Quest remembers David Strangway for his vision

University founder changed landscape in Squamish and beyond

The man whose vision led to the founding of Quest University has passed away.

David Strangway, who founded the university and served as its chancellor and president starting in 2007, died on Dec. 14 at the age of 82.

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He had a long academic career, which included serving as presidents at both the universities of Toronto and UBC, as well as head of NASA’s geophysics branch for the Apollo missions of the 1970s.

Quest president Peter Englert recalls the importance of Strangway as a mentor and had spoken to him as recently as the previous weekend.

“For me, personally it is a loss,” he said.

He had connections with Strangway long before the days of Quest through his thesis advisor, who was one of the recipients of moon rocks during Strangway’s research days at NASA, which included collecting lunar soil samples.

When Englert was appointed president and vice-chancellor of Quest in 2015, Strangway become an important connection to the university and the community for him.

“I only got to know him when I got to Quest University,” Englert said. “From there, I was in regular contact… I valued his judgment.”

In a prepared statement, Englert expressed his condolences to Strangway’s wife, Alice, and their three children. He touched on Strangway’s selflessness, which he learned from his parents growing up in Angola. Englert talked about his worldliness and his work as director of geophysics at NASA, as well as his prescience in seeing that the problems of the 21st century would know no boundaries, and that there should be no boundaries to academic inquiry if research is to respond.

“David’s vision for Quest University Canada was inspired by the combination of the international and the intimate, which in his mind were never opposites,” he said.

In a subsequent interview, Englert also spoke about how appropriate it was that Strangway should be the speaker to launch Quest’s President’s Lecture Series in February and how well he engaged the students during the talk.

“He really interacted well with those students,” Englert said.

Englert described Strangway’s legacy of devising a new approach to university education in which undergraduate students guide their own research projects in close cooperation with faculty. This approach, in turn, has attracted many talented people to Quest since it started.

“David has a lot of very, very good people helping him to develop this new way of teaching and learning,” he said.

On Dec. 15, Quest’s board of directors met to pass a resolution to recognize Strangway for “his vision and invaluable contributions to the birth and success of Quest University Canada,” and to extend condolences to his family and thank them for their support.

Beyond Quest, Strangway had an impact on life in Squamish. He lived in the community for several years during the time the university was being developed and also sat on the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation board of directors.

In response, the District of Squamish issued a statement following his death.

Mayor Patricia Heintzman spoke of how the idea for Quest opened doors for the community at a time when inspiration and a sense of new opportunity was needed.

“He obviously saw something special here by allowing and trusting Squamish to be the backdrop for his vision for education of the future – to develop critical thinking, intellectual breath and an informed, worldly perspective within students from all over the world. For that we are forever grateful,” she said in the statement.

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