SUSAN A. THOMPSON BA,LLD,OM
Entrepreneur, Politician, Diplomat
Philanthropic Fundraiser, Author
Proud Sponsor of HMCS WINNIPEG
Honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Winnipeg
Order of Manitoba 2016
Susan Thompson is a well-known and highly regarded leader. She is a proud Winnipegger, a proud Manitoban and a proud Canadian.
With a wealth of experience and a highly engaging personality, Susan is a mentor for all those who know her. She believes in reaching for her dreams and is a strong proponent of achieving the impossible. Susan was a business leader and entrepreneur over a 15-year period as business owner of Birt Saddlery, located in downtown Winnipeg.
Susan led the City of Winnipeg through two terms as the Mayor. In 1994, she became the proud lifetime sponsor of HMCS WINNIPEG. She has served as a diplomat as the Consul General for Canada, Minneapolis.
As the founding President and CEO of The University of Winnipeg Foundation, she provided a high level of commitment to her community. She continued her commitment to her community as Executive Consultant for the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Susan has served on boards and committees locally, provincially, and nationally throughout her career.
- As Mayor, Susan managed a city budget of 1.2 billion, over 10,000 employees and 9 unions. She led the City of Winnipeg through the largest crisis the city had faced in 100 years, known as the 1997 Flood of the Century.
- In her role as The Canadian Consul General in Minneapolis, she served an eight-state territory consisting of 15 million people and $32 billion in Canada-US trade.
- As President and CEO of The University of Winnipeg Foundation, Susan managed a $38 million Endowment Fund, stewarded over 7,600 donors and on September 16, 2011, successfully completed a $80 million Capital Campaign, raising a total of $135 million for the University of Winnipeg.
Susan is a trailblazer and inspiration to women everywhere. She was the first woman to own her family business, the first woman Rotarian in Manitoba, the first woman Mayor of Winnipeg (it only took 118 years), and the first woman Consul General at the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis. She was the first President of the Urban Idea Centre in Winnipeg and Founding President and CEO of the University of Winnipeg Foundation.
1971 to 1995
Entrepreneur / Business Owner
After graduation from university, Susan went on to a career with Eaton’s Winnipeg, Eaton’s Calgary, and then with the Hudson’s Bay Co. in Montreal, where she was an international purchaser of product for sales across Canada.
In 1980, Susan purchased the family business from her father, and served as owner and president of Birt Saddlery for 15 years. She was the first woman in the 70-year history of the family-owned business to be owner and president, and during this time, also achieved many other “firsts” and was highly involved in the business community, leading to her successful election and repeat term as Mayor of Winnipeg.
Volunteer Involvement Prior to Election as Mayor in 1992
- Board Member for the following:
- the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce (Executive Member)
- the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
- the YM-YWCA
- Interfaith Pastoral Institute, The University of Winnipeg
- The Winnipeg Foundation
- Associates of the Faculty of Management, University of Manitoba
- The Economic Council of Canada (Executive Member)
- The Canada West Foundation
- Committee member of the City Of Winnipeg Task Force for the establishment of the Winnipeg Economic Development Corp. (Winnipeg 2000)
- Co-Chair of the Business Improvement Zone Task Force that accomplished Legislation to establish the Business Improvement Zones
- Member of the Downtown Winnipeg Association
- Winnipeg Core Area Initiative, Investment Committee Member
- Founding President of The Urban Idea Centre
- Member of the Winnipeg Downtown Rotary Club (first woman to become a Rotarian in Manitoba)
- Member of the Province of Manitoba’s Economic Advisory Council
- Chair of the Canadian Conference of Community Foundations
- Canada Awards for Business Excellence Chairperson, Entrepreneurship Category
Current Volunteer Commitments
- Founding and active member, Women of Winnipeg (WOW)
- Susan frequently serves a public speaker for community events
1992 to 1998
Politician / Mayor of Winnipeg
Susan was elected Mayor of Winnipeg for two terms: 1992 to 1995, and 1995 to 1998. She was the first woman to be elected Mayor of Winnipeg in the then 118-year history of the City of Winnipeg, and remains still the only woman to have achieved this accomplishment.
- Extensive working partnerships with local, national, and international businesses
- Official City of Winnipeg spokesperson locally, nationally, and internationally
- Built a strong, courageous, and innovative team
- Demonstrated strong leadership skills through the crisis and resolution of the 1997 Flood of The Century, where, for 21 days in the spring of 1997:
- 8 million sandbags were produced (equivalent to a line from Winnipeg to Vancouver)
- 136,000 cubic feet of water per second flowed up the Red River (equivalent to the Olympic-size Pan Am Pool being filled every 10 seconds)
- the largest military operation since the Korean War occurred
- 25,000 volunteers served their City
- through the successful bids for national and international sporting events, including:
- the 1999 Pan American games
- the 1998 Canadian Briar Curling Championships
- the 1998 World Junior Hockey Championship
- the 1998 Grey Cup and
- the 2001 World Indigenous Games
- and other successful endeavors under her tenure:
- won the bid for and hosted the 1995 Winter Cities International Conference
- served as the Founding Canadian Mayor for the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor and hosted the 3rd Summit of the Mayors of the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor
- through the largest restructuring in the city’s history since City amalgamation in 1972, where she:
- implemented a more flexible system of government, incorporating special operating agencies, contracting out, and providing better due diligence through monthly audit committee meetings and special audits
- ensured hiring a top- notch City auditor
- delivered legislation that moved the City of Winnipeg from a “weak” mayoral system to a “strong” mayoral system
- Responsible for a $1.2 billion budget; 10,000 employees; 9 unions
- Responsible for a vigorous and successful economic development program for the City of Winnipeg
- Delivered the first property tax freeze in 25 years
- Defined and implemented the City’s financial management plan; the long-range strategic plan; the long-range debt management plan; and worked with Winnipeg 2000 in the development of the City’s economic development plan
- Established the business liaison and intergovernmental affairs department within the City of Winnipeg
- Reshaped collective agreements with City employees with no labour disruption
- Successfully concluded negotiations for a third Winnipeg Development Agreement
- Established and funded Centre Plan (now Centre Venture)
- Established the committee for the Arts Policy Review (the Buchwald committee)
- Approved and funded significant capital projects such as
- Thunderbird House (Neeginan)
- Charleswood Bridge
- Main Norwood Bridge
- York Underpass
- Expansion of the Pan Am Pool
- Assisted with securing approval and funding for the Pavilion in Assiniboine Park
- Established the committee for the Millennium Library project
- Started the process for the sale of Winnipeg Hydro to Manitoba Hydro
1999 – 2003
Diplomat / Consul General
Susan’s role as a diplomat began in 1999 on appointment by the Prime Minister of Canada as the Consul General of Canada to the United States of America, based in Minneapolis. Susan was the first woman to become Canadian Consul General in the 30-year history of the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis.
In her role as the Canadian Consul General in Minneapolis, Susan served an eight-state territory (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado) consisting of 15 million people and $32 billion in Canada-US trade. The Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis is responsible for international trade and business development; political and economic relations/public affairs and consular services for a territory encompassing 15 million people and $32 billion dollars in trade.
Susan directly represented Canada and Canadian interests to influence decision makers on many levels including Members of Congress, State Governors, State Legislators, business leaders, media, community leaders, and elected officials. In this position, she directed a staff of 18 with a budget of $2 million dollars US.
In addition to promoting trade and advancing Canadian priorities, Susan was responsible for helping Canadian citizens residing in America. She was responsible for providing important first-hand support to Canadians during and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States.
After three successful years in the U.S.A., Susan was assigned as Special Advisor, Canada-U.S. Relations for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In the July 27, 2002 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the headline read “Susan Thompson, a Good Canadian Friend Goes Home.” It then went on to say, “the Twin Cities is home to a lively diplomatic corps representing foreign nations through consulates. Many are from Scandinavian countries, naturally, but one of the most important is from the friendly nation to the north, and the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis is losing the infectious effervescence of an extremely competent Consul General, Susan Thompson. As one staffer said, “She made her mark here in a variety of ways those before her did not. That she did indeed. The Consul General lists its top mission as “building relationships” and Thompson excelled at that. She is a good friend to Minnesota and to the United States.”
1995 – Present
Sponsor / HMCS WINNIPEG
For Susan, it is an “honour of a lifetime” to be part of the Canadian Military family that serves our country. She has always been respectful of the men and women in our service.
The HMCS WINNIPEG, the second warship to carry this name, was built under the Canadian Patrol Frigate Project of 1983. Under this project, 12 new Canadian designed and built ships replaced the same number of aging steam powered destroyers, which served in the Navy.
WINNIPEG first sailed from the builder’s yards on September 5, 1994, and was commissioned into Her Majesty’s service on June 23, 1995 in a traditional ceremony held in Esquimalt, BC. Susan officially christened the ship at its naming ceremony in June 1994.
Susan’s close ties to WINNIPEG continue, with HMCS WINNIPEG Executive Officer and crew members paying periodic personal visits. Susan also visits WINNIPEG and her crew at every opportunity, including boarding the frigate and visiting its crew in 2007 in Vancouver Harbour.
The ship’s motto is “Unum cum virtute multorum,” which translates to “One with the strength of many.” This is the motto of the City of Winnipeg, and with the permission of Susan, Her Worship the Mayor, at the time, also became the ship’s motto.
In addition to Susan’s close relationship with WINNIPEG, many members of the city’s civic, business, veterans, and native organizations have been associated with the ship.
2003 – 2011
President & CEO of the University of Winnipeg Foundation
In March of 2003, Susan became the founding President and CEO of The University of Winnipeg Foundation, which began inaugural operations on April 1, 2003.
The University of Winnipeg Foundation is comprised of a 15-person Board of Directors whose founding members are leaders in the community and included: H. Sanford Riley, CM, Chair of the Board; R.M. (Bob) Kozminski, Campaign Chair; Leonard Asper; Dr. John Bulman, CM; Dr. Harry Duckworth, OC; Dr. Douglas Leatherdale (Minneapolis); Dr. Jim MacDonald; Dr. Joseph Martin; Dr. Randall Moffat, OC; Dr. Jim Richardson; and others.
Under Susan’s leadership, the Foundation successfully raised private funds for The University of Winnipeg. On September 16, 2011, the Foundation concluded the largest fundraising campaign in the University’s history – ‘A World of Opportunity’ Capital Campaign. Over $135 million dollars were raised, nearly doubling the original campaign goal of $70 million. Funds were raised in support of student awards, capital projects and academic enhancements.
In just under eight years, from April 2003 to October 2011, Susan’s leadership helped make possible the following achievements:
The Endowment Fund generates revenues to support many University awards, programs and projects. Its resilience and growth is important in both the short and long term. The Foundation’s policy is that contributed capital is not to be encroached upon; it is preserved in perpetuity. From the time that the Endowment Fund was transferred to the Foundation, April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2011 the Endowment Fund has grown from $18 million to over 38 million.
- 100% growth in Endowed Funds, from March 2003 to March 2011
Prior to the establishment of the University of Winnipeg Foundation, the University had never received a gift of a million dollars or more. Private gifts to the University come from its Alumni; Corporate and Individual Friends; other Foundations; all levels of Government; and its Campus Community – Faculty, Staff, Retirees and Students. The University of Winnipeg Foundation stewards over 7,600 donors.
The ‘A World of Opportunity’ Capital Campaign is the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the University. To date over $135 million has been raised towards University priority areas and other campus projects.
- A total of 16 gifts over $1 million
- A total of 22 gifts over $500,000
- A total of 72 gifts over $100,000
- Nearly 300 gifts over $10,000
- Over 7,600 donors to the Campaign
- The first ever million-dollar gift
- Dr. James D. MacDonald, $1 million – Collegiate
- The two largest private gifts in University history
- Richardson Firm, Family & Foundation $3.5 million – Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex
- John Buhler, $4 million – Buhler Centre
- The largest corporate gift in University history
- CanWest, $3 million – CanWest Centre for Theatre & Film
- The largest international gift ever
- Sir Gordon Wu, $2 million – Wu Cheng Scholarships
- The largest gift from a UW Chancellor
- H. Sanford Riley, $1 million History Fellowships
- Provincial and Federal Campaign gifts
- Over $32 million
- Government gifts leveraged by campaign
- Over $59 million (Knowledge Infrastructure Program, $18M; CISCO, $5M; Federal Reno’s & Upgrades, $8M; Opportunity Fund, $746,000 Fed, $500,000 MB and more)
- The most successful Family Campaign in University history
- Over $4.9 million raised
- Over 700 faculty and staff donors
- Bequests totaling
- Over $1.6 million
Released in September 2007, the Campus Development Plan was the culmination of extensive campus and community consultations and proposes a holistic approach to campus and community development that breaks down barriers between the University and its surrounding neighbourhood. Development of the plan was spearheaded by The University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC), which manages many of the University’s development projects. The Campus Development Plan and Capital Campaign transformed the University of Winnipeg campus in exciting ways for years to come.
Below is a list of capital projects supported through ‘A World of Opportunity’ Capital Campaign. Click here for more information on these exciting new capital projects.
- Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex
- McFeetors Hall – Great-West Life Student Residence
- UWSA Daycare
- Faculty of Business and Economics
- The Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film
- Wesley Hall – Restoration of Convocation Hall
Consultant, McDonald Youth Services
In February of 2013, Susan took a 5 month contract to raise $1 million in private funds for the MacDonald Youth Service Emergency Youth Shelter Campaign. The MYS campaign was enormously successful and the project opened in 2014.
2014 to 2018
In May of 2014, Susan accepted the position of Executive Consultant for the Winnipeg Art Gallery to help raise funds for the proposed new Inuit Art Centre, a project near and dear to her. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the largest, public collection (14,000 pieces) of contemporary Inuit art in the WORLD. It needs a proper “home.”
On October 2, 2016, Susan Thompson and Terry Létienne successfully launched Susan’s Memoir, Her Worship, Moments In Time, Moments In History.
- McNally Robinson Manitoba Bestseller of the Year 2016
Susan Thompson attended high school at St. James Collegiate in Winnipeg. She is a graduate of The University of Winnipeg Collegiate 1967 and The University of Winnipeg, BA 1971.
- 2012 – Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Winnipeg Alumni Association
- June 2016 – Honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Winnipeg
- July 2016 – Order of Manitoba
- December 2016 – Top 100 Most Interesting Manitobans of 2016
- June 2017 – Renaming of the City of Winnipeg Administration Building to the Susan A. Thompson Building