People & Culture

RCGS welcomes the Honourable Lois Mitchell as new President

The former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta speaks about the importance of education, understanding Canada’s past and her hopes for the future of the RCGS

  • Published Feb 07, 2023
  • Updated Mar 15
  • 718 words
  • 3 minutes
The Honourable Lois Mitchell is pictured with former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien after presenting him with the Society’s Gold Medal at the 2022 College of Fellows Annual Dinner. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)
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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 in 1962 with her husband, well known lawyer and sportsman, Doug Mitchell. Over the years, she has maintained a firm commitment to community service and volunteerism and has served on numerous boards, including as the Chair of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Director for the Special Olympics Foundation. In 2012, she was named a member of the Order of Canada, and from 2015 to 2020 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 

It is an honour to be in this role. Believe me, it’s a fairly heavy learning curve. I am inspired every day to look something up, which galvanizes me in a position I don’t take 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 fortunate to have the opportunity to help grow and share the mission and the mandate of the Society.

On her aspirations for the RCGS

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 and to continue to connect Canadians through our shared and magnificent geography. 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. Learning and sharing knowledge is a constant, lifelong progression that allows us to see new things every week. 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. My husband and 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, appreciate and consider the diversity of the people that came before them. They made incredible contributions and sacrifices to shape the world we’re fortunate to enjoy today.

On her hopes for the future

I hope to build upon a long-term funding strategy for the Society to ensure our financial success. I want to see the completion of the planned 50 Sussex expansion project and the building being used to its full potential. It is an important part of our nation’s capital because of its amazing location. I also want to 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.


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