By Nadine Saint-Amour
The Arts Building, located on Laurier Street across from Tabaret Hall, will now be known as Hamelin Hall in honour of Marcel Hamelin and his five decades of service to the University.
Nearly every morning, this former president still returns to his office in the building that now bears his name. Mr. Hamelin was especially touched by this honour that testifies to his lengthy career at the University. “I am particularly happy that it’s the Arts Building [that bears my name] because it represents an important part of my career: I was dean of the Faculty of Arts for 16 years.”
As a witness to the University’s spectacular growth in the 1970s following the adoption of the University of Ottawa Act in 1965, former President Hamelin experienced the thrilling birth of a modern campus, both from an architectural standpoint and an academic one.
“The student population grew by leaps and bounds, especially when women students arrived on campus and when we began welcoming foreign students,” he said.
Mr. Hamelin is one of the University’s great administrators. He was president from 1990 to 2001, during which time he maintained and improved the quality of the programs while preserving the bilingual nature of our institution. He promoted the creation of several multidisciplinary programs and units, and under his leadership, the University was transformed into one of Canada’s leading research-intensive universities.
He insists that these successes were the result of teamwork, which is a cardinal virtue in his opinion. “We need the contributions of as many people as possible: professors, researchers, vice-deans, employees and departmental directors. Everyone must work together, as a team, to affect change. I had a great team of vice-presidents.”
During Mr. Hamelin’s presidency, no less than four major facilities were built, namely: D’Iorio Hall, which now houses the departments of chemistry and biology; the student residences at 90 University; the Sports Complex and of course, the Arts Building, which was inaugurated in 1996. It was also under his leadership that ground was broken to build the SITE complex, which houses the Faculty of Engineering.
Mr. Hamelin has risen through the ranks, occupying one prestigious leadership position after another, ranging from Director of the Department of History, to Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and finally, President and Vice-Chancellor.
A historian by training and author of several books and articles on the political history of Quebec, Marcel Hamelin came to the campus to teach history in 1966. He had signed up for two years at the invitation of then Director of the Department of History, Marcel Trudel, who had been Hamelin’s professor and mentor at Laval University.
As a specialist on the infancy of Quebec’s parliament, Marcel Hamelin can boast of being the first to work on reconstructing the debates of Quebec’s National Assembly.
Since the end of his second term as president in 2001, Marcel Hamelin has often travelled to Africa on behalf of the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance, an organization that he co-founded with Dr. Don Kilby. This humanitarian foundation offers primary health care in African villages in such countries as Gabon, Benin, Tanzania and Uganda.
Between his trips to Africa, Mr. Hamelin can be found in his office on campus where he comes to read, conduct historical research, and meet with colleagues and students. “I take an interest in the African students who sometimes ask for my advice. Helping international students integrate into university life is something I really enjoy.”