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Women’s hockey and chronic disease philanthropist Joan Snyder dead at 90

Joan Snyder, a driving force behind women’s hockey and the treatment of chronic disease, has died at age 90.

Snyder died April 7, the University of Calgary said in a statement on the school’s website. The university’s campus flag was lowered to half-mast Tuesday in honour of Snyder.

She donated $9 million in 2008 to the university for the establishment of the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and continued to support chronic, infectious and inflammatory disease research.

Snyder donated $500,000 to the university’s women’s hockey team in 2011 when current Hockey Hall of Famers Danielle Goyette coached the Dinos and Hayley Wickenheiser played for them.

Both women currently work in the NHL in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ player development department.

The financial contribution to the Dinos paid for the recruitment of a full-time assistant coach for Goyette and provided money for equipment, sports medicine, academic advising and community outreach.

“Having that support from Joan is pretty amazing,” Goyette said then.

‘Champion of the female game’

Snyder was also a financial contributor to research on injury prevention in female athletes, and to the Hayley Wickenheiser Award Endowment, which is a scholarship for varsity women athletes.

Snyder also funded the launch of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2011-12.

“Joan was truly a champion of the female game,” said Wickenheiser, also a doctor who recently graduated from Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“She not only gave financially at every level of female hockey in Canada, but she also was a huge cheerleader, a fan, a friend and a true grandmother to all female hockey players in this country.

“I cherish my conversations with her through the years and will never forget her kindness and passion to make people’s lives better. As a medical student and now a doctor, I directly witnessed the impact of her generosity in changing patients’ lives for the better. She was an amazing lady.”

Hockey family

A rink at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary bears the Joan Snyder name.

Snyder’s mother Phoebe played hockey in the 1920s. Joan Snyder moved from Saskatchewan to Calgary in the early 1950s and worked with her parents building a family business.

She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 2011.

“Dr. Joan Snyder grew up during the Great Depression and learned from her parents the value of kindness and community,” University of Calgary president and vice-chancellor Ed McCauley said.

“Her entire life has been committed to helping those in need and bringing about change in the broader community. It was an honour for the University of Calgary community to have known and worked with Dr. Snyder in support of excellent front-line health care, medical research and student athletics.”

Snyder was awarded the Order of Canada in 2013.

“Philanthropy is more than money, it’s people helping people,” Snyder once said. “The community coming together, each giving what they can and supporting each other, just as my parents taught me. Better a booster than a knocker, be.”

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