DUniv. 2021

Honorary Doctorate Recipient

Pierre Lavoie


He and his spouse, Lynne Routhier, had four children, including two who died of lactic acidosis, a hereditary disease common in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, but rare elsewhere around the world. Laurie passed away in 1997 at the age of four and Raphaël passed away in 2000 at 20 months.

The year Raphaël was born, 1998, 10 other children in the region were born with lactic acidosis. Pierre told himself that he couldn’t let lactic acidosis continue to wreak its devastation. He used all his energy to make people in his region aware of this deadly disease and to fund medical research. An athlete, he moved from determination to engagement.

In 1999, he launched his region’s first Défi Pierre Lavoie, a 650 k, 24-hour bike ride. He organized three more rides, raising the funds needed to establish a multidisciplinary research team at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. Major progress was made and the gene responsible for lactic acidosis was finally identified in 2003. A screening test was then developed, offering hope to future parents.

Pierre’s 1999 meeting with Germain Thibault was pivotal. The two men became involved, body and soul, in an ambitious project to raise awareness among elementary school students, and Quebecers in general, of choosing healthy lifestyles. The Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, launched in 2008, was a big success.

While Pierre has worn many hats over the years — speaker, science communicator, spokesperson, media personality — he remains first and foremost a fierce competitor to the core. In 2013, he took part in his 10th Ironman Hawaii, finishing second in his category. To date, he has won the competition three times.

Pierre knows how to make the most of his exceptional journey to motivate people. With his extraordinary life story, his incredible strength and his communication skills, he never fails to transmit his creative energy to those around him and convince us that it is always possible to overcome challenges with the right attitude. He embodies courage, pushing one’s limits and respect.

Back to top