Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre’s founding member is moving on

Angus Matthews will leave the Sidney aquarium by years end.

Angus Matthews is leaving the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney after seven years.

After seven years at the helm of one of the Saanich Peninsula’s biggest attractions, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre’s (SODC) founding executive director is moving on.

Angus Matthews, who has been with the Centre since before it opened in 2009, will leave his post effective Dec. 31 and says he’s looking forward to what the future will bring, although he currently has no concrete plans on what’s next.

“I’m definitely going to miss it,” said Matthews of the SODC, “but I’m a project starter type of person and I have seen this project through from the beginning. I’ve always believed that people should be open to opportunity whether it’s in business or in life generally and I’m ready to take the leap into the unknown.”

Matthews began with the SODC before it was even a concrete idea in 2005.

“I started with a one-month contract where I was to look into the idea of having an aquarium-type attraction in the ocean front hotel that was being developed,” he explained.

“At that point there was a society which was a blend of board members from the Marine Ecology Centre and the Whale Museum and they had no plan, no concept, no money and a building that was still under construction. It was really all based on a hope and a prayer,” he laughed.

In January of 2006, Matthews was appointed executive director and the project began to take shape.

“We started with $14,000 and in a 36-month period we fundraised $5 million and were able to build the Centre as it exists now,” Matthews said. “It was pretty amazing and the timing was great. We’ve now seen over 465,000 visitors to the Centre and we are this amazing presence on the waterfront. I’m so proud of the staff and volunteers we have.”

Matthews also credits the Town of Sidney’s support of the Pier Hotel project and the Mary Winspear Centre’s establishment in Sidney as reasons why the SODC has seen such great success.

“The partnership between the Town and Grant Rogers with the Pier was key as well as the construction of the Mary Winspear Centre years prior because that Centre proved to Sidney it was better than it thought it was. It gave the town wonderful confidence and I’ve always thought the two have the same roots behind the whole idea of pride in our community and community building.”

Matthews had been instrumental in planning future projects for the SODC, including the notion of establishing the Salish Sea Institute — a project which would have seen three field stations set up to better understand the Salish Sea and its creatures. He said projects like those will now be left up to the board and new executive director to pursue if they see fit.

Matthews is now looking to the Centre’s board to decide on who will take the wheel looking to 2014 and beyond.

“The board has a search process in place and I’m sure someone will come along who can add new aspects and features to the Centre. I think it’s so important that organizations evolve and a change in leadership is one way they do.”

“We’re thankful for the tremendous leadership that Angus provided and wish him the best in the next phase of his career. We’ve been fortunate to have had him at the helm for so long,” said Nancy Barbour, the board’s Chair.

“His vision, passion and energy have led the Centre to its enviable position as the premier marine education facility on the island and one of its top attractions. It will be difficult to replace him.”

The Centre is accepting applications for the executive director position until Nov. 15 and hopes to have the vacancy filled before the new year.