Former UBC president David Strangway dies at 82 after leaving huge mark on Vancouver

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      One of the most influential university presidents in B.C. history is dead.

      David Strangway was 82.

      The former chief of NASA's geophysics branch was appointed to the top administrative job of UBC in 1985 and remained in place to 1997—the third-longest tenure of anyone in that position.

      His time as president was marked by tremendous growth, driven in part by a World of Opportunity fundraising campaign that raised an astonishing $260 million.

      It became a model for other Canadian university fundraising campaigns that continue to this day.

      During the Strangway era, UBC became a major residential real-estate developer, which generated a fair amount of controversy. It caused some of his critics to say his top priorities were the three Rs: real estate, raising funds, and research.

      Strangway, on the other hand, declared in a letter to the Georgia Straight in 1993 that his agenda was to "reinforce excellent faculty, excellent staff, and an excellent student body, and to provide them with the tools they need to reach their potential for the benefit of British Clumbia and Canada".

      "In all cases, building projects were university priorities and UBC sought donor support once the projects were identified," he stated. "The First Nations Longhouse is an important priority for UBC. The donors had no input into the site selection. In fact, it was our First Nations students, faculty, and elders who selected the site."

      He often said his goal was to turn UBC into the Canadian equivalent of large U.S. public university along the lines of the University of Michigan or the University of California, Berkeley.

      In the early 1990s, Strangway was in the news for getting involved in the settlement of a dispute over Nechako River water levels. This came when Montreal-based Alcan wanted to proceed with a massive power project to generate electricity to boost aluminum production. The project was eventually cancelled because of its potential threat to migrating salmon, but not before Strangway came under criticism from the environmental movement.

      After leaving UBC, Strangway, became president and CEO of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which was created by the federal government to fund research. In this role, he continued to have a huge impact on UBC while distributing more than $2.7 billion across Canada.

      CFI funded Canada Research Chairs, which were filled by scholars, often from other countries, helping reverse the brain drain that had dogged Canada for decades.

      After retiring in 2004, Strangway founded a private, not-for-profit postsecondary institution, Quest University Canada, in Squamish.