Alvin Gerald Libin OC, LLD
Alvin Libin is a proud Calgarian and Albertan with a long record of service to the province, particularly in the area of health care research and education. His strong leadership, combined with his unwavering commitment to encouraging and promoting excellence, has made this lifelong Calgary resident a distinguished example of the Alberta spirit at its best.
Alvin was born in Calgary on April 22, 1931. He inherited a strong work ethic from his parents, who were Russian immigrants to Alberta. Alvin used that ethic and his natural talents to build a successful business portfolio with interests in real estate, oil and gas and financial services. When asked to describe his formula for success, Alvin lists the essential ingredients as “hard work, honesty and teamwork; putting the right people in the right place to do the job; and luck.” Those who have had the pleasure of working with him suggest Alvin’s remarkable business acumen, discipline, and strong leadership and mentoring skills as equally important contributors to his success.
In addition to building a career in the corporate sector, Alvin has developed a solid reputation as a community leader. From 1980 to 1990, he served Calgary’s Foothills Hospital as chairman of the board of trustees. The hospital underwent considerable growth during his 10 years at the helm and developed a reputation for excellence throughout the institution, from research and education to clinical care and patient outcomes.
Alvin’s ability to foster a culture of excellence can also be seen in the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, where he served as chairman of the board of trustees from 1990 to 2000. Under his stewardship, the Foundation saw its original $300 million provincial government endowment grow to over $1 billion. Alvin also helped to recruit strong leadership for the Foundation and cultivate the organization’s high standards of excellence. Those standards define the Foundation’s reputation as an internationally respected organization and serve as a powerful tool for attracting the world’s best researchers to the province. Working in partnership with Alberta’s three research-intensive universities, the Foundation has supported many of the exciting health research and treatment discoveries made by the province’s health researchers. To date, the Foundation has granted some $750 million to health research, attracted 400 independent researchers to the province and supported over 6,000 research trainees.
In 2000, having fulfilled the legislated maximum term of office with the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Alvin was invited to share his skills as chair of the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, a new organization created to nurture science and engineering research and discoveries in Alberta.
Alvin is a long-term supporter of the University of Calgary, providing leadership in a number of capacities. He served as a board member of University Technologies International where he shared his business insights with entrepreneurs working in the school’s spin-off companies. In addition to leading two major fundraising campaigns to support the school’s health research activities, Alvin has made major investments of his own. The University’s facilities now include the Libin Gene Therapy Unit, which funds research to explore new therapies for heart disease, diabetes, mellitus, arthritis and cancer, and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, which works to integrate and strengthen cardiac research, education, treatment and patient care in Calgary and southern Alberta.
The Gene Therapy Unit and Cardiovascular Institute were made possible through the auspices of the Alvin and Mona Libin Foundation. The fact that these two important contributions bear the name of both Alvin and his wife of more than 50 years reflects the important role Mona has played in Alvin’s life and their commitment to the community. In addition to funding major health care initiatives, the two are ongoing supporters of numerous community programs, including scholarships at the University of Calgary and the city’s Jewish community. Alvin and Mona, who is also a native Calgarian, were high school sweethearts before marrying in 1953. Their family includes their son Robert, daughter-in-law Leeann, and grandchildren Louis, Eda and Nora.
Alvin has received numerous honours for his community service. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary Club International and holds an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Calgary. In 2002 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. That same year, the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research created the Libin Prize in Cardiovascular Research, a fitting tribute to a man who describes his approach to the Foundation, and to fostering research in general as “excellence creates excellence.” That attitude is clearly evident in the life and career of Alvin Libin, in the contributions he has made to the quality of life Albertans enjoy today, and in the legacy he has created for generations of Albertans to come.