Honorary Degree Citation - Robert Bell*

by J.W. O’Brien, June 1979

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Dr. Robert Bell, who was until ten days ago the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University.

There are several ways to view Robert Bell's - Bob Bell's - record of achievement. Let me begin with the distinguished scientist - Rutherford Professor of Physics, Director of the Foster Radiation Laboratory, visiting scientist at the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen. To turn next from the particular discipline to the broader calling, Dr. Robert Bell is the current President of the Royal Society of Canada, a society of which be has been a member since 1955. And he has been a member of the Royal Society, that parent body in England, since 1965.

We come now to Robert Bell's achievement as a university administrator. As principal of McGill for the past eight years, he has steered a great institution through a very difficult period with wisdom and sensitivity. While in general we know of the pressures and strains such an assignment can involve, let me note that the visibility and the symbolical character of McGill have added their special dimension. Robert Bell has been the very effective head of a university of international acclaim. Also he has always seen the need for that university to be wholly at the service of its own community.

We are informed, Mr. Chancellor, by courtesy of the McGill Reporter, that at the time Robert Bell became Principal of McGill, the assistant editor of the McGill News, the alumni publication, prepared a horoscope. The new principal was indentified as possessing a pleasant, humanitarian disposition, and accompanied by the sign of concord, conviviality and good company. That by hindsight those who have known him subsequently would accept the accuracy of this description, speaks well both for the resiliency of Bob Bell under the pressures of office and for the quality of the astrological section of the McGill News. During years when opportunities and temptations for ill-considered comment and intemperate action have presented themselves, Bob Bell has shown himself a man of temperate comment and considered action. We recognize in him a thoughtful and articulate leader of English-speaking Quebec. He is, indeed, a man of worldwide, national and community stature as a scientist, educator and citizen.

Mr. Chancellor, I am honoured to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Robert Bell, President of the Royal Society of Canada, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased