By David F. Rooney
Community Connections has a new executive director and, having had the pleasure of meeting Craig Brown, I can honestly say he’s not what I expected.
Not that I was expecting anything in particular when I arrived at Community Connections on Tuesday to interview the 59-year-old Ontario native. Still it was rapidly apparent that he is definitely a one-in-a-million find for the agency.
Brown is very well-travelled and although he doesn’t say it, he is extremely intelligent and very perceptive. How else does a young guy become vice-president of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children when he’s just 28?
As I say, he’s a real find for Community Connections whose previous executive director, Gayle Morgan, stepped down after she became very ill last year.
Brown is also not one of those careerists whose big ambition in life is rising to the top of the ladder, making a pile of money and tormenting his underlings.
“Resources should go to the people and programs on the front lines — not the structure behind them,” he said.
That’s not something you hear very often. And while I suspect Craig Brown has done all right for himself that’s not what drives him. He describes his career arc as “my life’s journey,” and that speaks volumes about his attitudes towards himself , the world around him and his place in it. He’s not boastful; lacks any trace of arrogance and has a delightful sense of humour. He takes his work seriously but himself? Not so much.
Brown grew up in the small Ontario town of Ancaster just outside Hamilton and attended McMaster University where he initially contemplated a career in chemistry. But that eventually seemed like a boring future and, after seeking some guidance, he decided to try something completely different. He acquired a BA in economics and an MBA, both from McMaster and joined Sick Kids, as the hospital is popularly referred to in Ontario in 1980 as a coordinator for long-range plans.
‘I had never lived in a big city before so there I was in Toronto,” Brown said in the interview.
His first job was as coordinator of long-range plans for the hospital. It was a one-year contract job and they obviously were impressed as they offered him a vice-presidency before it was done.
“I couldn’t walk away from that,” Brown said.
Se stayed for six years then joined the Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth as its CEO. Three years on he found himself back in Ontario as executive VP for Windsor Western Hospital Centre until 1992 when he was Director of Business Affairs and Financial Management for the Regional Municipality of Durham’s Social Services Department. He and his wife, Gloria, decided to make a big move west to Lethbridge where Brown was CEO of Sun Country Child & Family Services Authority until 2003 when he joined the Health Care Centre in nearby Coaldale, Alberta, as its CEO.
That was good for three years until the Cayman Island Health Authority beckoned and he worked there for a year as its CEO. In 2007 he and Gloria flew to Doha, Qatar, where he was Director of Administration for a new international branch campus of the University of Calgary in that country. The campus provides state-of-the-art nursing education and research programs to assist Qatar to develop and retain a world-class nursing workforce.
“It was the exact equivalent of the U of C nursing program in Calgary,” he said.
That was good for a couple of years then they returned to Canada, although this time to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he was President and CEO of Southeast Regional College.
Along the way Gloria has worked in the banking retail sectors when she wasn’t raising their adopted children, Brown said.
Now living the kind of child-free existence that eventually comes to most parents, the couple has rented a house in Columbia Park. Gloria enjoys tole painting and other artistic endeavours while Craig likes woodwork, coaching hockey (and attending local hockey games) and has performed his share of interior renos.
“I also do gingerbread houses,” he said.
Welcome to Revelstoke, Craig and Gloria. I think you’ll like it here.