80th Birthday Retrospective Dr. Daniel Birch

It is with great fondness and admiration that Quest must bid farewell to Dr. Dan Birch, who will be stepping down from his position on the Board at the end of August after seven years of service to the University as both Chancellor and a Board member. In his own words, “I will celebrate my 80th birthday on September 1st and this seems like a good time to focus on my family. Doing so will entail no diminution in my aspirations for the future of Quest.”

When Dr. Birch became Chancellor of Quest University Canada, he brought a tremendous background in higher education with him. He received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of California- Berkeley. At Simon Fraser University he was appointed Dean of Education, Associate Vice President Academic, Acting Vice President Academic, and briefly as Acting President of the University. At the University of British Columbia, Dan again served as Dean of Education and for twelve years as Provost and Academic Vice President. He received the Cree name Mitehe (Heart) in recognition of twenty years of support for the development of First Nations programs at universities, including the establishment of the first Aboriginal graduate programs at UBC.

When asked about what attracted him to Quest when he first became Chancellor, Dan notes, “Members of the Quest community frequently say that their goal is to institutionalize revolution and the University is truly revolutionary – from cornerstone to keystone.” In regard to Cornerstone, he emphasizes the interdisciplinary teaching by two tutors from different disciplines, which “like much of the academic program has more to do with learning to ask good questions than with memorizing answers to be reproduced on exams.” As for Keystone, Dan finds it impressive how many lead into interesting employment or personally relevant studies for Quest alumni, either graduate or professional, and often in the most distinguished of institutions in Canada or abroad.

As an educator, Dr. Birch feels that Quest exemplifies the unique possibilities of a discovery-based pedagogy. “Most members of the public expect a university education to entail mastery of a body of knowledge. Quest’s expectation is that students will learn how scholars in a variety of disciplines formulate questions to advance their insight into the world around them and into themselves and others who live in it. Many Quest tutors achieve true distinction as scholar teachers and, in doing so, inspire their students to do likewise.”

Looking back on his service as Chancellor and as a Board member, Dan shared the following thoughts. “I am grateful to have served under two outstanding Chairs, Ian Worland and Mary Jo Larson, who have given themselves unstintingly for Quest’s wellbeing.” When asked about his hopes for the future of Quest University Canada, Dan enthusiastically responded, “I will look for the achievement of fiscal sustainability, continued orderly growth to a planned enrolment total of perhaps 1200 students, for an increase in the international experience of both students and faculty members, for continued relevance in the co-curricular program, and for an increase in peer tutoring. I expect vibrant and strategic leadership from the next President and from a coherent administrative team. It has been a great privilege to have been a member of Quest’s governing board.”

Quest is an inspired community of diverse, unique individuals who share a passion for discovery. Dan Birch exemplifies the spirit of Quest and we are truly privileged to have enjoyed his guidance and support for so many years. Board Chair Mary Jo Larson offered the following reflection on Dan’s contributions to Quest, “Dan has been an invaluable member of the Board. His knowledge of and connections in Canadian higher education have helped not only the Board, but all Quest students. When few graduate and professional programs understood the value of a Quest education, Dan opened doors for many Quest graduates, who continue to pave the way for the students coming after them. All of us are indebted to Dan for his many contributions to Quest.”

With the warmest wishes upon the occasion of his 80th birthday, thank you Dan from all of us at Quest!