Alvaro Pires recognized as Distinguished University Professor

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Alvaro Pires

The University of Ottawa has named Alvaro Pires as a Distinguished Professor. Professor Pires is the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Legal Traditions and Penal Rationality, and a professor in the Department of Criminology at uOttawa.

Professor Pires accepted this honour with humility: “As a researcher, your primary concerns are to do your research well and to teach well, which is something I really enjoy.” Despite his initial timidity about the award, he describes himself as happy and honoured. “Obviously, this prize is a little embarrassing for me, because I am very aware that many of my colleagues deserve this as much as I do. I’m accepting this for them as well, and for the Department of Criminology and the Faculty of Social Sciences.”

After 36 years as a university professor, Professor Pires is extremely grateful to those who made their mark on his own education: “I owe a lot to my former professors. One thing I learned as a student, and that has stayed with me forever, is how to cope with failure. For a researcher, failure is a constant companion, and it’s thanks to it that you manage to learn.”

One of the first professors to teach in French at the Department of Criminology, Professor Pires has trained an astounding number of professors himself: over the course of his career, eight of his students have become professors, with two more soon to follow.

Professor Pires became interested in human rights very early on. Drawn by the interdisciplinary cooperation that social science research allows, he developed a passion for teaching and pursued a career in criminology, focussing on the obstacles preventing the evolution of criminal law.

Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison had a lasting impact on young Alvaro Pires; as a student, he made his way to Montreal to meet the great philosopher when he visited there in 1978. Boldly, he brought along a copy of his thesis. However, he never could have anticipated the call that followed: an invitation to spend a day with Mr. Foucault. They discussed his doctoral project, with Mr. Foucault even offering to take him on as a PhD student. Sadly, the arrangement never came to be, but Alvaro never forgot his day with Foucault, which drove home the importance of the problems in prisons. Moved and inspired, he went on a mission to confront the realities of prison life and develop solutions for its most common problems. Since then, his research has taken him to Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Latin America and North America. 

Today, Professor Pires is one of the foremost experts on criminal justice in modern society, whose original ideas have been analysed and expanded by authors around the world. This prestigious award is granted in recognition for his tremendous contributions to academic life at the university, his expertise in his field and his impressive teaching career.

We wish to offer our congratulations to this remarkable researcher and professor!

Learn more about Professor Alvaro Pires

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