That’s what I am told lately, over and over again. That the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) has hit the jackpot, because the man who has just accepted to chair its Board of Directors is no ordinary man. To have Doug Mitchell commit to support and promote Canadian mathematical sciences through BIRS is destined to be a tremendous boon to the world’s scientific community.
Doug Mitchell succeeds Karen Prentice, who as chair during the past 3 years, supervised the incorporation of the research station, consolidated its governance structure and firmed up its legal framework. She successfully led the renewal of the Station’s funding for 5 years from four partnering governments (Canada, Alberta, US and Mexico) and oversaw the transfer of its lecturing facilities to the beautiful Trans Canada Pipeline Pavilion at the Banff Centre. The thousands of scientists who participate in BIRS activities every year will always be grateful for her selfless service and her many contributions to the promotion of the mathematical sciences and their applications.
Doug Mitchell is a pillar of both the Canadian sports and business communities. He has spent countless hours giving back to non-profit organizations and public companies lucky enough to have him. And now BIRS is one of them.
The emails of Doug Mitchell always end with a very telling quote: “It begins with service”. It should not therefore come as a surprise, that this accomplished athlete, this distinguished lawyer, and this thoughtful philanthropist has now decided to help the world scientific community by chairing BIRS.
And having now witnessed first hand the “Global Business Forum” that Doug has founded and is now co-chairing, I am not surprised at all by his –yet another– commitment to serve a community, which on the surface is far from his previous interests and engagements.
Indeed, the “Global Business Forum is “an independent, not-for-profit corporation that provides an opportunity for 200 prominent invited international business executives, academics, and government leaders to discuss and debate crucial global economic issues.” And what drives BIRS but a very similar ethos of providing opportunities, here in the same gorgeous Banff, to thousands of scientists from all over the world to discuss, debate, and hopefully resolve complex and important problems of mathematical sciences, technology and innovation?
Doug Mitchell has been a major figure of the Canadian sports community for most of his life, as a player, as a leader, as a mentor, and as a generous sponsor. He served as a member of the National Hockey League Board of Governors, and as Commissioner of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He was also Chairman of the 2005 Winter Goodwill Games.
In recognition of his extraordinary contribution to Canadian amateur sports, Doug’s family, friends and colleagues pledged a generous donation to UBC for the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre winter sports complex. The centre served as a hockey and sledge hockey host venue for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and is a central landmark of UBC’s Vancouver campus.
I cannot help but wonder if my son, his Hockey friends and other Vancouver high school students will now be giving mathematics and science another look, as they are putting their skates on at the Doug Mitchell arena.
Doug Mitchell is also a prominent member of the Canadian business community. He is currently National Co-Chair of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, a leading national law firm comprised of over 750 lawyers and property agents in six Canadian cities.
An incredibly active member of the community, he served on a large number of boards for both community organizations and public companies. Doug Mitchell is a Past Chair of the Alberta Economic Development Authority, the Calgary Airport Authority, and SAIT Polytechnic’s Board of Governors. He is also a Past President of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
Currently he serves as Chair of Legacy Sports, the co-owners of the Calgary Stampeders, as Director of ParticipAction, and as member of the UBC Board of Governors, where I had the great fortune to know him, and to experience first hand his steely resolve to help UBC and Canada move forward. Doug Mitchell’s contributions have been recognized with many honours including the Order of Canada and the Alberta Order of Excellence.
On a more personal note, I am well aware that –in many ways– I also did hit the jackpot. After all, it is not everyday that such an inspiring pillar of society enters your professional and personal life. I am both excited and grateful in welcoming Doug Mitchell to the BIRS Board of Directors and to the hearts and minds of the world’s scientific community.