David C. Lam

Biography

“You go home, you look at the sky, you marvel at the wonder of nature, and the insignificance of what you’re doing,” said David C. Lam. Mr. Lam was Canada’s first ethnic Chinese lieutenant-governor, a real-estate developer, major philanthropist, and someone who helped shape both the attitude and the skyline in Vancouver, British Columbia. He graduated from the Fox School of Business with an MBA in 1949. Before Mr. Lam immigrated to Canada, he was raised in Hong Kong during World War II. During the war, he helped run his family’s coal business, and lived to tell about three close brushes with death: a dock bombing, a chase with pirates, and his decision not to board a ship that was later torpedoed. In B.C., Mr. Lam obtained a diploma in real estate appraisal in 1972, and eventually became president of Canadian International Properties. “When I first arrived, the natural beauty of the city literally brought tears to my eyes,” he told the Vancouver Sun in 1987. Mr. Lam founded the Floribunda Philanthropic Society and the David and Dorothy Lam Foundation, and donated substantial funds to cultural projects in his adopted home. After retiring at age 60, Mr. Lam gave away a million dollars of his fortune every year. Many institutions benefited from his generosity, including the University of Victoria, Vancouver’s Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, Simon Fraser University’s David Lam Centre for International Communication, the University of British Columbia’s David Lam Management Research Centre, along with the David Lam Park. Raised by a Baptist minister, Mr. Lam tried to bring a human touch to capitalism. He was a follower of Confucianism. According to Mr. Lam, he made his money with love, and not ruthlessness. After experiencing the struggles of starting over in a new country, Mr. Lam went out of his way to personally help establish his vision of Canada, a place where immigrants could find refuge and opportunity. When newcomers would arrive from Hong Kong at the airport, Mr. Lam would often be there waiting to offer advice, or answer questions. He looked out for fellow immigrants because he knew firsthand how hard it was. In a 1987 interview with the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Lam said, “One can easily legislate against discrimination, but no one can legislate love.” He loved Canada dearly: “The survival of our country, Canada, can be traced to our university system,” said Mr. Lam. “The quality of education, flexibility of the economy, and the adaptability of the workforce are the key elements of prosperity and success.”

Temple University Degree
Master of Business Administration ’49, Fox School of Business