CIS 50th Anniversary Success Stories (Week 6): Jean-Marie De Koninck
As part of its 50th Anniversary Celebration, Canadian Interuniversity Sport presents the CIS 50th Anniversary Success Stories series. Each Thursday throughout the 2011-12 season, we will profile two alumni from CIS member institutions who have made outstanding contributions in areas such as sports, business, politics or in the community.
JEAN-MARIE DE KONINCK : AN EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUAL
QUEBEC - A former member of the Rouge et Or swim team at Laval University in the late 1960’s, Jean-Marie De Koninck’s list of achievements would put quite a few to shame. His renown, in many areas of activity, extends far beyond national boundaries and he has become one of the best known and most respected figures on the Laval campus.
After earning his baccalaureate degree in mathematics, De Koninck set his sights on Temple University in Philadelphia. There, he earned both masters and doctorate degrees before returning to Laval to teach. He went from assistant professor to assistant director in charge of graduate studies in the Department of Mathematics, earning the title of Associate Professor along the way. Since 1982, he has held the position of Full Professor, specializing in the theory of numbers.
Two projects in particular have been keeping him busy over the last few years. The first is SMAC (science and mathematics in action) of which he has been the Director since 2005. In conjunction with this project, he has established two conferences – Showmath and Maths in Play – which he presents in schools. Their aim is to popularize the science of mathematics and to help young people to associate various principles to concrete things of everyday life. The second is the Mitacs “Outreach” program, of which he is also Director since 2007 and whose headquarters are at the University of British Columbia.
An undisputed world authority, Jean-Marie has, to date, published twelve books and close to 100 articles in various scientific magazines. He is a frequent guest speaker here and around the world. In addition to Canada and the United-States, his conferences have taken him to countries such as France, Germany, Mexico, and even Hungary and the former Yugoslavia.
Always in relation to his specialty, the mathematician has presided - and still presides - on many boards of administration and organizing committees. Among others, he was a member of the Board of directors of the ACFAS as well as President of the “Association mathématique du Québec” from 2005 to 2007.
In spite of his impressive professional track record, De Koninck never strayed very far from his university team and the world of sports. From 1978 to 1990, he was head coach of the Rouge et Or swimming club, of which he has been President since 1999.
Our friend has also worn many other hats in the world of sports. From President of the Quebec Swimming Coaches’ Association (1974-1985), he went on to assume the presidency of the Quebec Friends of Swimming Club (1988-1995) and also became an administrator of the Quebec Swimming Federation (1988-1998). From 2005 to 2010, he acted as President of the Canadian Coaching Association.
His talents as a swimming expert and his ease of expression soon came to the attention of television networks. Since 1976, Radio-Canada has relied on his expertise in swimming; he has been and is, to this day, the main analyst for all the international swim meets. His track record includes seven Olympic Games.
Just in case he should happen to have a few openings in his agenda, Jean-Marie De Koninck has also chosen to get involved in social and community areas. He is the founding president of Operation Red Nose, whose mission is to promote road safety and which is active in December of each year since 1984. Over 55 000 volunteers across the country are involved each year. Its unique concept is to improve road safety during the holiday season by providing free and confidential chauffeur services. These services, which often involve voluntary contributions, are a source of financing for the Rouge et Or Swimming Club. The initiative has also been repeated in countries around the world. And, in relation to this activity, he also acts as President of the Quebec round table on road safety (“Table québécoise sur la sécurité routière”) since 2005.
Time and time again, he has agreed to act as honorary president of numerous fund raising campaigns such as the Mira Foundation, Red Cross blood donor clinics, Laval Hospital and the Laval University Alumni Association.
Such an impressive and outstanding career was sure to bring its lot of honours and, once again, as in most areas, Jean-Marie De Koninck’s list is a long one. Of course, his coaching talents have been celebrated over and over – the first time in 1979, when he was named Canadian University Coach of the Year. But, among his most prized recognitions, are having been made member of the Order of Canada in 1994, member of the National Order of Quebec in 1999 and member of the “Académie des Grands Québécois” in 2006. In 2010, the University of Moncton awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in human relations.
He received the Lester B. “Mike” Pearson award in 2006. This honour is given to an outstanding Canadian citizen who, through his participation in interuniversity sports, has promoted the ideals and objectives of amateur sports in general and of interuniversity sports in particular through his own personal achievements.
This particular honour opened the door to a new CIS prize. The following year, 2007, Canadian Interuniversity Sport introduced the Jean-Marie De Koninck prize given each year to a coach in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the development of university sports throughout the country. Since then, the Université Laval Rouge & Or program also inaugurated its own Jean-Marie De Koninck award, to be given to a student-athlete who, by the excellence of his academic record and athletic performance has particularly distinguished himself.
Well into his sixties, Jean-Marie De Koninck can easily feel a sense of accomplishment. Wherever he has been, he has left his mark but one thing remains exceptional: at whatever level he was involved, be it as coach, president of a club or association, it has always been as a volunteer. Jean-Marie De Koninck is first and foremost a man of passion, and he has lavished this passion on volunteer work, for the betterment of society and of university sports.
Although his plate is overflowing, this exceptional individual has always, between two trips to the four corners of the world, remained a born athlete. For, in addition to being a top-notch swimmer, he is also an accomplished tri-athlete.