Dick Wilson honoured for decades of volunteer service to UAlberta

Law alumnus thanked with 2019 Alumni Service Award

Helen Metella - 31 January 2020

Absolutely everyone who steps foot on the campus of the University of Alberta experiences the wise and wide influence of Dick Wilson, QC.

Wilson, '74 BA, '75 LLB, was the 2019 recipient of the university's Alumni Service Award for his extraordinary commitment, dedication and volunteer service to the university - apparent in plain view and behind the scenes.

The north campus's most striking landmark - the Physical Activity and Wellness Centre (PAW), with its cone-shaped walls and glassed-in two storey climbing facility and fitness centre - was completed in 2015 because of Wilson and his wife Carol, '74 BEd. They made a $10 million donation to build the Wilson Climbing Centre and the Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre in honour of Carol Wilson's father, Sam.

"My father-in-law lost his father when he was 12 to a heart attack and the whole Hanson family had a history of hypertension, including Sam," said Wilson. "Sam grew up to be a medical doctor and became a firm believer in physical activity. That's why the PAW Centre resonated. It reflected a value that's very dear to our families."

Just as healthy an influence are Wilson's myriad contributions to how UAlberta functions as one of Canada's strongest universities. For more than 20 years his volunteer hours have included serving on the Alumni Council (including as president) and being an active member of the Board of Governors, the university's Senate, and Friends of U of A. Currently, he's a mentor at the ThresholdImpact Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), assisting entrepreneurs who have a connection to the university.

Among the scores of projects and background affairs in which he's had a leading role are fundraising initiatives; search committees for the university president, deans and senior scholars; the Senate's Task Force on Student Engagement; the Foote Field Lounge project; the Quad redevelopment plans; and the Millennium and Alumni Advantage scholarships.

"Perhaps no other volunteer has had a greater impact," wrote the group of eminent Edmontonians who nominated Wilson for the Alumni Award.

Wilson's abiding affection for the university took hold early. "I grew up on 117th Street, right across the street," he said. "I played on the campus as a kid, I went to Golden Bears and Pandas games. I rode my bike through campus on the way to Garneau School."

As a lawyer, Wilson practised Civil Litigation at Parlee McLaws LLP and its predecessor firms for 37 years, also serving as managing partner. While his career was highly satisfying, volunteering at the U of A amidst energetic, focused and fascinating people who brought intellectually stimulating problem-solving experience from vastly different fields, provided a refreshing change, he says.

"I'm a firm believer that collective wisdom from a large bunch of people is better than the alternatives."