Yesterday, during the afternoon Convocation ceremony, Faculty of Law professor Rosalie Jukier was honoured as one of the co-winners of the inaugural Morty Yalovsky Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Academic Leadership. Jukier shared the honour with Dr. Samuel Benaroya of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science.
The Award honours the lifetime achievements and dedication to McGill of academic staff, whose service to the University community has been both exemplary and inspiring. Recipients of the award embody integrity, wisdom and good judgment, dedication to collegial governance, academic rigour, and institutional commitment.
“When presented with the nomination of Professor Rosalie Jukier, the selection committee met a dossier charged with energy, vision, and administrative acumen,” said Chris Buddle, Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Programs), during the presentation ceremony.
“Prof. Jukier is characterized as ‘one of the most accomplished students to attend the Faculty of Law in the past 40 years [graduating with both the Elizabeth Torrance Gold Medal and the Aimé Geoffrion National Programme Gold Medal],” said Buddle. “Prof. Jukier is no less recognized as a scholar, skilled teacher and savvy administrator. Since her appointment to the Faculty of Law in 1985, Rosalie has served in the capacity of Associate Dean across four different portfolios, and just ended her three-year term as Associate Dean (Academic). She has served tirelessly on myriad Faculty and University committees, often as chair, allowing her to hone her exceptional administrative capabilities.”
“This award honours Rosalie Jukier’s administrative contributions, which would more than suffice to constitute the lion’s share of the lifetime contributions to McGill by any colleague,” said Robert Leckey, Dean of the Faculty of Law. “But I must add that she has also been, over the decades, a deeply appreciated, indeed beloved, teacher and mentor. Remarkably, she is a three-time recipient of the John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award, conferred by the Law Students’ Association (2004, 2016, 2018), and winner of the Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2010).”
Ironically, despite her accomplishments and stellar reputation as a law student, professor and administrator, Jukier says she never had that ‘Eureka’ moment steering her toward the field.
“’I’m probably going to disappoint you, but I don’t have any glamorous or compelling story,” she said laughing. “I’m not like Justice Rosalie Abella, who knew at four years old that she wanted to be a lawyer.
“My parents survived the war in Europe and came to Canada in 1950. In our home, education was prioritized and the message was that the only thing no one can take away from you is your intellectual capital,” Jukier said. “So, get a lot of intellectual capital – education, higher education, professional education. That was an indirect push.”
Jukier had a more direct push in CEGEP when several teachers convinced her to apply directly to McGill’s Faculty of Law.
“It turned out to be a wonderful path for me because I loved law school right from the beginning,” she said. “I loved being a law student.”
The call of academia
In summers during law school and while articling for the Bar, Jukier worked in law firms. It was then she realized she was more academically inclined than practically oriented. “I was more interested in the process, not the result. I was more interested in the question, not the answer,” she says.
Also, at that time, mentors from the Faculty of Law, including Rod Macdonald and John Durnford, encouraged her to pursue graduate studies in law with a view to teaching and having an academic career.
Energized by the classroom
Jukier began teaching at McGill in 1985. She remembers her first class as being “daunting.”
“I was 25 and a lot of the students were older than me. A lot of my students had more degrees than me,” she recalled. “In 1985, there were no technical bells or whistles. There were no laptops, no PowerPoints, no YouTube videos. It was just you, a blackboard and chalk.”
But while Jukier felt nervous before that first class (“I’m still nervous before class today!”), she also recalled how excited she was.
“Rod Macdonald used to say that teaching is a way of being alive, and I think that’s absolutely true because I never feel more alive or energized as I do in a classroom,” she said. “I’ve had that feeling right from the beginning.”
While her contributions to the Faculty of Law are remarkable, she has also left an indelible mark on the greater University community.
Jukier served as Dean of Students from 1995 to 2001. During her tenure as Dean, she oversaw the creation of the First Peoples’ House and the First-Year Office. She also spearheaded the construction and opening of the Brown Student Services Building.
“That was a huge initiative,” she says. “Working together with the University and the students to raise the money, hire the architects, and build the building is something that makes me particularly proud.”
Keeping a pinky in the classroom
Jukier says one of the keys to her longevity at McGill – in all her roles – has been to keep teaching. No matter how charged her administrative responsibilities have been, she’s always insisted on “keeping a pinky in the classroom.”
Even as Dean of Students, Jukier taught at least one course for each of the six years. “I think there’s a symbiotic relationship between teaching, research and administration,” she said. “Teaching makes you a better researcher, and your research makes you a better teacher. If you are teaching while you’re an administrator, it keeps you grounded as to what’s happening in the classroom. If you’re an academic administrator and don’t actually know what’s happening on the ground, it’s a disadvantage.”
Icing on the cake
When asked what it feels like to be one of the co-winners of the Morty Yalovsky Award, Jukier smiles broadly.
“To get a lifetime achievement award is great in and of itself, but to have one named after Morty is icing on the cake,” says Jukier. “I know Morty really well, as a colleague and a friend, and he’s such a wonderful person and member of our community. To win an award named after him is a great honour.”