Nifty, nifty, look who's 50: Ottawa's Alex Munter

Friends, family and colleagues fête chief executive of Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Alex Munter
Alex Munter is serenaded by China Doll, aka as Ed Kwan, at his 50th birthday party held at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Perhaps it was Ottawa musician Glenn Nuotio who best summed up what any ordinary person might have felt on the eve of Alex Munter’s birthday: grossly inadequate.

“Did anyone else, in realizing Alex Munter is 50, wake up and say, ‘I really haven’t done anything with my life’? Is it just me?” he joked while warming up his keyboard for his light-hearted tribute performance to Munter.

It does seem as though the former whiz kid has done it all, from his auspicious start as Young Entrepreneur of the Year to his present-day role as Ottawa's children's health leader.

At age 14, he started his own newspaper. He was a city councillor by his early 20s. He managed to accumulate years of experience in leadership roles, in health and social services, by the time he hit his early 40s and became president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He’s also head of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.

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Alex Munter and his partner, Dennis Recto, at the Alex @ 50 party held at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Saturday, April 28, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

CHEO is an "inspiring place," he told his friends and family who helped him ring in another birthday decade at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“It is a joy to work for such amazing people who are committed to such an important mission in our community. I learn every day, and I feel enormously privileged to be part of that team.”

It was nice to see that the head of the hospital doesn’t take himself too seriously; he was serenaded by Ottawa’s famous karaoke drag impresario, China Doll, who belted out There are worse things I could do from the musical Grease.

China Doll, aka Ed Kwan, also teased Munter about the whole age thing.

“I have underwear older than he is.”

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Ottawa musician Glenn Nuotio performs a tribute song on piano for Alex Munter at his Alex @ 50 party, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Saturday, April 28, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Among those from the hospital were its chief of staff, Dr. Lindy Samson, and Dr. Martin Osmond, CEO and scientific director of CHEO’s Research Institute, as well Jennifer Walker and Cathy Curry, who are members of the hospital's board of directors. Also seen was Jacqueline Belsito, vice-president of philanthropy and community engagement for the CHEO Foundation. 

George Weber, outgoing president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Heart Care Group, and his wife, CBC journalist Julie Van Dusen, attended. Liberal Ottawa MPP Yasir Naqvi, Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Diane Deans were also seen dropping in.

Patrick Dion, who was one of the judges for the upcoming Forty Under 40 awards, was also at the party.

Munter was joined by his family — including his parents, both of whom immigrated to Canada — and his long-time partner, Dennis Recto. He was the main organizer.

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From left, Gloucester-Southgate Ward Coun. Diane Deans with Patrick Dion, president of Patrick Dion Consulting and past vice chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, with Julie Van Dusen and George Weber at the Alex @ 50 party. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Dr. Martin Osmond is joined by, from left, Jennifer Milleson, senior administrative assistant at CHEO, and Adrienne Vienneau, chief of communications and public relations for the CHEO Research Institute, at the Alex @ 50 party, held Saturday, April 28, 2018, at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, CHEO vice president (provincial programs) and chief information officer Mari Teitelbaum with Dr. Lindy Sampson, CHEO vice president (acute care) and chief nurse executive Ann Lynch and CHEO vice president (people, strategy and performance) Bruce Squires at the Alex @ 50 party. Photo by Caroline Phillips

For Munter, the evening was about bookmarking a special moment of his life.

“I am younger today than I will ever be and, at some point, I’m going to look back at 50 and think, ‘Wow, I was only a mere 50 years old’. It’s how I feel about 40 and 30 at the moment, by the way. That's what this party is about. This party is about creating a memory; it's about enjoying this evening, but it’s about creating a moment. I want to thank all of you for being here and for being part of this moment for me.”

He ended his remarks with a quote: Happiness is only real when shared. It was poignantly penned by Christopher McCandless, the young solo traveller who turned his back on family and friends, only to end up dying alone in the Alaskan wilderness.

"I want to thank you for sharing this moment of happiness with me. I'm truly grateful. I feel enormously blessed to be part of a community with all of you," he added, before urging everyone to "party on."

During the celebrations, the whole room raised their glass and sang Happy Birthday to Munter.

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From left, Cathy Curry with Mayor Jim Watson and Yolaine Munter, mother of Alex Munter and chair of the Caldwell Family Centre board of directors, at the Alex @ 50 party, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Saturday, April 28, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Jennifer Walker and her husband, Dan Walker, at the Alex @ 50 party, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ted Wagstaff and Jacqueline Belsito at the Alex @ 50 party, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Anthony Carricato, who's running in the municipal election for Capital Ward, with Susan Smith, principal at Bluesky Strategy Group, and Sarah Chown from The Metropolitain Brasserie, at the Alex @ 50 party, held Saturday, April 28, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Alex Munter, chief executive of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, was feted by friends, family and colleagues at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Saturday, April 28, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca