“Thanks to the help of my assistants, we have been able to work through all these changes and efficiently manage our budgets annually to help all our departments and faculty members in a professional and timely manner.”

Among his favourite memories at the university, some of Denis’s highlights include balancing budgets during difficult years and presenting a budget presentation to the CFO that helped transform how current budgets are allocated.

“My most memorable moment was the year I worked for two faculties at the same time,” says Denis, referencing the time he agreed to help manage a colleague’s faculty budget in addition to his own while the colleague was away on leave.

“It was a gesture I knew he would do if I was in the same situation. It is also symbolic of how over time at Concordia, some people go from being just work colleagues to being friends and family members.”



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