Remembering Dan Reist

As others have attested, Dan was the father of HM|HC in first proposing to the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information that they focus a project to promote mental health in the province’s postsecondary campus settings. He became a guiding light for the initiative from its inception. Dan could be described as a philosopher-practitioner, given his commitment to critical reflection, intentionality and purposeful, constructive, collaborative action. As a pragmatic philosopher, he carefully read and judiciously drew on a wide variety of deep thinkers across history with a view to testing and applying insights gained.

Dan had special appreciation for Hebrew wisdom literature and for Aristotle among the classical ancients, and in more recent times affinity with the continental, phenomenological and hermeneutic tradition as represented in such writers as Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, especially Gadamer and also Habermas. Dan was much attracted to contemporary Canadian giant Charles Taylor’s social concerns regarding identity and integration and appropriate analysis of and response to such issues. He was challenged and inspired on thinking around constructivist education by, for instance, John Dewey, Gert Biesta, Paolo Freire and B.B. Jensen. Dan concurred on health literacy and resilience with proponents such as Don Nutbeam and Michael Ungar. He found illuminating the contentions of Bruce Alexander and Richard Eckersley among others on the influence of culture on the phenomenon of substance use.

Dan shared and introduced others to the perspective of David Buchanan on the propriety of a humanistic moral/pragmatic reasoning approach in the health promotion endeavor in contrast to primacy instead for a prevalent positivist (and reductionist) instrumental reasoning methodology. He embraced the spirit and encouraged the practice of genuine dialogue in accord with Socrates and modern exponents such as Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, David Bohm, William Isaacs, Michael Sandel and others. Dan came to endorse a responsive evaluation thrust to the assessment of meaning, value and impact for health promotion initiatives, in underlying agreement with Robert Stake, Thomas Schwandt, T.K. Abma and colleagues. From such study and personal experience, Dan became keenly conscious of our situation as fellow finite fallible human beings, bound up in interpenetrating identity with each other in our shared world and thus interdependent in relating to our in-common existence.

Recognition of this relational reality reinforced his receptivity to a socio-ecological view of health promotion and the vital need for communities of practice to encourage joint learning among their members and learn to work together to advance mutual wellbeing – by building capacity and enhancing environments. It also underlined for him how crucial it is to attend to the ways in which cultures shape our outlooks, discourse and practice. This observation came with a view to discerning how these cultures may aptly be made more health-conducive (rather than be manipulated in the interests of a powerful few at the expense of an exploited many or just be managed by a privileged professional elite exercising paternalism over unempowered citizens). The upshot for Dan was pursuit of enlarged shared understanding and appreciation of diverse experience and perspective by way of earnest, humble conversations. Such mutual listening and learning could hopefully lead also to collectives functioning in more inclusive yet cohesive, collaborative ways.

Dan was the lead author of an extended book chapter (published 2022) that narrated the story and related the thrust of HM|HC as a learning community of practice (CoP). He had fully supported the stance of Nancy Hall in commending to the CoP adoption of a robust health promotion approach and he later strongly endorsed HM|HC’s efforts to advance activation of the Okanagan Charter (2015). It has been Dan’s own analogy that for many – far beyond just BC – has resonated as a pithy metaphor for the socio-ecological model of health promotion, observing that “if the frogs in a pond started behaving strangely, our first reaction would not be to punish them or even to treat them. Instinctively we would wonder what has happened in the pond.”

Enhancing a complex human ecosystem with its natural and built environment entails attention to cultural influence. Dan was the architect and  catalyst for HM|HC’s project funded by the BC Ministry of Health around Changing the Culture of Substance Use (CCSU, 2012-2017). This endeavor generated a sub-community of practice, several substantive local initiatives with sustained impact, plus a series of resource tools, some of which he contributed to directly. CCSU was highlighted in a 2020 chapter Dan guided for a University of Toronto Press book, Creating Spaces of Engagement, on the practical craft of deliberative democracy. The gist of CCSU is aptly shown in the 2017 HM|HC video Under our Influence in which he fittingly served as a congenial recurring commentator to provide the conceptual thread for the approach taken in the project.

That dialogical approach was one Dan not only eloquently articulated but also earnestly activated in his inviting facilitation of webinars, workshops, retreat and Summit plenary sessions as well as intentionally integrating engagement into presentations. HM|HC Talks owes to him its accent on extended conversation among attendees with each other toward shared understanding and concerted endeavors. Dan has been an outstanding exemplar of welcoming, attending to and soliciting participation and contribution from community members. He has been a mentor in genuine dialogue and much else.

As one summary statement put it in the aftermath of his retirement, “Dan Reist has demonstrated remarkable intellectual prowess, plenty of savvy, deep personal integrity, and an abundance of charity and generosity in his interpersonal connections. He has been a person of principle, articulating and authentically applying solid moral values, practising a social ethic that seeks the common good. He has manifested a virtuous, gracious character that has not just won widespread appreciation and admiration, it has inspired others to act, speak and relate in like manner. He has been the epitome of a servant leader.

– “Dan Reist was a visionary, paving ways forward for us to think about the socio-ecological implications of mental health, wellbeing, substance use, and distress. I learned so much from Dan’s thinking and expertise and I will always be grateful for the profound influence he had on my career and my service towards mental health for all.” ~ Jonny Morris, CEO, CMHA BC

Dan's HM|HC-related formal efforts

Record of formal engagement by Dan Reist in and for Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses (HM|HC)

HM|HC roles:

  • Initial proposer of a campus project to the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information (c. 2004)
  • Ongoing supporter of the initiative within the BC Partners (2004-2023)
  • Liaison for HM|HC with PHSA, Ministry of Health (2004-2023)
  • Initial advisor to the inaugural Campus Project Coordinator (Jeff Thompson; c. 2005-2006)
  • Member of the Campus Project Advisory Committee (c. 2005-2007)
  • Advisor to CISUR personnel supporting the Campus Project -> HM|HC (2007-2018)
  • Advisor, Advisor Emeritus to the HM|HC Support Team (2018-2023); contributor to the HM|HC Leadership Committee (2020-2022)

HM|HC webinars delivered by Dan:

  • 2019 – The power of dialogue to change campus cultures (with Kristina Jenei)
  • 2013 – Situational assessment, Part 1
  • 2013 – Situational assessment, Part 2
  • 2012 – Post-secondary activities, policies and resources aimed at substance use prevention and cessation on campus (with Jonny Morris, Kristina Brache and Tim Dyck)
  • 2011 – Intervening with post-secondary environments: using policy to cultivate mentally healthy campus communities (with Stephen Smith; Jonny Morris hosting)

HM|HC Summit contributions from Dan:

  • 2021 – Dialogue Session: Applying dialogue to appreciate diversity (Promoting dialogue to address stigma and discrimination; with Tim Dyck)
  • 2021 – Closing Plenary Session: So how we are doing? (facilitating responsive evaluation, with graphic illustrator Adriana Contreras)
  • 2019 – Plenary Session: The complexity of healthy connection: a conversation with Shannon Turner (Dan facilitating)
  • 2019 – Plenary Session Panel: Okanagan Charter endorsement dialogue and anticipating our future (Dan facilitating, with Matt Dolf)
  • 2017 – Plenary Session: A framework for action: promoting health with campus substance use policies (with Tim Dyck)
  • 2017 – Deep Dive Dialogue Session: Healthy relationships with food and substances (with Leslie Comrie, Rosie Dhaliwal and Tim Dyck)
  • 2016 – Deep Dive Working Session: Bridging stories – building understanding
  • 2014 – Situational assessment engagement area, Design Lab and prototype presentation facilitator
  • 2012 – Plenary Panel Discussion: Case conference – diagnosing a healthy campus community (Dan facilitating the panel: Robin Higgins, Graham Lowe, Shaylyn Streatch, Janet Teasdale, Kenneth Tupper, Jennifer White)
  • 2012 – Plenary Presentation (interactive): Addressing substance use on campus (with Tim Dyck)
  • 2012 – Plenary Workshop: Breaking it down (exploring socio-ecological mechanisms with a view to implementation and sustainability; facilitated with Tim Dyck)
  • 2012 – Plenary Discussion: Putting it back together (facilitated with Tim Dyck)
  • 2011 – Plenary Catalyst Presentation: Will you, won’t you join the dance? Campus alcohol policy (with Denise de Pape, Manik Saini and Tim Dyck)
  • 2011 – Plenary Special Announcement: Strengthening institutional mental health action capacities at BC post-secondary institutions (with Jonny Morris, Tim Dyck)
  • 2011 – Dialogue Session: The Lobster Quadrille: mobilizing your campus around alcohol (facilitated with Denise de Pape, Manik Saini and Tim Dyck)
  • 2010 – Plenary Keynote: supporting the Summit theme of A dialogue space for change (alongside Nancy Hall)
  • 2009 – Registered participant
  • Contributing member of planning groups for several Summits

Feb. 8-9, 2008 Campus Project Workshop on Creating campus communities of practice

  • Keynote Address: Beyond balloons and bookmarks

HM|HC Changing the Culture of Substance Use project, funded by MoH (2012-2017), with participating institutions BCIT, Camosun College, Capilano University, Selkirk College, TRU, UVic; Okanagan College, SFU, UBC-O, UNBC, VIU

  • 2017 – commentator, CCSU video, Under our influence: shifting a culture
  • 2016 – Mar. 10 CCSU Pre-Summit dinner & dialogue event, co-host and facilitator
  • 2014 – Jan. 23 CCSU Pre-Summit learning event breakfast host & event co-facilitator
  • 2013 – Mar. 21-23, CCSU formative retreat, co-host and co-facilitator
  • 2012-2017 – advisor to the CCSU project coordinator (Catriona Remocker) and support personnel (Tim Dyck, Jonny Morris, Shaylyn Streatch)
  • 2012 – architect and catalyst with the BC Ministry of Health for the CCSU project

HM|HC-supported Cultures of Smoking project, funded by MoH (2018-2019), with participating institutions Selkirk College, TRU, UBC-O, UBC-V, UNBC

  • 2019 – Apr. 25 multi-stakeholder meeting, group talking circle dialogue, facilitator
  • 2018 – Oct. 3-5 retreat learning event, co-host; orientation & working sessions facilitator
  • 2018 – Mar. 7 presentation to personnel assembled by the BC Ministry of Health, co-presenter: Taking a cultural/health promotion approach to address tobacco use within post-secondary communities
  • 2018 – Mar. 7 workshop with personnel assembled by the BC Ministry of Health, facilitator: Let’s talk about tobacco on campus
  • 2018-2019 – advisor to the project coordinator (Catriona Remocker) and support personnel

HM|HC-supported Let’s Talk Cannabis project, funded by Health Canada (2018-2019) with participating institutions Selkirk College, SFU, UBC-O, UNBC, UVic, VIU

  • 2018 – May 2, 9 workshops, Introduction to dialogue, VIU, Nanaimo, co-facilitator (with Kristina Jenei)
  • 2018-2019 – advisor to CISUR personnel relating to campus partners

HM|HC Food & Substance Use project, with fellow BC Partners CMHA-BC & Jessie’s Legacy and participating institutions SFU, Selkirk College, UNBC (2014-2017)

  • 2017 – Deep Dive Dialogue Session: Healthy relationships with food and substances (co-facilitator with Leslie Comrie, Rosie Dhaliwal and Tim Dyck)
  • 2016 – blog (with Tim Dyck) Eat, drink and be merry? Consumption and connectedness on campus.
  • 2014-2017 – advisor to the project agency and institutional leads, contributor to project conference calls

HM|HC Campus Capacity Development Grants project, funded by the Ministry of Health (2011-2013), with participating institutions BCIT, Camosun College, JIBC, KPU, Okanagan College, Selkirk College, SFU, TRU, UBC-O, UBC-V, UVic, VCC, VIU

  • 2011-2012 – contributing planner for the project, contributing evaluator of applications

HM|HC-related workshops/presentations/discussions/other sessions to help campuses

  • Recurring (e.g., 2014-2018) – Guest lecturer-facilitator in a graduate course in the MPH program at SFU
  • 2018 (May) – 2 workshops, Introduction to dialogue, at VIU, Nanaimo, co-facilitator (with Kristina Jenei)
  • 2017 (Jan.) – Fentanyl: fact and fiction; presentation and conversation at UVic; facilitating (with Catriona Remocker)
  • 2016 (Apr.) – Under our influence: shifting a culture, conversation with students; facilitator at SFU
  • 2015 (Nov.) – Health promotion and substance use; presenter-facilitator at Selkirk College
  • 2015 (Apr./May?) – consultation on fostering healthy substance use culture in the residence setting (with Catriona Remocker) at Selkirk College
  • 2009 (Nov.) – Alcohol on campus: advancing a comprehensive plan (in regard to addressing alcohol campus culture and policies); for and at Thompson Rivers University; co-presenter and facilitator (with Tim Dyck)
  • 2009 (Apr.) – Where is that epistemology prof when you actually need her: an unguided tour of the epistemological forest; keynote address at UBC
  • 2008 (Nov.) – Use-Risk-Harm: building a campus-wide strategy to address alcohol use; for and at Thompson Rivers University; co-presenter and facilitator (with Tim Dyck)
  • 2007 (Nov.) – A philosophical foundation for promising practices in addressing homelessness; paper presented at Thompson Rivers University

Healthy Campus Alberta Wellness Summit (June 14, 2016)

  • Plenary presentation and discussion – Toward changing the culture of substance use on campus; co-presenter and facilitator (with Tim Dyck)
  • Concurrent session – Student perspective on substance use; conversation facilitator

HM|HC-related resources to which Dan contributed as an author or in support (not just an editor):

Photo gallery


Summit 2014: Situational Assessment Prototype Presentation
Under our Influence: Shifting a Culture (2017)


Responding to Dan Reist

An HM|HC Talk around carrying on his legacy

An installment of HM|HC Talks was held on November 7, 2023 for the HM|HC community of practice to reflect further on the legacy that Dan Reist has left for HM|HC to carry forward. Click here to watch the recorded session and click here for a summary of those aspects of focus for dialogue in this Talk’s unrecorded breakout rooms.

With Support Team Co-Leads Mahboubeh Asgari and Tim Dyck cohosting this Talk, veteran HM|HC personnel Chris Balmer, Robin Higgins, Chelsea Corsi, and former Coordinator Jonny Morris provided grateful testimonials to Dan in plenary. Co-facilitators for breakout room conversations included (besides persons already mentioned) former HM|HC Coordinator Shaylyn Matiichine, former Co-Lead (and CCSU Coordinator) Catriona Remocker, along with Matt Dolf, Patty Hambler, Roselene Dhaliwal, Leslie Comrie, and Dawn Schell. These all contributed in happy recollection of their own engagement with and indebtedness to Dan Reist, an appreciation shared by the rest of the participants at the Talk.

HM|HC is grateful also for the way in which Dan was supported in his earnest efforts by his family, some of whom were able to attend this Talk and very glad for the opportunity to hear and learn firsthand about his profound impact on our community of practice.

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