University of Calgary

Top 40 Alumni

In 2006-07, the University of Calgary marked its 40th anniversary. The Alumni Association joined in the festivities by honouring 40 of our top alumni to celebrate with our 40 years.

From astronauts to international peacekeepers and CEOs to political leaders, there are more than 130,000 graduates in the U of C alumni family. It was a difficult task to choose just 40. These individuals have attained outstanding achievements professionally and personally—alumni who have raised the University of Calgary's profile and are committed to the university’s vision and success.

Evan Adams MD'02
You may recognize his pearly whites from the indie film Smoke Signals or DiVinci’s City Hall, but Evan Adams is a whole lot more than a famous face. He’s followed his medical degree with a residency in Aboriginal family medicine through UBC, even serving as chief resident. Now the director of the Division of Aboriginal People’s Health in Vancouver, Adams and his team support and develop Aboriginal health programs, curriculum, research, and advocacy in First Nations communities.

top

Vicki Adams Willis BFA’72
The thousands upon thousands of Calgarians who have been entertained by Decidedly Jazz Danceworks have the U of C to thank for helping to provide a foundation for the 22-year-old dance company. Vicki Adams Willis had just returned from a sabbatical, which had confirmed her suspicion that traditional jazz dance was a dying art form, when she was approached by graduating students Michèle Moss and Hannah Stilwell to start a dance company focusing on jazz. She knew it needed to be done. The first company in 1984 consisted of U of C students, and they rehearsed on campus. The rest, they say, is history.

top

Bernadette Andrea BA’89, MA’90
At a time when Islam is coming under constant scrutiny in the West, Bernadette Andrea is delving into understanding it better, through the thoughts and words of Muslim and Arab women. With too many academic scholarships and grants to mention, this self-admitted bookworm and the product of a Lebanese father turned to literary and cultural studies to feed her “omnivorous reading habit.” It’s a habit that has her breaking new ground in the study of the representation of Islam and women in her new book, Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature, released through Cambridge University Press.

top

Mary-Wynne Ashford MD’81
After already being a mother and having a career as a teacher, Mary-Wynne Ashford started medical school at 38. Her intent was to be a family doctor, but after hearing Helen Caldicott speak on nuclear disarmament, she took on the cause and found a way to combine it with her career. As president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Ashford trotted the globe lecturing and working for global survival. The multi-award winner delivered a keynote address at Mikhail Gorbachev’s Forum for a Nuclear Free World in 1987. Ashford has recently retired from her medical practice, but not from all her work: she’s written a book, Enough Blood Shed: 101 Solutions to Violence, Terror, and War, released in May 2006.

top

Viola Birss BSc'72
"Fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize electrical energy production by being significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly than the traditional combustion of fossil fuels," explains Viola Birss, who is leading U of C researchers to find ways of implementing fuel cells into our society. And she has good news: fuel cells for portable applications like laptops and cells phone are just about on the market; they're about five years away for home heating with this technology; fuel cells to replace large, costly power plants are about 10 to 15 years in the future; and the technology to run vehicles on fuel cells could come together in the next 10 to 20 years.

top

Kevin Boyles BPE'88, MKin'98
To make the switch from being an Olympic-level volleyball player and captain of an undefeated CIS national championship team, Kevin Boyles had to overcome the desire to be on the court and make it all happen himself. After that, there's been no stopping Boyles and his team of Dinos women volleyball players. In his six years coaching them, they've won three Canada West titles and a national title. Once the coach of the Alberta men's Canada Games team, Boyles says he won't likely return to coaching men; women "have a much greater sense of the importance of the team," according to Boyles.

top

Elizabeth Cannon BSc'84, MSc'87, PHD'91
Elizabeth Cannon, a worldwide leader in the field of geomatics engineering, isn't caught up in the grand scale of her many awards and appointments: as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; a YWCA Woman of Distinction; and even a couple from the U.S. Institute of Navigation. She's concentrating on pinpointing the position of a vehicle down to a few centimetres-right now that's her current favourite project with a car manufacturer. She loves the "potential for innovation" in exploring the fact that this can't be done by Global Positioning Systems alone. It requires the development of new mathematical algorithms, which can exploit those built-in sensors and use them for applications beyond what they were intended for.

top

Susanne Craig BA'91
It's the stuff Woodward and Bernstein would be proud of: Susanne Craig fought public scrutiny, powerful PR departments, and basically the clock to uncover the story of Dick Grasso's push-out as head of the New York Stock Exchange due to his staggering pay package. A salary he managed to keep secret until Craig helped Wall Street Journal colleagues uncover it. Some of her research and writing acumen, she says, is due to her countless hours as a Gauntlet reporter during her days at U of C.

top

Joanne Cuthbertson BEd'73
She only worked eight years as a teacher, but Joanne Cuthbertson's impact on education in Alberta goes far beyond the classroom. To Cuthbertson, who's just been named the next U of C Chancellor, education and a strong community go hand in hand. She's a tireless advocate who has spent untold hours linking the two together, be it as the chair of Education Matters, a new public trust for Calgary education, as a supporter and advisor to U of C's Faculty of Education, as a dedicated board member to the Glenbow Museum, or as a longstanding friend (along with husband Charlie Fischer) to Hull Child and Family Services. And that's only what's keeping her busy right now.

top

David Damberger BSc'05
This second-generation U of C alumnus (both of his parents are grads) has accomplished a great deal in a short period of time. While working through his mechanical engineering degree, David Damberger founded U of C's chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and followed as its president for two years. An idealist at heart and pragmatist in action, Damberger wanted to "find areas where I could apply the engineering concepts I was learning in a way that made me feel like I was contributing to some of the problems facing the world today." Someone who practices what he preaches, Damberger is now EWB's director of Southern African programming in Zambia.

top

Bonnie DuPont MEd'90
Often the sole woman at the executive table, Bonnie DuPont has earned her position as one of Canada's Top 100 most powerful women for three consecutive years. As group vice president of corporate resources for Enbridge, DuPont has helped make the organization one of the most sought after employers. She's encouraged by the increasing number of women rising through the ranks among Canada's top companies and has personally mentored a number of future greats through the Haskayne School of Business.

top

Charlie Fischer BSc'71, MBA'82, LLD'04
Entrepreneurial. A "can-do" attitude. And taking opportunities that exist to make things better. These are three ways Nexen's president and CEO, Charlie Fischer, describes Calgary. But really, they are also three ways that could be used to describe the man whose name is synonymous with his hometown. His career success is well documented and obvious, and his record for community service rivals his wife's-fellow Top 40 lister, Joanne Cuthbertson. Fischer, too, knows the value of education. He admits he wouldn't have the success he's had without it, and he dedicates his spare time to ensuring that he can provide others with the same opportunities.

top

Max Foran BEd'68, MA'70, PhD'81
Who would've thought Alberta would have an Australian as one of its top historians. Max Foran credits his late father-in-law, Grant MacEwan, with an "infectious enthusiasm" for the province's history that rubbed off on him-and countless hours spent in the Glenbow Archives. This former school principal and now professor is a local expert on Calgary's famous Stampede and, indeed, most things Albertan. With a sizable portfolio of history writings to his credit, Foran turned his pen to fiction last year, releasing his first novel.

top

Cyril Frank MD'76
Imagine a conference call with Health Canada, another one with 20 different partner organizations all connected to arthritis, preparing for leading an advisory board meeting as the scientific director of the national Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis that will take place in Ottawa, heading off to a meeting for the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute, and finding time to review and determine treatments for patients. Now imagine doing all of that in one day. It's actually how one of Canada's best knee surgeons, Cyril Frank, spends a regular workday.

top

Ratna Ghosh MA'73, PhD'76
Multiculturalism has become a "folk festival" says Ratna Ghosh, citing school days that highlight a token culture's food or traditional dance. But the Member of the Order of Canada says that the country's understanding of multiculturalism needs to go beyond celebrating different cultures; the term is about equality of opportunity, the discrimination that results from differences due to ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, class, religion, and physical disadvantages. In addition, Ghosh, who was the first female dean of the Faculty of Education at McGill University and was featured in Time magazine as one of Canada's best educators, lectures on the topic around the globe.

top

James Gosling BSc'77, LLD'99
A true maverick, James Gosling is considered the father of the Internet's Java programming language (released in 1995), of which he was the key architect while working at SUN Microsystems. Now a fellow with the company, he's also the chief technology officer of the Java and Developer Products Organization. He'll be the first to admit that he was an "Internet geek" decades before the revolution hit and says that, to him, the Internet is all about connections. He imagines all that can be done with it: "I'm really a hippy at heart, who actually believes in world peace; getting people connected makes that happen."

top

Mark Hammel PhD'96
As a technical supervisor for Walt Disney Feature Animation, Mark Hammel's job is to ensure the artistic side of production is adequately supported by the technical for a variety of animated films. This includes Mickey's Philharmagic, which is a theme park attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida. The project marked the first time that classic Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, were realized in computer graphics. Hammel designed and wrote the technical tools used by artists to create the look of the film, from the texture of materials on the characters and props to the lighting of the sets.

top

Catherine Hankins BAH'71, MD'76
It's little wonder why one of Catherine Hankins's proudest accomplishments is in setting up Montreal's needle exchange program in 1989-the first in Canada with joint federal-provincial funding. One can wonder, though, just how many lives have been saved by not being exposed to HIV through shared contaminated needles. Hankins is now the chief scientific adviser and associate director of Human Rights, Gender and Best Practice in the Policy, Evidence and Partnerships Department to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS in Geneva.

top

Stephen Harper BA'85, MA'91
Only twenty-one other Canadians in our country's history have accomplished what Stephen Harper has -- being elected the Prime Minister of Canada. Raised in Ontario but educated in the West, Harper maintains strong ties to his former professors at the University of Calgary. And his continued ties go beyond teacher, to peer as well. Harper has hired fellow alum, Ian Brodie, as his chief of staff. Now we wait to see how a Harper-led government runs Canada from sea to shining sea.

top

Kent Hehr BA'97, LLB'01
Kent Hehr is a shining example of turning tragedy into success. The victim of a random act of violence, Hehr became a quadriplegic in his early 20s. It's an incident that turned the young hockey player's attention toward education and a commitment to his community. A busy man, he's now served on the City of Calgary's Accessibility Committee for eight years, has recently fulfilled a secondment to the United Way, is seeking a nomination to run for the provincial Liberal party, and is president of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. In his year-long tenure there, Hehr is especially proud of the residence they have developed for Calgary Aboriginal people with disabilities. Kootenay Lodge in Ogden will open and house 10 people in 2006.

top

Ted Hellard BEd'80
A basketball star during his days at the U of C, Ted Hellard has gone on to become a success in the virtual world of cyberspace. The company Hellard founded and remains chairman of, Critical Mass, can count some of the world's best companies among its client list: Mercedes Benz, Dell, NASA, Rolex. He's also moved from the basketball court to the football field as co-owner and president of the Calgary Stampeders. He maintains his courtside seats, however, as Hellard has started a scholarship program for students playing Dinos basketball.

top

Ron Hugo BSc'89
A search of Ron Hugo's name on the U of C website brings up one hit after another that cite his many awards for teaching excellence. The awards are given by the Students' Union, his Department of Mechanical Engineering, his faculty, and even it's professional association, APEGGA. His belief in "showing a strong respect to students" could be one reason they continually single him out; or maybe it's the 30+ hours he devotes to matters related to student education, that he knows it's important for students to be engaged in communication to learn, or that he wants to ensure they learn through exercise. Really, the reasons the U of C prof is lauded as an educator are as plentiful as his awards.

top

Diana Law MSc'82
A nurse working in community care in the Bow Valley, Diana Law hopes for a model of conventional health care treatment combined with centuries-old natural treatments for an integrative health system in the near future. Law's doing her part to set the ball in motion, co-founding the Integrative Health Institute in Calgary and the East Meets West Project at the former Calgary General Hospital, as well as implementing ground-breaking mindbody integration courses at the U of C's Faculty of Nursing.

top

Laura Lucier BSc'99
At nearly five-foot-nothing, Laura Lucier is a young pack of dynamite on two feet. Boundless energy and enthusiasm have earned her a coveted spot with the Canadian Space Agency at NASA in Houston. As a mission planner and robotics flight controller, Lucier develops and works out on the ground the actions that astronauts will then carry out in space. Specifically, she determines the safest and most efficient way to manoeuvre the Canadarm2, which is on board the International Space Station. She tells astronauts to move it where and when, and is called on to make quick life-or-death decisions when emergencies arise.

top

Jane Matheson PhD'99
As the CEO of Woods Homes, Jane Matheson admits that the challenges and rewards of working with at-risk youth are one in the same. "The kids themselves are challenges, and yet, the way they meet their lives head-on is a joy to behold," says Matheson. Words you want to hear from the person charged with leading dozens of staffers working with hundreds of children and teens. Matheson also holds a role as adjunct professor with U of C's Faculty of Social Work, where she teaches her students the connection between the theoretical and the practical aspects of leadership.

top

Ross McIntyre BMus'87, BEd'97
Rumour has it that Ross McIntyre is one of the best and most favoured teachers in Calgary. And the pile of gold performance awards his band students have earned at Lord Beaverbrook High School say it's more than a rumour. Just like most humble educators, McIntyre says he's blessed with great students who are eager to work hard and learn. He's equally blessed with adults who are willing to do the same when he conducts the Westwinds Jazz Orchestra, a group of regular day-jobbers who just want to stay connected to music and keep the beat.

top

Luanne Metz MD'83
The unique and strong relationship between the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Region is the main reason the city's community gets to benefit from having one of the most respected MS clinics in the world and its leader, Luanne Metz. The clinic has more than 4,000 patients and "caring for people though compassion and knowledge, not just drugs" is one of the reasons Metz chose this disease to study. Metz divides her time among the clinic, her research time, teaching, and administrative aspects of all three, with the team goal of arresting the progression of MS in the next five years.

top

Curtis Myden BSc'99, MD'06
Curtis Myden doesn't miss diving into a cold pool at 5:30 am anymore. But doing just that for years on end did manage to help him win three bronze Olympic medals for swimming. A national champion more times than you can count on your fingers, Myden has moved from the pool to the hospital and will be earning his medical degree from U of C this year; his orthopedic residency is already set up, here in his hometown. He also manages to stay connected to his sport by coaching adult swimmers and triathletes.

top

Andrew Pearce BSc'84, MSc'88
Andrew Pearce remembers loading a cassette tape to back up the programs he wrote on his computer in the eighties. He might not have envisioned then holding a position as the R&D manager for Dreamworks Animation and working on films that millions of people would watch. Now he leads a team that develops proprietary software to create animated films; their lighting and physics simulation software make the characters look life-like and objects move believably. It's safe to say he isn't using a cassette tape to back up the work he's developing for Shrek 3, which will be in theatres in 2007.

top

Ben Perrin BComm'01
Kofi Annan should take some time to meet Ben Perrin, because young Perrin just may take over that role one day. While an undergrad at U of C, Perrin led a team of friends to start The Future Group, which has gone to the frontlines to battle child sex slavery in Cambodia and other countries. After earning a law degree from the University of Toronto, Perrin spent the summer working as an intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He's now working towards an LLM at McGill University and already has his articling in place to be a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. He hasn't let The Future Group slide for all this education either; it's launching a program in West Africa to stem the tide of an early human trafficking ring in the area.

top

Janet Ronsky PhD'95
Believe it or not, sailing is what brought Janet Ronsky to engineering: "[Sailing] required me to understand several concepts of physics, fluid mechanics, and other aspects such as tools and machines, engines, materials, and repairs." Combine that with an early experience working with people who had physical and mental disabilities, and you have Ronsky, a leader in the field of biomechanics and someone who had the goal of wanting to "add engineering to the art of working on improving mobility." Ronsky is now taking giant steps forward leading interdisciplinary teams focusing on joint mechanics.

top

Patricia Rowbotham BEd'75, LLB'81
She's nothing short of a trailblazer. Patricia Rowbotham was the first U of C grad to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada and is also the first grad to be appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. Prior to becoming a judge, Rowbotham had a private practice in law, was a faculty member for U of C, and a two-time bencher of the Law Society of Alberta. Rowbotham loves her new role as a judge and says it's the only other position that she's enjoyed as much is teaching, which she still misses.

top

Julie Rowney MSc'72, PhD'75
Julie Rowney's C.V. reads like a round-the-world trip to die for: dean and CEO of the International Management Centre in Hungary; visiting professorships in Australia, China, and Mexico; starting undergraduate exchange programs for the Haskayne School of Business in countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Internationalization is at the core of so many of Rowney's achievements, and you can add helping found the business school's involvement with OLADE's (Organizacion Latino Americana de Energia) Energy and the Environment Program and the North American School of Advanced Management Program to her list of efforts.

top

Murray Smith BA'71
Each year, the Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. highlights a particular nation and asks it to take part as its feature country. This summer, Alberta is that "country," and Murray Smith is the reason for the spotlight. The former Alberta energy minister, who was responsible for gaining international recognition of Alberta's oil sands, is now the minister-counsellor at the Alberta Office of the Canadian Embassy within D.C. Who better to ensure the Wild Rose province has a place in our neighbour's economy?

top

Susan Smith BN'75, PhD'95
To say that Susan Smith is a nurse who has taken care to people in difficult and isolated places is an understatement. Smith served as the medical director at a refugee camp, which grew to 100,000 people along the Sudan/Ethiopia border; she was responsible for maternity and child care at Wad Sheriffe refugee camp along the Thai/Cambodia border; and she served as a nurse practitioner in the Central Arctic. The adjunct professor in the U of C's Faculty of Nursing is also the founder and executive director of Caminamos Juntos para Salud y Desarrollo (Walking Together for Health and Development) in an indigenous town of 6,200 in Mexico, where she spends most of each year.

top

Dianne Tapp MN'93, PhD'97
Dianne Tapp is a maverick in the nursing world, so much so that she earned her PhD under special circumstances before the faculty actually had a PhD program. Now National Research Chair of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses, Tapp is also part of a network of 10 nurse scientists across the country participating in a program to train and increase the research capacity for the next generation of cardiovascular nurse scientists. Tapp is also kept busy on campus as the associate dean, graduate programs, and working on her own research, focusing on families and heart disease.

top

Robert Thirsk BSc'76
Robert Thirsk followed up his U of C engineering degree with an MD from McGill and two master's degrees from MIT. And he's taken all of that education out of this world-literally. The man is one of only eight Canadians to become an astronaut and travel to space. He's recently started more than two years of training required to possibly send him to the International Space Station. It's gruelling training, including being dumped in a swimming pool while donned in full space garb. A sensation, he says, that's similar to what's experienced out in the cosmos. He jokes that the slow, graceful, relaxing walk of an astronaut is anything but-every movement requires extreme physical and mental effort.

top

Chip Wilson BA'80
Yoga was a growing trend in the late nineties. But it seemed to spread far quicker once people had great outfits to wear to classes. Calling himself the "chief educator" rather than a president or CEO of Lululemon Athletica, the company he founded in 1998, Wilson is a trendspotter like no one else. The economics grad also started the successful Westbeach surf gear in landlocked Calgary in the 1980s and then shifted to skate and snowboard gear as those sports took off. Lululemon's sales have grown from $2 million in 1998 to $100 million last year. Pretty good for a guy who's goal is to "spread health and fitness around the world." Namaste.

top

W. Brett Wilson MBA'85
The chairman of FirstEnergy Capital Corp., Brett Wilson's business acumen speaks for itself, and he sees this role as a business leader in Calgary as both an opportunity and obligation. A couple of years ago, Wilson climbed a different peak-to the top of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro in support of Alzheimer's disease. Wilson, himself, had completed radiation treatment for cancer exactly a year before, so he says the trek was a celebration of life for him. A life that now includes enjoying the fruits of his labour more so than ever before.

top

George Wyse MD'74
The research that George Wyse conducted over a 20-year period on atrial fibrillation changed the way physicians around the world treat the cardiac condition. He's recently semiretired, but his commitments still tell the story of a man who's passionate about his work and saving lives. He's an arrhythmia specialist at an out-patient clinic, contributes to several cardiology journals, and sits on a number of boards and committees, including the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the American College of Cardiology. And the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, which he helped create, will always have a special place in his heart, and calendar.

top

Contact Us

Phone: 403-220-8500
Toll-free: 1-877-220-8509
alumni [at] ucalgary [dot] ca