Like any good puzzle, the more pieces you put into place, the more complete the picture. The same is true for the president of the West Point Grey Community Centre Association (WPGCCA) Board of Directors, Dr. David Dolphin. David is a renowned scientist and an officer of the Order of Canada. His career is a story in and of itself – more details can be found here. Apart from playing a lead role in the development of the first treatment for age-related macular degeneration, which once caused blindness in a matter of months, he has founded companies, holds more than 264 patents and has published over 400 research papers.
David has called West Point Grey home since 1980. He is an avid potter and member of the Aberthau Potters’ Club. With them, and at his home studio, he makes beautiful ceramics with unique forms and colourations that reflect his background in woodworking and chemistry. We sat down with David to learn more about his hobbies and the remarkable trajectory of his life.
What were your early years like?
Well, I was born at the beginning of the Second World War in London, England. By birth I’m a cockney. My family lived in the poorest east end of London. Both my parents left school when they were 12 years old. However, in many ways I have been lucky. I knew I wanted to be a scientist when I was 12, and when I was 16 my Scout leader got me a summer job at a chemical factory research lab. We made things that smell good. For example, we created different types of perfume, even the scent of fresh baked bread for stores that sold bread but no longer baked it, and the smell of leather to add to plastic furniture. That was a thing in the 1950s.
What life circumstances brought you to Vancouver?
My marks were good enough that, in Grade 12, I received a scholarship for university, which was the first step in my journey. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and PhD in chemistry. I then traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the mid-1960s where I was lucky enough to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard under Dr. Robert Burns Woodward, who won the Nobel Prize around that time. I taught at Harvard for 10 years – starting when I was 26 – and had three kids, who joined me for the next leg of my journey. In 1974 I received an offer to teach chemistry at the University of British Columbia, where I worked until my retirement in 2005.
It was at UBC that I met my second wife, Diane, who was also working in the chemistry department. While neither of us were set on marriage, we did eventually tie the knot in 1981 so that we could travel together to China, which, at the time, would only allow Diane to accompany me if we were married. Outside of work, we spent a lot of time traveling, skiing and fly-fishing.
How did your passion for making Pottery start?
My original hobby was woodworking. I made a set of bowls, and the grain was so gorgeous that I didn’t want to spoil it. So I went to my glassblower at UBC to make some inserts, but the shape was too complex. I bought some clay that you can bake in your oven, and it’s crap. So I took pottery classes and got hooked. I found out about the Aberthau Potters’ Club at West Point Grey CC around 20 years ago. I’ve been a member since around 2010 and am their current Vice President.
What made you decide to become a WPGCCA Board Member?
I heard that the Association’s Board was looking for members, and so I decided to join. Proximity had a lot to do with it, too, as I live just up the hill from the Centre. I have sat on many boards, and this seemed like a good way to work with like-minded people on projects that benefit the community.
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience to date?
I find it very rewarding to know that what the Board is doing is helping not only the local community, but the community at large. Over half of the Centre’s patrons come from outside the West Point Grey community.
What’s your vision for the future of West Point Grey CC?
The Association currently has over $1 million in our coffers, and it is my expectation and requirement as president that we spend that money on improving the Centre – whether through renovations, introducing new programs or buying new equipment.
In addition, a challenge that we face is that we currently offer programming at two facilities on the Jericho Lands. Those facilities will eventually be demolished. So I would like to see community facilities built up there in addition to the current facilities we have at Aberthau, on West 2nd Avenue.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far as a Board Member?
That would be the signing of the JOA. About five years ago, the Park Board wanted to renew the contract with community centre Associations, called the Joint Operating Agreement. We spent hundreds of hours working on the JOA, which eventually turned out to be, I think, an excellent document for both sides.
Want to become a member of West Point Grey CC Association’s Board of Directors? Applications are due by 5pm on January 29, 2020. Learn more and fill out the nomination form (tip, you can nominate yourself) here: westpointgrey.org/about-wpgcc/board-members