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Roland Chagnon


Roland Chagnon, born in St. Henri, was the eldest of a family from Verchères. He was raised in a stable an austere home environment and received basic values from his parents such as integrity and simplicity, a sense of community commitment and respect for himself and others. His special gift from his parents was the capacity to overcome difficulties with courage and to seize opportunities.

A talented student, Roland Chagnon was granted a scholarship of $300 when he completed high school, in order to study at university. He soon decided to become a chartered accountant and enrolled at the École des Hautes Études commerciales. He received his commerce certificate in 1930 and his C. A. in 1932.

He pursued his career at a firm of chartered accountants, Larue –Trudel, which later became Samson – Bélair, where he was noted for his clear analyses. In 1938, he received a mandate to study the finances of Syndicat de Québec, a large store, where he moved up rapidly from Treasurer to Assistant Manager, then Executive Director. Under his management, the store went through an era of prosperity and expansion. Roland Chagnon then joined Dupuis Frères, a large store in Montréal, and became its General Manager until 1952.

The year 1952 marked a turning point in the career of Roland Chagnon, when he concluded an agreement with J.- Louis Lévesque, founder and owner of the Interprovincial Credit brokerage firm, allowing him to purchase 50% of the shares of the Fred A. Lallemand company, to become its president and to have an option to purchase the other shares. Roland Chagnon seized this occasion two years later, helped by his brother Marcel who helped him to finance it.

Lallemand, the company he acquired, had specialized since 1923 in the production of baker's yeast. It had been founded at the end of the 19th Century by an Alsatian immigrant, Fred Lallemand. While the company had known some success under Fred Lallemand's management, it had subsequently run into problems. By 1952, Roland Chagnon was taking on a company in sad condition. Everything needed to be rebuilt, and that is what he did. The results confirmed the validity of his vision and his ability to make it happen.

Roland Chagnon involved himself in every aspect of the enterprise. After modernizing the accounting system, he invested in improvements. Stainless steel vats replaced obsolete copper vats and rotary vacuum filters took over from the old yeast presses. He also modernized the microbiology laboratory, where he spent many hours questioning the scientists to understand the microscopic living creature - yeast - which was the pillar of the business.

Roland Chagnon was also very involved in the economic and social life of Montréal and of the country. Chairman of the Board of Trade of Montréal, Chairman of the Montréal Metropolitan Corporation (predecessor of the MUC), Chairman of the United Way campaign, director of several Canadian companies and non-profit organizations, such as the Hôpital Notre-Dame and the Centre de Recherche Clinique de Montréal, he helped them adapt to a rapidly changing economic environment.

The quality of personal relations was always a high priority for Roland Chagnon, and he was recognized for his thoughtfulness towards employees, colleagues and customers. He knew intuitively how to recognize the abilities of individuals and present them with employment opportunities and challenges that helped them grow.

A formidable visionary, he always looked to the future and planned at least five years in advance. At age 65, he left the management of the company for a well-deserved retirement, to avoid "depriving the company of new blood". However, his talent had served well in bringing together people capable of succeeding him, and he resigned his job as President with full confidence. He remained active to age 93, however, first as a Director, then as Honorary Director.

Those who had the chance to know him remembered the businessman for his daring, perspicacity and intuition, and remembered the man for his kindness, courtesy, and a sense of humour that did not fail, either in moments of peace or moments of adversity.

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