University of Winnipeg | 50 Years Search

James Burns

Business Leader, Philanthropist, UWinnipeg Supporter

Contributing to community development

A ­Winnipeg business legend, James Burns graduated from Gordon Bell High School and attended The University of Manitoba, receiving his Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1951.

He immediately enrolled in the prestigious School of Business at Harvard University and obtained his MBA degree in 1953. Following university, Burns went on to an impressive career, having led both the Great-West Life and Annuity Insurance Company and its parent company, the Power Corporation of Canada of which he is Director Emeritus.

He is an Officer of the Order of Canada. His contribution to the nation as well as his hometown of Winnipeg has earned him national recognition and distinction.

Burns has given generously of towards many University of Winnipeg initiatives, including the Duff Roblin Scholars Fund, The Gary Doer Award, the Oral History Centre, and the Axworthy Distinguished Lecture Series.

In 2006, Dr. Burns established The Burns Foundation as a means of giving back to the community as a permanent gift to the citizens of Winnipeg and Manitoba. His Foundation can be credited for funding enhancements to the city such as the development of a state-of-the-art skateboard park, The Plaza at The Forks.

Burns has also served as a director of a number of major Canadian corporations and several cultural, educational and philanthropic causes, including the Manitoba Museum, the Conference Board of Canada, and the Winnipeg Jets.

When financial trouble found The Jets in need of rescue in 1974, the efforts of Burns and a small handful of others during the first “Save the Jets” campaign established the team and the City of Winnipeg as worthy contenders to be welcomed into the NHL in 1979 and again in 2011.

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