A belated congratulations to David and Ruth Asper who both received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. If you thought that was a ticket to retirement, think again as this busy couple keeps on truckin’!
When he received his medal MP Joyce Bateman said, “David Asper is an esteemed teacher, business leader, volunteer and philanthropist whose hard work has been a valuable asset to our community. It is an honour to recognize him for his valuable contributions to our community.”
David is the Chair of the Asper Foundation, which was founded in 1983 to undertake, develop and support major initiatives in the areas of Jewish charity as well as, culture, education, community development and human rights locally, nationally, and internationally. In the recent past, over $125 million has been donated to various charitable causes through the Asper Foundation.
In business, most people will know that David held numerous positions within Canwest including chair of the National Post. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Creswin Properties and was one of the founders of Canterbury Park Capital. In 2011, Creswin Properties took home BOMA Manitoba's The Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY) Award for 201 Portage, located at Winnipeg's most famous intersection. The award from BOMA Manitoba shows Creswin's committment to sound environmental practices and social responsibility.
Currently David has co-founded Amenity Healthcare and serves as it chair. Since its launch a few months ago, Amenity has acquired 10 rural and neighbourhood pharmacies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and he says there is still room for significant growth in the company.
David is also a “knight” investor through the Manitoba Technology Accelerator, which is an incubator for emerging Manitoba companies. In this capacity he serves on the boards of Cubresa Inc. and Arterial Stiffness Inc.
Asper says, "Cubresa's mission is to improve preclinical and clinical healthcare through the development of unique solutions and technologies," by using "smaller more customized SPECT AND gamma cameras."
As Asper explains, "Arterial Stiffness Inc. (ASI) has developed a portable and non-invasive device that measures the amount of arteriosclerosis a person has and compares the person’s score against a population health database to determine risk for cardio vascular events."
DAVID will chair the 2014 Chair of the Winnipeg Real Estate Forum conference which occurs on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
"The Forum occurs every two years and is an opportunity to take stock, look back and also look forward. It deals with all sectors in real estate in Winnipeg," Asper told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.
He further noted that the Forum will examine the current strength of the Winnipeg economy and its real estate market, and how it is performing from both a leasing, development and investment perspective. Winnipeg has a very diverse economy that includes aerospace, finance and insurance, transportation, agribusiness, information technology, furniture and apparel industries. In 2012, the 2nd Forum was sold out with an attendance of over 560 executives – 30% of whom were from outside of Manitoba.
Asper is currently the vice Chair of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and has been a Vice Chair of the CFL Board of Governors and past chair of the football club.
"I was re-elected to the Bomber's Board in 2011 and then appointed Vice-Chair of the Board. I am also honoured to be co-chairing the Grey Cup Festival when it returns to Winnipeg," he told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, noting he is looking forward to the event, and especially to introducing new people to the Grey Cup Committee who can succeed the current leadership. “It’s a huge undertaking and we want to ensure a smooth transition going forward”.
Asper previously served as co-chair of the very successful 2006 Canadian football league Championship Grey Cup Festival held in Winnipeg for which he was recognized with the Destination Winnipeg Award of Distinction and a Special Award by the Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.
His commitment to the sport of football goes beyond the Bombers. In 2013, some 80 Bison’s football players welcomed Asper into their locker room with a standing ovation for the official ribbon cutting of the newly inaugurated palatial David Asper University of Manitoba Bisons Football Centre. The stadium project, which he had led for several years, has gotten rave reviews. The Bison's facilities in it are also top notch.
"We're serious. We're serious about their success, both academically and athletically," Asper told the Winnipeg Sun. "And we didn't have that with the Butler Hut. What does it say about your program when you live in a shack? You're a hobo."
Asper told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he was totally surprised by the reception and it moved him to tears. “There I was amongst a group of big tough football players and all I could do was cry about how amazing they looked in that locker room. Vince Lombardi? Not!”
In addition to their work through the Asper Foundation, David and Ruth have also established a private Foundation which supports many philanthropic projects. It has been recognized for its leading endowment gift to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba toward promoting physical activity and young people. The Big Ticker Award provides a cash award to schools that paved the way in increasing student participation in Heart Activity programs. The Foundation was also recognized by the Canadian Sport Centre of Manitoba for its support of aspiring Manitoba based future Olympian athletes. It also provided capital funding for "Taking Charge" an inner city day care facility for Aboriginal Canadians.
David and Ruth have also been lead donors to the capital campaign of The Pan Am Clinic Foundation, which supported the establishment of the David and Ruth Asper Research Centre. This support includes allocation of ongoing and long-term funds for a dedicated research team and expansion of the existing research program to create an on-site biomechanics research centre for objective measurement of patient outcomes. David is currently on the board of the Pan Am Clinic Foundation.
David Asper graduated from University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts, went on to study at the California Western School of Law in San Diego, California and earned a Master’s Degree of Law from the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Law in 2007. Through his lead gift the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights was created at the U of T and since its inception the centre has played a key role in supporting several major cases involving the charter of rights, as well as, providing outstanding learning opportunities for Law students.
In his legal career, Asper successfully served as co-counsel representing David Milgaard in overturning one of Canada's most notorious wrongful conviction cases. Milgarrd, who had served 23 years in prison was eventually completely exonerated through DNA testing.
From 2009-2013, David was an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Manitoba where he taught Criminal Law, Professional Responsibility, Introduction to Advocacy and oversaw an Internship Program through the University Law Centre Legal Aid Clinic. He was active member of the Faculty, serving on a number of Committees and was elected by his peers as a member of the President’s Advisory Committee regarding the Law School Decanal Search process.
He has served as a member of the Law Society of Manitoba Emerging Issues Committee, its’ Technology Committee and most recently on its Articling Task Force Committee. This year he has also provided support to the Articling Education Program for young lawyers.
Given all of these busy commitments the WJR asked David about his favourite adventures and he responded enthusiastically that being a Past Chair of the Winnipeg Folk Festival was ‘epic’ because the tunes were ‘phenomenal’, and as the founding private sector chair of CentreVenture Development Corporation he was in at the early stage of what is now a blossoming downtown Winnipeg.
Ruth Asper was presented with The Queen's Diamond Jubilee by Senator Janice Johnson in recognition of her outstanding work with the Gimli Film Festival and other community leadership such as chairing the Manitoba Theatre for Young people capital campaign that led to the creation of the new theatre at the Forks.
Ruth who holds bachelor degrees in both physical education and recreation studies from the University of Manitoba and a Master’s of Science from Indiana University (and she’s quick to point out to David that she had her Master’s degree before he had his!), specializes in providing fitness training and exercise adherence strategies.
After gaining much success with her first business called Tights that was located in Osborne Village, Ruth switched gears and partnered with a long-time friend, who was also a U of M Phys. Ed grad to develop Strategym Inc. a “new model” of fitness delivery, where the process of achieving sustained health for the client is the focus.
In 2003, it was the first of its kind-combining personal fitness training for individuals, small groups and off site coaching and physical training, with unique group exercise and conditioning classes.
"We work together as a team with an on site physiotherapist to provide the best from of guidance and specialized support to our many clients who appreciate the expertise we provide. Very unique in this competitive industry," Ruth says
The service Strategym provides is an important one "It is not a kill yourself trying to be fit service. People have to be focused on their own individual health and maintenance. When exercise is a pleasure, fitness is easy," she adds
Ruth notes she has been interested in this field "since my twenties", and in the early 80's she began her career as an exercise instructor, personal trainer, program director, conference presenter and business leader.
According to David, Ruth has also been the key to having relative sanity in maintaining and raising their three children Daniel, Rebecca, and Max. And he’s quick to point out that she did it while also developing and operating her business, which he confesses is something he never could have done. “Fortunately, between Ruth and I, one of us has had the patience and wisdom to achieve balance, and we’ve got great kids as the result.” Daniel is currently working as a management consultant for KPMG in Vancouver, Rebecca is graduating this spring with a bachelor of science in business from the Fashion Institute of technology in New York and she will be working with a large agency there. Max is in his second year of studies at Western University in London.
In 2003, Ruth established a fund at the University of Manitoba to provide a bursary for students enrolled in the Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Science program pursuing studies in the physical education stream with a focus on fitness. She takes an active interest in the focus and scholarly research being done in this program.
Both David and Ruth are involved with the Asper Helping Hand Initiative at the Jewish Child and Family Services, and other project s of the Asper Foundation. David and Ruth are also funding projects with Winnipeg Harvest.
In addition to being involved in the charitable work of the Asper Foundation Ruth has been involved with the Gimli Film Festival where she was a board member for 5 years. She and David have funded the arts community, including Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, the Art Gallery and Plug In Gallery.
Ruth has also expanded her horizon to include volunteer work with pet therapy at St John's Ambulance which provides various services to both seniors and children. Ruth has been actively involved in a program in which school age children learning how to read can actually read to dogs. "Garnering the courage to read out loud can be difficult for some children and "if young children can read to a dog, they get excited about doing it," Ruth says.
Completing the Asper posse, David and Ruth have two golden retrievers (Casper and Ruby) and a miniature daschund named Chili.