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Honorary degree citation - Robert E. Brown

By: William Taylor, June 2003

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you the distinguished Robert E. Brown widely respected for his accomplished contributions in public service, corporate leadership and social responsibility.

Robert Brown est né à Croydon, en Angleterre, où son père est au service des Forces canadiennes. Sa famille s'installe à Ottawa où Robert devient vite la vedette de son école et du basket-ball. Il étudie deux ans au Royal Roads Military College de Victoria puis au Collège militaire royal du Canada à Kingston, en Ontario, qui lui décerne un baccalauréat ès sciences en 1967. S'il apparaît alors aux yeux de ses camarades et professeurs comme un intellectuel d'un naturel tranquille, le cadet Brown se destine déjà à accomplir de grandes choses.

After graduation he served with the Canadian Armed Forces for several years, stationed in Germany as a signals officer, and then entered the Canadian Public Service in 1971. Over the next 16 years in the civil service, he built a most impressive resume. After beginning at Atomic Energy of Canada and then the Public Service Commission, he held a top position at the Treasury Board where he developed his passion for economic issues. In 1976, he was seconded to the Council of Maritime Premiers in Halifax where he was responsible for economic development policy. In a short time he demonstrated exceptional talent in industrial policy.

Returning to Ottawa in 1978, he rose rapidly through the ranks and was appointed a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of State for Economic Development where he earned a reputation in government as a great strategic thinker and persuasive mediator. When he became Associate Deputy Minister in the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, he led initiatives to attract Bell Helicopter and Japanese automotive manufacturers to Canada and to privatize Canadair and de Havilland. At the age of 41, after many years of distinguished public service, he decided to shift his energy and focus to the private sector.

Au début de 1987, M. Brown se joint à Bombardier à titre de vice-président au développement corporatif. Il commence par diriger certains projets aérospatiaux avant d'assurer la direction générale. En 1990, il est nommé à la présidence de Canadair et deux ans après, à la tête de Bombardier Aéronautique, où il est responsable des opérations aérospatiales de toute l'Amérique du Nord. Sous son leadership, la section Aéronautique connaît une croissance et des résultats sans précèdent, et devient l'unité la, plus rentable de toute l'entreprise ainsi que le troisième constructeur mondial en aéronautique civile. M. Brown dirige également le programme d'avion à réaction de transport régional, qui, en l'espace de dix ans, domine le marché mondial des avions, des jets et des avions à turbopropulseurs régionaux.

Mr. Brown capped his career at Bombardier as President and Chief Executive Officer from February 1999 to December 2002. During this time, he guided the turn-around of the money-losing Recreational Products and Defense Sectors and began the process of putting the financially troubled Capital Group back on track by exiting money-losing business segments. At the same time, he undertook the integration of Adtranz in Germany, which made Bombardier the global leader in rail passenger equipment. During his four years as President and CEO, Bombardier was twice voted Canada's Most Respected Company in a Globe and Mail poll of Canadian CEO's.

In May 2003, after Air Canada had sought court protection from bankruptcy, he was appointed chairman of the Board of Directors in order to provide guidance during this challenging period.

Throughout his career, Robert Brown has inspired many with his intense work ethic and talent for getting things accomplished quickly and effectively. His professional success has been matched by exemplary social responsibility. He has been deeply involved in the Montreal charity organization Centraide for many years, at the same time challenging other business leaders to lead on social fronts. He is also a passionate proponent of higher education and advocate for making Montreal and its universities competitive with the best in the world. He is, indeed, a leading citizen of our time, esteemed in public, corporate and philanthropic spheres.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Robert Brown, so that you may confer him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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