Michèle Thibodeau-Deguire

Michèle Thibodeau-Deguire

2001 Social Social

Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire is a woman of firsts: one of the first women to study at École Polytechnique and the first woman to obtain a degree in civil engineering; the first president of the Association des diplômés de Polytechnique; the first woman consulting engineer; the first woman to be appointed general delegate abroad and the first woman recipient of the Prix Mérite of the Association des diplômés de Polytechnique.

Born in 1941, Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire is the oldest in a family of four children. A graduate of École Polytechnique in 1963, she worked as a structural engineer for close to 20 years. To her credit are several bridges and other concrete structures, including the walls of the Décarie expressway for the firms Lalonde, Girouard, Letendre, and Francis Boulva et Associés.

In 1982, she was appointed Quebec’s general delegate to New England. From her office in Boston, she carried out various mandates for the Quebec Ministère de Relations internationales, including forging and maintaining relations with the various levels of government of six north-eastern U.S. states, facilitating the export of Quebec products and monitoring major projects in the fields of energy, tourism, high technology and cultural products.  

In 1984, École Polytechnique asked her to spearhead its first fundraising campaign. This return to her origins brought with it another major challenge, this time with a tragic twist: the events of December 1989. Drawing on her strengths, as she had done when diagnosed with cancer, the head of public relations at Polytechnique quickly set up the services required to help and comfort the stricken families, reassure students and meet the incessant demands of journalists around the world. 

Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire was appointed president and executive director of Centraide of Greater Montréal in April 1991. A determined woman who knows how to surround herself with the right people, Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire breathed new life into this philanthropic institution. She brought this organization closer to the people and enhanced its regional visibility by mobilizing leaders and decision-makers of various sectors of activity.

The “Centraide dynamo” today manages an organization that supports a veritable mutual aid network of 300 agencies and projects that help over 500,000 disadvantaged people in Greater Montréal. Centraide enlists over 62,000 volunteers, 22,000 of which work on its annual fundraising campaign. In 2000, the organization raised $37.3 million ($16.8 million more than in 1990) thanks to the commitment of volunteers and the generous contributions of 200,000 donors.

Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire’s determination, entrepreneurial skills, leadership, commitment to the community and unshakeable faith in people and their ability to reach their full potential are recognized and admired by her peers. In January 2001, the McGill University management faculty honored her with the McGill Management Achievement Award. She also received the Order of Merit in 1995 from the Association des diplômés de l’Université de Montréal and the community service award from the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (August 1995). She is a member of the Canadian Academy of Engineers and the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, which awarded her the Grand Prix d’Excellence in 1995. Besides sitting on the board of directors of the Canadian Policy Research Networks, Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire is also a governor of the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie of Laval and of the Association des diplômés de Polytechnique, which in 1994 awarded her its Prix Mérite.