From the drive-thru window to the convocation stage, with a brief stop at university on the way, West Vancouver entrepreneur and philanthropist Yuri Fulmer will be invested as Capilano University’s newest chancellor next month.
As chancellor, Fulmer will be part of the board of governors and senate that run the university, but he will also serve as its figurehead, carrying out ceremonial duties like conferring degrees and giving out awards.
“Call it the governor general of the university, if that makes sense,” he said.
The school’s leadership let him know he was on a short-list of candidates for the position. It’s not so much where Cap is now that made him say yes, but where it is going.
“It's a big piece of this community,” he said. “And I think they've got aspirations to be even better than they are today. It's always great to be associated with, and to be part of an organization that's doing great stuff, but wants to be even better. That's what really convinced me.”
Like a lot of young Australians, Fulmer decided to travel after he graduated from high school. That brought him to Vancouver, the city his parents met in 50 years ago. And like a lot of people who visited Vancouver, he found himself changing plans and building a life here.
“I thought I'd be here for three weeks and it's been 28 years,” he said.
He enrolled in the political science program at UBC, but a summer job working an A&W drive-thru window was the first step becoming a restaurant manager. Eventually, he bought his own A&W franchise. By the age of 30, his hospitality business portfolio was valued at $60 million.
Because of his success in business and non-profit ventures and his volunteer work, he’s been recognized with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Spirit of Vancouver Award and the Order of British Columbia.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Yuri Fulmer at this time,” said Paul Dangerfield, Capilano University president. “As a business and community leader, Yuri’s values and exceptional work ethic inspire others to achieve their full potential. We are honoured to have him join the CapU community as our next chancellor.”
For the three-year term, Fulmer said he wants to use his business and philanthropic network to highlight the good work of the university and its students. He sees the role as being similar to what he does now with his private equity firm, Fulmer and Company – investing in leadership.
It will also put him in the somewhat awkward position of conferring degrees without having one himself.
Fulmer isn’t one to live in regret, but if he were to do it all again, he’d finish his degree, he said. And that’s exactly what he’d advise students now. He openly jokes with people that he’s the university dropout who would never hire a university dropout.
“There are things that you either learn at university, or you learn in the school of hard knocks. And if you learn them in the school of hard knocks you'll learn them by falling on your face and getting hurt,” he said. “You've got somewhere between 40 and 50 more years of work. Don't be too anxious to rush out there. If there's things you want to learn or experiences you want to have, people you want to meet, things you want to try, do all of that. Because work will always be there, and you've got a long career ahead of you.”
Fulmer’s investiture will take place in a ceremony on June 18 at 11 a.m., which will be live broadcast at www.capilanou.ca/chancellor. Later that day, he’ll preside over the first virtual convocation in the university’s history.