Essay submitted by Bob Silver, O.M.
President and Co-Owner, Western Glove Works
When I graduated university in 1970, I couldn’t wait to get out of Winnipeg. I was so excited to see the world, I didn’t even stay for my graduation.
In 1973, after my father passed away suddenly, I came back to Winnipeg for the funeral. I stayed to make sure my family and my mother were taken care of. I started working at Western Glove Works and that started my journey into the world of business.
I remember a few months after I came back, being caught in one of our famous Winnipeg snowstorms. I saw cars trying to maneuver the street, and every time a car got stuck, a group of people got together to push that car out of the snow. It happened time and time again, and it struck me: this is the essence of Winnipeg. Hopefully nobody gets caught in the snow, but if you do, you get helped out by others. And that was lesson one for me.
A few years later, I continued my venture into the corporate world and became relatively successful. I got a phone call one day asking me if I would participate with a group who was banding together to try to save the Jets. What struck so many of us on that committee was it was our generation’s turn to drive the car, to move this society forward. It wasn’t about all the great people who went before us – it was us, this group of 30 and 40-year-olds, and we couldn’t shirk it.
We failed to save the Jets. But what we did save was the notion of community, and the notion that whatever was going to happen was because of our individual and our collective efforts. Out of that failure came so many endeavors and activities this community generated to show itself – and the world – what type of community we are. That was lesson two: that responsibility is not given, it’s taken, and it shouldn’t be avoided.
Lesson three came a few years later. I got a phone call from a friend asking for help with fundraising. I was busy, involved with a lot of other endeavors, and said I did not have the time. My friend helped me reconsider.
It is so important in this community to give back. If you have money, give the money. But more importantly, give time, give your passion, give emphasis to those things that need to be done.
Because of these three lessons, I look at what has been achieved within our community: Assiniboine Park, the Millennium Library, the Pan Am Games, the success of United Way Winnipeg, support for the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba, and more.
Now I am learning this community needs information.
I had no idea when my business partner and I got involved with the Winnipeg Free Press, of the importance to the community of this particular entity. I thought it was a business proposition but it became so much more. It is a vital part of the community, providing access to curated information, and without that we would be at a loss.
What would I like to see in 100 years? What do I hope the efforts of my generation, of future generations and past generations, has accomplished?
I’d love to see the need for United Way Winnipeg to be gone. I’d love the need for The Winnipeg Foundation to be lessened. I’d be naive to say I think it will be gone, but I hope it’s less.
I hope the division of wealth and all the good things in life becomes more equitable. And that everybody has the opportunity to succeed, whether a first Canadian, a new Canadian, or any other Canadian.
What I really want to continue to see in 100 years is in Winnipeg, nobody gets stuck in the snow – everybody gets lifted out.
For more than 35 years, Robert (Bob) Silver has contributed to the business and community sectors locally, nationally and internationally. He is President and Co-Owner of Western Glove Works (Silver Jeans) and Co-Owner of Urban Barn and Comark retail chains. He is also Co-Owner of The Brandon Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, CanStar Weekly, and Derksen Printers.
Bob has served as Co-Chair of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council; Board Member of the Business Council of Manitoba and the Canadian Apparel Federation; and Chair of Destination Winnipeg (now Economic Development Winnipeg) and United Way Winnipeg, amongst others.
He is committed to making Manitoba more inclusive, and champions accessible higher education for all. He served as Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg from 2009 to 2020. He is a recipient of the Duff Roblin Award, an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Manitoba, and the Order of Manitoba.