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Honorary degree citation - John O'Brien

By: Martin Singer, June 2004

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Dr. John O'Brien, Professor, former Rector and Vice-Chancellor.

Dr. O'Brien enjoys the challenge of the spontaneous moment." This statement was made in a news article about the man we are honouring today.

The spontaneous moment, the thoughtful spark that inflames a conversation, ignites a thought, lights a moment of epiphany... the spontaneous moment is the pulse of University life, research, learning and advancement. The belief in the power of higher learning is extremely dear to Dr. O'Brien. He has spent his professional life molding Concordia University. Helping to turning it from two separate schools, Loyola College and Sir George Williams University into the dynamic, two-campus entity we know it as today.

M. John O'Brien est né à Toronto, en 1931. Il a fait ses études à l'Université McGill où il a obtenu un baccalauréat et une maîtrise ès arts ainsi qu'un doctorat. Il est entré au Département d'économique de Sir George Williams à titre de chargé de cours en 1954. Devenu professeur agrégé d'économique en 1963, il a été nommé par la suite doyen de la Faculté des arts. Deux ans plus tard, il devenait professeur titulaire d'économique et, en 1969, il accédait aux fonctions de « principal ».

Dr. John O'Brien held this position when, exactly thirty years ago, in August of 1974, the two founding Concordia campuses merged. His steady and focused leadership ensured their successful integration. The connection with the community that was the hallmark of the Sir George William University and the dedication to academia, the hallmark of Loyola were brought together, bound by an inter-campus bus service and a free-flow of students back and forth.

It was a complex and challenging task, merging two strong and varied schools, but the will of those who led the charge, and the goal of a single, more complete institution eventually won out.

Dr. O'Brien, was appointed the first Rector of the newly formed and named, Concordia University. As such it was his job to foster continued growth while overseeing the sometimes difficult merging of two lively institutions.

The result of his labor, and his love of this school, is all around us. Our student body grows every year, new buildings and programs are flourishing, research is at an all time high. All this success can only have come from a solid foundation.

Dr. O'Brien's dedicated energy, firm focus and thoughtful foresight were essential in to this great endeavor. In that same article, the writer Joel McCormick gives this insight into Dr. O'Brien's nature. "He deals with each item deliberately and methodically. He speaks so slowly sometimes, you can imagine gnomes crafting each letter and each word in his mind before he lets you have it." Such careful consideration is appropriate to a man who thought of the future with every present action. A future we are now living.

Today we thank Dr. O'Brien for the strength of his extraordinary vision and the strength of will to carry it out.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honor to present to you Dr. John O'Brien so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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