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Faculty of Law thankful for Desautels legacy of Private Enterprise and the Law

Passionate benefactor's passing leaves gap for next generation to fill

February 2, 2023 — 

The Faculty of Law joins the University of Manitoba community in remembering its extraordinary benefactor and alum, Marcel A. Desautels, CM, OOnt, OM. A former business leader and one of UM’s, and the Faculty of Law’s most distinguished benefactors and alumni, he passed away on January 31, 2023, at age 88.

Desautels [BA (LatPh)/55, LLB/59, LLM/65, LLD (Hon)/99] had generously supported the development of the Marcel A. Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and the Law, which promoted the study and practice of integrating the two disciplines of business, law and the humanities as they apply to family-controlled and other private enterprises. By developing synergies between disciplines, the Centre’s programs work to provide future lawyers and their clients with a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing privately held businesses. The Centre’s areas of strength include Law & Technology, Business Organizations, Business Transactions & Obligations, Financing & Insolvency, and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

“The Faculty of Law owes an eternal debt of gratitude for the foresight of Marcel Desautels in addressing the need to educate law students in the inherently interdisciplinary nature of business law, and, in particular, in addressing the needs of family-owned businesses,” said Dr. Richard Jochelson, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba. “The law school shares these passions and The Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and the Law has had a crucial impact on furthering business law research and education in Manitoba, and in advancing the study of and work by small businesses in this province.”

Professor Darcy MacPherson, who now holds the position of Research Director for the Desautels Centre, met Desautels several times while teaching corporate and commercial law at Robson Hall. The most memorable encounter was having dinner with him in Toronto a number of years ago with students on the Davies Corporate/Securities Moot team that MacPherson was coaching. “He was this warm, engaging gentleman, who was genuinely interested in all the students, what they were up to and why they were interested in business,” MacPherson recalled.

Desautels struck MacPherson as a person who was passionate about many things. “He loved the law. He loved students, he was very committed to students, providing them with tremendous learning opportunities. He was also obviously, very committed to the law, and what opportunities a law degree provided our students with beyond just being a lawyer, because that’s how he used his law degree.”

“He wanted to see the next generation was put on the right path. Those of us left behind now have the job of bringing that level of passion and commitment to ensure a well-rounded, professional and personal life for our students. I am very, very proud to be doing work that bears his name.” – Professor Darcy MacPherson, Faculty of Law

MacPherson describes Desautels as passionate, outward looking, and forward looking. “For me, Marcel Desautels was a really good example of the Renaissance lawyer who wanted to make the world a better place. He was a guy who put his money where his mouth was. He didn’t just show up for dinners: he wanted his philanthropic gifts to do big things for students,” said MacPherson.

“Speaking as the research director of a research center that bears his name, I think there’s no better role model that our students could have,” said MacPherson. “His passing is something that will leave a leave a gap that the rest of us are going to have to fill with stories and memories of a man who wanted students to remember that there was more to getting a law degree and more to being a lawyer than simply sitting and doing lots of work, and that it is important to make the most of your law degree.”

Currently, the Desautels Centre consists of an Advisory Committee, a Research Cluster, a research journal titled the Desautels Review of Private Enterprise and Law, and it oversees the operations of the L. Kerry Vickar Business Law Clinic. The Centre also hosts an annual lecture featuring an exceptional scholar or business practitioner. Desautels’ multi-million dollar gift was given to the Faculty of Law in 2007.

Desautels was born in 1934 in St. Boniface, and having a talent for singing, paid his university tuition by earning money performing at various events around the city. Though he studied law and worked in the business world, his passion was always in music, and the largest private donation the University of Manitoba ever received was from him for its Faculty of Music in 2008.

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