Friendship can work miracles

Foundation, in collaboration with Suzanne Lévesque, President of the Jean-Louis Lévesque Foundation

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This article is adapted from the Foundation’s magazine

In 1974, Suzanne Lévesque joined the J.-Louis Lévesque Foundation, set up by her father in 1961. By that time, the organization dedicated mainly to the support of medical research and innovation was already well established, and under her stewardship enjoyed remarkable growth that led to its current success. Ms. Lévesque has been president of the foundation for nearly 40 years now.

A lot has changed since its early days, but one constant remains—the ability to forge strong ties. “Friendship can work miracles,” says Ms. Lévesque. This firm conviction, which she demonstrates daily, came from her father.

When she accompanied her father to meetings with Dr. Paul David, she witnessed a personal relationship blossom into a major project from which she’s drawn inspiration throughout her career. That project was supporting the Montreal Heart Institute

Research Fund. After her father’s death, Ms. Lévesque made it her mission to keep the relationship that sparked many important advances at the Institute alive.

Her thirst for knowledge and innovation is an endless source of inspiration. She reads everything she’s sent, speaks personally to the researchers who receive support from the Foundation, and learns something new every day. “My role allows me to keep a finger on the pulse of the community, which I find very exciting,” she explained.

For the last five years or so, Ms. Lévesque has invited researchers and collaborators she’s befriended to dinners hosted in her backyard. These experts stem from a wide range of research fields—an unlikely meeting of the minds that sparks stimulating conversations, which sometimes result in large-scale projects. In fact, it was at one of these dinners that the idea for a partnership between the Mira Foundation and the specialists in Alzheimer’s disease at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute emerged. Ms. Lévesque was right—friendship can lead to great things.

Like most of us, she has found the past year very challenging, both from a human perspective and in terms of foundation work. Many foundations rely on event programming to raise funds, and countless initiatives ended up being shelved.

Nonetheless, Ms. Lévesque believes that 2020 taught us many lessons and encouraged us to slow down, live in the moment and nurture our personal relationships. She sees these things as essential and going hand in hand with the power of friendship. “My dad always said, ‘Suzanne, remember that it’s important to be present and to get involved, rather than simply writing a cheque,’” she recalled. Those words, etched in her memory, perfectly illustrate the passion that has burned within her since the very beginning.

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