The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is pleased to welcome the Honourable Lois Mitchell as its new President. For more than five decades, Mitchell has been making history as an accomplished businesswoman, committed volunteer and dedicated community advocate. Her passion for education and history first led her to a career in physical education before she moved to Calgary with her husband in 1962. Over the years, she has maintained a firm commitment to community service and volunteerism and has served on numerous boards, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Special Olympics Foundation and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2012, she was named a member of the Order of Canada, and from 2015 to 2022 she served as the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. During her time in office, Mitchell chose to make history a priority, becoming the founding Patron of the History and Heroes Foundation.
Here, Mitchell shares her passion for education and her hopes and aspirations for the Society as it approaches its centenary celebrations in 2029.
On what this role means to her
I am just thrilled to be in this role. It’s a fairly heavy learning curve. Every day I want to look something up. I don’t take this position lightly. I care deeply about education and the awareness of geography. It’s so important knowing Canada’s place in the world. We, as Canadians, have so much to be grateful for. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to help grow and share the mission and the mandate of the Society.
On her aspirations for the RCGS
I certainly think that the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Society is a triumphant milestone. It represents the steadfast vision and vigor that runs through this organization. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and find ways to ensure we can sustain it for another 100 years. So that is my hope — for continued growth and impact each and every year. That includes expanding the reach of our educational programs, promoting the Society in new ways and continuing to build the College of Fellows. I hope that between now and the 100th anniversary in 2029, we can establish a very good, long-term funding strategy.
On the importance of education
I began my career as a teacher, and I continue to believe that teachers are the backbone of our whole future. I really do. Learning and sharing knowledge is a constant, lifelong progression that allows us to see new things every day. I’ve made it a pledge to learn something new every day as President of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.
On understanding Canada’s past
History is a wonderful way for all of us, especially young people, to learn about the world and our place in it. When I began my tenure as Lieutenant Governor in 2015, I was quickly drawn to history education, and I wanted to find ways to encourage Alberta’s teachers and to support history education in our province. So, I formed the History and Heroes Foundation, which continues to work to promote history in a way that encourages creativity, innovation and critical thinking. We want to make history come alive for students — to find a way for them to truly understand the people that came before them and the incredible contributions and sacrifices made to shape the world we’re fortunate to enjoy today.
On her hopes for the future
The Society needs a long-term funding strategy and an endowment fund to ensure our long-term financial success. I want to see the completion of the planned 50 Sussex expansion project because it is so beautiful. I want to also encourage citizens to realize the importance of the monarchy. We are the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and as the former representative of the crown in Alberta, I want to ensure that the legacy of Her Majesty the Queen lives on while we are supporting, acknowledging and honouring our new King, beginning with the celebration of the coronation this May.