Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Born and raised in West Vancouver, Ruth Simons spent her formative years being mentored in her family’s travel insurance business. She later grew this business and eventually sold it to The Co-operators Group where she became vice-president of travel insurance and completed a successful merger with one of their largest competitors before retiring from the industry in 2007.
Since then, Ruth has immersed herself in not-for-profit work and volunteerism, becoming an elected council member with the Village of Lions Bay from 2008–2011 and convening the Howe Sound Community Forum for elected officials in the region.
For her community advocacy, the Village of Lions Bay presented Ruth with the Citizen of Distinction award in 2014 and Citizen of the Year in 2015. Most recently, MP Patrick Weiler named her as one of the region’s Unsung Heroes.
In 2017, Ruth actively championed the efforts to have the Howe Sound region designated as an official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve—forever preserving the precious environment that flourishes in the region.
Following a five-year campaign and as a result of her leadership, on September 15, 2021 the Howe Sound region (Átl'ka7tsem) was internationally recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve—the 19th in Canada.
As part of the celebrations, Ruth received one of the highest honours from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation)—an Esémkwu (blanketing ceremony) in recognition for her achievement.
Ruth has continued leading the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society—an organization responsible for managing this UNESCO designation.
Over the past year, Ruth has tirelessly worked to manage the new UNESCO responsibilities, including fundraising and setting up an official partnership and working group with Capilano University to support student and community research projects in the region.