The freedom to choose
“My maternal grandfather was really my companion, my mentor and my inspiration,” says Jocelyne Bessette (BA ’70, LLB ’73), speaking of Dr. Thomas J. Beaudin, the man who raised her and was always there for her, the one who, every time she had to decide on something, would say to her, “What do you want to do?”
For Jocelyne, when she finished her classical studies, the answer to this question was obvious: law studies. Even if she had to be one of the only women in her class. Even if her family was against it — except for, of course, her grandfather. “He opened up the world to me at a time when this was not yet the rule,” she says.
Through a planned gift to the University of Ottawa that Bessette has included in her will, she has honoured her grandfather and his most valuable gift to her: the freedom to choose. “For me, it is the nicest gift you can give a youth,” she says. “Even today, unfortunately, we’re in a situation where one’s means determine what one does in life.”
The Thomas J. Beaudin Memorial Bursary, which will be established on Bessette’s passing, will be awarded each year to a female student enrolled full time in an area where women’s numbers are particularly low.
Growing up, Bessette was unaware of the limits imposed on her by society as a woman, in part because her grandfather never allowed her to experience them. “He always made me understand that it was up to me to decide, that I had all the options,” says Bessette, who would go on to become one of the first woman managers of legal service at the Department of Justice and an expert in the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now retired after fighting all her career for the ideals of justice, equality and freedom, Bessette can say that even if she didn’t become a doctor like her grandfather, she has indeed followed in his footsteps.