In his funeral homily Father John Perry S.J. spoke of Paul Fortier as a complex and unique individual – a man with imperfections, in a church with imperfections, in constant search for the Word which since the beginning is God.
Paul Fortier was born and raised in Windsor Ontario. He often spoke of this strong union town as an influence on his views. He obtained his B.A. (Honours) from the University of Toronto in 1963, his Diplôme d’Études Supérieures from l’Université de Strasbourg in 1964 and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) in 1965 and 1969.
Paul Fortier was a world-renowned scholar with a particular contribution to the role of computers in the Humanities. Since 1993 he held the title of Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. He became one of a small number to hold this prestigious title which was a tribute to his outstanding research profile. A reading of Paul’s Curriculum Vitae shows that he authored 4 books on Gide, Céline, Robbe-Grillet and Camus and that he contributed 5 edited volumes and research reports, 58 refereed articles and chapters, 23 reviews, 24 brief notices, and some 150 lectures, papers and posters. In support of this wide-ranging research Paul attracted almost $600,000 in research grants, travel grants and graduate student support. At the time of his death Paul was working on a research grant administered through the Centre for Aging.
Paul Fortier was a teaching colleague in the Department of French, Spanish and Italian since 1972. Over these years he taught 15 different undergraduate courses and 8 different graduate courses. Those students who worked for him as part of his research grants and those who worked under his direction on their graduate degrees have lost a valued mentor. His service profile extended well beyond the department to the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Senate, the Presidential Advisory Committee and in the last fifteen years to St. Paul’s College. From 1979 to 2004 Paul was a strong supporter and contributor to the University of Manitoba Faculty Association where he served on many committees, two terms as Vice President and one as President.
Beyond the boundaries of the University he served with such distinction Paul Fortier was a devoted husband to Penny Gilbert for more than 35 years and a loving father to Rose, Marc, Luc and Jacques. Now grown, these children were a great source of pride to Paul and remain a source of strength for Penny.
Finally, Paul Fortier was a deeply spiritual man. He was a scholar of the first rank who imposed no creed in his research nor on his students. He taught the great Existentialists with intellectual integrity and enthusiasm in complete academic freedom while attending daily mass. In this respect he was at ease in the inclusive home of St. Paul’s College which serves its faith community but welcomes faculty and students of all creeds including those with no creed at all. He taught objectivity and critical thinking while never excluding God from his head and understanding nor from his heart and thinking. This complex and enigmatic man was my friend for more than 33 years. He allowed me to be godfather to his youngest son. We sometimes disagreed on substance and almost always on tactics but it is difficult to imagine a world without him. Rest in peace, Paul. You have left us a legacy and a standard to emulate.