Remembering Pierre-Yves Boucher: Alumnus, leader, colleague and friend

Posted on Wednesday, December 8, 2021

collage of two portraits of Pierre Yves Boucher left side as student, right side as secretary general of university

“With the death of Pierre-Yves Boucher, the University of Ottawa has lost a pillar of the institution,” explains Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor of uOttawa. “For more than 35 years, he gave his unwavering professionalism, loyalty and devotion to uOttawa. He was widely admired for his warmth, his competence, and his extraordinary knowledge of our University and Canada's academic community.”   

Boucher had a remarkable half-century relationship with uOttawa – first as a student and most recently as Secretary of the University from 1990 until his retirement in 2006. He passed away peacefully on November 2, 2021, at the age of 79 years, predeceased by his wife Pierrette and survived by his two children, Eric and Alain, both of whom are also proud uOttawa alumni.  

Michel Prévost has been uOttawa’s Chief Archivist since 1990 and reported to Boucher during the 16 years he was Secretary. “Pierre-Yves was always a great boss – attentive and wise – and really cared about the well-being of his team,” says Prévost. “He trusted us implicitly and often said he led the best teams. He also showed great interest in our archives and in the history of the University. He just loved to look back on the days when he was a student here.” 

A native of Ottawa and triple alumnus from the University of Ottawa, Boucher first set foot on campus in 1954 and earned a Bachelor of Arts (1962), an LLB (1965) and a graduate diploma in law (1966). He excelled academically and in 1966 received the Barreau de Paris medal, granted to the top doctoral civil law student. It was during that time he met his beloved Pierrette, whose encouragement would support him throughout a remarkable career.  

In 1967, Boucher was called to the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada and became Assistant to the Vice-President (Academic) at the University, a position he held until 1971, when he entered private practice as a partner in the Ottawa legal firm of Séguin, Landriault, Patenaude & Boucher. In 1975, he returned to the University as Legal Counsel until 1982.  

“Boucher had a major influence on the evolution of the University,” explains Marcel Hamelin, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa from 1990 to 2001. “His expertise in labour law helped guide the University through the transformations brought about by the unionization of staff in the 1970s.  

“Pierre-Yves’s sense of compromise and optimism always helped maintain harmonious working relationships,” Hamelin adds. “His door was always open to anyone – be it a dean, a colleague or a student. He knew how to listen, encourage and advise. His smile alone worked wonders to lower people’s stress levels.”  

Between 1982 and 1990, Boucher served as Legal Counsel, Assistant to the Executive Director and Executive Vice-President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Academic leaders quickly recognized his competence and frequently sought out his advice. Despite his success at the national level, in 1990, Boucher returned once again to his alma mater to serve as Secretary of the University, where he oversaw the operation of the Board, the Senate and their committees until his retirement in 2006.   

Gilles Patry first met Boucher when he joined uOttawa as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in 1993, and continued to work closely with him as Patry advanced into the roles of Vice-President (Academic) in 1997, and then President and Vice-Chancellor in 2001.  

According to Patry, “Pierre-Yves was a good friend, a great co-worker and a true team player. I relied heavily on his advice and experience. He had a deep understanding of how the institution and its various bodies functioned. He also had the unique perspective of its historical context, which allowed us to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.  

“He had such a special affection for the University and for the values it represented as a bilingual institution in the nation's capital,” Patry adds. “Pierre-Yves was so proud of where he worked – he believed that if Canada were to have a national university, it would have to be the University of Ottawa.” 

In 2006, in commemoration of Boucher’s outstanding achievements, uOttawa created the Pierre-Yves and Pierrette Boucher Scholarship Fund. It recognizes the work of students who are registered in the French Common Law program at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, and who demonstrate financial need. 

The Scholarship was first awarded in 2010 and has supported eight uOttawa law students since then, several of whom have received it more than once. This important legacy of Boucher’s life reflects his life-long commitment to the University’s raison d’être – encouraging student success and well-being and preparing them to have a meaningful impact in the world.  

According to Hamelin, “Pierre-Yves always found time to provide support and guidance to any student who needed his help.” 

Sabrina Clark received the Pierre-Yves and Pierrette Boucher Scholarship Fund twice during her legal studies at uOttawa. “I graduated in June 2021, and I am now on my way to becoming a licensed lawyer. I will always be grateful for the support and generosity that I received throughout my studies in the French Common Law Program at uOttawa." 

Jason Tremblay received the Pierre-Yves and Pierrette Boucher Scholarship in 2019 and 2020. He is Algonquin and Montagnais, and the first to go to law school in his family. “The scholarship really helped me financially during my studies,” he explains. “It allowed me to focus on school and what is really important. I hope to promote Indigenous legal traditions and constitutional rights one day.” 

For those who are interested in commemorating Pierre-Yves Boucher and his enormous contributions to uOttawa by investing in the Pierre-Yves and Pierrette Boucher Scholarship, you may do so by clicking here.  

With the loss of Pierre-Yves Boucher, the uOttawa extended community has lost an extraordinary leader, colleague, and friend. He will be missed and remembered by so many. 

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