Université de Montréal launches the largest fundraising drive in its history

Nearly 300 people gathered for the announcement of L’heure est brave, a campaign with two targets: to raise $1 billion and to amass 200,000 acts of engagement from alumni.

At a time of worldwide concerns over climate change, growing social inequality, the rise of AI, political polarization and new diseases, Université de Montréal is launching L’heure est brave , the most ambitious giving campaign in its history. Far from being disheartened by the daily litany of bad news, UdeM sees it as an opportunity to actively engage in the search for solutions.

"A billion dollars, our target for this major campaign, is an unprecedented objective for a French-language university in Quebec or anywhere in the world," said UdeM rector Daniel Jutras. "But it’s a figure commensurate with our ambitions as a world-leading university. We have the research expertise, we have the ideas. All we need are the resources to match our vision."

The campaign is now going public but it has been in full swing behind the scenes for some time; 60 per cent of the $1 billion goal has already been reached and 131,000 acts of engagement have been collected.

The first phase has been hugely successful, raising $159 million from the Courtois Foundation, the largest donation ever made in Canada for basic research, as well as $40 million from the Fondation Chopin Péladeau and Quebecor to support entrepreneurship, $6 million from Dr. Robert Bissonnette to establish a dermatology research centre, and also a gift from Dr. Sadok Besrour to build educational capacity in Tunisia.

The launch event was also an opportunity to announce two new donations:
  • The first, by UdeM chancellor Frantz Saintellemy and his wife, businesswoman Vicky Joseph, will go to support pedagogical innovation through new technologies and hence promote greater accessibility to higher education.
  • The second, by UdeM alumnus Julien BriseBois, general manager of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, will provide bursaries for, among other things, students pursuing a master’s degree in research on leadership in an organizational context at the School of Industrial Relations, and will also go to UdeM’s legal clinic, enabling law students to offer legal support to founders of start-up companies. BriseBois’ donation is in addition to the $75,000 he gave in 2020 to the Carabins women’s hockey team.


The funds raised in the L’heure est brave campaign will enable UdeM to enhance the university experience by developing students’ full potential. The university also aims to create, discover and innovate in order to serve the common good by promoting the health of humans, animals and the planet, and by supporting the development of communities. These four priorities - each an opportunity for social advancement - are the pillars on which the campaign is built.

A campaign cabinet and 13 ambassadors

Michael Pecho, UdeM’s vice-rector of alumni relations and philanthropy, has assembled a campaign cabinet to advise and assist the university. Four co-chairs have been signed up: Nicolas Duvernois, founder and CEO of Duvernois Creative Spirits; Louis Gagnon, CEO Canada of Intact Financial Corporation; Marie-Josée Gagnon, founder and president of CASACOM; and Ravy Por, partner for artificial intelligence and data at Deloitte Canada.

"We decided to get involved to give back to our alma mater and encourage the business community and our partners to follow our lead," the campaign co-chairs said in unison. "We want to support the search for long-term solutions to global issues. We plan to draw on our networks and knowledge to help make this campaign a success on all fronts."

"I am delighted to be able to count on such talented individuals - UdeM alumni all - to lead our campaign cabinet," said Pecho. "I know that these leaders, who are so respected and recognized in their fields, will inspire others to get involved and put our giving campaign over the top."

Giving the campaign a public face, 13 inspirational figures have signed on as ambassadors. All are graduates of UdeM: Sébastien Benoit, Julien BriseBois, Émilie Castonguay, Michel Jean, Dr. Sébastien Kfoury, Stéphane Laporte, Marc Laurendeau, Michel Leblanc, Dr. Mathieu Nadeau-Vallée, Dr. Claudel Pétrin Desrosiers, Alexandra Stréliski, Kim Thúy and Marie-José Turcotte. They will publicize the drive and encourage other alumni to pitch in.

"In addition to helping us reach our fundraising target, I am appealing to the members of the UdeM community to get involved in the development of our institution by giving of their time and knowledge to support the next generation," said Jutras. "Whether by volunteering, mentoring, donating or participating in activities organized by Université de Montréal, I encourage you to contribute to our equally ambitious goal of 200,000 acts of engagement."

To read the portraits of the co-chairs, .