Perinbam, Lewis

Lewis Perinbam, leader in international development committed to public service (b at Johor Bahru, Malaya [now Malaysia] 11 May 1925; d at Vancouver, BC 12 Dec 2007). Lewis Perinbam left Malaya as a child to be educated in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied engineering at the University of Glasgow and immigrated to Canada in 1953. Throughout his career he fostered Canada's role in international development through his involvement with many organizations and influenced academics and politicians to become involved with developing nations.

Lewis Perinbam's career in international development was profoundly affected by his father's death. During World War II, Perinbam's father, a medical doctor, was accused of hiding British citizens in his hospital and executed by Japanese soldiers, after being forced to dig his own grave. The tragic event motivated Perinbam to work toward making the world a better place.

After completing his formal education, Lewis Perinbam worked with the Indian High Commission until he came to Canada to become the international director of the World University Service. He had a long and distinguished career in the Canadian federal public service, which led him to work in various international organizations, notably the World Bank and UNESCO, and in the non-governmental (NGO) and private sectors. Perinbam was the first secretary-general of the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO, the founding executive director of Canadian University Service Overseas and executive director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC). He represented the World Bank at the United Nations as well as the UN's Specialized Agencies in Europe.

He joined the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 1969. As the organization's vice-president for 17 years, Perinbam inspired the creation of CIDA's Non-Governmental Organization and Industrial Cooperation Programmes, the first of their kind in the world, and launched numerous initiatives to involve the private, NGO and institutional sectors in international development. He led Canadian government delegations during many international meetings and served as an adviser to the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, England, and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. He chaired the 2000 Canadian Government Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service, which produced a comprehensive plan to make the public service more representative of Canadian society. In 2002 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed him for a 3-year term to the board of governors of the Canadian Centre for Management Development.

Lewis Perinbam also served civil and community organizations. After retiring from CIDA he settled in Vancouver and dedicated himself to helping the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) through his extensive contacts and global networks. From 1991 he served as a special adviser to COL's first 2 presidents and was chair of the board of governors from 2003 until his death in December 2007.

Lewis Perinbam's contributions nationally and internationally have been widely recognized. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Calgary, York University, L'Université du Québec, Brock University, St. Mary's University and the University of Victoria. In 1986, World University Service Canada established the annual Lewis Perinbam Award. He received the 2001 Sir Edmund Hillary Humanitarian Award and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.