David O’Leary was quintessentially Canadian in leading in so many disciplines globally and yet presenting a modest public profile – uniquely combining top-level thinking with good humour and infectious optimism.
Dave passed away at the age of 62 on May 26 in Chilliwack, B.C. and leaders worldwide will feel his loss.
I first met Dave when I was teaching at Capilano University (then a college) almost 30 years ago. Right away, our shared interest in teaching and in the world of venture capital drew us together as colleagues and as friends. We’d go on to co-found REDDS Venture Investment Partners together in 2014, after Dave was brave enough to take the leap from his executive job in the world of academia to join me. We even travelled to CES in Las Vegas together several times, evaluating the most innovative technologies on the show floor.
Dave made so many significant lasting global contributions which I will now outline, at least in part.
Education and academia
In education and academia, after developing innovative programming at Capilano University, Dave served as Dean, CIO, and vice-president, at North West Community College (NWCC) with invitations to take on presidency roles often coming in from other schools. At NWCC, Dave founded the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, building on a long history of authoring national education programs.
He served on the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Committee for Computing Education contributing to a new curricular project to set guidelines for education programs in computer science.
In addition, he is the only leader to complete two terms as the elected Chair of the National Council of IT Deans where he led universities, institutes and colleges to better align their curriculum to skill needs turning around a long enrollment decline. Dave served two terms on the board of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), which represents and advises government, industry, and academia in Canada and advises global corporations such as Google.
Dave was invited to the curriculum board of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) representing 33,000 businesses in the IT sector. Dave’s board focus was ITAC’s Business Technology Management program utilized by the top universities in the country, including the University of Toronto computing program which is ranked in the top 10 worldwide.
For his many lifetime contributions, Dave was awarded the nation’s highest academic leadership award, and presented papers and spoke at global conferences on curriculum innovation.
Science and government
In science and government, Dave was elected to the UN-founded International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Global Industry Council. The IFIP describes his mandate in that role: “Global Industry Council Directors are specially nominated and invited to serve within the UN-rooted body as internationally recognized luminary executives, thought leaders, and visionaries and for their strong history of providing substantive contributions to global business, industry, society, education, and governments.”
IFIP is the largest federation of notable computing organizations at the national and international level.
While serving as global industry council director, Dave contributed as chief editor to the GIC 2020 Skills Assessment report predicting skill and job trends. The report is used by governments, industry, and academia worldwide and was officially presented at numerous keynotes including the World Computing Congress.
Dave was invited to ACM Practitioner Board Professional Development Committee and as Chair ACM Practitioner Board Marketing Committee to develop programs for working computing professionals. He also served on the ACM Practitioner Board, having overall responsibly to serve computing professionals worldwide. Dave held all three positions concurrently in 2018. The ACM is the official international member of IFIP and the No.1 computer science organization noted for their A.M. Turing Award, the Nobel Prize of computing.
Dave served admirably for two terms as President of CIPS B.C. (CIPS is the government-chartered IT organization representing Canadian IT professionals). Dave engaged the B.C. Minister of Technology Andrew Wilkinson in discussions about computing professionals and their accreditation and certification. Dave’s participation with a working group on the CIPS position paper for the federal Privacy Commissioner’s office resulted in an invitation for CIPS to attend a follow-up meeting in Toronto thereby impacting privacy legislation.
Industry and investments
In industry, Dave served as founding CEO for award winning IGEN Knowledge Solutions. Dave led the company in producing the first online credit system. He supported CTO Richard Longworth in presenting a seminal paper on the semantic web at the IFIP World Computer Congress.
Dave also contributed as a blogging CIO to IT World Canada and as a writer produced a series of blogs on technology innovation including ones ranked amongst the top in readership.
Dave served as a task force member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dave has appeared as a panel member in a number of Microsoft webcasts and has presented globally on the business and technical impacts of technology in training.
Having known Dave for nearly 30 years, I will always cherish and pass forward his lessons from his lasting legacy inspired by his passion. Dave was trustworthy, hard working, brilliant and yet the most down to earth and grounded person. His optimism filled the room, his laughter brought joy to those around him, his endless energy was infectious, his stories about his life and experiences compelling and especially from such humble beginnings.
David is survived by his wife Connie, his two sons Paul and Shaun O’Leary; his brothers Kevin and Bill O’Leary; his sisters Dianne O’Leary-Price, Elaine Cook and Jeanette Reagan, mother-in-law, Maggie, nephews; Daniel, Bradley and Liam, nieces; Elaine, Rachel, Caitlin and Claire.