In memoriam: Ali Dastmalchian

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

- A.R. (Elango) Elangovan and Saul Klein

With the passing of Dr. Ali Dastmalchian, the University of Victoria lost an inspiring, dedicated and beloved former leader. As the much-acclaimed dean of three business schools in Canada over the last 20 years, Ali touched the lives of thousands of students, colleagues, and community members across Canada and the world in deeply positive ways. Most of his career was spent at the Gustavson School of Business, where he was one of the founding faculty members in 1990. He served as dean between 2002 and 2012 and transformed the school into a pioneering centre for business education and research that shaped its evolution as a key player on the global scene. 

Under Ali’s leadership, we launched PhD and Master of Global Business (MGB) degree programs, sharpened our focus on sustainability and social responsibility, earned the prestigious AACSB and EQUIS accreditations, significantly expanded our international operations, designed unique double degrees with partner schools, and doubled the size of our student body. He created the school’s board of advisers to establish a critical link with the local business community, and initiated the widely recognized Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA). Ali was instrumental in designing our MBA program in the early 1990s, and facilitated the naming of the Gustavson School and the Gill Graduate School. Throughout his tenure, Ali remained an active researcher, leading the GLOBE project and inspiring countless others. He taught in MBA, PhD and executive programs throughout the world, with a passion that ignited students, alumni and business leaders alike.

While these accomplishments by themselves are enough to mark and celebrate a lifetime of achievement, it was his impact on our school’s culture and us (his colleagues) that was truly remarkable.  Ali had a unique ability to inspire others to dream with him, motivate and empower each person to tap into his/her undiscovered potential and dare to step out of his/her comfort zone to achieve that dream, get us to collaborate with each other even when we had radically different worldviews, celebrate our togetherness and aspire to the next summit. With patience, active listening, trust, caring and respect, he modeled the way for us to relate to each other at Gustavson, and earned the enthusiastic support and commitment of the business community. Ali fostered the collaborative, positive and innovative culture that still thrives at Gustavson today.

We were truly fortunate to have had Ali as a leader, colleague and friend. He was a personification of warmth and affection with a generosity of spirit that drew people to him. His authenticity and humility, infused with a sense of adventure, goodwill and humour, made him an anchor and a compass for our own well-being and growth. We were amazed by his seemingly unlimited energy and his capacity for work, and moved by his kindness and thoughtfulness. He had time for every one of us and we were guaranteed wise counsel and morale-boosting support any time we needed it. He lifted all of us who walked with him—we became more than we ourselves thought possible. 

His impact continues to be seen throughout the school in ways large and small, across our programs and people. We are inexpressibly grateful for the genuine servant leadership, ambitious vision, and innovative perspectives that Ali epitomised. We mourn his loss and celebrate his leadership and friendship—at the university, within Gustavson and in the community. 

We are richer for having known him and poorer for having lost him.

—Submitted by A.R. (Elango) Elangovan and Saul Klein


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Keywords: in memoriam, business

People: Ali Dastmalchian

Publication: The Ring

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