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Susan Thompson

Susan Thompson

Honorary Doctor of Laws

An accomplished leader in business, politics, and philanthropic fundraising, Susan Thompson is a tireless contributor to her community. She serves as an inspiration for women working to blaze new trails and as a valuable mentor to those who aspire to follow in her footsteps.

A graduate of both The University of Winnipeg Collegiate (’67) and UWinnipeg (’71), Thompson began her successful retail career as an international buyer at Eaton’s and The Bay before she became the first woman to own her family’s business: Birt Saddlery. After purchasing it in 1980 from her father, she served as owner and president for 15 years.

In 1992, Thompson was the first and only woman ever elected to serve as Mayor of Winnipeg. During her two terms, she led the city through the 1997 Flood of the Century — one of the biggest crises to hit Winnipeg in 100 years. She also led successful bids for the 1995 Winter Cities International Conference, the 1998 Canadian Briar Curling Championship, the 1998 World Junior Hockey Championship, the 1998 Grey Cup, the 1999 Pan American games, and the 2001 World Indigenous Games.

In 1999, as Canadian Consul General in Minneapolis, Thompson served an eight-state territory consisting of 15 million people and $32 billion in Canada-US trade. She later served as a Special Advisor of Canada-U.S. Relations for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In 2003, Thompson returned to her alma mater to become the founding President & CEO of The University of Winnipeg Foundation. With her pronounced gift for donor stewardship and approach to tackling large fundraising goals one donation at a time, she led the Foundation as its endowment grew from $21 to $38 million, and as more than $135 million was raised in the A World of Opportunity Capital Campaign.

Thompson is a proud lifetime Sponsor of HMCS Winnipeg, the recipient of the 2012 University of Winnipeg Distinguished Alumni Award, and currently serves as Executive Consultant for the Winnipeg Art Gallery — where she is helping to raise $65 million for the new Inuit Art Centre.

Thompson’s many successes are built on hard work, integrity, and a commitment to her community, whether it be this University or her city, province, and country. She exemplifies the values of this institution, and The University of Winnipeg is honoured to bestow her with an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

Photo credit Bill McFarlane