Arts supporter and major donor Michael O’Brian passed away Friday, Oct. 6. He was surrounded by his wife, Inna, and six children, Travis, Meghan, Paisley, Shannen, Chelsea and Michella.
Born in Penticton in 1941, Michael was an avid art collector and music enthusiast. His support for the arts included patronage, philanthropy, and personal relationships with individual artists.
“We were all of us saddened to hear of Michael’s passing,” says Trish Kelly, Interim President + Vice-Chancellor of Emily Carr University. “He was a genuinely gentle, humble man who was a steadfast ally and champion of the arts throughout his life. As with his work with so many arts organizations across the country, his dedication and generosity benefited countless ECU students through the development of programs, facilities and events. Michael was a pillar of the arts community in BC and beyond. He will be deeply missed.”
Michael, for whom ECU’s Michael O’Brian Exhibition Commons is named, supported numerous initiatives at Emily Carr over more than a decade. His legacy at ECU includes auctions, student fellowships and satellite gallery programs. He also was one of the major contributors to the development of the university’s Great Northern Way campus. In 2013, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Emily Carr University. He served on the university’s fundraising cabinet, and from 2013 to 2017, sat on ECU’s Board of Governors.
He served as director of numerous private and public companies, as well as arts and educational organizations including the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Opera, Museum of Anthropology and the National Art Gallery of Canada. He served on the Dean Advisory Board at the Faculty of Arts at UBC. He also contributed financially to these and many other arts and educational organizations through the Michael and Inna O'Brian Family Foundation.
In 2019, he was appointed as a member to the Order of Canada.
A service of thanksgiving for Michael's life will be held at Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard St. Vancouver, on Thursday, October 19, at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome.