Irwin Strifler has dedicated his life to sport, in the roles of athlete, coach, administrator and mentor.
As an athlete he was an outstanding performer, playing football in the American college league on a full athletic scholarship, winning the 1961 Junior Rose Bowl, and going on to play football and basketball for the University of Alberta Golden Bears. He was then drafted into the CFL by the Calgary Stampeders, where he played briefly before pursuing his career in education.
He was appointed athletic director at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) in 1968, a position he successfully occupied until his retirement in 1998. Over those 30 years he shaped not only his institute but the landscape of Canadian collegiate sport. He played a major role in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference), serving as an executive member as well as its executive director. He was also a founding director of the 4-West Championship, which organized tournaments for teams competing in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That organization would later evolve into the CCAA, of which Strifler was a founding member. He served as a regional representative from 1975 to 1977 and then as vice-president from 1977 to 1979.
“I think [the founders] had the same vision, and we were all very enthusiastic about it” says Strifler. “We wanted to see our teams go forward and to try to establish something that would take them to the next level. Forty years later, it’s still very successful.”
Strifler contributed to that success by frequently hosting CCAA national championships; in 1989 NAIT hosted men’s hockey and men’s basketball, winning gold medals at home in both events. “The memories of hosting national championships definitely stand out,” says Strifler. “Winning gold at home is a significant thing and we hosted whenever we had the chance.” NAIT would win a total of 12 CCAA team championships and 17 individual gold medals during his tenure.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to sport, Strifler was inducted into the NAIT Wall of Fame in 2003, and the University of Alberta Wall of Fame in 2005. His athletic spirit still resonates today.