In memoriam - Dr. Donald Rix

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dr. Don Rix, whose donation of $2 million to The University of Western Ontario helped create a new Clinical Skills Learning Building, died November 6 at the age of 78 following a long illness.

Leaving a philanthropic legacy at countless institutions for a variety of programs and initiatives, he was thrilled to attend the opening of the Dr. Don Rix Clinical Skills Learning Building at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in 2005.

"I am a strong supporter of Western's medical program that trains students in both local and regional communities," Rix said at the 2005 event. "I feel this new facility will help students become better doctors."

Support from Rix also helped found the Dr. Don Rix Protein Identification Facility in the Siebens-Drake Medical Research Institute in 2001.

Born in Orillia, Ontario in 1931, Rix grew up in 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.

Rix 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.

While in general practice Rix'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. His 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.

Rix also pioneered technology. Metro became the first private lab in Canada to computerize in 1975 and he was well-known for his early adoption of new and emerging technologies. He has often been acknowledged as the father of BC's thriving bio-tech industry. Fascinated with science and technology, Rix 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 active in the BC Medical Association, chairing the Finance Committee for 20 years. Rix 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. He received numerous awards and honours for his community service including honourary doctorates from Western, 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).

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.

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