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Jim Hopson BEd'75 - Lifetime Achievement Award

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Jim Hopson

When most people think about the accomplishments of Jim Hopson, they think about his 10-year tenure as president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and how he revitalized the Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise. Fewer people know about his distinguished 30-year career in education. For his contributions in both fields, Hopson is the recipient of the 2015 Crowning Achievement Awards Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

The award is given annually to the University of Regina graduate who exemplifies a lifetime of contributions in one or more fields, gives back to society, is a recognized leader and is an inspiration to members of the University’s family.

Hopson grew up in North Annex, a rough-and-tumble neighbourhood that sat on the most northwesterly section of Regina at the time. He started playing football in Grade 10 and after graduating from Thom Collegiate in 1969 he joined the Regina Rams coached by Gord Currie, a teacher and principal who would convince the young Hopson to pursue an education degree. Aided by a Rams’ scholarship, Hopson enrolled in the two-year teaching certificate program at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus. His first teaching job was in 1972 in the southern border town of Ceylon where he taught for one year, all the while playing for the Rams and earning distinction as the best offensive lineman in the league.

“Sports played a huge role in shaping who I am. High school and junior football helped me to develop confidence, self discipline, understanding the importance of teamwork and cooperation. Perhaps most importantly are the roles that dedication and perseverance play in success. Sports are a great metaphor for life and prepare you to deal with the challenges and disappointments you encounter,” says Hopson.

In 1973, Hopson made the roster of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and would play for the Green and White for the next four seasons. After appearing in the 1976 Grey Cup game, he retired from football to devote himself full-time to his education career.

His career in education spanned more than 30 years. During that time, Hopson taught, became a principal in Lumsden and Pilot Butte, and eventually was the director of education for the Buffalo Plains and Qu'Appelle Valley School Division. In 2004, about the time he was going to retire, the new position of president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders came up. Hopson jumped at the chance to work for the Roughriders again after three decades.

Hopson was at the helm of the Roughriders during what has been their most successful era, both on and off the field. Under his watchful eye, the team has appeared in four Grey Cup games, winning two and very nearly winning all four. He has changed the culture of the organization and instilled a winning attitude that permeates the entire club. During his term, a Code of Conduct was introduced that sets standards of behaviour for players, personnel and volunteers, and holds them accountable for their actions. He was also a driving force behind the building of a new $278-million state-of-the-art stadium that will be the new home of the team at the start of the 2017 season.

“My fondest memory is the end of the 2013 Grey Cup Game and seeing the absolute joy on the faces of fans, players and staff,” Hopson recalls.

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