Jim Coutts, the visionary behind the founding of Pearson College, died on Tuesday at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto after a long battle with cancer.
Mr. Coutts played a key role in fulfilling the dream of former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to establish a unique school on Canada's west coast with a focus on academics, service and peace building for youth from around the world. He was associated with Pearson College for 40 years, starting in 1973 as founding member of the Board of Trustees, then as Chair from 1996-2003 and finally as Chair of the Pearson College Canadian Foundation from 2003-2012.
Mr. Coutts was dedicated to making Prime Minister Pearson's vision of the College a reality, working tirelessly for decades to establish scholarships, ensuring that students be welcomed without regard to race, religion or politics and from all levels of society. “There would not be a Pearson College without Jim Coutts,” said the Honourable John Nichol, another key founder of the College.
“Jim Coutts was tireless in his efforts to raise scholarship funds every year for students to attend Pearson College and he built the College's endowment to where it is today. All of us are deeply grateful to him for this work,” said David Hawley, Head of College.
The prestigious Coutts Lecture Series was established at the College in Mr. Coutts’ honour in recognition of his unwavering dedication to Pearson College. The inaugural speaker in 2010 was Lewis H. Lapham.
Mr. Coutts was born in High River, Alberta and raised in nearby Nanton. He received a BA (’60) and LLB (’61) from the University of Alberta, and an MBA (’68) from Harvard Business School. He went on to become an accomplished political tactician, serving as a Secretary to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson for two years and as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau for six. He was also a Founding Partner of Canada Consulting.
In his later years, Mr. Coutts was a generous philanthropist with major ties to the University of Lethbridge and the Nature Conservancy of Canada in addition to Pearson College.
Mr. Coutts will be missed.