Mr. Friesen was born on January 19, 1947. He attended the University of Manitoba and obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1969.
Mr. Friesen has been an enthusiastic and exemplary advocate for the University of Manitoba for many years. In his role as Chair of "Building on Strengths" Campaign for the University of Manitoba, he led the most successful campaign in the university's history, which was the largest ever in Manitoba and one of the largest university campaigns in Canada. At a final total in February, 2004, of more than $237 million, this achievement will profoundly influence the future of the university for decades, both in the development of human capital and the university's physical spaces.
As a memberof the University Development Council from its inception in 1993, Mr. Friesen was involved in the development and maturation of fundraising at the university, including the period during which the annual giving program and the planned giving program were established. He is also a member of the Associates of the I.H. Asper School of Business.
Mr. Friesen's community involvement extends well beyond the University of Manitoba. He is a past director of the National Arts Centre Board of Trustees, Fort Whyte Centre for Environmental Education, Altona Community Foundation and Scouts Canada.
As Chief Executive Officer of Friesens Corporation, Mr. Friesen has significantly grown his family's business, which has operated in Altona since 1907. Thanks in part to an employee-ownership structure implemented in the early 1980s, Friesens' annual sales have grown to $85 million, making it one of the biggest employers in Manitoba. Friesens is the largest independent book manufacturer in Canada, accounting for about 65 per cent of the hardcover titles printed in the country. Friesens has printed some of the world's most beloved books, including over twenty million copies of Robert Munsch's Love You Forever, and close to one million copies of the fourth Harry Potter book, The Goblet of Fire. Friesens Corporation is celebrating the 20th anniversary in 2004 of printing the very popular series of Company's Coming cookbooks.
Mr. Friesen is active in the leadership of both his own industry and business in Manitoba. He is a member of the Boards of Manitoba Hydro, Blue Cross Life Insurance and the Crocus Investment Fund. He is a past memberof the Premier's Economic Advisory Council of Manitoba and presently is on the Board of the Business Council of Manitoba. He has been a director and member of the Graphic Arts Industries Association of Canada, the Printing Industries Association of Manitoba, the US-based National Association of Printing Leadership and the Manitoba Branch of the Canadian Manufacturers Association.
Friesens has been honoured nationally and internationally for excellence in business. It was named one of Canada's 50 best managed companies in 2003, and the 2003 National Association for Printing Leadership Gold Management Plus Award. Mr. Friesen was named Prairie Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 in the competition run world-wide by Emst and Young and was nominated for the National Entrepreneur of the Year Award that same year.
The University of Manitoba Alumni Association named Mr. Friesen the recipient of the 2004 Distinguished Alumni Awàrd, in recognition of his success in business and service to the community and the university.