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> 40th Anniversary > About Vanier College
Georges Philias Vanier
23 April 1888 – 5 March 1967
In 1999, Maclean's Magazine compiled a list of the 100 most influential Canadians of all time. Georges Philias Vanier was placed at position number one. Here is an overview of his exceptional life.
George Vanier was a man of courage and sacrifice. In war and peace, he exemplified the best in his countrymen. As a young lawyer in 1915, he joined the 22nd Regiment and served overseas, winning a Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. During the Hundred Days, known to be the end of the First World War advance of the Canadian Corps, Vanier was shot through the chest and wounded in both legs, and his right leg had to be amputated. Continuing in the army despite his disability, Vanier took command of his regiment in 1925. Then, with his wife Pauline Archer, the daughter of a judge whom he married in 1921 and with whom he had five children, Vanier moved into diplomacy, serving as military representative in the Canadian delegation at the League of Nations. He later came to serve at the Canadian High Commission in London, the Legation in France. After the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940, he represented Canada to Charles de Gaulle's Free French in London. He then became Canadian ambassador in Paris from the liberation in 1944 until his retirement in 1953.
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker named Vanier Governor General of Canada in 1959 at the age of 71. Vanier was the second Canadian and the first ever French-Canadian to take that position. As Governor General for almost eight years, he was the exemplar of service, duty and courage. He presided over government functions in Ottawa and opened garden shows in Saint John, N.B., and Victoria. He reviewed graduation parades at the Royal Military College and presented colors to historic regiments. He made countless well-crafted speeches in perfect French and equally perfect English, and everywhere he talked of the joys and duties of being Canadian.
Vanier’s time in the Office of the Governor General also saw the creation of awards that reflected his interests. In 1962, to recognise excellence in bureaucratic endeavours, he initiated the Vanier Medal of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. In 1965, he created the Governor General's Fencing Award, and the Vanier Cup for the university football championship in the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union. In 1967, he initiated the Vanier Awards for Outstanding Young Canadians, awarded to deserving individuals in the Canadian Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Vanier will always be remembered as Canada's moral compass, and an unquestioned man of probity and honor. Journalist Claude Ryan said of him that "he set his sights on the goal of giving to Canadian public life a sort of supplement for its soul, an infusion of high patriotism, even of pure and simple spirituality."
Adapted by Matthieu Sossoyan, Vanier College Anthropology, in 2009 from:
J L Granatstein. (1998, July). Georges Vanier. Maclean's, 111(26), 16. Retrieved September 21, 2009, from Research Library Core. (Document ID: 30734156).
Georges Vanier. (2009, September 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:11, September 19, 2009, from
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