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Montreal universities have bragging rights to many famous alumni


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Montreal’s cash-strapped universities have a wealth of notable and famous alumni who got their start at one of our local universities before leaving their mark on this province and beyond.


Across the fields of business, science, politics and the arts, there are countless examples of notable alumni who earned a degree at a Montreal university before making it big. The list from Université de Montréal reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Quebec leaders, while McGill University has an embarrassment of riches, with bragging rights to the longest list of notables across all fields and by far the most prestigious prize winners.


Here are some examples of those famous alumni (with apologies to the many accomplished graduates we didn’t have space to include). We have also included Nobel Prize winners and the number of Rhodes Scholars to round out the list of distinguished alumni.


Université de Montréal


Louise Arbour (Law, 1970): A Supreme Court judge, international prosecutor of war crimes and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Denys Arcand (Arts, 1962): Film director, screenwriter and producer, won an Academy Award in 2004 for Les invasions barbares, the only French Canadian director to win an Oscar.


Denis Coderre (Arts, 1987): Former Liberal MP and current mayor of Montreal (since November 2013).

Jean Coutu (Pharmacy, 1953): The 16th wealthiest person in Canada, the founder of Jean Coutu Group Inc. had his net worth estimated at $1.7 billion by Forbes magazine last year.


Jean Doré (Law, 1977, as well as a Master’s of political science from McGill): Founding member of the Montreal Citizens’ Movement who won a landslide victory as Montreal mayor in 1986.


Morris Goodman (Pharmacy, 1953): A philanthropist and pioneer in the generic drug industry, he co-founded Montreal-based Pharmascience in 1983. It employs 1,300 and has annual sales of more than $700 million.


Michaëlle Jean (Arts, 1984): The former Governor-General of Canada and the first woman to become Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.


Emmett “Pops” Johns (Theology, 1952, Arts at Concordia, 1974): Founder of Dans La Rue, a homeless shelter and support group for street youth in Montreal.


Mélanie Joly (Law, 2001): After losing the Montreal mayoralty to Coderre, was elected as a Liberal MP and is Minister of Canadian Heritage in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.


Marc Ouellet (Theology, 1968): Former Archbishop of Quebec and current Canadian Cardinal of the Catholic Church.


Gilbert Rozon (Law, 1979): Canadian impresario who borrowed $1 million in 1983 to found the Just For Laughs Festival.


Pierre-Karl Péladeau (Law, 1987, also degree in philosophy from UQAM). Controlling shareholder of Québecor, former leader of the Parti Québécois.


Graduates who served as premiers of Quebec: Robert Bourassa (Law, 1956); Philippe Couillard (Medicine, 1979, Surgery, 1985); Maurice Duplessis (Law, 1912); Daniel Johnson Sr. (Law, 1940); Daniel Johnson Jr. (Law, 1966); Pierre-Marc Johnson, (Law, 1970, distinction of being Quebec’s shortest-serving premier); Pauline Marois (Commerce, 1976); Jacques Parizeau (Commerce, 1950).


RHODES SCHOLARS: 3 since 2000 (records weren’t kept before then).


NOBEL PRIZE: Roger Guillemin, for medicine. Considered the founder of the field of neuroendocrinology.


Université du Québec à Montréal


Jacques Aubé (Accounting, 1993): Executive vice-president and COO of Evenko, one of the top entertainment promoters in Canada.


Hélène Desputeaux (Teaching, 1984): Educator, writer and illustrator who created and illustrated the popular Caillou character.


Guy A. Lepage (Communications, 1983): Producer and comedian, host and producer of the popular Tout Le Monde En Parle talk show on Radio-Canada.


Paul Lirette (MBA, 1997): This native Montrealer became president of GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Canada in 2012.


Philippe Meunier (Graphic Design, 1992): Co-founder and chief creative officer of Sid Lee, the advertising agency that handles accounts such as Absolut Vodka and the Toronto Raptors.


Julie Miville-Dechêne (Political Science, 1981): A former ombudsman of Radio-Canada, now president of the Conseil du statut de la femme.


Patrick Pichette (Arts, 1987): A Rhodes Scholar, was senior vice-president and CFO of Google Inc. who retired about a year ago, having earned a reported $31-million from his Google stock incentives between 2010 and 2013.


Denis Villeneuve (Communications, 1992): Acclaimed film director and writer who has won the Genie Award for best director three times.


Mark Weightman (MBA, 2003, Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University, 1995): President of the Montreal Alouettes who works to develop football in Quebec through outreach programs.




Concordia University

(including the former Sir George Williams University and Loyola College)


Will Arnett: Actor and comedian, best known for the Arrested Development TV series, left after one semester to pursue acting. Succeeded.


René Balcer (Arts, 1978): Producer and writer for Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent.


Alexandre Bilodeau (Commerce): Two-time gold medallist at the winter Olympics in moguls freestyle skiing.


Julien Brisebois (EMBA, 2007): Assistant general manager, NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.


Barbara Davidson (Fine Arts, 1991): Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist.


Christine Jones (Fine Arts, 1989): Broadway set designer who won the Tony Award for American Idiot.


Barry Julien (Arts, 1994): A co-executive producer and writer for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert who got his start at CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes.


Annie Proulx (MA, 1973): Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and the short story Brokeback Mountain.


Mordecai Richler: Dropped out to become a writer of classics such as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Barney’s Version. Succeeded.


Kevin Tierney (Arts, 1971): Genie Award-winning film producer and scriptwriter, Bon Cop, Bad Cop.


Georges Vanier (Arts, 1906): Governor General of Canada from 1959-67.


Jonathan Wener (Commerce, 1971): Chairman of real estate investment, development and management company Canderel and deputy chancellor of Concordia.




McGill University


Burt Bacharach (Music, 1948): Prolific American songwriter, record producer, composer, pianist and singer who has won six Grammy awards, three Academy awards and a Golden Globe.


Win Butler (Arts, 2004): Lead vocalist and co-founder of the Grammy- and Juno-winning Arcade Fire.


Leonard Cohen (Arts, 1955): Novelist, poet, singer and songwriter.


Ken Dryden (Law, 1973): Politician, former NHL goaltender and winner of six Stanley Cups.


Jake Eberts (Arts, 1962, Doctor of Letter, 1998): Producer of the Oscar-winning films Dances with Wolves, Gandhi and Driving Miss Daisy.


Clément Gascon (Law, 1981): Appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014.


Nancy Grant (Arts, 2006): Producer of the award-winning film Mommy.


John Humphrey (Commerce, 1925, Arts, 1927, Law, 1929, PhD, 1945): Wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Mary Lawson (Arts, 1968): Best-selling author of Crow Lake, The Other Side of the Bridge and Road Ends.


Joanne Liu (Medicine, 1991, Masters Health Management, 2014): International president of Médecins Sans Frontières.


Marc Mayer (Arts, 1984): Art curator and director of the National Gallery of Canada.


Claude Mongeau (MBA, 1988): President and CEO of CN Rail.


Tom Mulcair (Civil Law, 1976, Law, 1977): Succeeded Jack Layton (Political Science, 1970) as leader of the New Democratic Party.


Steven Pinker (Arts, 1976, Doctor of Science, 1999): Author and experimental psychologist who has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Moshe Safdie (Architecture, 1961): Architect whose work includes the National Gallery of Canada and Habitat 67, a housing complex designed for Expo 67.


William Shatner (Commerce, 1952): Actor famous for starring in the television series Star Trek and Boston Legal.


Ralph Steinman (Science, 1963): Winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Jack Szostak (Science, 1972): Co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Justin Trudeau (Arts, 1994): Canada’s current prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.


Dave Williams (Science, 1976, Masters of Science, 1983, Medicine, 1983, Doctor of Science, 2007): Astronaut who set the Canadian record for total number of spacewalks.


Mortimer Zuckerman (Arts, 1957, Civil Law, 1961): Real estate magnate and owner and publisher of New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, where he also serves as editor-in-chief.




NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS: 10, including professors (but the majority are graduates).


Montreal universities have bragging rights to many famous alumni | Montreal Gazette

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