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Marcel Hamelin known for promoting bilingualism, international cooperation

70 Laurier has been renamed Hamelin Hall. Photo: Marta Kierkus

The building was named after Hamelin “in recognition of his exceptional commitment and unparalleled contributions to uOttawa,” according to a press release by the university.

Hamelin graduated from Laval University with a doctor of letters in history in 1961, and started teaching history at the U of O in 1966. He then moved up the ranks, becoming chair of the department of history from 1968-70, vice-dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research from 1972-74, and dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1974-90.

In 1990, Hamelin was appointed as president of the university, a post he held until 2001. He was succeeded by Gilles Patry, and then Allan Rock in 2008.

Hamelin is remembered as having promoted bilingualism as well as international cooperation between universities.

“In addition to his passionate defence of linguistic duality, he worked tirelessly to promote exchanges between international universities, attract brilliant students and researchers from every continent, and transform the University of Ottawa into one of the world’s top post-secondary institutions,” said U of O president and vice-chancellor Allan Rock in a press release.

Hamelin’s efforts in experience facilitating exchanges in the Middle East led him to create the Chair of Arabic Studies. He was also appointed by the government of Canada to the board of directors of the Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America.

Hamelin has also been involved in several organizations focused on French-speaking Canadians. He helped to create the Regroupement des Universités Francophones hors-Québec and Consortium des Universités de la Francophonie Ontarienne. These organizations look to promote French-speaking universities in Canada.

“No other university in the country can claim to be as truly Canadian as ours, one that so faithfully reflects the linguistic, cultural and religious diversity of our country,” said Hamelin in a press release.

Hamelin also has a U of O scholarship named after him. The scholarship is awarded to two students, one French and one English, entering the common law section of the Faculty of Law.

The newly renamed Hamelin Hall was built in 1996, while Hamelin was president, and houses six of the 14 departments of the Faculty of Arts, including English, philosophy, and classical and religious studies. According to the U of O website, the building “helps centralize a faculty that was previously dispersed across campus.”