Vianney Décarie was a descendant of an old Quebec family. His grandfather, Barthélémy Thélesphore Décarie, was a major landowner, whose farms stretched through the west end of present-day Montreal and the village of Notre Dame de Grace. The Décarie Expressway bears the family's name.
The provincial government established the University of Montreal's École normale supérieure. In 1961, he was named director. The school offered a higher standard for teaching both university and high school instructors, and eventually became the university's faculty of education.
His work called for a more robust post-secondary system: a research council, better peer review and a body to implement best practices for university administrators; all of which preceded the Parent Commission.
He published L'object de la métaphysique selon Aristotle, one of the most important books on the philosopher. He obtained the Doctorat d'État from La Sorbonne and was featured in the pages of Paris Match.
He made enemies with his political writing and general exploration. There was still resistance to open-mindedness among the clergy who ran the university. A Le Devoir editorial criticized the university for not recognizing Pierre Trudeau's value; after Décarie complained to the rector of the university, Trudeau was hired.
Décarie was an occasional writer for the political magazine Cité Libre.
Décarie also played a role in the early career of Charles Taylor, whom he hired as a professor in the early 1960s.
His widow is Thérèse Gouin Décarie, a pioneering researcher on early childhood development. His children are Pascale, Dominique, Jean-Claude and Emmanuel. He went to church every Sunday, but respected his children's religious choices.
His love of language was passionate, and was moved by the construction of ancient Greek words. That passion for language spilled over into a short-wave radio obsession, listening to foreign broadcasts.