Awards and Honors

Laureate - Other

Roger A. Blais


Born in Shawinigan on February 4, 1926, Roger A. Blais joined the teaching corps of Polytechnique Montréal in 1961. He remained until 1991 as an Associate Professor and later a Full Professor in the Department of Mining Engineering. Professor Blais was very active in the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum as well as the Geological Association of Canada, which he chaired. He also chaired the Science Council of Canada's Solid-Earth Sciences Study Group. In 1970, he became Polytechnique's first Director of Research.

His achievements in this capacity included forming a research council and hiring numerous young researchers; spearheading a massive communications effort between the institution and funding bodies; implementing a groundbreaking institutional research program; launching a graduate student funding program unique in Canada; and creating a number of research centres in advanced fields. Within a few years, led by Professor Blais, Polytechnique -- previously focused mainly on teaching -- had made research a central pillar of its mission. Unparalleled growth ensued, turning Polytechnique into one of the most largest university institutions for engineering research in Canada.

This farsighted thinker worked tirelessly to forge links between academia and industry. In 1978, he co-founded the Association des directeurs de recherche industrielle du Québec (Association of Industrial Research Directors of Québec - ADRIQ). He was an influential member of various scientific committees, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the National Research Council of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. He advised federal and provincial ministers and sat on the board of governors of the Ottawa-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), where he played a key role. He also helped found the Association of Geoscientists for International Development (AGID), which now has over 1,500 members in 100 countries.

Researcher, educator, manager, visionary, leader ... Any portrait of Roger A. Blais would be incomplete without a mention of his great ability to convey to young people his passion for knowledge and commitment to the community. Until the end of his life, he retained close ties with Polytechnique students and graduates, fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation among them. In 1990, he launched Poly-Monde, which sends students on industrial visits abroad each year. In 1993, he created the Profil de Vinci, an honour given to students who demonstrate both academic excellence and social engagement, as well as leadership and openness to the world.

Until his death on September 25, 2009, after a long illness, he maintained his infectious enthusiasm and ability to bring innovative projects to completion. His many different experiences, recounted in his memoirs, Rablaiseries Polytechniciennes, are coloured with an unwavering commitment to advancing science and engineering, and bringing something new to society.

The Palmes académiques, a French honour created in 1808 under Napoleon I, is one of the world's oldest civilian awards.

The Academic Palms is a French decoration established October 4, 1955 by Council President Faure which follows the distinction of Officer of Academy created by Napoleon to honor eminent members of the University. This is the oldest distinctions awarded only on a civilian basis.

The Academic Palms took their present appearance in 1955, in the form of an order in three grades: Chevalier, Officer and Commander.

Today, this award honors members of the educational community, teachers or not. The terms of his assignment was extended in 1866 to non-teachers who have rendered distinguished service to Education, and it may also be granted to foreigners, and the French living abroad actively contributing to the expansion of French culture in the world.