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Philanthropist Terry Salman’s memoir chronicles war, business, and a tie to Whistler

What We Give: From Marine to Philanthropist featured in reading and Q&A at Whistler Public Library on March 9
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Terry Salman will read from his memoir, What We Give, at the Whistler Public Library on March 9.

After the trauma he experienced fighting in the Vietnam War, Terry Salman stayed away from planes and helicopters for nearly a decade.

But instead of letting that phobia hold him back for the rest of his life, he decided to face his fear head on and learn to fly himself.

“I learned to fly out of Squamish,” he says. “They say if you can learn to fly out of Squamish, you can learn to fly anywhere. You have wind, mountains, and a small runway … But it was such a sense of accomplishment.”

Salman, originally a Montrealer who joined the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War before becoming a major player in the world of Canadian mining finance, as well as a philanthropist, says he deliberately chose uplifting stories like this to fill his memoir, What We Give, which released last November.

“What inspired me was something positive I could write about that people would maybe appreciate—or, if nothing else, maybe my family would appreciate,” says Salman, who was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2020.

The book delves into different chapters of his life, from humble beginnings in Quebec to his time in the war, and his climb up the ladder of the Canadian business world to developing social responsibility and dedicating himself to causes like the Vancouver Public Library Foundation, the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation—primarily funding a hospice for AIDS patients—and more.

Some reviews of the book—which became a Globe and Mail bestseller—complain he glossed over details of divorce, business struggles, and interactions with well-known players in the mining industry. But, Salman says, he chose to focus on the positive and, besides, more life stories could emerge in a blog he’s working on (whatwegivebook.com).

“I don’t like to talk about negative things,” he adds. “There were tragic things I didn’t talk about.”

But one thing that made it into the book is his deep ties to Whistler. In his younger years, Salman—now based in West Vancouver—would travel up for a day of skiing from the city and, sometimes, drive right back up the next day to do it all again. He eventually bought a one-bedroom place, and currently has a second home in Blueberry, where he did much of the writing for the book. (He’s also a big supporter of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.)

“So much of writing a book is where you actually write it,” he says. “I wrote at Whistler and my house in West Vancouver, working away downstairs.”

Back in December 2021, as Singapore’s Honorary Consul-General in Vancouver, he also had a hand in mobilizing RCMP and Whistler Search and Rescue to help find lost snowboarder Wen Yi—a story that made it into the book.

“It’s a great Whistler story,” he says. “When I went to Singapore recently I met up with him, the snowboarder.”

Looking ahead, Salman is set to take part in a conversation, audience Q&A, and reading at the Whistler Public Library on March 9 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. (Registration is encouraged at publicservices@whistlerlibrary.ca.)

“The moral of the story is it’s fine to have a good education, but you have to work at it, too,” he says. “It won’t happen instantly. [It’s about] accepting the challenge.” 

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