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Honorary degree citation - Charles Sirois

By: Charles Giguère, June 1999

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Charles Sirois, a leading figure in the Canadian telecommunications industry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Telesystem Ltd.

Born in Chicoutimi in 1954, the oldest of three children and the only son of Colombe Quennevilie and Simon Sirois, young Charles distinguished himself from his peers at an early age. Not inclined towards school or sports, he preferred to spend his leisure time at the credit bureau with his father, poring over delinquent credit accounts.

It was always assumed that Charles would play an active role in one of the family businesses. After acquiring a Bachelor's degree in Finance from I' Université de Sherbrooke and a Masters in Finance from l'Université Lavai, he announced that the only business he was interested in was Seteico, a tiny "pager" company. His reasons were simple. It was the only family business that was not subject to government regulation and had no industry giants as yet.

In 1978, with a loan from his uncle and a limitless global vision, Charles Sirois took the helm at Setelco. Within a few years, he had established himself as the leader of the Canadian paging industry through National Pagette and National Mobile Radio Communications Inc. In 1987, he merged these companies with Bell Cellular to form BCE Mobile Communications Inc., which he directed as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 1988 to 1990.

In 1984, he founded Telesystem Ltd., a private holding company of which he is the principal shareholder. The company's interests are wide ranging, encompassing personal communications, international communications, mobile satellite communications, as well as software, home automation and content production and distribution.

Charles Sirois is very much a self-made businessman. His colleagues refer to him as a visionary, a brilliant financier and negotiator without peer. At 45 years of age, younger than most of his colleagues and competitors, he is a tireless globe-trotter whose only possible regret might be that he doesn't have enough free time to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Charles Sirois' vision has included the creation of the International Institute of Telecommunications (L'institut international des télécommunications). He saw that if Canada and the Montreal region were to continue to lead in the communications industry, then action would have to be taken to increase the number and quality of graduates
leaving our universities. In addition, professional development programs would have to be instituted to ensure that those who work in the field could keep abreast of developments. Launched last April 1, as a not-for profit corporation, its membership comprises more than 15 companies and four universities. It is with pride that I note that Concordia was the first university to sign an agreement with the Institute.

Concordia students will benefit because they will have access to high quality laboratories and experts in the field. In addition, students will be on a fast track for employment by one of the member companies. Concordia will have the resources to develop and teach these courses, a matter of great importance in these days of budget cutbacks. Finally, telecommunications companies will have the means to address their need for more and better-qualified engineers. For your vision and for your dedication in ensuring that your vision became a reality, thank you, Charles Sirois.

Mr. Sirois' other business credentials include Chairman and CEO of Teleglobe Inc., Chairman of Telesystem International Wireless Ltd., Microcell Telecommunications Inc., and the CoscientGroup Inc. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the CGI Group, Algène Biotechnologies and I'ecole nationale de l'Humour. He serves as an advisor to a number of other companies and from 1994-1999, he chaired the highly successful capital campaign at l'Université du Québec à Montréal.

Mr. Sirois is a founding member of the Washington-based Global Information Infrastructure Commission and was a member of the Canadian Information Highway Advisory Council. In 1995, he published a book on the information highway titled The Medium and the Muse, and last April he published Passage obligé: passeport pour l'ère nouvelle, in which he shares his vision of the new economy and his management philosophy.

In 1994, Mr. Sirois was awarded the Order of Canada and in 1998 was made a knight of l'Ordre national du Québec. He has also been recognized for his accomplishments with honorary doctorates from both UQAM and the University of Ottawa.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you, on behalf of Concordia's Senate and the Board of Governors, Charles Sirois, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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