tributes to david strangway
As Quest University Canada gathered Testimonials honoring Dr. David Strangway, our Founder who passed away December 13, we decided to add a number of quotes from David’s own blogs on our Quest website. They are highlighted in blue throughout this segment. We sincerely thank our additional contributors for their thoughts and anecdotes about our dynamic and legendary Canadian academic and research-oriented icon.
“For all of the things I have learned and experienced in my life, it is a passion for challenge, for inquiry, for discovery, and for experiencing all that this incredible world has to offer, that has shaped who I am today.” DWS.
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When David Strangway left as head of the University of Toronto to become President of UBC Nov. 1, 1985, I was in my second of six years as a member of the UBC Board of Governors. We met during his first afternoon on the job and David revealed he relished a challenge. The BC government had just made major cuts to the transfer payments to all provincial universities and the attrition continued: for the period 1985-1997, B.C.’s universities lost more than 30% of their provincial transfer grant on a per-student basis.
David responded with a detailed mission plan, and I pledged my personal support consisting of donors from Hong Kong to sponsor new state-of-the-art campus facilities. I proposed to both the President, and the Board of Governors, that we should form a UBC real estate company to develop the 500 acres of surplus campus land, which was to be leased and not sold freehold. UBC Properties Trust was founded in 1988 to commence the development of market housing to secure the university’s future. The Trust has since generated more than $1.4 billion on leased land for endowment, and is projected to reach $3 billion.
David also was pro-active in UBC helping itself. He brought aboard Peter Ufford, renowned as one of Canada’s premier fund-raisers, and—with W.R. Wyman as Chair — they unleashed an imaginative, aggressive World of Opportunity Campaign that raised a remarkable $262 million between 1989-93 — at the time, the largest campaign in Canadian fund-raising history. The UBC Endowment Fund that stood at $85 million in 1985 had risen to more than $500 million by 1997, second only to the University of Toronto.
In total during these remarkable Strangway years, the UBC campus underwent $900 million of new construction…some wags said UBC’s favorite “bird” during this period was “the construction crane.”
The grand Chan Centre for the Performing Arts…the Liu Institute for Global Issues…the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery…the Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research…the Sing Tao building for the School of Journalism…the Robert H. Lee Graduate School…plus 15 other new facilities make up the completely transformed, state-of-the-art UBC campus of today.
The one man of extraordinary vision and leadership who made all of this possible was UBC President David Strangway. And to his beloved wife, Alice, and their adult offspring Richard, Susan and Trish, please accept love and best regards from Lily and me during this difficult time.
Finally, I salute Dr. Peter Englert, President of Quest University Canada, who has vowed that Canada’s first and only independent private university will continue to observe the precepts and concepts laid down by David Strangway, its founder, 10 years ago. Our best to Quest and its remarkable student bodies which, through the years, have led so many of the vital categories of the annual Maclean’s Magazine university student rankings, including 2016.
—Robert H. Lee, Chancellor UBC 1993-1996; Chairman UBC Foundation 1997; Chairman UBC Properties Trust 1988-2011, and Director, Sea to Sky Foundation Board, 2006.
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I am most fortunate to have worked so closely with David at UBC and Quest University. His remarkable contributions to post-secondary education and research, together with his dedicated efforts to both NASA and its moon rocks, and to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, are well documented.
Of equal significance is the tremendous impact he has had on the lives of people around him. My family and I are very saddened by David’s death. Our thoughts and prayers are for Alice and the family.
—Peter Ufford, Founding President & Director, Quest University Canada Foundation, and former Vice-President External Affairs, UBC, for David Strangway.
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David Strangway without question was one of the most successful presidents in the history of Canadian universities. His impact on UBC was truly transformative; he took a good provincial University and turned it into a research powerhouse that could compete with the great public universities in the world. He built UBC’s endowment, raised record private funds, developed research excellence, and introduced UBC onto the international stage. As important, after leaving UBC in 1997 after 12 years at the helm, David transformed the research landscape of the country through his leadership role at the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). It is not possible to look at either UBC or the country today without seeing the results of David Strangway’s vision for excellence at every level of academic pursuit.
—Martha Piper, President Emeritus, UBC
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My clear recollections of David start when we both took part in research generated by NASA’s Apollo missions to the moon. David’s leading role in researching the magnetic properties of lunar samples took him to NASA’s laboratory near Houston while I remained in Ottawa. On his return to the University of Toronto to become chair of the geology department he demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills by bringing with him an impressive array of geomagnetic laboratory equipment for which he successfully won generous operating grants.
By the 1980s he clearly had larger ambitions and won the presidency of UBC. There his reputation as a research-oriented builder grew apace and was later enhanced when he founded Quest University.
From a national perspective his period as president of the fledgling Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was equally impressive. Through the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada I had helped organize the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering to discuss research policies. David faithfully gave the Group an annual presentation on the CFI program that demonstrated his impressive grasp of the broad scope of research in Canada and his vision for providing infrastructure for future progress. He characteristically flavored his talks with good humored comments and clear-eyed accounts of the process CFI developed for allotting support. There is no doubt that David’s leadership and comprehensive understanding of the needs of the Canadian research community secured the success of CFI and was of great benefit to the growth of science and engineering research in Canada.
—Michael R. Dence, O.C., D. Sc., Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
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From 1985 through 1997, David’s time as UBC President, I was Provost. He mobilized teams of leaders in the top research universities around the Pacific Rim, drew in McGill and the U of T and encouraged us to establish international collaborations to engage students and faculty from our own areas of strength.
There was nothing small about David’s thinking. He challenged B.C.’s Premier to provide matching funds that stimulated individual and corporate philanthropy across Canada and around the world to far outstrip Canadian fundraising records. Two residential graduate colleges (Green and St. John’s) are elements in his legacy.
When he was overseas, members of his executive received long faxed communications daily and when he was on campus David liked nothing better than to brainstorm at the end of the day about what he could do to fill a void in Canadian higher education, i.e. the absence of private, secular, not-for-profit, liberal arts and sciences universities which he saw as the pinnacle of undergraduate education in America. This aspiration was realized in his founding of Quest University Canada.
To know and work with this idea-a-minute man enriched my life forever and to have him respond to my own ideas was a thrill.
—Dan Birch, Chancellor, Quest University Canada
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When David and his team selected Squamish as the site of what became Quest University Canada, he Invited some of our Squamish Nation personnel to dinner and said he envisioned members of our band becoming Quest students. Dr. Peter Englert, Quest’s new President, endorsed that outreach at an introductory get-together earlier this year.
On behalf of our Squamish Nation, elders and community, I send our love and prayers to David’s wife, Alice, and members of the Strangway family, and extend further condolences to QUC faculty, staff and students.
—Pekultn Siyam (Chief Dale Harry) Squamish Nation and Member, QUC Board of Governors
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“We need to rekindle enthusiasm for intellectual integration. We need to encourage students to read between the disciplines and to develop the special skills of synthesis. We need to revive the generalist approach to personal growth and intellectual development. Quest University Canada is inspired by precisely this kind of thinking.” DWS.
I met Dr. Strangway when I was a student at UBC in the 1980’s and he was President. I couldn’t believe that someone starting out like me could meet someone like him. He makes an impression upon people. He seemed to be of UBC, as well as for UBC.
His vision for Quest University changed how the community, the region and the world viewed Squamish. Traditional industry was struggling and the need for a more diverse local economy was evident. Dr. Strangway was not content with the status quo. He and other leaders brought the world to Squamish through learning, employment, diversity, community building and personal and public engagement with the ideals that underpin a liberal arts and sciences education. Whenever I participate in something at Quest, I find I stand a little taller.
In 2010, Dr. Strangway championed another visionary idea. Based on his experience in Canada, where the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Canada Research Chairs were tremendously successful in strengthening Canadian universities and countering the loss of our best minds to other countries, Dr. Strangway proposed that the G8 endow 1,000 research chairs with $100,000 at several hundred universities in Africa. This would ensure that the best and the brightest be attracted back to Africa, or stay in Africa to develop university teaching and research that is essential to addressing the (then) Millennium Development Goals.
Kofi Annan said, “This suggested concept is a timely and very worthy initiative and I would be pleased to lend my support towards strengthening African faculties and reversing the continent’s brain drain.” Perhaps this will be his next legacy.
Dr. Strangway, thank you for the education and inspiration you have provided to all Canadians.
—Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, M.P., West Vancouver + Sunshine Coast + Sea to Sky Country
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The District of Squamish expresses deep sadness over the passing of Dr. David Strangway, the founder of Quest University Canada (QUC).
One cannot underestimate Dr. Strangway’s positive impact on our local community. He imparted his great ideas for education, learning and academia and our residents nurtured them. He also instilled in us the fact that learning and knowledge do not reside only at QUC, but can become part of a community’s vernacular as the university, and its diverse family, daily contribute to our local economy.
As a result, QUC has become foundational in our community, and will continue to be integral to our District’s well-being. And for that, by the way, our District residents of today owe enthusiastic thanks to our then-Mayor, Corinne Lonsdale, and her Councils of those days between 1998-2004 after Dr. Strangway and his team members had visited municipalities throughout B.C. and had selected Squamish as the ideal location for Canada’s first private, independent and not-for-profit university.
Apart from agreeing to mandatory by-law and OCP changes, our Squamish representatives made much of the grandeur of our Sea to Sky location as the Outdoor Capital of Canada. They were so persuasive that Dr. Strangway and his team chose the interim name of Sea to Sky University for the successful Private Member’s Bill that MLA Ralph Sultan placed before Premier Gordon Campbell’s B.C. government in May 2002 to officially establish the university. The geographical name became Quest University Canada in October 2005.
Dr. Strangway was a Squamish resident for several years while the university was being developed, and also sat on the Oceanfront Development Board.
David obviously saw something special here as Squamish became the backdrop for Quest’s distinctive curriculum that will equip our students with the critical thinking, intellectual breadth and worldly perspectives they will require to succeed in their ever-challenging world.
For that enlightened preparation the District of Squamish sincerely thanks Quest founder David Strangway, and extends heartfelt condolences to his wife, Alice, and their three adult children and families.
—Patricia Heintzman, Mayor, District of Squamish.
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It was with sincere sadness that I learned of David Strangway’s passing. I knew David well for more than 30 years as president of UBC, a member and Director of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and as founder and first president of Quest University Canada. He was a gifted visionary, a tireless worker and an outstanding citizen of Canada and the world.
I always remember when he was asked what he thought about global warming and its impact in 100 years; he said, “You must understand I am a moon scientist and am trained to think in terms of millions and billions of years. I cannot comment on 100 years.” And yes, his own laughter led all of us…
I was honoured to be appointed to David’s International Academic Advisory Council for Quest University in 2006 in support of his extraordinary effort and success in establishing the historic institution. He was an amazing human being who touched so many; we who had the pleasure of knowing and working with David are especially grateful because we came away so much better for it. Truly a historic leader; Canada has lost one of its heroes.
—Darcy Rezac, Managing Director, Vancouver Board of Trade (Ret.)
“Watching a university take shape is like watching a great work of art come to life.”
DWS, Spring, 2007. QUC opened in September, 2007.
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