David Strangway

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David Strangway
David Strangway headshot.jpg
BSc Physics and Geology
MSc Physics
PhD Physics
BSc university University of Toronto
MSc university University of Toronto
PhD university University of Toronto



Dave Strangway is being honored with SEG’s highest award, the Maurice Ewing Medal, for his lifetime contribution to geophysics and education. This could be extended to include “lunar physics” because, during the 1970s, Strangway headed the Geophysics Branch at NASA with responsibility for the geophysical aspects of the Apollo space missions, which included initial analysis of the first rocks brought from the Moon to the Earth. This work earned the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. Strangway has been heavily involved in university administration since 1973 when he became a vice president at the University of Toronto. He became that university’s eleventh president in 1983. He was the tenth president of the University of British Columbia (1985–1997) and was president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (1998–2004), an independent corporation created by the Canadian government to fund research infrastructure. He is currently chancellor of Quest University Canada, a private liberal arts and sciences university in Squamish, British Columbia. Despite his extensive academic duties, Strangway is the author or co-author of 165 scientific papers and one book and has received many distinguished awards and honorary degrees for his contributions to geophysical knowledge.

Biography Citation for the Maurice Ewing Medal

Contributed by Jafar Arkani-Hamed


Professional Career

David served as a research geophysicist with Kennecott Copper (1960–61) and as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado (1961–64) and at MIT (1965–68). Strong persuasion by Tuzo Wilson caused David to return to the University of Toronto in 1968 as an associate professor of physics. In 1970, he joined NASA as chief of its Geophysics and Physics Branch at Johnson Spacecraft Center. He was responsible for geophysical aspects of the Apollo moon missions and designed an electromagnetic sounding experiment that astronauts performed successfully on the moon. At NASA, David developed one of the best Rock Magnetic Laboratories in the world and measured, for the first time, the magnetic properties of lunar rock samples.

After serving as interim director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, he returned to the University of Toronto where was chair of the Geology Department (1973–80), academic vice-president and provost of the university (1980–83), and president (1983–84) while continuing to supervise many students and postdoctoral fellows. During his illustrious scientific career, David has authored or co-authored over 165 research papers. In 1985, David became president of the University of British Columbia. His direction and impetus enabled UBC to achieve world-class status during his 12 years as president. This was accomplished in part by leading (at the time) Canada’s largest fund-raising campaign.


Honors and Awards

David became an officer of the Order of Canada in 1996, and received both the Queen’s Silver (1978) and Golden (2003) Jubilee medals. David, who has 15 honorary doctorates from institutions in Canada, Japan, China and Mexico, has received the NASA Medal (1972); the Logan Gold Medal of the Geological Association of Canada (1984); the J. Tuzo Wilson Medal from the Canadian Geophysical Union (1987); the Walter Hitschfeld Award from the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators, the Honorary Member Medal of the Engineering Institute of Canada; the Republic of Korea’s First Order of Civil Merit (1997); the Kyung Hee University Medal of Honor; the Lions International Medal of Honor, and Award of Excellence by the Research Universities Council of British Columbia. He was elected a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Astronomical Society. David has served on a great number of scientific and academic committees, and led several governmental committees on matters of national and international importance.

In 1997, he was selected by the Prime Minister of Canada and joined William Ruckelshaus, an appointee of the President of the United States, to study the bitter Pacific Salmon controversy between the two countries. Their recommendations formed the basis for negotiation of a new agreement. In 2004, as a special envoy and leader of a Canadian delegation, David commenced a dialog with Angola for a stronger partnership between the two countries. More recently, David led a task force on Innovation and Environment for the China Council on International Cooperation and Development. The recommendations have been presented to China’ s state council and Premier Wen Jia Bao.

David’s accomplishments include remarkable, selfless, and far-sighted contributions to the betterment of postsecondary educational nationally and internationally. In 1998, he accepted a significant challenge by becoming President and CEO of the newly founded Canada Foundation for Innovation to revitalize national research infrastructure programs and enable Canadian universities to carry out firstclass scientific and technological projects. This effectively stemmed the loss of Canadian researchers to other countries. CFI’s capital investment budget was C$3.65 billion and more than C$2.7 billion was invested during David’s six-year tenure. David retired from CFI in 2004 to devote his full attention to Quest University during its construction and start-up phases. Quest, where David serves as president and chancellor emeritus, is entering its fourth year of admitting new students.

David is a dedicated humanitarian. His passion for helping the people and nation of Angola—where he spent his entire childhood (aged 3 months to 16 years)—is remarkable. He presently serves on the board of Angola-based NGO Development Workshop, and has been invited by the government to lead a committee to study mechanisms to improve its higher education. This commitment to Angola is certain to continue.