Fighting fatigue for a good cause
Summary of a Concordia interview
By Lucas Napier-Macdonald
Source: Advancement and Alumni Relations
Gilles Pepin, EMBA 96, lives in four-hour intervals.
On a typical day, for four hours he’s awake, toiling in his studio with a laser’s focus. Then, for four hours, he’s asleep, beating back the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that seized him in 2011.
Until then, Pepin worked as a financial adviser at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in Montreal. The syndrome, where pain and confusion accompany obstinate fatigue, forced him into early retirement.
“When I need to sleep and I’m not anywhere near my bed, I’m in trouble,” Pepin says. “As I approach the four-hour mark of being awake, my memory is affected.”
RBC offered him a generous severance package in recognition of his years of hard work. Pepin accepted, retiring to the care of his wife, a former nurse.
What, then, for a now-disabled man of seemingly boundless ambition to do?
Aside from being a financial planner, Pepin was a tennis club professional and a long-distance solo sailor. In 1993, he ran for the leadership of the Equality Party, a federalist political party in Quebec.
First, he took a moment to recoup. Away from the marble-floored halls of money management, he let his body rest. But then, he got restless.
“I’ve always been an aviation buff, ever since I was a young lad,” Pepin says.
“When I went to Collège Bourget in Rigaud, Quebec, I devoured every single World War II book in the library. I’m also a model railroader. I’ve worked with miniatures all my life as a hobby.”
His mind a galaxy of knowledge about Second World War airplanes and model crafting, Pepin approached John Lawson, president of the Montreal Aviation Museum (MAM). He pitched a program, “We Build Heritage,” which would offer exact replicas of aircraft, to scale, to interested donors. The museum accepted. Pepin and his team of volunteers began work, striving for historical exactitude.
“The research is an important component of the work,” Pepin says. “I’m building a single engine fighter right now. With all the research, it will take me four months.”
Before his time at the Royal Bank, Pepin decided to complete an executive MBA at Concordia. The “incredibly challenging” program, as he says, is for mid-career managers who want to improve their skill set.
At the end of his degree, Pepin attended an open house for 30 or so potential candidates to the EMBA program at the John Molson School of Business. There, program director Kamal Argheyd asked him how he would rate the program as a product.
“It’s the second best product I’ve ever purchased,” Pepin says.
“Well, what’s the first?” Argheyd said.
Pepin’s answer? “My wife’s wedding ring.”
He credits the EMBA program for teaching him to create a business plan for a program called “We Build Heritage”, which he presented to Lawson.
The Heritage project has also added the Veterans Initiative that, for special occasions, donates to Canadian veterans models of the planes they’ve flown. To Pepin, it’s the most rewarding part of the work.
“When the veterans see the model of their aircraft on the table, you should see the emotion in their eyes. There’s a moment of surprise, and then recognition, and then a little moisture,” he says.
“You know, they flew these aircraft 70 some-odd years ago, and they were shot at. They are the reason you and I are enjoying the liberties we have today.”
The Montreal Aviation Museum is located at the McGill University Agricultural Campus in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Canada
Excerpt from Scale Modelling Now
What first attracted you to Scale Modelling?
Until recently, I was one of the Montreal Aviation Museum (MAM)’s researchers and model builders. I initiated a new program, “We Build Heritage (WBH) and its offshoot “Veterans Initiative”. My team and I built over 25 models in 2 years, raising a tidy sum of money for MAM. My web page on MAM’s web site not being updated (low priority from the MAM’s Board of directors’ perspective, as MAM is a museum, not a modeller’s club), I was seeking a more proactive forum with a much larger readership for my model reviews. Most of these reviews are far too long for Modeling Madness and Hyperscale (although I have two reviews on MM). In January, I was searching for a review of the Wingnut Wings R.E.8 and found the terrific Les Venus review on SMN, paid my ₤15, and was hooked. Precisely the quality online magazine to which I was hoping to submit my humble yet extensive reviews. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
How long have you been scale modelling for?
As an adult, nearly 20 years, 15 of them as an S Scale (1:64) railroad modeller, building over 500 freight cars, locomotives, ... and a 26 feet x 14 feet layout. However, my disability (CFS) has now confined me to work sitting down. As an avid WWII (mostly ETO) air war student since my childhood, the decision to start building model aircraft was a perfect fit.
Specialist area of Modelling?
Jack of all trades, master of none.
1:24, then 1:32, then 1:48, and last 1:72.
What is your favourite real subject of all time (aircraft, armour or maritime)?
DH Mosquito; a close second: CF-104.
The best thing you’ve ever built?
1:24 Hawker Typhoon Mk.Ib (late) SA-Q
And finally: Most memorable Modelling disaster?
Same Typhoon, destroyed by the insipid person in charge of shipping it from Montreal (Canada) to the Musée de la bataille de Tilly-sur-Seulles, (Normandy, France).