As a young girl growing up during the Depression, Sandra Pitblado was introduced to the alchemy of the arts in Winnipeg by her mother and grandmother. She knew even then how fortunate she was to experience the magic of a show, and a lifetime later has become one of Canada’s greatest patrons of our dance and theatre communities.
Ms. Pitblado met her husband of more than five decades, business leader Mr. Jim Pitblado, when both were working at the Great West Life Assurance Company. His career took their family, complete with five children, from Winnipeg to Montreal and Toronto, where she began to make her mark as an enthusiastic fundraiser for arts and culture.
Her support of The National Ballet of Canada has been particularly profound. She is a member of the organization’s Producers Circle, which provides funds for new productions, and she spearheaded the establishment of The Music Circle benefitting the Ballet’s orchestra.
During her term as chair of the Stratford Festival from 1999 to 2001, she helped to facilitate the launch of the highly respected organization’s endowment foundation, as well as establish the Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training. The Avon Theatre was rebuilt and the Studio Theatre was constructed thanks to a significant leading gift from the Pitblados. An avid admirer of Shakespeare’s iconic works, Ms. Pitblado also helped to make it possible for the company to film its Shakespearean productions and distribute them to cinemas worldwide.
The Pitblados are loyal supporters of The Hospital for Sick Children and its SickKids Foundation, where they established a Chair in Cell Biology in memory of their son, David, who was passionate about science and lost his battle with cancer in 2004.
The University of Manitoba has been a proud recipient of the Pitblados’ generosity, most notably a transformational gift in 2001 that created the Pitblado Scholars program in Law. They have personally met every one of the more than 200 scholarship recipients.
The Pitblados were named the outstanding philanthropists of the year by the National Society of Fundraising Executives in 1999, and received the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts in 2003.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Ms. Sandra Pitblado for her passion, her inspiring leadership, and her steadfast advocacy, all in the name of the arts.