In the Canadian Oxford Dictionary a hero is defined as a person
distinguished by courage, noble deeds, and outstanding achievements.
But what is a hero really?
One could be called a hero for discovering a cure for a disease
or for simply being a loyal volunteer within a community. A hero
is what you define it to be.
Izzy Asper is a hero. He has exhibited many qualities of a
hero through the expression of his goals in his life's work and
by how he has used his position in the community for the betterment
of others. He has demonstrated selflessness in his numerous donations
and leadership in his many accomplishments. He has proved that
goals can be achieved with hard work and persistence.
"If you're so good, why aren't you in Toronto?"
Israel Asper has been asked this question many times. He is a
billionaire, entrepreneur, lawyer, broadcaster, philanthropist
and some say a visionary. He is all of these things and a proud
Israel Asper (well known as Izzy), was born in Minnedosa,
Manitoba on August 11th, 1932. He moved to Winnipeg in 1948 where
his father, Leon, bought two local movie houses. Izzy's first
jobs were to take tickets and clean the gum from the bottom of
the seats at the theater when he was sixteen years old.
Asper's aspirations did not include entering the family business.
Instead, he went to the University of Manitoba where he earned
his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953 and his Bachelor of Laws
in 1957. He was called to the Bar in 1957 following receipt of
his Bachelor of Laws. He founded the Winnipeg law firm Asper,
Freedman and Co. in 1959 and then returned to the university
to earn his Master of Laws degree in 1964. He specialized in
taxation law after graduation. His law career was very successful
and he was considered one of the finest tax lawyers in Canada.
In 1970, Asper was elected head of the Liberal Party of Manitoba
and served in that capacity for five years. He had hopes of becoming
premier but these hopes were crushed when his party won only
five seats in the next election. He was elected twice to the
Manitoba Legislative Assembly.
When he left politics, Asper took on his most successful undertaking
to date, which is called CanWest Global Communications Corporation.
In the fall of 1975, Asper bought KCND TV station in Pembina,
North Dakota and brought it up to Winnipeg where it became known
as CKND. At the time, this broadcasting company seemed to be
"the impossible dream". Now, the broadcaster is one
of the most successful in the world. While CanWest Global is
a coalition of
independent locally oriented stations, the company's belief is
that the greatest potential for future growth lies outside of
Canada. CanWest Global have stations in nine areas in Canada
as well as internationally, including stations in the South Pacific,
South America and the United Kingdom.
CanWest Global Communications is the largest and most profitable
private sector TV broadcaster in Canada. Asper, himself, is said
to be worth 1.8 billion dollars. He demonstrated great self-confidence
and responsibility in believing in what he wanted to do and then
through with it.
Izzy Asper has earned many awards and been given numerous
honourable titles. These titles are all just different names
for a hero. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1975. He was
honoured by his alma mater in 1979 as the University of Manitoba
Outstanding 25-Year Graduate. He was enlisted in the Canadian
Association of Broadcasters Broadcast Hall of Fame. He was also
appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.
Asper believes strongly in volunteerism. He has served on
numerous charitable boards. He is the president of the Asper
Foundation which he established in 1983. This organization is
a charitable foundation for philanthropic donations. He has made
many donations to a variety of causes.
This includes a one million dollar donation to the Faculty
of Management at the University of Manitoba. The Faculty created
the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship in recognition of Asper's
donation. He also made a two million dollar donation to the establishment
of The Rose and Max Rady Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg.
The lives of many have been enhanced by
these heroic deeds.
Izzy Asper has had a very fulfilling career. In addition to
his worldly success, he is a talented pianist and many say he
could have been on a concert stage. Music was very much a part
of his heritage. His father was a conductor with the state opera
in Belgium and his mother, Cecilia, was a pianist. Asper has
a love for jazz despite his father's view that it was vulgar
and didn't allow it in the house when he was young.
Presently, Asper lives in River Heights with his wife Babs
and their dog Bernie the Barrister. They have raised three children,
all of whom are successful lawyers.
Asper has demonstrated all of the qualities that make a hero.
He has been recognized for his substantial contribution to many
sectors of our society. He has shown that you should always seek
out new opportunities. By his successes in a diverse range of
endeavours and most recently by taking what used to be an independent
TV station and turning it into an internationally successful
broadcasting corporation, he has taught us not to give up on
a goal. Izzy Asper has shown us that dreams can be fulfilled
anywhere. . . even Winnipeg.