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"Leadership is taking people beyond the constraints of their own lives and self-interests.
"It’s opening up a window to the local community, to the province and country in which they live, to the world in some way.
"Leadership is getting people away from the day-to-day routine of their lives to think more broadly about their country, about their province and about the future."
Roger Gibbins is a respected voice and advocate for Alberta and the West. His success in fostering awareness and opening up informed and balanced public dialogue includes contributions as a political scientist, teacher and author, as a public policy advisor and as President of the Canada West Foundation.
Roger was born April 17, 1947 to George and Frances Gibbins and grew up in Prince George, British Columbia. Roger was a keen student who spent many hours at the Prince George Public Library, a facility established by his mother that served as a second home where he could indulge his growing love of books. In his teenage years, Roger focused his reading on history and pursued that topic as an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. There, he delved into political history and discovered the field of Political Science. Roger found that he had an affinity for the subject and was on his way to making it a career.
By 1969, Roger Gibbins was a newly-minted UBC graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He was also newly-wed to his hometown sweetheart, Isabel King, who first captured his attention in the fourth grade. Roger continued his education in California at Stanford University where he earned Master and Doctorate degrees in Political Science.
Dr. Gibbins then considered teaching positions at schools in the Maritimes and Alberta. He chose the University of Calgary so that his young family, which grew to include sons Christopher and Daniel, could be closer to friends and relatives on the West Coast. It was a fortuitous choice for the talented and forward-looking political scientist. He arrived in Alberta just as the province was beginning its slow and steady emergence on the national stage and Roger’s authority on, and advocacy for, the West began to develop apace.
Roger’s service with the U of C began in 1973 and included a long tenure as a Professor of Political Science and a term as Department Head. He also served terms as President of the Canadian Political Science Association and English co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Political Science. In his academic work, Dr. Gibbins earned a sterling reputation as a genuine, engaging and innovative teacher who could inspire his students. A prolific author and contributor, Roger also began earning recognition for his insights on a range of subjects including federalism, Canadian politics, constitutional reform, the West, regionalism, public policy, Aboriginal affairs, societal issues and social change. His depth of knowledge and intellectual integrity, combined with his practical approach to issues, established him as a sought-after advisor for public and private sector leaders and earned him recognition as one of Canada’s leading political scientists.
In 1998, Roger took on additional duties as President and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, a public policy and research group. He retired from the U of C in 2002 to lend his full attention to the Calgary-based Foundation and its goal of promoting non-partisan public debate and fostering the vision of a dynamic and prosperous West in a strong Canada. Through the Foundation, Roger has guided quality research and produced invaluable resources for the development of public policy, touching on contemporary issues critical to the success of Alberta and the nation. These include water policy, debt and deficits, energy and the environment, the future of cities, economic development, Senate reform, political structures and the not-for-profit sector.
In his work at both the U of C and the Foundation, Roger has devoted untold hours to mentoring young people looking toward careers in the public sector and public policy development, urging them to take a balanced, forward-thinking and community-minded approach to their contributions. He has further sparked public debate and fostered productive discussion in the West and across Canada in his role as a frequent media commentator and contributor.
Roger’s resume of volunteer service shows the same commitment to social and community engagement that he espouses as a teacher and advisor. He has served on the board of Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Institute for Research on Public Policy. He was a Member of the Competition Bureau Advisory Panel on Efficiencies and contributed to the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada (Nfld and Labrador). More recent projects include work as an Advisory Committee member for the United Way of Calgary’s Social Innovation Ideas Festival.
Honours offered in recognition of Roger’s contributions include the Public Policy Forum’s Peter Lougheed Award for Public Policy Leadership, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s Alberta Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration and the Distinguished Teacher Award from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Calgary. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and holds Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Calgary.
In 2012, Roger retired from the helm of the Canada West Foundation and took on a new role as Senior Fellow, capping a career dedicated to helping Albertans and Canadians understand themselves and their place in the world. He has articulated the realities, aspirations and potential of the West within a strong and united Canada. Above all, Roger Gibbins has encouraged innovative thinking about the challenges and opportunities ahead for the nation and he has prodded his fellow Westerners, and all Canadians, to play an active role in the work of building a better future.