David A. Bissett, LLB, CFA, BBA (Hon), LLD (Hon)
David Bissett has made a career out of supporting Alberta’s economic prosperity and quality of life through his business endeavours and his exceptionally generous support for post-secondary education, and environmental and community programs. He is recognized across the country for his extraordinary leadership in the corporate and philanthropic world.
A Prince Edward Islander, David learned the value of hard work early on. His father, Clarence, died when David was 12. David worked his way through school with the help of his mother, Alice, earning a law degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax in 1962. He married his wife Leslie (née Burden) in 1971. David achieved his designation as a Chartered Financial Analyst in 1975 and quickly worked his way up from Trust Officer with a national trust company in Halifax and Montreal, to Vice-President of Investments with a national insurance company in London, Ontario. David and Leslie moved to Calgary in 1977, where David founded what was to become one of Calgary’s most successful investment firms, Bissett and Associates, in 1982.
By the time David decided to sell his firm, in 2000, it was managing more than $5 billion in investments. Since then, he has made philanthropy his full-time job. In 2001, David and Leslie, made a sizeable gift to the Calgary Foundation. Other extensive and substantial donations over the years have gone to post-secondary learning, wildlife and landscape preservation, and community projects. David believes that visible philanthropy inspires others to give, so he decided to make his donations in the public eye.
Over the years, hundreds of students have completed their education and are employed due to David’s considerable support of their educational programs, scholarships and facilities. In 2002, he made a transformative gift to Mount Royal College that led to the naming of the Bissett School of Business at what has since become Mount Royal University. He has continued to make subsequent donations to the institution, citing his desire to support a business school that’s creating a large pool of skilled people with a strong grounding in business practices. Similarly, a sizable gift to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) established the Bissett Scholars Program to help financially strapped students with their tuition. In 2011-12, he joined the Southern Alberta Economic Futures Council at Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta.
David’s enthusiasm for land and wildlife conservation has led to his support of groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Western Sky Land Trust. Concerned about the fragmentation of farmland, David provided important funding to establish the Alberta Land Institute at the University of Alberta, dedicated to the development of sound policies for the management of rural land.
His passion for helping others led him to become a key benefactor of the Foothills Country Hospice Society in Okotoks, the first community-owned and developed rural, not-for-profit residential hospice in Canada. David also chaired the successful fundraising campaign for the city’s Shaw Millennium Park.
David is equally generous with his time and experience, volunteering countless hours of work and volumes of his wisdom to charities, serving on their boards, leading major fundraising campaigns, and lecturing at the University of Calgary.
Never forgetting his Maritime roots, David established an endowed scholarship fund so that promising students from Halifax could attend Dalhousie University. A gift to Dalhousie University also led to the establishment of the David and Leslie Bissett Student Learning Centre at the school. In memory of his mother, David helped establish the Alice Peake Bissett Residency in Companion Animals at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Veterinary College.
David is the recipient of numerous honours, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and, the Calgary Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2014 Generosity of Spirit Award and the Friend of Education Award given by the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education. He also received the Clearsight Wealth Management Friend of Education Award and was inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame in 2007. He holds an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie University and an honorary Bachelor of Business Administration from the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University.
David Bissett has been described as a community-minded leader who has placed social responsibility at the core of both his business and personal practice, enhancing what has been his enormous contribution to both the economy of Alberta and the quality of life of Albertans. His is an extraordinary story of giving people a hand up so they can reach their full potential. He has made a larger-than-life difference in so many lives and continues to be driven by the same goal that has always inspired him: “What can I do today that makes things better?”