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UBC Thunderbirds mourn the loss of accomplished icon Doug Mitchell

The UBC Thunderbirds family is deeply saddened by the recent passing of UBC alumnus and philanthropist, Douglas Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell’s contributions to UBC Athletics and his influence on the world of Canadian sports was immense. From playing UBC Varsity football to becoming co-owner of the Calgary Stampeders, Mr. Mitchell was a life-long participant and advocate of sport at all levels. We join President Santa J. Ono in extending our condolences to Doug’s wife Lois and the entire Mitchell family.

Mitchell’s passion for football both on and off the field has helped grow the game at all levels and his contributions have been far reaching with the sport remaining a focal point throughout his life’s journey. In 2021, Mitchell was honored with a well-earned place as a Builder in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2021 due to his commitment to grow the game and as UBC Thunderbird football player, champion of amateur sport, generous donor and loyal volunteer.

“Doug’s impact on the UBC Thunderbirds community and our student athletes is truly unmatched,” said UBC’s Managing Director, Athletics and Recreation, Kavie Toor. “His legacy from him will be felt in his ability to connect with students, staff and coaches and to display generosity, composure and passion for how sport brings people together.”

Mitchell first played Hockey at Colorado College before coming north of the border looking for a University that had both a law school, and a strong varsity sport program which led him to play varsity football for the Thunderbirds in 1958 and 1959 under legendary coach Frank Gnup. Mitchell then went on to play professionally for the BC Lions all the while studying to obtain his law degree at UBC. After graduating from UBC in 1962, Mitchell traded his helmet in for a brief case and began a career that would see him become a distinguished lawyer at the largest law firm in Canada – Borden Ladner Gervais.

Doug Mitchell - Homecoming poster - Nov. 7, 1959

Mitchell has never forgotten his varsity roots. His many contributions to Canadian university football include the founding of the prestigious BLG awards, established along with his wife, the Honorable Lois Mitchell, in 1992. Renamed as The Honorable Lois Mitchell and Doug Mitchell U SPORTS Athlete of the Year Awards, the highest university athletic honor in the country also provide Canada’s top male and female student athletes with $10,000 scholarships to attend graduate school.

The Honorable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta (Left), Kiera Van Ryk (centre), Doug Mitchell (right) - 2019 Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards

U SPORTS has also recognized Mitchell’s long-time support of amateur sport in Canada and university athletes in particular by re-naming one of its national semi-final football games the Mitchell Bowl in his honour.

Doug Mitchell Sports Center 2010 Olympics

Mitchell also made a transformational gift towards the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center which enabled UBC to serve as a host venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The DMSC continues to be the home rink for the T-Birds men’s and women’s hockey programs.

Mitchell’s contributions to his community and his country have earned him inclusion in the British Columbia Hall of Fame, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada. He was also inducted into the Frank Gnup UBC Football Wall of Honor as a Builder in 2021.

Mitchell continued to give back and was the active co-chair of the UBC Football Alumni Council, just another example of his tireless support and generosity towards amateur sport in Canada.
 

“Doug would tell me how much be credited his success and belief in volunteering and philanthropy from his time under Coach Frank Gnup,” remembers UBC football head coach Blake Nill. “Doug understood that university football created opportunities for young men. Often times they came to campus with only their football skills, but left with valuable transferable lessons in a multitude of other areas to help them succeed in their post-collegiate careers. Doug not only believed in these philosophies of football, but led by example and always looked at student-athletes that exemplified growth through football – he valued an individual’s commitment to team, be a part of structure and innate competitiveness.Doug’s legacy and impact will live on at UBC Football and we will miss him dearly.”

Doug Mitchell with Lois and Santa Ono

Mitchell will be remembered as a tremendous Thunderbirds student-athlete, builder, and mentor who positively impacted the lives of many players thanks to his outstanding character and nature. Mitchell always emphasized the importance of kindness and respect in the classroom as a priority in conjunction with athletic pursuits. His approach to him was one that included integrity, dedication, and compassion, leading to him influencing so many winners and future community leaders.

Mitchell is survived by his wife, Lois, his children and many grandchildren.

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