David O’Brien receives Ilsa Greenblatt Shore Award | NEXUS Magazine | Alumni | Faculty of Law | UNB

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Faculty of Law

David O’Brien receives Ilsa Greenblatt Shore Award

The Faculty of Law is proud to announce that David O’Brien, K.C. (LLB’73) is the latest recipient of the Ilsa Greenblatt Shore Distinguished Graduate Award. Named in honour of the late Ilsa Greenblatt Shore, a former UNB Board of Governors chair and graduate (BA/BEd‘71, LLB’79), this award recognizes the outstanding achievements of UNB Law alumni in the legal profession, public service, business world, and community—locally, nationally, and globally.

David was nominated for the award by fellow UNB Law grad, Lydia Bugden, K.C. (LLB’92), who shared the following words of praise for her long-time friend: “David has long been at the forefront of UNB-educated lawyers who are working to increase the Faculty of Law’s educational capabilities and impact upon New Brunswick and Canada. In his decades of service to the law, David has been both a model and a champion for students at UNB.”

A career of leadership, excellence, and service

David O'Brien is twice a graduate of UNB, receiving a BBA in 1971 and an LLB in 1973. He earned a Master of Science in Business Administration from UBC in 1974. David went on to have a successful career as corporate counsel and executive in multiple Industries including aviation, fish processing, and food processing. The bulk of his career was spent at McCain Foods Limited, a leading Canadian business with a presence in over 160 countries and a global team of over 20,000. Over the course of 25 years at McCain, David held progressively senior roles including Counsel, Assistant Vice-President, Vice-President Risk Management, Managing Director of MF Holdings, and finally, Vice-President and Group Treasurer. In the latter role, he worked in Geneva and was responsible for the company's Global treasury functions.

David’s service to the legal profession has been outstanding and it reflects how highly regarded he is as a lawyer and business leader. For nearly 20 years he was an active member of the Canadian Corporate Council Association, serving as its National President in 2001 and 2002. In 2007 he received the RVA Jones Corporate Counsel of the Year Award. In addition, David served in a number of leadership roles with the Canadian Bar Association, including as a member of the National Board of Directors, the National Finance Committee, and as National co-chair of the Canadian Legal Conference Steering Committee. For 14 years, David was Director and Secretary of CBA Financial Services Corporation. He was appointed King's Council in 2002 and became a life member of the Law Society New Brunswick earlier this year.

David’s commitment to the development of UNB has been unwavering. For over 25 years, he has lent his considerable experience and wisdom to the institution and has long been a champion of the Faculty of Law. He joined the UNB Board of Governors in 1997. During his tenure, he chaired every major committee of the Board including executive, audit, investments, finance, nominating and the list goes on. He was Chair of the Board of Governors in 2002 and 2003. In recognition of this exemplary service to the Board, David became Governor Emeritus in 2007.

David has contributed significantly to UNB Law’s strategic vision as one of its early architects and supporters through the Dean’s Advisory Council. He continues to shape the future of legal education as a valued member of the UNB Law Campaign Cabinet.

An unwavering commitment to UNB Law

David received the honour at UNB Law’s Academic Awards Night in November. As Dean Marin addressed the crowd, he recounted the first time he saw David in action at a meeting of the Board of Governors in 2020. Marin was Associate Dean at the time and had led the development of the UNB Law Strategic Plan. At this meeting, there would be a vote on the proposed plan. David was the first person to speak.

“David set the tone in his calm and eloquent remarks,” said Dean Marin. “He described the Board of Governors as the steward of the University's assets and that, unfortunately, it had neglected one of its most defining assets, our law school. As a result, he told the Board that there was now a debt to be repaid and that it owed our Faculty its full support.”

Dean Marin described David’s speech as part of a defining moment for the Faculty of Law. In the end, the Board voted unanimously in favor of the strategic plan.

“David was at the center of this defining moment,” added Dean Marin. “Everything that's happened in the last three years, our legal clinic, Canada Research Chair, expanded student services, our new professors, our new building project, it started at that meeting. Today, UNB Law is a top priority for the University. David truly is one of the heroes of UNB Law's renewal.”

In his remarks, David shared two pieces of advice with the crowd of students, alumni, donors, and friends. First, his belief that a legal education, with its strong roots in reason, is the finest education that one can receive.

“An education in reason will serve us all well throughout our lives, no matter where we go, and no matter how we earn our livings, we will always look at the challenges we confront, the advice that we will provide, the decisions that we will make, through the lens of reason. We will always be the man on the Clapham omnibus, and that's an incredibly useful education, a privileged education.”

Second, he acknowledged that the reason he and so many before and after him were able to attend and graduate from UNB Law, is due to the ongoing generosity that makes a legal education possible.

“[UNB Law] exists not through a miracle, but rather because of those that came before us. We received our education because those that came before them cared enough to provide that opportunity. It's now my generation's turn to care enough about those who are following us and in fullness of time it will be your turn to care enough. We're privileged to receive a legal education, and especially a UNB Law education and this is generally the case in life that privilege is accompanied by a responsibility.”