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Gail Asper

Gail Asper Shares Her Summer Plans and Passions: Her 28th wedding anniversary, the arts, some shlockey novels at the lake with a CJA calling list

by Rhonda Spivak, June 15, 2012

[Editor's note: Mazel Tov to Gail Asper this year's Honouree for the  Rady JCC Y Sports Dinner, June 19 from the Winnipeg Jewish Review].

This telephone interview with Gail Asper takes place [on June 7] while Gail is in the airport on route to Israel, where she was going to attend a Board of Governors meeting at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Before getting down to the subject matter of Gail's chairing the CJA campaign for the next two years, the conversation begins by asking a softball question: What's Gail's planned summer reading? She says she "used to read voraciously", everything including the "classics" but she now has no time, so this year "I won't be reading Mobey Dick. I am looking forward to reading "some Shockley books in addition to reading Forbes's List of Top Billionaires."

When I ask how she got to "Forbes’s List of Top Billionaires," she answers without missing a beat, "You never know when you are going to run into one of them." (We agree it's always good to know who is on the Forbes List so that if she gets a chance and happens to see one walking around the airport she can ask them about considering a new gift to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.)

In addition to her passion for the CJA, I ask her about her other passions.

"Opera is one of my great passions," she responds, noting how she would have loved to been able to attend the Israeli Opera that is to take place at the foot of Massada.

"Timbits [the little donuts from Tim Hortons] are another one of my passions," she says quickly. Gail has a lot of glowing adjectives to describe "Timbits." As she says, "Maybe I should invest in Tim Hortons, because I am there enough...In fact, I am there so often, they have probably given me a line in the budget."[Editor is laughing at this line]

"Timbits" are a corollary to Gail's fundraising. The more she fundraises, the more she eats "Timbits"--They are a lot more fun to eat than "sliced carrots", and she likes bringing them to Board Meetings that she attends. She likes to ensure that the "Timbits" are as fresh as possible." (and presumably that the consequent donations are also as fresh as possible).

Gail also loves Broadway Musicals, the Folk Festival and the Fringe Festival, and "I love the lake--the fresh Whiteshell water."

Gail says what she is dreaming about doing this summer is "sitting on the dock, with a coffee, some Shockley novels---and a list of potential CJA donors and calls to make." As for her very hectic schedule, Gail says, "Sleep is highly over rated." In truth, she says she is often travelling two days a week, and she looks forward to a day when she doesn't have to travel as much."

I ask Gail about how many calls she will make for the CJA. "I have no idea. The CJA has a massive machine of incredible canvassers...The campaign chair gets the job of helping, of strategizing, of being a great cheerleader."

On June 10, she'll probably be making a call to one CJA donor, her husband Michael Paterson. That's because this June10 is their 28th wedding anniversary. "For the past 20 years in a row we haven' been in the same place on our anniversary," she says. Of course, that she has an "incredibly fantastic" husband- "he was the first non-Jewish President of the JCFS--he beat me in being a President of one of the Beneficiary Agencies [of the CJA]"

When asked if the CJA team has set a target for the upcoming campaign, Gail answers that "we're having extensive meetings, we're doing a bottom up process, to figure out how much we think we can raise and hopefully we'll refine thi s over the summer so that we can set a goal that we can meet and even exceed it."

She says she is "really impressed with Elaine Goldstine, with her energy, and her organizational skills, and I am really excited about working with Debbie Gray, the chair of the Top Donors Division."

One of the things Gail is going to like about being CJA chair is going to as many community programs as she can and meeting new immigrants to our community. Gail was at the GrowWinnipeg Barbeque attended by 650 people-many o f them new immigrants. "It was thrilling to see a lot of new families, with beautiful children running around, all having a good time. It was great to be able to meet some of the newcomers to our community-I like meeting new people."

Gail says one of the tasks she is going to focus on is raising an endowment fund for the CJA. In the past she has worked on raising an endowment for the Manitoba Theatre Centre (which she points out is "now the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre since it has achieved the " Royalty" designation). I suggest that the CJA should also receive Royalty status given its level of professionalism. Gail responds, "Yes, certainly, someone should be Knighted for all the work done for the CJA."

But, in all seriousness, Gail says, "working on an endowment fund is my kind of thing. The time to raise an endowment fund is when an organization is strong, stable, not in a crisis, and has a loyal donor base. This is CJA's situation. There is no better time than now to secure our future."

Gail says that her father Izzy in 1983 was "incredibly wise" in planning ahead and setting up the Asper Foundation, such that he has left "one of the largest private foundations."

Gail says she will be talking to people, over the summer, asking them to think about their endowment gift. As for her own endowment gift, "I will definitely be making my announcement."

The key, according to Gail is to "make the pledge"--A donor to an endowment fund "needs to psychologically make the commitment", and know the time period over which it will be made, without letting other issues distract you." [The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg's Donor Endowment fund is called "Leave More than Memories Fund" which is at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba] 

Now you can imagine, that there were a few more questions that I had for Gail, but I had already taken up double the time we had scheduled, and you guessed it, "Oh my, I didn't realize we've been on the phone so long. I have to run to get to Tim Horton's before I get on the plane."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.