Honorary degree citation - Alex C. Duff*
By: Stanley J. Kubina, June 1982
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Alex Duff, athlete, business executive, indefatigable community worker, a father of our University and a teacher by virtue of the example of his deeds.
In honouring Alex Duff today, Concordia University pays tribute to a sensitive, dedicated gentleman whose distinguished career provides a role model not only for our students, but also for community workers and university administrators who are hard pressed to guide universities safely through austere times.
Alex Duff received all of his formal education in Montreal. In the hard years of the Depression, he worked his way through McGill and graduated with a B.Sc. in 1937. At McGill he was the leading scorer on its outstanding hockey team from 1934 37.
While pioneering after graduation as a mining engineer at Toburn Gold Mines in Kirkland Lake, he played for the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils; Allen Cup Champions and the Team of the Year in Canada for 1940.
In 1941 he answered the call of his country and joined the Air Force to become a navigator and an instructor. An optimist by nature, while on leave in Britain after V-E Day, he volunteered for the Pacific theatre expecting the war to be over by Christmas.
Having done more than his share, he took his discharge in Montreal and joined Henry Morgan & Company in 1945. As Executive Vice-President and General Manager at Morgan's in the mid-sixties, he obtained first-hand experience in the merging of companies. He was the man in the middle in the negotiations during the takeover of Morgan's by The Hudson Bay Company. He joined Henry Birks in 1967 and successfully filled several positions; Director, Vice-President Merchandising and more recently as President of American Operations.
During his successful professional career, he gave full measure of his time to community affairs. The Montreal Children's Hospital, the McKay Centre, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Montreal Association for the Blind, and the Red Feather Appeal and many others have all been touched by his beneficient activity. As Chairman of the 1967 Red Feather Campaign, he was proud to report a success that would fund the deficits of the Federated Appeal of Greater Montreal for several years.
Such dedicated service has its well-springs in a deep, quiet spirituality. Indeed, Alex Duff has been President of the Canadian Bible Society for two years and he has been an elder of the Montreal West Presbyterian Church and School Superintendent for twenty-five years.
But Mr. Chancellor, there is one aspect of his service that holds a special interest for our University. Alex Duff joined the Board of Governors of Sir George Williams University in 1963 and became Chairman in 1969. As Co Chairman of the Joint Committee negotiating the merger of Sir George and Loyola, he demonstrated both his sensitivity to personal feelings as well as his business experience in nudging the negotiations forward at critical times when they were stalled. As Concordia was born, he took it as a personal challenge when many scoffed that - "those Protestants, Catholics, and Jews will never get along".
As first Chairman of the Concordia Board of Governors he dedicated untold hours of his time to make certain that the merger would work. To this end, he directed his special style of leadership and his ability to achieve concensus. Mr. Chancellor, I believe that in large part, we are here today because these efforts were successful. His personal efforts to obtain community support brought in more than two million dollars of precious donations to this University.
Because of his enthusiastic interest in athletics, he was most active in organizing this important element of university life. When his business duties took him outside the country, and he sadly had to retire as Chairman, he continued his activities with students, Concordia Associates and the Development Fund. In all of this, it has been his fond hope that the merger he helped to effect would become a constructive example for others.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a distinct honour and privilege for me, on behalf of Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, to present to you, Alex Duff, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.