Donald B. Rix

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  • "My deepest sympathy goes out to your family in the loss of..."
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    - Suzanne Nemeth
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    - Riley Pollom
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    - Ben Minuk
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RIX -Donald B. (1931-2009) Dr. Don Rix was an icon, and his passing leaves a huge void in the community, and sorrow in many hearts. A visionary, entrepreneur, philanthropist, business leader, tireless community volunteer, mentor, consummate corporate citizen, devoted husband and father, Don was -- at the core -- a physician and healer. Born in Orillia, Ontario in 1931, Don grew up in nearby London, where he attended London South Collegiate High School, followed by the University of Western Ontario, where he obtained his BA in 1953 and his MD in 1957. Don moved to Vancouver in 1958 to intern at the Vancouver General Hospital. Following his internship, he worked with Adam Waldie, practicing family medicine in Point Grey for five years. Don attributed his passion for community service to Adam. That's when Don first volunteered, canvassing door - to - door, for the United Way and the Salvation Army. While in general practice Don's fascination with diagnostic medicine grew, and he joined the fledgling lab company -- Metropolitan Biomedical Laboratories (Metro). He left General Practice, returned to VGH, and completed General Pathology in 1968. After a short stint as a pathologist Don decided to focus on building Metro. Through acquisition and expansion, Metro became Metro-McNair; through partnership with MDS, it became MDS Metro; and through its sale in 2006, it became LifeLabs. Don's vision and innovation built the largest private laboratory company providing services across BC. He applied that same visionary thinking to Cantest, a small environmental laboratory he purchased in 1974. Through his leadership, Cantest became one of Canada's leading industrial labs. Don did business the old fashioned way. His handshake was as good as a signed deal. Don was a pioneer. Long before private companies offered pension plans, he did; long before companies provided educational support to their staff, he did; and long before companies supported their staff's volunteerism in their communities, he did. He also pioneered technology, Metro became the first private lab in Canada to computerize in 1975 and Don was well-known for his early adoption of new and emerging technologies. Don has often been acknowledged as the father of BC's thriving bio-tech industry. He was fascinated with science and technology, and was instrumental in the establishment of Genome BC, past chair of the BC Innovation Council and a member of the Premier's Technology Council. He was extremely active in the BC Medical Association, chairing the Finance Committee for 20 years. Even in the early days of his career, Don gave his time to charities as a member or chair of many boards including Sunnyhill Hospital Foundation, Children's Hospital Foundation and Canuck Place Children's Hospice. Don's approach to philanthropy was rare. He was personally interested, involved, and gave his experience and leadership generously. Don was extremely proud of his association with the organizations and institutions he helped and supported - like the Bursary Fund at BCIT for students in need of financial assistance, MusicFest (formerly Festival Vancouver) to expand its programs throughout the province, and UBC and the University of Western Ontario for expansion of their medical training. Don was passionate about education, which he viewed as fundamental. Some of his most memorable times were those spent mentoring medical students. As a leader, Don was particularly proud to be the first physician to chair the Vancouver Board of Trade 2008/09. During that time, he established the Rix Center for Corporate Citizenship and Engaged Leadership to encourage philanthropy among business leaders and businesses. Don received numerous awards and honours for his community service including honourary doctorates from UWO, UBC, SFU, UVic, UNBC, BCIT and The Justice Institute. Don cherished the Order of British Columbia (2004), the Order of Canada (2008), and the Canadian Medical Association's F.N.G. Starr Award for distinguished achievement (August 2009). Don faced his final challenge with enormous courage and grace. His legacy is entrenched, and the thousands of people whose lives he touched will never forget him. Predeceased by his beloved wife Eleanor in 2007, Don is survived by his daughter Laurie and her husband Neil Macrae, his brother Robert (Bob) Rix and wife Judith, Neil's sister Donna Macrae and her husband Bill Didur and close friends Frances Lasser and Jim Russell. The family would like to thank Dr. Janessa Laskin at the BC Cancer Agency, the supportive staff at the Community Palliative Care Program and the Palliative Care Unit at VGH, and the wonderful home health care team who made Don's last weeks at home so comfortable. Private Service to be held at St. John's Shaughnessy Church. Public Celebration of His Life to be held November 18th, at the Hotel Vancouver, Pacific Ballroom from 4-6pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: BC Cancer Foundation, MusicFest, Canuck Place, and Tennis BC. Condolences can be made to the family at
Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province from Nov. 10 to Nov. 15, 2009
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