Robert Chipman '44 – 2006

As a leader in business and community service, Mr Robert Chipman '44 has admirably served as a role model for the young men at St Paul's. In his ability to balance commitment to faith, family, church and community St Paul's honours Mr Chipman as a role model for us all.

There are many families at St Paul's that have a long history with the school and the Chipman family is prominent among them. As students, alumni, coaches, fans and supporters, the Chipman family can reach back through the decades as contributors to the life of the school in virtually every imaginable way. As contributors to the life of the Winnipeg community, the Chipman family has made their mark in business, in service, and in philanthropy. At the head of this family is Mr Robert Chipman, Class of 1944.

Born Robert McGill Chipman in 1926 in Calgary, he was the eldest brother to two sisters, Marilyn and Diane, and brother Peter '54.

As a student at St Paul's from 1940 to 1944 Robert thrived as a valued member of the Crusader Hockey, Football, and Basketball teams. His family had very modest resources and to help pay the cost of tuition Robert coached intramurals at lunch and the younger bantam and midget teams after school. After graduation Robert continued to coach teams at St Paul's and to play sports in the junior leagues in the city.

Within five years of graduating from St Paul's, Robert had met and married Sheila Stephenson in 1949. Early life for the young couple saw Robert making his way as the youngest manager in Canada with the Industrial Acceptance Corporation, the largest financier of motor vehicles and industrial machinery in Canada, and which later became the Hong Kong Bank of Canada. In the passing years they had four children, Stephen, Susan, Jeoffrey and Mark. For nearly ten years the Chipmans made their home in Ontario, before returning to Winnipeg.

In November of 1963, Robert began his involvement in the retail automotive business with the opening of Birchwood Pontiac Buick Ltd. It would be this business that the Chipman family would be most closely associated with for many years. Today, the Birchwood Automotive Group, now under the leadership of President and eldest-son Stephen '68, employs more than five hundred team members in fifteen franchised, retail automotive operations. Sons Jeoffrey '71 and Mark '78 are also involved with other elements of the family businesses, while daughter Susan serves as a Director of the National Leasing Group Inc.

At the time of the 2006 Tribute Dinner, Robert was the Chairman of the National Leasing Group Inc. and a Director of The Boyd Group Inc., the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange, and Gendis Inc. He is a Past Director of a number of Canadian public corporations.

Robert has an extensive community involvement record serving in the capacity of director, chairman and president in a wide variety of community groups including: United Way Winnipeg, Community Ownership Solutions, Winnipeg Foundation, Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Manitoba Club, the West Winnipeg Rotary Club, Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club, Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, St Charles Country Club, St Paul's College, Misericordia Hospital, and Manitoba Theatre Centre.

His wife Sheila, who passed away in 2005, was an active volunteer at St Paul's High School while sons Stephen '68, Jeoffrey '71 and Mark '78 were students. She served as President of the St Paul's Guild in 1970.

During their time as students at St Paul's, all three of the boys were active in Crusader sports and significant contributors to the school spirit and enthusiasm. As alumni coaches of football, basketball, volleyball, and cross-country, the boys maintained a tradition begun by their father, a tradition that has continued to this day in their sons, the third generation of Chipman family members at the school. Just last year Stephen's son, Brian '03, was an assistant coach on the Provincial Champion Junior Varsity Crusader Volleyball Team, more than sixty-five years after Robert McGill Chipman first walked through the doors of St Paul's College on Ellice and Vaughan.

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