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David W.Strangway,OC,PhD:
Project Founder and Director of Sea to Sky Foundation,
New University at Squamish,BC

from The Scrivener Volume 11 Number 2 July 2002

The Sea to Sky University (SSU) project is the crystallization of a dream Dr. David Strangway has nurtured for many years.

His vision for what became the SSU Project stemmed from his UBC years, where he saw that public funding cannot alone sustain the ever-escalating demand for university places. Upon his retirement from UBC, he decided that Canada must establish private, self-sustaining universities similar to those that exist and flourish in other countries. In the US, for example, there are some 1,600 private universities, ranging from prestigious Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Princeton, to liberal arts institutions such as Wellesley College and Colorado College.

Dr. Strangway is President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, a completely independent corporation established by the Government of Canada in 1997, to strengthen the world-class research and technology capabilities of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other not-for-profit institutions. ( The CFI has been entrusted with a capital investment budget of $3.15 billion, and since August 1998, has invested more than $1.9 billion in infrastructure for worthwhile research projects and programs.

Sea to Sky University is one of the projects Dr. Strangway is leading.

He brings vast experience to the new project. He joined CFI following his retirement as President of the University of BC. During his 12-year tenure in that position, between 1985 and 1997, his vision and commitment to excellence were widely credited with positioning UBC as a world-class academic institution.

Dr. Strangway joined UBC from the University of Toronto, where between 1973 and 1985, he served as Chair of the Geology Department, Vice-President and Provost of the University, and Acting President.

After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1956 with a BA in Physics and Geology, and earning his PhD in Physics from that school in 1960, Dr. Strangway began his teaching career at the University of Colorado in 1961, where he introduced into the Geology Department courses in exploration geophysics and physics of the earth. 

In 1965 Dr. Strangway joined MIT for three years, both to teach and conduct research; he decided to participate in the planned Apollo lunar explorations. Upon his return to the University of Toronto as a physics professor, he was appointed a principal investigator for the study of returned lunar samples. His work on these moon rocks showed clear signs of an ancient lunar magnetic field.

In 1970, Dr. Strangway was invited to join NASA as Chief of the Geophysics Branch. Now introduced to large-scale research planning, organization, and administration, he was responsible for the geophysical aspects of the Apollo missions, including experiment selection, astronaut training, site selection, and real-time mission support. Meantime, he still carried out paleomagnetic experiments of moon rocks, and planned an electromagnetic sounding experiment that was successfully carried out on one of the moon missions.

He has served on numerous scientific and academic committees over the years, including the British Columbia Premier’s Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, the BC Task Force on the Environment and the Economy, and the Corporate Higher-Education Forum (Canada). These were just a few of the more than 50 government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations he has served since 1971. In 1997, he was appointed by the Prime Minister to join with William Ruckelshaus, an appointee of the President of the United States, to study the bitter Pacific Salmon controversy between the two countries, and make recommendations for an equitable solution. Their work formed the basis of an eventual settlement. Dr. Strangway holds a number of honourary degrees from universities across Canada and the world, including China and Japan. In 1997, he was the recipient of the Republic of Korea’s First Order of Civil Merit—the first non-Korean to receive the honour. 

Here at home, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996. Dr. Strangway also received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1972); the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal (1974) of the Society of Exploration Geologists; the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship (1980), Canada’s most prestigious award in the sciences; the Logan Gold Medal (1984) of the Geological Association of Canada; and the J. Tuzo Wilson Medal (1987) from the Canadian Geophysical Union. 

Dr. Strangway talks about the project.

" ‘Sea to Sky University’ is an adaptation of the place name for the beautiful geographic area in which Squamish is situated. With a population of 15,000, Squamish offers the ambiance of small town living and affordable housing. It will provide SSU students, faculty and staff, and market-housing residents with unparalleled year-round recreational activities such as fishing, camping, boating, golfing, and windsurfing. Eight provincial parks are located in the area, plus an extensive network of municipal parks and trails; the landmark Stawamus Chief, which overlooks the Town Centre, is a renowned challenge for rock-climbers.

"Squamish is equidistant between the big-city attractions of Vancouver and the world-class skiing and other recreational amenities of Whistler. Today, we are aware that should Vancouver/Whistler succeed in its bid to acquire the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, both Squamish as an entity and SSU, through utilization of its campus facilities, will reap significant economic benefits from that multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Our university campus and residences could provide a venue for some of the Olympic-related service and support requirements.

"Phase One of our project calls for an enrollment of 400 students, 100 of whom will begin studies during our anticipated opening in September 2004. Our enrollment will reach a maximum 1,200 students in future years. The design of this institution is based on a student faculty ratio of about 10:1. This contrasts with the typical 20:1 or more found today in Canada’spublic system. Classes will typically have about 15 students.

"Our curriculum will utilize the ‘block’ model, whereby students takeone course at a time, each for a period of 3.5 weeks. A student will need to complete 30 blocks to complete a degree. This will normally be done over a four year period. With access to 12 blocks per year and a number of independent study and research blocks, a student could complete a degree in two calendar years.

"As the various disciplines becomemore complex and interrelated, specialization is typically taking place at the graduate and post-graduate level. This means undergraduate programs should increasingly focus on developing the broader skills needed today to prepare students for further specialized education and training. These programs include critical analysis, logical thinking, effective writing and public speaking, and the ability to use and appreciate the new technologies.

"Campus classrooms and every residence room will be wired for full connection to the Internet; students through their assignments will actively use this global resource for tutorials and many assignments and projects. Teaching and learning will also take place with partner universities through the internet.

"To understand other societies and cultures, it is necessary to have access to language. We are planning a set of modern language laboratories, and will be able to offer a number of intensive language programs. As the boundary between creative and performing arts and new technologies becomes less and less distinct, young people need to work across international and cultural boundaries."

Sea to Sky University has received a resounding vote of confidence from the BC government in its bid to become Canada’s first private, secular, and not-for-profit university. The legislature, on Wednesday, May 29, adopted the Sea to Sky University Act to formally establish the liberal arts and science institution. The Act empowers SSU to grant degrees, certificates, and diplomas in its own right and name, at undergraduate and graduate levels.

"My Project Team members and I sincerely thank Premier Gordon Campbell and his provincial government for their confidence in our ability to establish and operate a self-sustaining and progressive university that will contribute to the development of our leaders of tomorrow.

"We also salute Dr. Ralph Sultan for his outstanding support in introducing our bill and diligently pursuing its enactment. Similarly, we are most appreciative of the high degree of cooperation we received from The Honourable Shirley Bond, Minister of Advanced Education. We additionally are grateful for the unfailing encouragement extended to us by The Honourable Ted Nebbeling, Minister of State for Community Charter and MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, the home riding of Squamish and SSU. "The government also was aware that while passage of the landmark Sea toSky University Act will be of immense academic benefit, it also will result in a much-needed economic boost for Squamish. A Socio-Economic Impact Study commissioned by SSU shows that our Project will generate some $514 million of capital investment in the local community by approximately 2020."

Quote from Premier Gordon Campbell:

"This is an important initiative to broaden the range of education choices and diversity in BC. Dr. Strangway is renowned for his contribution to academic excellence in our province, and is continuing to play a leadership role in creating a new educational opportunity for British Columbians."

Quote from Minister Ted Nebbeling:

"This Act ensures that a tremendous opportunity will come to fruition for our Sea to Sky Corridor and region. The SSU Project has now made a giant leap toward success. It is the result of the devotion and perseverance of Dr. Strangway and his SSU Project Team, in cooperation with the untiring efforts of Squamish District Council. SSU will demonstrate to the world that education provided in a naturally magnificent location can be a tremendous stimulus for economic and cultural development."

Advisory Board of the Sea to Sky University

Dr. David Strangway,
President & CEO,
Canada Foundation for Innovation

Dr. Timothy Fuller,
Professor of Political Science, and former Dean, Colorado College

Arthur Hara,
Past Chair, Mitsubishi Canada

Gwen Harry, Squamish Nation

Dennis Joseph, Councillor and Chair of Education Portfolio, Squamish Nation

Greg Kerfoot, CEO and President,
Crystal Decisions

Dr. Greg Lee, President,
Capilano College

Corinne Lonsdale, Mayor,
District of Squamish

Darcy Rezac, President,
Vancouver Board of Trade

Ross Smith, Former Managing Partner,
KPMG, Vancouver

Peter Ufford, Principal of Give Canada Fund-Raising Corp.
and Spectrum Marketing Canada Corp.

Dr. Norman Wagner, Chair and CEO,
Calgary; former Chair, Alberta Natural Gas; former President, University of Calgary

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