E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed 5739 André Costin (CMR RMC 1963), who served as president of the RMC Club in 1995-96. Second in a series.
5739 André Costin: I am a professional engineer by training and hold a Masters Degree in Business Administration. I am the President of Xemplar Inc. a management consulting firm in the Montreal area. I have acquired forty years of experience in management consulting and project management.
e-veritas: What was your intent when you wrote ‘Managing Difficult Projects’ (Butterworth-Heinemann: May 30 2008)?
5739 André Costin: My intent was to help corporate executives and project management practitioners apply processes, methodologies, systems, structures and tools to rally the information and the resources required for better decisions, faster delivery and improved results. The book pulls together the principles and practice of project management. It presents diagnostic approaches, tools and structures. It focuses on the diagnosis and resolution of “difficult” problems whether in large or small complex projects.
e-veritas: What extracurricular activities were you involved with at Military College?
5739 André Costin: I was mainly involved with athletic extracurricular activities at Military College. I competed in intervarsity skiing and long distance running.
e-veritas: How and why did you get involved with RMC Club business?
5739 André Costin: In the 1980s, I was invited to join the Montreal branch of the RMC club by 4100 Mr Jacques Choquette (CMR 1959), who is ex president of the Montreal Chapter and of the RMC Club. This led to my taking on active roles for the RMC Club. I willingly served the RMC club in part to honour my family members, who have served in the military. My grandfather served in WWI; my father, uncles & aunt served in WWII & Korea. Also, my second cousin 14726 Thomas Falardeau (RMC 1985) is an ex-cadet and my cousin Pierre Bergeron served on the RMC directing staff in the 1990s. So you might say that I inherited a strong military tradition.
e-veritas: How did you end up as RMC Club president?
5739 André Costin: I first served in the Montreal Chapter and became President of the Chapter for a few years. A highlight of my tenure was receiving the Honorable Perrin Beatty, Minister of National Defence, in 1987 for a Mess Dinner at CFB Longue Pointe. As President of the Montreal Branch, I attended General Council and continued on as a member of General Council after finishing the presidency of the Montreal Branch. And after several years of service on the Council, I was appointed as second vice president, then first vice president, and then President of the RMC Club for 1995-96.
e-veritas: During your tenure as RMC Club President, there were funding cuts and Military College closure(s).
5739 André Costin: Prior to my year as Club President, the Department of National Defence announced that it would close Royal Roads Military College and the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. The final classes graduated in May 1995. The former Royal Roads Military College campus is now maintained by the Government of British Columbia as Royal Roads University.
The College Militaire Royal Saint-Jean was also closed in 1995. CMR de Saint-Jean reopened in 2007 to return to its founding formula in 1952 of a three-year academic program with graduates transferring to the RMC of Kingston for the two final years in the System.
The Military College closures and funding cuts focused the energies of the RMC Club Executive in my tenure as President. The RMC Club Executive opted to actively promote and to become advocates for the Canadian Military Colleges System.
e-veritas: During this period, donations to the RMC Foundation raised from several hundreds of thousands to millions.
5739 André Costin: The important effect was the recognition by ex-cadets from all of the military colleges that they could not take the continued existence of military colleges for granted. The colleges needed to be defended and promoted by ex-cadets. We advocated to ex-cadets that they consider making sizeable donations to the RMC Club foundation, which would make the Foundation a significant player in the life of the Military Colleges through its endowments, and this strong presence of the ex-cadets and the Foundation would improve the chances of preserving the military colleges system in future funding decisions of the Federal Government.
e-veritas: During this period there was a movement to fold the RMC Club into the RMC Foundation. Would you care to comment on this?
5739 André Costin: The alumni associations of civilian universities and colleges tend to be directly associated with the alumni foundations/registered charities. I initially supported the movement to fold the RMC Club into the RMC Foundation, but we ultimately decided to keep the RMC Club and RMC Foundation separate for the following reason. In layman terms (I am an engineer remember), Revenue Canada requires that registered charitable organizations be intrinsically charitable in nature. The philanthropic goals identified in the mission of the RMC Club Foundation, i.e. to “deliver the funds necessary to Enhance Excellence in the attraction, education and training of the students of the Royal Military Colleges” is incompatible with the social component identified in the mission of the RMC Club, i.e. “the bringing together of its members for mutual benefit and support; the encouragement and maintenance of that camaraderie which has always existed at the colleges, and the advancement of the welfare of its members”.
e-veritas: Do you favour unrestricted or restricted donations to the RMC Club and RMC Foundation?
5739 André Costin: It depends on the donor(s) and the donation. The Colleges benefit from a mixture of designated and undesignated donations.
- When I was president of the RMC club, I would recommend to donors that they do not become too specific in how they wish their monies to be directed as this reduces flexibility and may not allow the CMCs to satisfy their most pressing needs.
- However, I do recognize that Classes and individuals tend to be more generous when they focus on specific projects. For instance, the Class of 63 has funded the Wall of Honour, which is a wonderful addition to the RMC Campus at Kingston. As a member of the Class of 63, I am proud to state that I participated in the funding of the Wall, under the urgings and leadership of several other very tenacious members of my Class.
e-veritas: What do you know of the Club business today? What are the Club’s/College(s) biggest challenges?
5739 André Costin: Although I have been devoted to my business in recent years, I read Veritas and e-veritas. In my day, there was a more snobbish or stand-offish vision of the Military Colleges as inevitably generating senior NORAD or NATO commanders.
I prefer the current increased awareness of our alumni through Veritas and e-veritas of how our graduates the Military Colleges are generating leaders who are responsive to the Canadian Forces military missions and programs.
I have noticed a positive rapprochement between the College(s) and the Canadian Armed Forces’ combat mission(s). Stories in the alumni journal or presentations about alumni serving on combat missions provide a sense of the importance of the vitality of the Military Colleges as an essential part of the Canadian Forces. When alumni have served or are on leave from a special duty area (Afghanistan comes to mind), Club members would like to hear about these experiences.
I also have the sense that ex-cadets and alumni support the Military College financially and with their time. This results in the greater recognition of teaching and College excellence, which I see. It is clear that the Colleges benefit from expanded funding for extracurricular activities, sports of all kinds and coaching excellence.
I have also noticed an increased emphasis at the Colleges on military and business ethics. When something just isn’t right, we, as soldiers and civilians, have both an ethical and legal obligation to act.
e-veritas: Would you advise cadets/Ex cadets and former students to get involved with the RMC Club and RMC Foundation? Any advice?
5739 André Costin: Yes, the RMC Club and RMC Foundation are important. Volunteers are an essential part of building strong institutions. I strongly recommend that alumni get involved with their local branches of the RMC Club: Vancouver Island; Vancouver; Calgary; Winnipeg; Hamilton; Toronto; Kingston; Ottawa; Fort St.-Jean; Quebec City; Nova Scotia; Newfoundland; Australia or UTPNCM.
While I served as an RMC Club president, I had the opportunity to travel to a number of different branches. I noticed that the branches have distinctive features, sort of like a montage of photos representing different events and themes. From another perspective, the branches attract serving members, business professionals and retired folks, who share a common past and they are good places to network and to get involved. And I would hope that for most ex-cadets, as is my case, their fellow ex-cadets count among their best friends. The military colleges’ life that we lived is a strong base for sharing viewpoints, for reminiscing over difficult and sometimes comical experiences, and for forging our destinies into an uncertain future.