What is the TFA?

OUR WHY

The purpose of the Thunderbird Football Association is twofold:

• Keep the history and tradition of UBC Football alive; and
• Champion a vibrant community that supports the UBC Football players while in the program and through a successful transition into life after university.

HOW WE DO IT

As a partner organization of the UBC Football Program, our commitment is continuing to build and evolve a vibrant and engaged UBC football community that actively supports a winning program. We foster a sense of family amongst the community and act as the central connection point through which alumni, parents of players, donors and
friends of the program can channel their passion for UBC Football. We provide mentors for players who are transitioning into their careers;
with the goal of providing the knowledge and connections they need to make a smooth, successful transition.

WHAT WE DO

We carry forward the legacy of the program by facilitating lifelong connections for the UBC football community and friends of the program. We ensure that all those who want to contribute to the program can make a meaningful difference. We deliver purposeful events and programs – ensuring that the UBC Football alumni are connected and supported to succeed. We do this via:

• A Networking Forum for Alumni
• The ‘Thunderbird For Life’ Mentorship Program
• Alumni Gatherings & Special Events
• Support at Game Day Events
• Sponsorship Opportunities & Fundraising

 

Board Members

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Christopher Mark

President

Christopher Mark is the founder of Vintality, a vineyard services and technology firm. His specialty is in combining the latest technology with “old school” know how: Data + Terroir. This involves developing completely new tech, flying drones, doing geophysics, and much more. Christopher has been on the board since 2015 and played at UBC from 2010 to 2014. 

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Digby Leigh

Treasurer

Digby has been a board member of the TFA for over 10 years and is a past President.  His 40-year career has been as a lawyer, in which he brings a practical, cut-to-the-chase, people oriented approach.

He founded Digby Leigh & Co. over 15 years ago, and recently launched “Frank Fee” – an innovative new approach in the legal industry, eliminating hourly billing.  He always knew that the current status quo needed to shift. He has now become the co-founder of AltFee Solutions which is pushing the legal industry forward.  Digby is passionate about all sports and has previously spent a total of 20 years serving as a board member with Canada Basketball and Basketball B.C and 20 years as a high school basketball coach.

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Adam Senuik

Mentorship Program Champion

Adam is a Realtor with the Garbutt Dumas Real Estate Team which is consistently in the Top 1% of Real Estate Teams in the Lower Mainland. He has been a realtor for 3 years and had a 5 year stint operated his own residential painting business while at UBC and 2 years post grad. He actively coaches High School and Youth Football in New Westminster and played Football at UBC from 2012-2015 ending his career with a Vanier Cup Championship.

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Shea Emry

Fundraising & Sponsorship Champion

Shea is a two-time Grey Cup champion, 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Runner-Up, 2012 Canadian Player of the Year Runner-Up, and six-year Canadian Football League Veteran.  Shea Emry is tackling his most momentous challenge yet, bringing awareness to the ways in which men can proactively serve and enhance their quality of life and potential.

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Tony Ganton

Social Media & Communications Champion

Tony Ganton hails from North Delta and is a Technician at Vespa Metro located in East Vancouver. Focusing on Piaggio, Aprilia and Vespa products. Tony joined the board in 2020 and played at UBC from 2011 to 2016, winning the Vanier Cup in 2015. He also helps coach with fellow alumni Gord Randall at Sullivan Heights Secondary in Surrey.

History of the TFA

2011-2017

We would like to thank everyone who has been connected with the TFA during our inspiring journey over the last number of years. We are sure there will be a lot more to celebrate in the coming years.

This feels like the right time to sit back and reflect on where we have been as we are now stepping down from our roles as President and Vice-President.

Our involvement with the TFA goes back to UBC’s hosting of the Vanier Cup in 2011. That was an amazing experience as we hosted an event on behalf of the CIS – a breakfast with about 1,000 in attendance at the Convention Centre, and a Tailgate Party with about 400 in attendance (a big thank-you to Lindsey Smith and Karla Rockwell for all they did to usher us through this very busy time.) It was great to build on the foundation established by Dan Smith and it marked the revitalization of the TFA.

The year 2012 marked the first year of our Strategic Management Process, which has now become a staple of how we organize ourselves. Our first description of “who we are” was: We are a group of people who care about UBC football. Our purpose is to build a vibrant and engaged UBC football community that actively supports a successful program. It is interesting how our “Winning Statement” continues to be defined in much the same way.

Next up was the Frank Smith Dinner on September 14, 2012. This was another fantastic event honoring one of the most significant contributors to UBC Football. We had about 100 of our alumni in attendance at the River Rock Casino. As all of this was going on, we were starting to organize our first team Gala (which included the player awards ceremony) to be held on November 30 of that year, also at the River Rock. It took a tremendous amount of group effort to host these two amazing events. Again we had a great turnout with 300 in attendance.

Meanwhile, as an organization we were becoming far more structured as all our board members took on responsibilities. A few examples: Cheng Wei headed up our communication strategy, Shawn Mcisaac worked on the game day experience (remember all those blue covered centre field seats for season ticket holders?) and Ken McKinnon got our financial reporting in order so we always knew where we were at. On April 16, 2013, we had our first formal AGM, and that is the day we joined the Board of Directors and became President and Vice-President.

Later in 2013 (November 27), we hosted a second UBC Team Gala, in which we built on what we had learned from the 2012 Gala and made it an even more memorable event. Former Defensive Coordinator Bob Laycoe was honored as an inductee into the UBC Football Hall of Fame. It was another well-executed event, and a big thanks to Carissa Boudreau whose meticulous efforts ensured the event ran seamlessly.

Meanwhile, the winds of change were blowing at UBC. Ashley Howard arrived as the new Athletic Director. And soon thereafter an ill-named “Sports Targeting Review” was initiated at UBC with the intent of reviewing all sports programs. Football, like all sports, came under intense scrutiny as the University asked fundamental questions about its role, and the financial model, for sports, recreation and health. Because of the significant costs associated with running the Football program, many supporters became very concerned about its future. We worked with Shawn Olson, Head Football Coach, to ensure that football put its best foot forward. A lot of effort by many people went into ensuring the continuation of football at UBC.

The Year 2014 marked a clear transition of emphasis for the TFA, in part as an outgrowth of the Sports Targeting Review, and in part as a response to the emergence of “The 13th Man Foundation”. The Foundation was founded with the intent of providing serious financial support to the football program, and it played an important role in making the case for the Football program’s ongoing viability.

Reflecting on how the TFA provides, and can provide, significant value to its stakeholders, led to the birth of the Thunderbird For Life (T4L) concept, which went on to become our flagship program for building a vibrant and engaged UBC football community. “Once a Thunderbird, always a Thunderbird – for life.”

We started hosting after work alumni get-togethers, thanks to the efforts of Cheng Wei and Braden Smith. And well into late 2014, we were organizing to host  our 3rd Gala, this time to be held at the Waterfront Hotel. But in December, Blake Nill was hired as the new head football coach. With his desire to assess all aspects of the program, the Gala was placed on hold.

On January 20, 2015 we hosted an alumni mingler at the Vancouver Club attended by a number of alumni. It was a great chance to connect with many people we had not seen for many years . T4L was formally launched on May 7, 2015 with a well-attended event at the Terminal City Club. Throughout the year we intensified our efforts with T4L and decided we should place the primary focus on engaging early career alumni. As a result, we identified and began to develop the cornerstone offerings of T4L -the Mentorship Program and a Mastermind Dinner series – which continue to this day. Hunkering down on our own path to build a vibrant and engaged community turned out to be the right strategy as we have built the community over the last few years.

And 2015 was the year of the amazing run by the football team to the Vanier Cup. The TFA hosted numerous informal get-togethers to watch the games, including having 100+ on hand at the Colony Bar in Kits to watch the triumphant Vanier Cup final.

November 7, 2015 marked the day of our first Mastermind Dinner event. We also revamped our website to align with the organization we have become. As you can see, in 2015 we accomplished much on our new mission, which has set us up well for the years to come.

The Year 2016 saw the formal launch of the Mentorship Program and the growth of the Mastermind Dinner series. It also set the stage for the transition of leadership of the TFA, which formally occurred on June 13, 2017. Thanks to Christopher Mark and Jason Boudreau who have stepped forward to assume the role of ensuring the TFA stays on track and continues to grow in its focus on building our great community.

Again, thanks to everyone who has contributed throughout our journey over the last number of years. We have enjoyed the ride and are only stepping aside into different seats on the TFA vehicle.

 

Digby Leigh
Past President, TFA

 

Michael Canic
Past Vice-President, TFA