William Bruce Parrish, LL.D., May 30, 1996
William Bruce Parrish, C.M.

This afternoon we recognize the distinguished public service of William Bruce Parrish, President of Parrish and Heimbecker, and Chairman of the Winnipeg Foundation. In honoring Mr. Parrish, we are also recognizing the Winnipeg Foundation which celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.

In 1881, an ambitious young man, William L. Parrish, the son of a miller from Ontario, arrived in Manitoba and established a homestead near Brandon. It wasn't long until young Parrish was getting established in the grain and milling businesses. Over the years, several ventures were undertaken until in 1909, he joined with Norman Heimbecker, also from Ontario, to form Parrish and Heimbecker.

While best known for its grain elevator system throughout the prairies, Parrish and Heimbecker, under the guidance of successive generations of Parrish's and Heimbeckers, has been a model in business diversification and longevity. Today the company, led by William Bruce Parrish, has a diversified base of operations, including grain handling, lake shipping, feed milling, flour milling, and poultry processing, located across Canada and at three locations in the USA. The company has invested in modern and highly automated equipment and facilities to maintain its competitive position.

This well-planned diversification has meant that Parrish and Heimbecker has escaped the mergers with large national and multi-national corporations which have been the norm for other similar enterprises. Mr. Parrish, states that the company has survived "because we have always been innovative, optimistic, and continually strive to be relevant." The company is run today as it was 85 years ago by a Parrish and a Heimbecker.

In his role as President of Parrish and Heimbecker, Bill Parrish has been, and continues to be, a leader in the Agrifood industry. He is a Director of New Life Mills, Martin Feed Mills Limited, The Great Lakes Elevator Company Limited, and serves as Chairman of the Board of the Grain Insurance and Guarantee Company Limited. He is a member of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange and has served as its Chairman, a position also held by his father and grandfather before him.

Earlier in 1870, an equally ambitious 18-year old, William Forbes Alloway, had arrived at the Red River colony. The settlement was small, only 12,000 souls, but young Alloway had an eye for potential and was determined to succeed on the frontier. He worked hard, prospering in turn as a tobacconist, veterinarian, and shipper. Then, in 1879, he founded "Alloway and Champion" which became one of the largest private banks in Western Canada.

The early years were difficult ones for the people of Winnipeg. Living conditions were harsh. Yet it was also a boom period: railways and grain had put the city on the map. Winnipeg was becoming an established centre and by 1911, it was the third largest city in the Dominion.

On a summer's day, June 21, 1921, Mr. Alloway made a donation which would change the community of Winnipeg forever---he wrote a $100,000 cheque to establish The Winnipeg Foundation, making it the first community foundation in Canada. Along with his donation, Mr. Alloway wrote:

"Since I first set foot in Winnipeg 51 years ago, Winnipeg has been my home and has done more for me than it may ever be in my power to repay. I owe everything to this community and feel it should receive some benefit from what I have been able to accumulate."

Since 1921, The Winnipeg Foundation has received some 64 million dollars in donations, both specified and unspecified. Through prudent financial management this has grown to its current value of over 100 million dollars. Over the 75 year period, in excess of 60 million dollars, has been returned to the community through grants to registered charities. These grants have touched the lives of countless thousands of Winnipeg and Manitoba residents from all walks of life. When one reviews the lists of beneficiaries, "equality" is the operative word which comes to mind.

The University of Manitoba has been a major recipient of grants from the Winnipeg Foundation. For example, in the 1940s, grants established and maintained the School of Social Work at the University. In the 1980s, support was given to the Continuing Education Division to establish a special training program for non-profit organizations. These are two examples of program funding the University receives each year from the Foundation. The Foundation has also supported capital projects at the University, including $200,000 for the Study Hall in the 1980 Library expansion; $600,000 as a lead gift in 1987 to the Bannatyne Centre, and $375,000 this past year to the “Gateway to the Future Fund” for Agriculture.

Our stories come together in 1985 when William Bruce Parrish, the grandson of William L. and President of the company, joined the board of the Winnipeg Foundation founded by William Forbes Alloway.

William Parrish has given much to the community in which he lives and works. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Cancer Society (Manitoba Division), and served as President from 1965-1970. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Health Sciences Centre in 1979 and served until 1985. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors for four years during a time of expansion in health care, which benefited from his guidance. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Winnipeg Foundation in 1985 and currently is the Chairman of the Board, elected to that position in 1993. His contributions to the community have been recognized by his being appointed to the Order of Canada in 1995.

William Parrish has also been generous in his support of the University of Manitoba, and particularly the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. He is currently co-Chair of the "Gateway to the Future Building Fund" Capital Campaign for the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba. The Campaign, launched in early 1995, has a target of $12 million and to date has received pledges in the amount of 85 percent of the goal. The success of the campaign has, in large part, been due to the dedication and efforts of Mr. Parrish.

He also was a lead volunteer on the Committee which successfully raised $125,000 for the Clay Gilson Graduate Fellowship. Again, his contacts in the agricultural community were key to the success of this project.

William Parrish is a very unassuming person. His fundamental value system reflected in the operation of Parrish and Heimbecker is honesty and fairness in all dealings. Close associates will tell you Bill Parrish doesn't know how to think crooked. His motto has always been "deal with honor, sleep at night."

William Bruce Parrish has served his industry, his community, the University of Manitoba and his country quietly and with distinction for many years. We can all be proud of his accomplishments and dedication.

In 1943, William Parrish left his studies as a first year student in Agriculture at the University of Manitoba to serve his country. On leaving the army in 1946, he immediately entered the family business. At last he is returning to receive his well deserved degree.