Receiving an Arch Award

By Jennifer Allford


The University of Calgary Alumni Association has been handing out Arch Awards since 1985 to honour and celebrate alumni who make the world a better place by advancing their professions and improving our communities in a myriad of ways. We asked three recipients what receiving an Arch Award means to them:

Mark Blackwell, BComm’11

Mark Blackwell, was “surprised and grateful” to win his Arch Award in the Future Alumni category in 2009 while he was still an undergraduate. The award not only recognized his work on initiatives such as the Solar Decathlon and student group ISEEESA (Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy Students’ Association), it helped drive him to keep looking for inspiring people and teams.

“Part of my journey was understanding what really got me up each day and knowing ultimately that I enjoyed building teams, products and ultimately being my own boss,” he says. Since graduating from Haskayne, Blackwell has been “a bit of a ping-pong ball,” with forays into investment banking, venture capital and entrepreneurial ventures in Silicon Valley.

Throughout it all, entrepreneurial thinking has been key. “The core fundamentals of entrepreneurial thinking have pushed me to think outside the box when solving challenges, not be afraid to ask for help, and be vulnerable and also scrappy when starting my first business.”

Blackwell started that business, a network-testing software solution called GNS3, with a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. GNS3 has since been acquired and Blackwell has gone on to open a restaurant, Elbow Room YYC, and start Nucleus Calgary to increase creative collisions and bring innovators together.

He credits his days at UCalgary for fostering his success. “I learned to embrace failure,” Blackwell says. “Being a student, you have an amazing sandbox to try new things and fail in a very safe environment, and you need to take each failure as a unique opportunity to learn and grow.”


Kelly-Marie Murphy, BMus’87, MMus’89

Kelly-Marie Murphy’s music has delighted people around the world, whether on the radio or at iconic concert halls such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, Salzburg’s Mozarteum and Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

Among her many accolades, receiving the UCalgary Arch Award was “huge,” says the composer. “I am working in solitude. I sit in my basement and I write music. When you receive an Arch Award, it’s saying you’re doing good work, you’re on the right path and it means a lot.”

Murphy won in the Distinguished Alumni category in 2004, about the same time her reputation was growing in the arts. Being recognized by the university alongside scholars in other fields was validation not only of her work in music, but also of the importance of creative endeavours.

At UCalgary, she learned about music and how to be true to herself. “You have to be able to weather the ups and downs,” says Murphy. “People like what you do or they don’t like what you do, but you still have to be true to that voice. Learning that early was important.

“My 18th birthday was my first day at school and I was there for years. It was like I grew up there.”


Dr. Jeffrey Veale, BSc’97, MD’00

Dr. Jeffrey Veale keeps his Arch Award on his desk at the UCLA Department of Urology in Los Angeles.

The transplant surgeon and director of the UCLA Kidney Transplantation Exchange Program has received his fair share of awards over the years. Most of them are kept in a closet in his office. “The one I keep on my desk is the Arch Award,” Veale says during a telephone interview. “It’s a beautiful sculpture and I’m staring at it right now.”

Veale was honoured in the Graduate of the Last Decade Award category that recognizes a graduate under 35 whose career has already made an enormous impact. His work is saving thousands of lives. Veale has pioneered kidney donor chains, which is a voucher program combining stem cell and kidney transplant surgeries as well as other innovative methods that encourage people to donate kidneys and make the best use of the organs that are donated. His ideas have spread to other hospitals across the U.S.

Veale returned to UCalgary campus to receive his award at the 2009 ceremony. “It was extra-special,” he says. “They really pulled out all the stops. I was very impressed with them making such a big deal out of it.

“A lot of times when you win an award, they just pull you up on a stage real quick. I was really honoured that this was such a beautiful event with people I hadn’t seen for a few years. It was so nice to feel remembered.”