By Michele Dargan, Special for the Civic Association -- Canadian-born entrepreneur David H. Gilmour says Americans need to “wake up” in the areas of education and health.

“We need to pull together and get our priorities straight and realize that education is the future of this country,” he said. “The second thing is health…Within two or three years, one out of three Americans will have diabetes. In 1990, obesity was 10 percent. This year it’s 35 percent. It’s the processed food we’re getting.”

Mr. Gilmour, a Palm Beach resident and longtime Civic Association director, spoke to over 60 association members and directors as part of the Visionary Leader Luncheon Series held Monday at Café L’Europe. Each attendee received a copy of Mr. Gilmour’s book Start Up.

Bob Wright, Chairman and CEO of the Civic Association, thanked Mary Alice Pappas, senior-vice president of MorseLife Foundation, for the foundation’s sponsorship of the luncheon.

Mr. Wright also thanked Chris McDermott, a Civic Association member and a manager of McCloskey Financial Group, and Candice Cohen, owner of the Palm Beach Book Store, for underwriting the books that were given out. Mr. Gilmour signed the books after speaking to the group.

Mr. Wright gave an overview of Mr. Gilmour’s biography before interviewing him in a question and answer format.

Mr. Gilmour founded the South Pacific Hotel Corporation in 1969. It became the largest hotel chain in the South Pacific. A decade later, the chain was sold and the partners formed Barrick Gold Corporation, now the world’s largest and most profitable gold mining firm.

In 1996, Mr. Gilmour founded FIJI Water and sold the company in 2004. Mr. Gilmour owns the island of Wakaya in Fiji. In 1990, he and his wife Jill, opened the exclusive resort, Wakaya Club & Spa on the island. Mr. Gilmour also acquired Zinio, a multi-platform distribution for digital magazines with a selection of more than 5,500 magazines. His latest venture is Wakaya Perfection, featuring certified organic Ginger and Turmeric wellness products.

Born in 1931 to an opera singer and a World War I hero, Mr. Gilmour remembers attending the coronation of King George VI in 1937 with his father.

“At age 6, the most indelible impression of my life was seeing the Royal Horse Guards surrounding the golden coach to the coronation,” he said. “It was so indelible that 13 years later, I joined the horse guard.”

David H. GilmourDavid and Jill Gilmour focus their charitable efforts on preschool education and have built preschools in impoverished communities in Fiji and the United States. The couple has donated $2 million towards construction of a preschool in West Palm Beach’s underserved Westgate area, which will replace and expand the scope of Opportunity Early Childhood Education & Family Center that exists there now. The new preschool will serve 300 children. Groundbreaking is set to take place in a few weeks, with a target date of opening by December, he said.

“Just five miles from here, there are children without a preschool who have the opportunity to join a gang and enter into a life of drugs, crime, and poverty… Jill and I and the whole team have started these preschools because it has been proven by psychiatrists and psychologists that a child’s character is formed between the ages of six weeks and five or six years old. That’s when all of us learn how to behave.”

One preschool that they’ve already built is in an area north of San Diego that had 26 murders a year and 70 percent of the children were being recruited to gangs, Mr. Gilmour said. Now, 90 percent are not joining gangs, he said.

The murder of Mr. Gilmour’s 22-year-old daughter, Erin, motivates him to fund early childhood education. The new school in West Palm Beach will be named after Erin, he said.

“It’s been very difficult to raise funds because there are so many charities that we all have dear to our heart, but this one is our survival, this one will be our security, and this one should be our conscience,” he said.

fiji water bottleMr. Gilmour said FIJI Water is his favorite start-up.

The idea for the company began when he and Mrs. Gilmour were on their golf course in Fiji.

As he watched a man drinking a bottle of Evian, Mr. Gilmour told Mrs. Gilmour that the man was drinking water from one of the most polluted parts of the world thousands of miles away.

“I bet 100 miles from where we’re standing we find the ultimate source, the purest water to bottle,” Mr. Gilmour said. “I knew at that time in America there were various cities around the country with water problems and water was very important - that you drink enough and that it’s pure enough.”

He said they didn’t spend any money on advertising. Instead, they designed a very distinct bottle and made it available on television shows, movies, and at charitable events.

“Because the bottle was so striking, people were saying, ‘why are they drinking it and why aren’t I?’ We made it available at every possible outlet and it just took off and before we knew it we were selling 14 million cases a year.”

He sold FIJI water, which led to his second favorite start up – Wakaya Perfection.

The idea for this company began when he was a guest speaker at “The American Express Luxury Conference” in Miami. The theme was “What is the greatest luxury in the world.” At the end of the four-day conference, the conclusion was ‘time.’

Mr. Gilmour disagreed.

“What’s the point of having more time in your life if you don’t have your health?” he said.

 “My key employees studied things and found out we don’t need chemicals for most of our cures,” he said.
For hundreds of years, people in China and India have used turmeric and ginger as natural organic medicine, he said.

In the high-nutrient soil on Wakaya Island, they began growing turmeric and ginger.

“Research labs tell us that it’s 300 to 500 percent stronger than anything ever grown before,” he said.  

From that, Wakaya Perfection was born.  For more information on Wakaya Perfection, visit

Civic Association Video [30:00]

2017 Fiji Water Founder David H. Gilmour Talks About His Life to Civic Association Directors and Members from Palm Beach Civic Association on Vimeo.

Photography by Capehart

Visionary Leader Series - David Gilmour April 3, 2017