STRAUS, Jozef

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Chancellor:

As our students know, life is full of uncertainty and what if?-s. With that thought in mind, one is tempted to wonder how life would have been different if Jozef Straus had not been in London when Warsaw Pact tanks rolled into his native Czechoslovakia in 1968…

That he was in London was pure chance – while studying English in Prague, Dr. Straus had won a spot on a language-immersion program on a British farm.

However lucky he was to be away from home at the time, this was not necessarily his first choice. Unlike others from his country, he did not choose to be a refugee. To quote Dr. Straus, “I didn’t leave Prague… I just didn’t go back.”

Pendant trois mois, il réfléchit à son avenir tout en servant aux tables à Londres. Au bout du compte, il décide de s’inscrire à l’Université de l’Alberta qui lui offre une bourse d’études. C’est là qu’il décroche ensuite son doctorat en physique.

En 1974, Jozef Straus est embauché aux Recherches Bell-Northern, la célèbre division de la société Northern Telecom, berceau d’une très grande partie de la recherche en haute technologie au Canada à cette époque.

Peu de temps après, il passe à la Northern Telecom – aujourd’hui Nortel – où il gère la production des microscopiques composantes des réseaux à fibres optiques. Finalement, il est prêt à faire le grand saut : fabriquer les produits qu’il a aidé à concevoir.

C’est ainsi qu’en 1981, Jozef Straus et quelques collègues lancent JDS Fitel, une des sociétés qui ont fait du Canada un chef de file mondial des technologies de l’information, et de notre ville, un centre nerveux de cet important secteur.

Under his leadership, JDS Fitel went from strength to strength. Jozef Straus led the firm through its first public offering, in 1996, and its 1999 merger with the large American company, Uniphase Corp., in a $6-billion deal.

This new venture, JDS Uniphase, added several other smaller firms, making the company Jozef Straus had founded 20 years earlier one of the largest optical component makers in the world.

Je suis absolument certain que, parmi les milliers de gens de la région d’Ottawa qui ont travaillé chez JDS Uniphase pendant que Monsieur Straus la dirigeait, nombreux sont ceux qui ont été inspiré par son rare mélange d’expertise scientifique alliée à un sens aigu des affaires, et à une approche de gestion agréablement anticonformiste et sans prétention, le tout personnifié dans ses opinions directes, son amour de la culture et, évidemment, son éternel béret!

In addition to his achievements as an entrepreneur, Jozef Straus has also been a guest lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Business. Dr. Straus is a recipient of the 1999 CATA Alliance Innovation and Leadership Award for Private Sector Leadership, and of the 2001 Engineering Management Award from the University of Southern California.   

And finally, I cannot pass up the opportunity to praise Dr. Straus for his work as a community builder and leader. I know he is very modest about his charitable works and his personal generosity, but I think it is yet another admirable trait of this man.

He is active as the Co-Chair of the Ottawa Hospital Foundation Legacy Campaign, and also does much through the Community Foundation of Ottawa to support education, the arts and other charities. His personal generosity is well known and appreciated by many.

Chancellor, it is for these reasons that, in the name of the Senate of the University of Ottawa, I present to you, for the degree of Doctor of the University, Jozef Straus, a man who has demonstrated that when you combine great intellectual ability, a clear-eyed vision of the future, and a bold entrepreneurial spirit, nothing can stand in your way.

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