Honorary Degree Citation - Jules Deschênes*

by Maurice Cohen, June 1981

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Mrs. Alphonsine Howlett, tireless and creative community worker, dedicated wife and mother, a woman who has served the needs of the people of Montréal with sensitivity and diligence.

Mrs. Howlett is truly a citizen of this province and of this city. Her life and involvement reflect the traditions and values of our two major linguistic and cultural communities. Born into a traditional Québec family, Alphonsine Howlett pursued her early studies in French. She married a distinguished medical man, Dr. John Howlett of the Royal Victoria Hospital. A mother of five children, it is worth noting that she attended evening classes at the Thomas More Institute for fifteen years for her university education. Alphonsine Howlett is a dutiful and caring woman. There can be no doubt that her concern for the underprivileged in our city is rooted in her selfless love for her family.

In 1944, Mrs. Howlett was foundress of the 'Ligue des Parents de Montréal" and in 1948, co-foundress of the Priory, a private grammar school. The community groups with which she has served cover the entire gamut of social needs: "La Fédération des femmes du Québec", le "Centre de psycho-éducation du Québec", the Québec Association for the Mentally Handicapped, the Family Life Education Association and the Westmount Municipal Association. She was the initiator of the Howlett Commission, a research study on the needs of the mentally handicapped in Montréal , undertaken by the Council on Social Development. She helped found Portage, a rehabilitation centre for addicts, and served, until very recently, as President of the Board of Directors of the Ville Marie Social Services Centre. She still serves on the Board of Advisors of this University's School of Community and Public Affairs. As is quite evident, Alphonsine Howlett is a woman of stamina and untiring motivation. Citizens of this city, we have all benefited either directly or indirectly from her zeal and perseverance.

Alphonsine Howlett est d'abord et avant tout, une interlocutrice valable. Elle est insérée pleinement dans la communauté québécoise. Bilingue et biculturelle tout comme notre ville, Madame Howlett a toujours su répondre aux besoins véritables de ses concitoyens et concitoyennes. Elle nous montre le chemin, car de plus en plus le Québec a besoin d'hommes et de femmes qui, en étant enracinés dans leurs milieux, peuvent vivre un engagement social avec imagination - et volonté. C'est en 1979 que les évêques québécois ont nommé Madame Howlett une pionnière de l'action sociale au Québec, nous démontrant que Madame Howlett occupe une place privilégiée au sein de notre sociéte.

A social activist Alphonsine Howlett certainly is. She has given herself to her fellow human being. Where others have not dared to take the lead, she has taken it upon herself to show the way. Her efforts have been widely recognized. In 1976, the Montréal Citizenship Council named Mrs. Howlett "citoyenne d'honneur" and in 1978, she was named "Grande Montréalaise" by a jury composed of representatives of the francophone and anglophone communities. Last month, she was awarded the Order of Canada. I present Alphonsine Howlett to our graduates today as a role model. As they now assume their full share as citizens of this province, they must bear in mind that their contributions to this society must be relevant and inspired. Unless they also become "interlocuteurs et interlocutrices valables", they will fail to live up to the responsibilities rightfully expected of them.

In honouring Mrs. Howlett, we are expressing our gratitude not only to a distinguished and committed community worker, but also to those countless citizens of Montréal who, over the years, have given of themselves in the social services work of this city.

Mr. Chancellor, it is a distinct honour and privilege for me on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, to present to you Alphonsine Howlett, that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased