Basking With Bob From Calgary

Featuring Robert “Bob From Calgary” Summers
Academic, Urbanist, Advocate for Better Things

January 19, 2016
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The story

Bob grew up in Stony Plain, Alberta playing hockey and working with his dad in the family business, drilling water wells for rural households and farms. In what was a big jump for him at the time, he attended the University of Alberta‘s Geography program for his first degree which he followed up with a Masters degree from Carleton University and then a PhD from the University of Guelph. For his doctoral work, Bob lived in villages in rural Malawi while researching how locals managed their water sources. After his PhD, he had the good fortune to get a position at the University of Alberta where he worked to establish a new degree program in Urban and Regional Planning.

In 2010, on a trip to Calgary, Bob posted a comment on an article in the New York Times. In it he lauded the values held by many Canadians that paying taxes is a good tradeoff in exchange for high quality public education, for living in a society that takes care of those in need, for high quality public infrastructure, for a high quality universal health care system, and so on. He signed off on it as “Bob from Calgary”.

The article quickly became the most-liked comment of all time in the Times out of more than 30 million comments! The Canadian press became aware of this in 2016 and began looking for Bob from Calgary and then Bob from Edmonton.

Eventually in January 2016, Bob decided to identify himself through an op ed piece in the Globe and Mail which also became very popular and as a result Bob had his 15 minutes of fame.

Bob continues his work at the University of Alberta and also continues to comment, from time to time, on issues of politics and society.

Fun facts

Bob’s second-biggest claim to fame is that as a seventeen year old he jumped his 1979 flat black Dodge 4×4 Dukes-of-Hazzard-style over the local town snow hill and became a bit of a local legend at the high school.

His favourite food is any food from Italy.

One of his hobbies is meticulously restoring antique furniture and his 1912 home in the Westmount neighborhood of Edmonton where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

He loves to wander around cities thinking about their past, present, and future.

His favourite band is the Ramones.

He’s likely the only person in the world with a combination of credentials that include a Journeyman’s licence in Water Well Drilling, a Membership in the Canadian Institute of Planners, and a PhD.

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