Naming a major community institutional building is a serious business.
And when that building dominates the skyline and landscape of our West Island CEGEP and can be seen looming over the horizon as you drive by on the highway, where thousands of our young adults will get a taste of postsecondary education, the choice becomes highly sensitive and significant.
Whose name and reputation will be projected into the future? Whose spirit will be called upon to accompany the student through the process of discovery?
Some major benefactor like William Macdonald, a scientific luminary or the name of a concept? Or should we just stick to the Science and Nursing Building?
The new science building is now the keystone building at John Abbott, named after the honourable Sir John Abbott (1821-93), third prime minister of Canada (1891-2), mayor of Montreal (1887-9) and, significantly, great-grandfather of the great Canadian actor Christopher Plummer without whom the Stratford Theatre Festival wouldn’t have been humming along these past couple of years. John Abbott was also the first native-born Canadian prime minister: He wasn’t waiting for the boat back to a Surrey estate in England. A great-granddaughter of John Abbott, herself a history enthusiast, lived in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue during my years at town hall.
y The new science building is now ready and running. The first generation of students is test-driving the facility. It sits right plum in the middle of one of the most beautiful educational campuses in Quebec, Macdonald College, named after Sir William Macdonald (William Christopher Macdonald, 1831-1917, a tobacco magnate), one of the major philanthropists of the 19th century. Sir William was a great benefactor for McGill University, which he helped modernize with $13 million of donations. And apparently at his death, Sir William gave his son’s assistant, David Stewart, assets worth $20 million, which were transformed by the recipient into the Macdonald Stewart Foundation. Not surprisingly the name of Stewart is also very prominent on the Ste-Anne campus.
The new science building should have been built around a renovation/restoration of Brittain Hall (named after W.H. Brittain, dean of the faculty of agriculture 19341955, a vice-principal of McGill University and, most importantly for all of us, the inspiration behind and founder of the Morgan Arboretum named after the Morgan family of Senneville, which donated the 245 hectares for the project). The Morgan Arboretum later spawned the Ecomuseum, where I hope the name of Roger Bider, the enthusiastic visionary who designed and fundraised and built that amazing facility, is cited in some memorial structure.
You can see just how important the naming process is. You are stuck with the name and you use it hundreds of times during your two-year diploma course, thousands of times if you teach in the building for 35 years.
I bring this up now because the deadline for making name suggestions is coming up. If you have any bright ideas, you have to get on with it. The deadline is Tuesday and there is a pretty stiff procedure to follow. The procedure reads a bit like the security surrounding the national budget. You can’t just fire off a name to Gerald Stackrowski, now director of corporate affairs. He was the director of human resources back in 1971, when John Abbott opened.
No, you have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday to get an envelope to Stackrowski in Stewart Hall Room 152 (there’s that name again), marked confidential, which follows the instructions laid out in Article 3 of Policy No. 15 on the Naming of College Assets, which can be found on the policy page of the John Abbott website. Article 3 outlines criteria for naming. Article 4 describes the naming process. And Article 5 names the contents of naming proposals. Furthermore, you must obtain the written consent from the individual recommended and/or from his or her estate.
I don’t think they’ll be naming the new science building at John Abbott after me. It would be an enormous honour, of course, but there are several good reasons why I’m not expecting it. I really don’t qualify.
Nor do you, for that matter, I suspect. You might even be a more appropriate choice than I am because you work at some scientific establishment in the West Island. I’m not even a scientist. And, by the way, naming recommendations may originate from any member of the present and/or past John Abbott community.
And that means you.
Bill Tierney is the former mayor of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. He is also a retired John Abbott College teacher. firstname.lastname@example.org