Asper family matriarch dies at 78

Ruth ‘Babs’ Asper, the matriarch of the prominent Asper family, died suddenly on Saturday July 30 at the age of 78.

She was the wife of the late Israel ‘Izzy’ Asper, the founder of the Canwest Global Communications media empire, who passed away in 2003.
The couple, who were married for more than 47 years, are survived by three children, Gail, David and Leonard.

As chairwoman and co-founder of The Asper Foundation, a Winnipeg-based charity, Babs Asper was known for her philanthropy.

She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Manitoba in 1954 and was a prominent supporter of arts and education.

According to a university news release, the Asper family has been one of the foremost benefactors of the U of M, donating over $13 million through their companies and foundations. The faculty of management, named the I.H Asper School of Business, is a tribute to their significant contribution.

In 2008, the “Babs Asper Professorship in Jazz Performance” was established at the university’s Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music.

“She was one of our most outstanding and honoured graduates, and someone who used her gifts and talents to give back to the community,” said U of M President, David Barnard, in a news release.

“Her legacy will live through our students who have been given opportunities to showcase their talents to the world,” he added.

As an active philanthropist, Babs pursued the founding of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks. The museum is set to open next year.

“We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of a great Canadian and unparalleled supporter of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,” said a statement released by the museum. “She is truly a human rights star.”

About 1,000 people gathered at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue for her funeral on Aug. 2, including Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger.