Freedom rider. Student radical. Academic. Social activist. High-rise developer. Museum builder. Grizzly bear protector. Michael Audain has been all these things and more in a colourful life spanning eight decades, three continents and five careers. Yet greatness was not expected of Audain, who as a young man was a dismal failure in the classroom and on the playing field. Born to a branch of the legendary BC Dunsmuir clan that had lost its wealth and social status, Audain was mistreated by his alcoholic father, ostracized by classmates and plagued by insecurities. Yet he would become one of the most prominent home builders in British Columbia and a well-known philanthropist in support of the visual arts.
Along the way, Audain did time in a Mississippi prison for participating in the Freedom Rider movement. He started the Nuclear Disarmament Club at the University of British Columbia. He advocated for the radical Sons of Freedom Doukhobor sect on their protest march from the Kootenays to Vancouver. He proudly displayed a photograph of the communist revolutionary Fidel Castro at the founding convention of the New Democratic Party until Tommy Douglas persuaded him to take it down. Audain earned a commercial pilot’s license, worked as a prison guard, was arrested in Ireland under suspicion of terrorism and sought wisdom from a Buddhist monk in Thailand. In 1980, he took the most unexpected turn of all and became a developer in Vancouver’s volatile housing market. As chairman of Polygon Homes Ltd. he has overseen the construction of over 27,000 homes.
“My life never had a business plan,” muses Audain. My Bow of Burning Gold is a story of life’s unplanned twists and turns, victories and defeats, recounted with characteristic wit and candour. It is a tale of adventure and perseverance that will inspire anyone who seeks to find their place in the world and to make a difference.