By: André Gervais, June 1986
Mr. Vice-Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Robert Choquette, distinguished man of letters, diplomat and public servant, and an eminent alumnus of one of our founding institutions.
Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Robert Choquette received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola College in 1926. While still an undergraduate student, he began writing poetry. His first collection of poems, entitled A travers les vents was published in 1925, a year before his graduation, and won the prestigious Prix David in 1926 for the best book of poetry. He was to receive the Prix again in 1932 and 1956. From 1928 to 1931, Mr. Choquette was literary editor of La Revue moderne and secretary and librarian at l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montréal.
En 1931, Robert Choquette publie Metropolitan Museum, genre de poème épopée sur les civilisations, qui reçoit un accueil chaleureux. Suit, en 1933, une collection, Poésies nouvelles. En 1953, une autre oeuvre poétique d'une importance capitale, intitulée Suite Marine est publiée. Celle-ci est couronnée du Prix de l'Académie française en 1954. Une deuxième collection, Ouevres poétiques est éditée en 1956. Romancier de premier ordre, monsieur Choquette écrit aussi plusieurs romans importants, dont La pension Leblanc, Les Velder et Moi Petruchka, ainsi qu'une pièce de théâtre, Sous le règne d'Augusta.
Conscient du rôle capital joué par les médias de communication, Robert Choquette travaille, pendant plusieurs années, dans les domaines de la radio et de la télévision. Bon nombre de ses ouvrages de théâtre radiophonique et télévisé connaissent use popularité assez remarquable: Le curé de village, de 1935 à 1938; Le fabuliste La Fontaine à Montréal, en 1935; La pension Velder, de 1938 à 1942, et de 1957 à 1961; et Métropole, de 1943 à 1956.
In the 1960s, Mr. Choquette began an illustrious diplomatic career. In 1963, he accepted the post of associate commissioner of the Centennial Commission, and served as Canadian consul-general in Bordeaux, France from 1964 to 1968. In 1968, he was named Canadian ambassador of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. He became companion of the Order of Canada in 1969.
In honouring one of our own today, we salute a Canadian literary figure whose contribution to our cultural heritage is both distinctive and rich in words and images. Perhaps the significance of Robert Choquette, the poet, is best described by Henri d'Arles, who is quoted in the 1926 edition of the Loyola College Review: "Robert Choquette, whom I am tempted to call 'sublime child', amongst other gifts possesses richness and originality of imagery. He possesses this gift to an extraordinary degree. The ability to create metaphors was, we know, the predominating quality of Châteaubriand and of Victor Hugo. This is why they were such great poets. Well gifted in this regard as he is, the author of "A travers des vents" will achieve great success. Are we at last before a poet who will reach the acme of poetical expression, whose genius will bring forth other things than flowers?" In the sixty years which have passed since these words were written, the answer to this question is a resounding 'yes'.
Mr. Vice Chancellor, it is a distinct honour and privilege for me, on behalf of the Senate and by authority of the Board of Governors, to present to you Robert Choquette, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
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