Studying difficulties for a dean of the College of Montreal

Frantz Saintellemy, 14and Chancellor of the University of Montreal, he holds a BA in electronics and computer engineering, graduated in 1996 from Northeastern University, and completed a fellowship in engineering, strategy and complex innovations at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Sloan).

He and his wife Vickie Joseph are the co-founders of Groupe 3737, one of Quebec’s largest private business incubators.

You are a native of Haiti.

I was conceived and delivered to Haiti by two wonderful parents, my father, Camius, and my mother, Marie-Louise Célestin, who taught me to be proud of my origins.

What was your first reaction when you arrived in Montreal at age 7?

I was amazed at the wealth of electricity, as at 7pm, thanks to the lights, we were not invaded by darkness.

Tell me about your parents.

My father was a public collector in Haiti. In Montreal, he worked at the Lenôtre pastry shop in Outremont. For my mother it was more difficult.

Her mother had to go to the company at 6am every morning, not knowing if she had a job.

The foreman of Dominion Textiles on Crémazie Boulevard decided every morning who should do the daily work. Mom often waited in vain. Despite this trap, she instilled in me unforgettable life values, including discipline and a passion for success.

You have been diagnosed with a learning disability.

At age 7, at Ahunsic primary school, I had a hard time understanding my teacher. I barely master French, because Creole is my mother tongue. My teacher didn’t have time for me, so she decided I was having a learning disability.

Fortunately, Professor Gérard Jeune crossed his path.

He watched me when I organized activities in the schoolyard and didn’t understand the teacher’s decision. He offered me a moral contract by which I pledged to improve my French and English if I wanted him to take me to his class three months later.

Do you listen to TV shows Master key and Sesame Street.

I absolutely wanted to accept his challenge. Once in his class he made me read The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Fables of La Fontaine. Thanks to him, I became the person I am.

Francis Millien’s father opened the doors of football for you.

Mr. Robert Millien recruited football players in the parks of Montreal. He offered me the possibility of joining the Concordia team, which propelled me to the formations of the Quebec teams.

Football allowed you to see other countries.

I couldn’t afford the trips to France, Portugal, Holland and Germany, but thanks to the football managers, I was able to be part of those trips.

The sport made you see the importance of the international aspect.

Sport taught me the importance of winning, recovering from defeat and working as a team; that is, to better prepare myself for the international scene and not just for my regional challenges in Quebec, both in sport and in the business world.

You have benefited from the Expos school program.

The Expos offered baseball tickets to schools. It was a great ride for me to watch a lot of games and see the Grissoms, Wallachs, Walkers and others in action.

Your radio costs more than your first car.

I paid $200 for my Honda, which had a leaky oil pan and a tank of gas that cost me 40 cents for every dollar of gas. My Pioneer radio cost more than my car.

Your first jobs?

I was a delivery boy at a convenience store in Saint-Michel, and on double game nights for the Expos or the Canadiens, especially against the Nordiques, I paid well. I also folded children’s clothes in warehouses on Rue Chabanel, not to mention my visits to Burger King on Crescent and Sainte-Catherine streets, for the modest salary of $3.75 an hour.

You lived in Saint-Michel and Montreal North.

In the Saint-Michel district, I lived in Henri-Bourassa near the famous hot dog restaurants Chez Lesage and Ma Tante. In Montreal North, I lived in Hénault, near Charleroi.

You went to Leblanc secondary school in Terrebonne to help your sister.

I went there to take care of my sister’s kids when they left daycare. Then I attended Louis-Joseph Papineau and Calixa-Lavallée high schools.

An injury prevented him from attending Virginia Tech.

Then-coach Bruce Arena, who is now the head coach and athletic director of the New England Revolution in the MLS, offered me a scholarship that paid for all of my education. Just before leaving, I suffered a serious injury that prevented me from joining Virginia Tech.

You continued your university studies in the United States.

After finishing my studies at Cégep Ahuntsic, I was accepted to Northeastern University, near Boston, and then to MIT. But most importantly, thanks to my good grades at CEGEP, the scholarship programs allowed me to study for free.

You now have three wonderful children.

Johan, Norah and Viktor are the joy of living in the house. They play football in Laval, without forgetting that they are my source of inspiration.

It was love at first sight with his wife.

The first time I met my wife, Vickie Joseph, was at my brother’s wedding in Miami. It was love at first sight. During the night, I introduced her to my family members as my future wife. A few months later, we got engaged. She is a remarkable woman who is always there to support her family members.

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