Haiti – Canada: Frantz Saintellemy becomes the president of the board of the University of Montreal

Born in Haiti, the entrepreneur Frantz Saintellemy becomes the new chancellor of the University of Montreal (UdeM), where he wants to build bridges with young people.


Sunday October 3, 2021 ((rezonodwes.com)) –

Nothing predestined Frantz Saintellemy to become president of the board of one of the best universities in the world. When at the age of eight he left his native Haiti with his family to settle in the Saint-Michel district, he had to be resilient, because he did not speak French well. For this reason, he was placed in the reception class.

However, in the playground, he was the one who defended the most vulnerable and rallied his comrades by organizing soccer and dodge ball games. Teacher Gérard Jeune, with whom Frantz Saintellemy has remained friends, noticed his leadership and challenged him – in Creole – to work extra hard to improve quickly in French and English and increase his grades. If he performed better, he would take him to his third year class in January to avoid falling behind in his studies.

“I wasted no time, I started to listen Master key, Grendizer, Sesame Street and I succeeded, ”says Frantz Saintellemy during a long interview at the MIL campus. In his view, an individual cannot succeed alone. “We are the product of our community. Gérard Jeune was one of the first to believe in my potential and I see myself as a product of my environment, where several people have reached out to me at one point or another in my life. “

Since then, nothing has been able to stop him.

From Saint-Michel to Silicon Valley

Frantz Saintellemy left the Saint-Michel district to pursue studies which led him to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. After his successes in the digital field, the entrepreneur is still very active in business, but he also finds the time to give back to his community. In addition to having co-founded with his wife, Vickie Joseph, Groupe 3737, an accelerator incubator for diverse entrepreneurs, he has just accepted the role – voluntary commitment – of chancellor of the University of Montreal.

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Entrepreneur, philanthropist, member of boards of directors, husband, father and, now, chancellor of UdeM, Frantz Saintellemy has always needed to carry out several projects at the same time to be successful. Young, he always rushed to do his homework on the school bus to spend his evenings playing soccer. This sport even made him travel to Europe for tournaments. His sporting experiences have introduced him to another world and opened his mind to the importance of having goals. An elite athlete, he had to be efficient and make the right choices to succeed in his studies.

When he looked at his options for college, it was Northeastern University in Boston that caught his eye. The computer engineering program allowed him to take a work-study program.

“I was looking for the fastest way to get to the job market so that I could practice my job as quickly as possible,” he says. This university allowed me to start working in my first year of studies and gave me credit for almost all of my CEGEP courses. ”

To help him pay the tuition fees, the American establishment grants him merit scholarships because of his academic results. “We had a family with a lot of kids – there were 13 of us in total, so we had to work really hard on everything. All of my siblings were studious and had strong characters. There was a healthy competition between us: we had to take our place. We all have a university education. Education was an extraordinary lever. ”

He therefore belongs to the first generation of his family to have had access to university studies. His training path has taken him to the highest level in the advanced technology industry, which has led him to a flourishing career in Boston and Silicon Valley, California. He made a name for himself through his creativity, his initiative and his ability to solve complex problems.

A helping hand for diversity entrepreneurs

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It is a love story that brought Frantz Saintellemy back to Quebec. “In Florida, I met Vickie Joseph, who became my wife,” he recounts. She was also from Quebec and, after staying in Boston for two years, we decided to come back to start a family. ”

Young, he did not feel that he belonged to a minority. “Saint-Michel, it’s the United Nations!” But his return to Quebec was a shock. “In the United States, you often saw black entrepreneurs or high-level managers. Here, everywhere I went, I was an exception, especially in my field, advanced technologies. ”

With his wife, he wanted to do something to improve the situation. This is how their accelerator incubator project for diversity, Groupe 3737, was born. The place where it took shape couldn’t be more symbolic. 3737, boulevard Crémazie Est is a building that housed one of the Dominion Textile factories. When he was young, his mother worked there as a day laborer. For almost a year, she went there every morning hoping to be hired by the foreman for the day. “There was a large concentration of daily workers of Haitian origin and my mother was one of them.”

Following the acquisition of this abandoned building, Frantz Saintellemy and Vickie Joseph renovated and converted sections into 12 commercial condominiums, selling nine floors to entrepreneurs eager to create jobs in the Saint-Michel district. More than 4500 m2 (50 000 pi2) are occupied on three floors by Groupe 3737, which offers various training, support and mentoring programs as well as an innovation laboratory and a room equipped with computers to train young people in codification. More than 1,000 entrepreneurs have been supported since March 2012 by the 3737 Group, which has thus supported the creation of some 100 companies, which has translated into more than $ 160 million in collective income.

The new chancellor intends to keep his titles of chairman of the board of directors of Groupe 3737 and chairman and chief operating officer of LeddarTech, a company that designs microprocessors and software used in the automotive industry whose value is estimated at over a billion dollars. He’s used to big numbers. In 2010, he acquired the microelectronics company ZMDI with a group of investors and sold it US $ 350 million in 2015.

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In his eyes, this is proof that “education is an incredible social lever”.

For greater inclusion

By agreeing to become, at 48, the 14e Chancellor of UdeM, Frantz Saintellemy wishes to inspire young people, whatever their skin color or their financial capacity. “I want them to see how university can change their lives and how accessible it is to everyone.”

He is also of the opinion that UdeM, a large Quebec university that shines in the Francophonie, has the potential to change things. “This potential comes with a responsibility,” he says. We have to build bridges. Too often, even today, people who are educated at university come from social backgrounds that predispose them to professional success. To build a more equitable society, we must widen the pie, give hope to all young people, regardless of their financial situation. We need to be more inclusive, more accessible and have greater proximity. I want UdeM to be seen as innovative, modern, entrepreneurial and accessible to all. ”

He also finds that, even if Montreal has carved out an enviable place for itself in the digital world, Quebec should act in the area of ​​primary and secondary education. “We must improve the digital literacy of young people, especially since many in disadvantaged areas or in the regions do not have enough access to computers and high-speed Internet at home to increase their skills in the field. However, today, with French, English and mathematics, it is the basis. ”

He also believes that investing in the development of digital literacy for all young people will help raise Quebec society while bringing more young people into CEGEPs and universities, particularly in science and engineering. “We may train the most privileged at university, it is when we succeed in finding the weak link that we really elevate society.”


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