Meet the Energizers
The visionaries, legends and game-changers who drove the campaign — and brought it home
UCalgary is energized by the generosity of people who empower excellence on campus and in our community every single day. These remarkable individuals are champions, game-changers, visionaries and legends who have shaped UCalgary’s success and positively transformed us. They — along with dozens of other Energizers who we’ll spotlight here throughout the year — are the heart and soul of this extraordinary campaign.
Not everyone believes so wholeheartedly in the vision and strategy of their place of work that they keenly give hard-earned money back to the organization. These donors have given not only their career time and talent to UCalgary, but also follow their passions through by supporting causes they care about — and see come to fruition every single day.
Above: Jenny Chin's parents, Romeo and Eva De Guia
For Jenny Chin, BA’99, making a philanthropic gift to UCalgary was, first and foremost, a personally gratifying act. It also satisfied her desire to express gratitude in her professional life. Chin is a senior marketing and communications specialist with UCalgary’s Office of Advancement. She recently endured an unimaginably tough couple of years, losing her parents to cancer within 18 months of one another. She found healing in creating a scholarship in their names — the Romeo and Eva De Guia Faculty of Arts Scholarship.
“Education was really important to my parents,” says Chin. “Both of them earned university degrees in the Philippines, which was very difficult to do in a place where poverty is so rampant. My mom was a teacher and my dad had a business degree. They were really proud of me for getting my English degree.”
Chin says her decision to make a gift to the Energize campaign not only felt like a meaningful and practical way to honour her family, but the scholarship also serves as her ‘thank you’ to the university. “When I was dealing with my parents’ illnesses, I encountered doctors, professors and students from the university nearly every day,” she says. “As just a person in the community, I was completely amazed by the reach and impact of our university. It gave me such a sense of pride in the place I work; it was suddenly very clear to me how, by helping a student in any faculty, I’d be part of their eventual positive impact on someone else’s life.”
Gary Durbeniuk, BPE’78, BEd’80, recently retired after more than 35 years in the charitable sector — including 12 years as UCalgary’s vice-president of development — but his relationship with the university goes back even further.
On the advice of his high-school football coach, Durbeniuk came to Calgary from Medicine Hat in 1974 and enrolled in UCalgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology. It turned out to be a great move for a multitude of reasons — most notably, it was here that he met his wife, Karen, BPE’78, BEd’80, who shares his passion for their alma mater. Together, they created the Durbeniuk Family Scholarship and have established a bequest in their will towards the endowed award, ensuring that it continues to be available to Kinesiology students well into the future.
Having benefited from scholarships during his time as a student, Durbeniuk knows first-hand the difference these awards can make by not only alleviating financial stress, but also providing a big confidence boost. “That validation is so important to a student,” he says. “It shows them that what they’re doing is important and that someone cares enough to help.”
His experience as a fundraiser also plays a big part in Durbeniuk’s giving. “I’ve been blessed to work with so many incredible donors, volunteers, faculty members and researchers throughout my career. And they’ve all had an influence on my personal philanthropy.”
His philanthropy at UCalgary, as it happens, is one for the books. With his support going back more than four decades, Durbeniuk is one of the university’s longest-standing donors — making this insider a true UCalgary champion.
Even after six years of record-breaking fundraising, you’d be forgiven for assuming the pandemic would slow down UCalgary’s 2020 United Way campaign — but co-chair Dr. Cindy Graham, PhD’01, wasn’t dissuaded.
The Faculty of Science vice-dean has long been a champion of philanthropy, encouraging UCalgary students, faculty, staff and volunteers to give back to the community. Last year’s United Way campaign once again inspired staff and faculty to contribute and raised more than $780,000.
“It’s an important opportunity for the campus to come together and celebrate each other — to show care for one another and those in our community,” says Graham of the campaign. “And that’s been especially important this past year.”
In addition to serving as campaign co-chair for the past two years, Graham has been involved with the United Way as a core donor, leader, cabinet member and leadership giving co-chair. And her philanthropy doesn’t end there — she’s also a UCalgary donor, supporting initiatives that create opportunities for students.
“Being able to do something extra towards your degree, such as field classes or entrepreneurial activities, can make all the difference for a student,” she says. “When you support the university and its students, you’re supporting the discovery and innovation that will change our city and society. You don’t have to look far to see the impact!”
This year, Graham is stepping back from her role as United Way campaign co-chair, but she remains one of its biggest cheerleaders — and is looking forward to another record-breaking year.
Cumming School of Medicine physician-scientists Dr. Margaret Kelly and Dr. Richard Leigh, who immigrated together from South Africa many years ago, are a picture of understated passion. Both specializing in lung disease — he in asthma and she in lung pathology — they credit their success as researchers, clinicians and professors (Richard is also senior associate dean of Faculty Affairs) to “all the opportunities we were given to pursue these types of careers when we came to Canada, and we’ve appreciated that.”
Richard and Margaret recently designated a legacy gift to the Cumming School of Medicine — a donation that will help fuel future generations of researchers to explore, discover and make game-changing breakthroughs. “Medicine has progressed because of research and because of people having time to reflect and look at things differently,” says Margaret. “We chose to give because we believe in biomedical research, and we believe in this university.”
Legacy giving, adds Richard, is about enabling breakthroughs in the future. “We believe passionately in what we do every day, and we want to know that this passion will carry on after we’re gone. We feel this university can make a difference.” Thanks in large part to such dauntless generosity, it can and will for many years to come.
Above: UCalgary President Emertia Elizabeth Cannon and Jack Neumann
For most people, retirement means bidding adieu to your place of employment. But Jack Neumann isn’t most people. After retiring in 2012, the former sports information director and alumni relations coordinator for UCalgary Athletics has not only continued to attend Dinos football home games — he hasn’t missed a single one since he started at the university in 1978 — but also remains one of the program’s most dedicated supporters.
In addition to his volunteer work — helping with fundraising, promotion and more — Neumann made a unique legacy gift in support of Dinos Football, covering the cost of their jerseys in perpetuity. “It was my way of giving back to the program and the university for the career I had,” says Neumann. The gift was announced in 2017 and, just two years later, Neumann realized his dream of seeing the Dinos capture the Vanier Cup in his jerseys.
Honoured by multiple sport and community organizations throughout his career, Neumann’s commitment extends beyond football, with the Jack Neumann Athletic Award open to all Dinos student-athletes. He was also considering the broader UCalgary Athletics program when he made his legacy gift, hoping it will inspire the same kind of philanthropic support for other Dinos teams.
His passion and generosity make him an integral member of the Dinos team, even years after retirement, but the affable Neumann is just grateful to still be in the game. “I appreciate Coach Harris allowing a retired guy like me to keep hanging around,” he says with a laugh. “It keeps me young, keeps me active.”
He's 10,000 kilometres from where he was born and raised, but it’s an image of his father on the veranda of his house in that Punjab village that serves as a guiding light for Dr. Baljit Singh, DVM. Dr. Singh’s philanthropic motives come from a desire to spark compassionate community-building — the sort of expansive, collaborative vibe his dad cultivates by hosting coffee chats every morning with anyone who stops by to discuss and support positive action.
“To this day, my father keeps a half-dozen chairs on the veranda in the village where I grew up,” says Dr. Singh. “That tradition to support efforts and people in the community gave me the focus I carry with me today as a person, as a teacher, as a dean.” His establishment of the Komagata Maru UVCM Travel Award provides financial assistance and promotes understanding of global citizenship through conferences and student activities. “We build better community by learning to understand the world a little better — I wish that for every student.”
After making an extraordinary contribution to UCalgary as dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Singh now serves as vice-president of research at the University of Saskatchewan.
Completing a degree or two from any one particular institution is no guarantee of greatness. It’s just that UCalgary grads seem to own more than their fair share of it. Indeed, our legion of alumni comprise an exceptionally involved community who remain actively engaged in their alma mater as mentors, volunteers and donors.
Community builder. Diversity advocate. Athletics booster. Wealth strategist. These are a few ways to describe Ian Minnifee, BA’94. As a proud UCalgary graduate and Dinos basketball alumnus, Minnifee continuously finds ways to give back to his alma mater and to the sport that played such a significant role in his post-secondary experience.
After graduating, Minnifee worked closely with the Dinos to promote the basketball community and was a founding member of the Sixth Man Club (formerly known as the Dinosaur Basketball Foundation). He also served on the University of Calgary Senate, where he was a prominent ambassador of the Dino Athletics program, helping to establish the Senate Service Award for student-athlete community volunteerism, and co-founding a leadership program that connects the award recipient to a Senate mentor. In June of 2018, Minnifee was awarded the Order of the University of Calgary for his record of exemplary and distinguished service to UCalgary. Today, he serves on the UCalgary Alumni Association Board and Legacy Giving Advisory Group.
His numerous contributions almost seem impossible for one man, but for Minnifee, supporting UCalgary is an easy choice. “The University of Calgary is one of our city’s most valued treasures,” he says. “I feel I’ve had the key to this treasure chest and witnessed firsthand the magnitude of UCalgary’s reach and its relevance to the growth and vibrancy of our great city.”
On and off the court, Minnifee is a true UCalgary champion.
Helen Sunderland’s energy as a business and tech leader is as remarkable as her heart for giving. Sunderland, BMus’87, MBA’92, is a subject matter expert in multiple SAP software solutions who spent years in California’s Silicon Valley. You could say she’s also a subject matter expert in UCalgary and its alumni community.
An avid volunteer, Sunderland has dedicated countless hours to UCalgary, as president and chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, a governor on the University of Calgary Board of Governors, a senator of the University of Calgary Senate, and a director of American Friends of the University of Calgary. Not stopping there, Sunderland is also a generous donor who supports students and programs that elevate excellence on campus and in the community.
“I support the University of Calgary simply because I believe in what it stands for,” says Sunderland. “UCalgary is home to the next generation of leaders, scientists and innovators. By pitching in and helping out, we make it possible for them to reach their full potential — to achieve things that might otherwise be beyond their reach.”
Indeed, Sunderland is lighting the way for our diverse and dynamic UCalgary family as they make their post-convocation mark on the world.
Though they graduated nearly 45 years ago, members of the class of 1976 in mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary are still connected to this day, bonded by a scholarship they created in 2006 in memory of a classmate. Each year, the Dan Mercier Class of 1976 Award in Mechanical Engineering supports two third-year Schulich School of Engineering students. It’s a fitting tribute to Mercier — helping the next generation of mechanical engineers at their alma mater
“These deserving students exemplify Dan’s admirable work ethic and personality traits,” says UCalgary Chancellor Emeritus and astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, Bsc (Eng)’76, LLD’09. “By investing in these scholarships, we tell our community that we believe in the passion of today’s students and support their vision to make the world a better place.”
Still going strong 15 years later, the class has grown the award through the Energize campaign and beyond. And, true to their reason for establishing the scholarship, the class of ’76 reunites each year to meet the recipients and celebrate the legacy of their much-loved classmate.
Having immigrated to Canada as children, both Patricia Gonzalez, BA’07, LLB’10, and Slavko Uzelac, BSc (Eng)’09, understand the hardships that come with starting over. They saw their respective parents experience that as their families fled civil war in their home countries — El Salvador for Gonzalez and Yugoslavia for Uzelac.
It’s no wonder that Gonzalez and Uzelac felt a connection when they met in 2007 at a Halloween party thrown by UCalgary Law students. Though their marriage and two daughters are arguably the best things to come from that meeting, they also gleaned during their time at UCalgary a passion for education and a desire to support the next generation of students.
“Coming from less privilege, we both know the value of a good education,” says Gonzalez. Of their giving to UCalgary, she explains, “We always knew it was something we’d do down the line, and then we thought, why wait? You never know the difference you can make.”
In 2019, the couple established the Learn, Lead, Inspire Award, a student award open to first-year undergrad students in STEM studies, with a preference for single parents who have dependent children. Recognizing the inherent challenges that come with raising kids while going to school, Gonzalez and Uzelac designed the award to make life a little easier for such students.
“We hope it's essentially a little spark that gives people the right sort of initiative and hope to continue pursuing their studies,” says Uzelac. And for the two students who have received the award thus far, that spark has made all the difference.
By the time UCalgary was formally established in 1966, the University Women’s Club of Calgary had already been around for more than 40 years and were among those who supported the university’s autonomy. Today, the group is part of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and they’re still making history, as student advocates and, together, they are a shining example of power in numbers.
Over the years, CFUW/Calgary members have together donated more than a quarter-million dollars to UCalgary, supporting multiple student awards across all faculties. In fact, they were the first donor to create an Indigenous student award in the Faculty of Arts, helping UCalgary’s largest faculty recruit and retain Indigenous students.
Currently, the group supports 11 awards, many of them named in honour of CFUW/Calgary members, including Judy McCaffrey, a past-president of the federation and UCalgary alumna. McCaffrey, BA’82, is passionate about education. “Obsessed might be more accurate,” she says with a laugh. “University changed my life, helping me look at the world in a different way. What you learn in university, no matter your discipline, is critical thinking. And that’s an incredibly important quality to develop, especially in young people.”
Thanks to CFUW/Calgary’s community engagement and tireless support of UCalgary, that same enriching experience will continue to be made available to more students, across all faculties, for generations to come.
They came, they saw, they gave. These supporters know that making the world a more robust, healthy and diverse place requires fearless acts of philanthropy. Their passions and gifts are outrageously unique and have propelled UCalgary onto the world stage in ways we hadn’t even dreamed possible.
“We want University of Calgary veterinary students, researchers, scientists and professors to be the future rock stars that that the world turns to, to understand where our food comes from and how we take care of animals.”
Such bold vision — articulated by Wynne Chisholm, BA’79, and J.C. (Jack) Anderson — requires exceptionally fearless action to become a potential reality. Thankfully, and extraordinarily, the father-daughter duo is wildly determined in both vision and action. On Nov. 30, 2018, Wynne and her dad transferred ownership of their 19,000-acre, 1,000-head cattle operation in the Alberta foothills to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, establishing W.A. Ranches at the University of Calgary. The $44-million gift has already transformed teaching, learning and outreach experiences by delivering a unique, immersive education setting to students, researchers and the community.
And it’s not the first time the family has empowered and accelerated excellence in the faculty: the Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare has advanced research to positively impact Alberta’s cattle industry and, more broadly, animal welfare in society. Hats off to these mavericks whose ambition and generosity make the world better for humans and animals, alike.
Even years after it was announced, Geoff Cumming’s gift to UCalgary’s Faculty of Medicine still elicits a double take. At $100 million, it remains the largest single philanthropic gift in the university’s history. Made in honour of his late father, an Ontario physician, the donation forever changed the course of our medical school — which is now aptly named the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).
Cumming, BA’74, Hon. LLD’16, a soft-spoken international businessman, is equal parts compassion and vision. With a focus on spurring breakthroughs in brain and mental health, and treatment and prevention of chronic disease, he was determined to dramatically raise the bar on medical research and education in southern Alberta and propel the medical school to become a major player on the global stage (he succeeded — which means we all succeeded).
The power and potential of Cumming’s gift has consistently attracted global leaders in medical research to CSM. It also opened the renowned International Microbiome Centre and put UCalgary at the forefront of such research; established the Centre for Health Informatics to advance health-data access and management; significantly improved our understanding of brain function in health and disease through advances the NeuroTechnology Platforms; created a program to carve out time and space for critical research targeting precision medicine and public health; and has leveraged millions of dollars in research funding through other partners.
Cumming credits his parents for his own striving to spark change in the world. “They always said life should have high purpose,” he says. Indeed, he’s done them exceedingly proud.
If you weren’t already convinced of the significant positive impact of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health on research, knowledge-translation and network-building, certainly the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its immeasurable value into stark relief. Robustly reimagined through a transformational gift from highly respected community leaders Gail and David O’Brien, both Hon. LLD’10, the interdisciplinary institute is dedicated to improving public health and health care.
Gail and David are passionate about medicine and education. In addition to the institute that bears their name, they also give generously to the O’Brien Centre for the Bachelor of Health Sciences program and the Leaders in Health Sciences scholarships, supporting bright minds as they tackle the challenges of tomorrow.
“We’re very fortunate to invest in causes that make a difference in other people’s lives,” says Gail. “It helps other people, but it also enriches our own lives — hitching your wagon to a cause bigger than yourself.”
And making a difference they are. Thanks to Gail and David’s support, UCalgary researchers have mobilized their scientific expertise to tackle COVID-19: assessing Alberta’s preparedness and response policies, studying virus spread-dynamics, seeking to understand the socio-cultural implications of COVID, and studying clinical trial uptakes. It’s critical work that speaks to the tremendous vision — and optimism — of donors determined to create a brighter future for all of us.
Joan Snyder, Hon. LLD’11, epitomizes what it means to be a great Canadian. Unwavering in her commitment to help others, she is exceedingly generous in her support of a wide range of non-profit organizations, strongly believing in building the next generation of leaders.
Over the past two decades, UCalgary has been a grateful recipient of Joan’s generosity. In particular, her 2008 gift of $9 million established the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and helped put it at the forefront of chronic-disease research. Joan’s continued support has allowed the elite research institute to flourish by attracting the best chronic-disease researchers and clinicians in the world to Canada and acquiring critical equipment.
In addition to her interest in health, Joan is passionate about women’s sport, leading her to establish the Joan Snyder Program of Excellence in Women’s Hockey at UCalgary. Her mother was a gifted athlete who exemplified the opportunities sport provides for learning and building leadership. Just one of countless values instilled in Joan by her parents.
“Philanthropy is more than money, it’s people helping people,” says Joan. “The community coming together, each giving what they can and supporting each other, just as my parents taught me. Better a booster than a knocker, be.”
“Innovation means being courageous enough to do things that others aren’t doing. It’s not about competing — it’s about taking risks, failing early and pushing through in doing what you do uniquely well.”
It’s a sentiment that embodies the values of Wayne Foo, BSc’77, and Parex Resources Inc., the company he founded. Foo was already a UCalgary supporter, having established the Lynne Marshall and Wayne Foo Cancer Research Clinical Fellowship, when he made a visionary gift to the Faculty of Science to fuel that brand of courage. The $3.24-million endowment, supported by Foo and Parex, established the Parex Resources Innovation Fellowships and Parex Resources Visiting Innovation Fellowship. These positions empower researchers to lead and conduct research and community partnerships that fuel startups and technology-advancement based on new discoveries, insights and innovation.
The gift also honours Foo’s own undergrad experience. He fondly recalls the UCalgary professors who challenged and encouraged him. “I was ready to drop out partway through my first year, but was strongly encouraged to find my way and work hard for what I was passionate about,” he says.
Foo, who is also a Chancellor’s Circle participant, sees the fellowships as a way of allowing entrepreneurial faculty members to inspire the next generation. “These fellowships give them an opportunity to advance the commercial potential of their research while still engaging with students and drawing them into their work.” That, he adds, “is how we’ll grow and succeed – building on the Fellows’ work in the current generation and sowing seeds for the next.”
When it comes to his philanthropy, Gary Nissen puts his “lifelong learning” approach front and centre. What began as a childhood lesson from his mother about the importance of giving back to the community has transformed into a way of thoughtfully approaching, and adapting, the support he commits to people and groups who can benefit from his helping hand.
Nissen, the president of Canadian Avatar Investments, has been a long-time supporter of Inn from the Cold in Calgary, with a focus on helping homeless mothers and their children. Through his work at Inn from the Cold, Nissen says he began to learn about some of the deeply rooted issues that Alberta’s Indigenous people face. The more he learned, the more he wanted to find a way to help.
In 2019, Nissen gave $125,000 to launch the Social Work Indigenous Scholars Academy, a program that brings together the Faculty of Social Work, Indigenous elders and community leaders, and Indigenous youth in our community who have “aged out” of foster care. Through the Indigenous Scholars Academy, these youth get access to culturally based supports, educational opportunities, and economic support to pursue a social work degree.
Nissen outlined his hope that the Indigenous Scholars Academy would give these Indigenous youth a valuable hand up, but also that it would inspire more compassion in our community and help break down racist narratives.
“Part of this, for me, is to educate other people and open their eyes a bit, too,” says Nissen. “To say, ‘Let’s not be judging. Let’s try and understand.’”
The Young Guns
UCalgary’s eclectic donor family proves there’s no such thing as a “typical” philanthropist. These supporters didn’t wait to accumulate a lifetime of experience or wealth before leaping in to support others. Their youth is an inspiring reminder that compassionate action knows no bounds.
On his ninth birthday, Cade Morey invited a dozen friends out for Nerf wars and cake — pretty typical Grade 4 fare, but with one quite atypical caveat: he kindly asked his friends to not buy him gifts. Instead, Cade requested that anything they might have spent on his special day was instead directed to a fundraiser he had going. “I wanted to raise money for cancer research because my poppa is sick,” said Cade, now 11.
Cade's poppa — what he calls his grandfather, Terry Morey — was diagnosed in 2013 with Stage 4 lung cancer. While it’s been a tough few years for Terry, he eventually qualified as a candidate for genetic biomarkers — making him eligible for precision medicine treatment. An emerging field (and an Energize campaign priority area), a precision medicine approach means that doctors can use an individual’s genetic information to more accurately strategize disease treatment. Terry has had success with various targeted drugs; his CT scans have shown some regression in his tumours. Cade, who managed to raise more than $400 for the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine, says he felt good knowing he was contributing to beneficial research. “I want my poppa to stay with us for a long time.”
As part of the Ismaili community, sisters and UCalgary alumnae Safia and Nabeela Nathoo understood the importance of philanthropy from a young age. And, having benefited from it in the form of donor-funded scholarships during their time at UCalgary, they were inspired to pay it forward. “We were sitting at the dinner table one evening with our parents, talking about ways to give back, and the idea of creating a scholarship came to mind,” says Nabeela, BSc’09, PhD’14, MD’17. “We wanted to create a legacy to reward students for excellence in academics, as well as in pursuit of extracurricular activities, as we had both aimed to do during our time at UCalgary.”
From that dinner-table conversation came the Nathoo Family Graduate Scholarship, a $2,000 award given annually to a student who is registered in a thesis-based program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “Graduate studies at UCalgary had a big impact on both our professional and personal lives and we thought, what better way to give back than to create a scholarship for graduate students?” says Safia, BSc’07, MSc’09, MBA’14.
While the sisters have long participated in global philanthropy efforts, primarily focused on poverty-stricken regions, this was their first major contribution to an organization with which they had a direct connection. Adds Safia, “This experience helped us to recognize that we can play a bigger role in creating philanthropy awareness and encouraging others like us to find ways to give back.”
He’s been that guy since he was an undergraduate in the Haskayne School of Business: smart, driven, generous, and seemingly able to access several more than 24 hours in any given day. A tech and innovation success story long before he turned 30, Mark Blackwell, BComm’11, credits the foundational skills and knowledge he acquired at UCalgary with his nimble turn from local investment manager to CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up.
Since returning to Calgary a few years ago, Blackwell has taken a leadership role in the city’s rapidly growing innovation ecosystem. In addition to serving as partner and Canadian office lead for Builders VS, a venture capital firm focused on modernizing traditional industries, and co-founder of Nucleus Calgary, a hub for the local entrepreneurial community, Mark is the board chair of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, an associate with Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies, and a member of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking Advisory Board and the Faculty of Science Dean's Advisory Board.
His extraordinary achievements recently earned Mark the inaugural Haskayne School of Business Rising Star Award, which honours alumni who are taking giant strides in the first decade since graduating. Ever committed to his alma mater, Mark’s philanthropic efforts to support the Energize campaign — extraordinary outputs of both time, as a strategic campaign advisor, and treasure, as a legacy gift donor — further set him apart as a young gun with a heart of gold.
The Libin family is all heart. Their name has become synonymous with cardiovascular health care, education and research — and with philanthropy. In addition to establishing the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta with a $15-million foundational gift, the Alvin and Mona Libin Foundation has made possible the Libin Gene Therapy Unit, the Libin Lecture Theatre, the Alvin Libin Graduate Scholarship in Cardiovascular Research, the Alvin and Mona Libin Graduate Scholarship in Public Policy, and the Alvin and Mona Libin Scholarship in Medicine.
Continuing that legacy of giving is the next generation of Libin philanthropists, including granddaughter Eda Libin, BComm’12. “Philanthropy brought my family together and taught me so much about what is truly important in life. It’s helped me grow into the person that I am today,” says Eda. “My family loves Calgary, and we are dedicated to doing our part to ensure it continues to be a great place to live.”
Today, Eda serves as executive director and vice-president of the foundation, and she’s particularly passionate about engaging youth in philanthropy. “It’s important for younger generations to participate in philanthropic activities. It helps them develop into responsible and compassionate human beings who will grow into the visionary leaders we need for the future.” Indeed, Eda and the Libin family are a shining example of the power of multi-generational philanthropy.
Each gift to UCalgary comes with its own, unique story — the motivations behind them as diverse as the members of our philanthropic community. For Colton Lewis, BComm’15, it was a personal tragedy that moved him to create a scholarship in memory of his friend and classmate Brett Wiese. The two were students in the Haskayne School of Business in 2013 when Wiese’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 20, following a violent incident at a house party. While still recovering from injuries himself, sustained during the same attack that took Wiese’s life, Lewis established a scholarship to honour his friend and the values he espoused. “Brett was an incredible friend, family member and student,” says Lewis, who pitched the scholarship from his hospital bed to the school’s dean. “The goal in creating the scholarship was to ensure that his remarkable legacy would live forever at UCalgary.”
Today, the Brett Wiese Memorial Scholarship is funded by dozens of friends, family and community members — all people who share in Lewis’s vision to support Haskayne students who exemplify Wiese’s positive, ambitious and caring spirit. “Brett was very proud to be a student at the University of Calgary, as was I,” says Lewis. “Choosing to support the community that helped shape our future was a very natural decision.”
Luke Neilson, who graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 2019, could have been satisfied with achieving top marks in his undergraduate honours program. Instead, his success drove him to help other students strive with ambition for the same. “I very much enjoyed the honours program. I thought this award would encourage philosophy students to enroll and to continue researching their interests,” says Neilson. To that end, he set up a unique scholarship for the student with the most outstanding honours thesis submitted to the Department of Philosophy.
It’s a remarkable act of philanthropy for a young man who, at the time, was still working to complete his own degree. “I wanted to create something that was just about the purity of academic life — students in my program are here because they have something unique to say and no amount of financial trouble should deter them. I wanted to recognize that, and to help out.”
It’s impossible to determine the influence certain individuals and families have had, and continue to have, on the breadth and depth of UCalgary’s success. The decades-long involvement of these steadfast, quietly exuberant supporters adds up to far more than the sum of their donations — their vision and dedication has lifted every aspect of this campus, and shaped our city’s future.
Renowned for his corporate leadership savvy as much as for his ethical integrity, Richard (Dick) Haskyane, Hon. LLD’97 — for whom a handshake-deal has never gone out of fashion — is the steadfast backbone of business education in Calgary. An industry leader and member of the Order of Canada, Haskayne and his wife Lois’s contributions have helped propel UCalgary up the list of the top-ranked faculties in the world. Their support has empowered the school to raise the bar on experiential teaching and learning, and diversified its world-class programs.
Through all of it, the Haskaynes always come back to student success. Their gift to the Energize campaign marks the largest student scholarship ever given to the business school. The Richard and Lois Haskayne Legacy Scholarship ensures five undergraduate students get a full-ride scholarship through their program. “While it’s nice for me to have our name associated with the university, the people who are going to establish the reputation over time are the students,” says Richard. The Haskaynes’ support is tangible proof of their inspiring perspective that, in business and every other sector, people come first. As Lois puts it, “All of us are given some capacity or other to make a difference in the world.”
Here and far beyond, the Hotchkiss name is inextricably tied to more than a few iconic milestones in Calgary’s ongoing story: success in the oil-and-gas industry; the acquisition of the Flames hockey team; and passionate acts of generosity that have shaped this city in myriad ways.
Harley Hotchkiss, Hon. LLD’96, who passed away in 2011, had a famously big heart and wide philanthropic reach. His family continues that legacy of transformative positive impact, in particular via their vision and giving around brain and mental research at the Cumming School of Medicine. The Hotchkiss Brain Institute, whose mission is to inspire discovery and apply knowledge towards innovative solutions to neurological and mental health disorders, enables advances in research that attract top doctors from around the world and inspire ongoing, game-changing philanthropic support.
“When Harley passed away, people were naturally nervous that the leader is gone,” says Chen Fong, philanthropist and friend of the Hotchkiss family. “And then the family members really picked up … everybody rolled up their sleeves and were so engaged in furthering the cause. It’s very much, if you will, a family dynasty.”
Hard-scrabble prairie beginnings aren’t unusual around here. It is rare, however, for those roots to flourish into a vision that elevates not only the next generation, but shapes a city’s future. Diane, BA’67, MA’69, Hon. LLD’19, and Doug Hunter, Hon. LLD’19 both grew up in Western Canada in tough economic circumstances. They got married shortly after high school and took turns working and going to university. In 1971, they took a leap, starting a small oil-and-gas consulting firm. Fearless, resourceful and collaborative by nature, the Hunters taught their kids to identify problems and run with their ideas.
Their extraordinary gifts to UCalgary have likewise proven that entrepreneurs aren’t born — they’re made. In 2012, the Hunter Family Foundation created the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haskayne School of Business and, six years later, their $40-million donation established the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. Humble and fearless as ever, Diane and Doug remain the poster couple for a movement that’s transformed our city’s approach to global success.
Prescient business savvy, strong work ethic and generous community involvement are an enormous part of the unforgettable legacy of Bill Siebens. It’s his characteristic joy and infinite capacity for compassion, however, that put this extraordinary Calgarian in a category all his own. Bill passed away on June 29, 2020, at the age of 86, but his spirit lives on in the city he loved. Among his many gifts to UCalgary, the United Way and other causes, Bill, along with his wife Sharon and family, provided support integral to the relocation of the Glenbow’s extensive materials relating to Western Canada, to its home in the Taylor Family Digital Library’s newly created Glenbow Western Research Centre.
In his own words, Bill shared how that philanthropic opportunity spoke to his heart: “My family and I were inspired to make our gift because we believe it is critical to preserve the valuable records and artifacts that illustrate who we are as Albertans, and who we are as Western Canadians,” he said. “We are mavericks, we have can-do attitudes, we get things done with integrity and consistency. The Glenbow library and archives are a testament to this spirit – a colourful story of the Indigenous peoples, the pioneers, ranchers, oilmen, military forces and families who wrote the story we are living today.”
Bill’s future-forward optimism has had dramatic positive impact on UCalgary’s students and the community and will continue to ignite learning and connection for generations to come. Bill Siebens was a true maverick. His pioneering spirit will live on through his business and philanthropic legacy in Calgary and beyond
Community is at the heart of UCalgary and the same can be said for Canadian Natural. The Calgary-based company believes strongly in investing in the communities where they live and work and, with education and training being a top investment priority for the organization, UCalgary has benefitted from Canadian Natural’s generosity and vision for more than 30 years.
During the Energize campaign, Canadian Natural made a transformational gift in support of the Schulich School of Engineering expansion project. In fact, at the time it was the single largest corporate gift in UCalgary history. Since its opening in 2016, the award-winning Canadian Natural Resources Limited Engineering Complex has enabled new opportunities for students, faculty and researchers. The space is home to improved classrooms and student spaces, advanced research labs, and the innovative Maker Multiplex — a fun, safe and experiential environment to ignite innovation, discovery, and new ways of learning and problem solving.
“Investing in education is of pivotal importance to develop our future leaders for the success and sustainability of Canada’s oil and natural gas industry,” says Tim McKay, president of Canadian Natural. “Through education we have been able to accelerate innovative thinking, develop game-changing technology and position Canada as a world leader for responsibly produced oil and natural gas. Commitment to education will always be a priority for Canadian Natural.”
In addition to investing in teaching and learning spaces, Canadian Natural created the Canadian Natural Resources Graduate Scholarship for students studying economics, geoscience, engineering or management at the graduate level. And their contributions don’t end there. As a supporter of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute Gala, Canadian Natural has helped the institute raise $5.2 million for cardiovascular health initiatives since the gala’s inception. Indeed, Canadian Natural is a true champion of the community.
There’s a lot that can be said for Shell Canada Limited’s support of UCalgary. Words like “innovative,” “champion” and “steadfast” come to mind. “Unparalleled” is another apt descriptor. With their first gift to the university made more than a half-century ago, Shell Canada is one of UCalgary’s longest-standing contributors.
Shell Canada has played an invaluable role in growing UCalgary into a leader in energy research and a hub for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. In recent years alone, Shell has sponsored award-winning energy research chairs, funded student awards, created meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students, and helped revitalize UCalgary’s research park. It was an extraordinary gift in kind during the Energize campaign that transformed the Shell Technology Centre Calgary (STCC) in University Research Park into the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, a dynamic research facility that supports the promising life sciences sector of the Calgary economy.
The evolution of the facility is representative of the enduring relationship between UCalgary and Shell Canada. “For more than 30 years, our teams at (STCC) led energy sector innovation,” says Michael Crothers, president and country chair of Shell Canada. “It’s fitting that the building’s legacy of spurring innovation in Alberta will continue as part of UCalgary.”
Generous investment in new buildings, unique programs and cutting-edge research fuels this institution to excellence. But it’s students who make our world go ’round. These mentors, advocates and donors never lose sight of the academic potential, financial needs, and mental health of the young stewards of our future.
Above: Eric Axford with Wood’s Homes Research Chair Dr. Angelique Jenney
One of the most remarkable aspects of philanthropy is the way it puts a spotlight on a person’s often unexpected passion. Recently retired, Eric Axford, BA’87, was executive vice-president of Suncor. He is highly respected in the energy sector, which might lead one to assume that that’s where this deeply engaged alumnus might get involved at his alma mater. Rather, he and his wife, Diane, made an Energize gift to the Faculty of Social Work to elevate hands-on teaching and learning experiences.
Determined to help spark positive change in our community, Axford served on the board for Wood’s Homes for nearly a decade. While he is savvy and driven around advancing sustainable energy solutions, his face lights up when he talks about bridging the gap between research and community — and how empowering the next generation of clinical social workers can make a difference to individuals and families. The Axfords’ gift puts a simulation training program into the Faculty of Social Work, enabling students to learn and practice in a “real,” but safe environment in the area of children’s mental health.
Through UCalgary’s collaboration with Wood’s Homes, the Axfords learned about, and leapt at, this unique opportunity to help strengthen the program and develop counselling leaders of the future. The centre and its accompanying technology position UCalgary as a national leader in simulation as a practical tool to educate students to work in challenging situations.
With enormous variety and reach, Jenny and Hy Belzberg’s involvement at UCalgary since its inception has changed the way we think, read, listen, create, and approach people and culture. Frequent donors to UCalgary, the Belzbergs supported Israeli studies and Canada-Israel academic exchange initiatives on campus dating back to 1985 (they also helped pull off an incredible coup for the library, securing iconic author Mordecai Richler’s papers for a collection held at the Taylor Family Digital Library). Following the passing of her husband, Hy, in 2017, after 68 years of marriage, Jenny, Hon. LLD’02, turned her attention to again reviving Israeli studies at UCalgary. Her gift created the Dr. Jenny and Hy Belzberg Scholar in Israeli Studies Endowment within the Faculty of Arts.
Jenny was motivated to give by her experience that Israel is often misunderstood and vilified. “There’s a need for Israeli professors to speak the truth about our homeland,” she says. “Yes, it’s a country with a lot of problems, but also a lot of greatness, a lot to be proud of, and it needs to be better understood.” This fall saw the appointment of the program’s first postdoctoral fellow. It’s a milestone born out of hope, love and a passionate desire to connect people and community, here and around the world.
Photo credit: Kari Medig
Widely accepted as the business model for the 21st century, social entrepreneurship combines business success with meaningful purpose to benefit others. Eleanor, BComm’85, and Wayne Chiu, one of Calgary’s most forward-looking, community-minded power couples, offer a more succinct definition of this new movement toward economic change: “Social entrepreneurship is doing good by doing well.” Indeed, the model pivots on selling products or services to solve social problems.
The Chius, who met in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada in 1982, founded the highly successful homebuilding company Trico Group and, later, established the Trico Charitable Foundation in order to extend the reach of their remarkable desire and capacity to support people by strengthening community. Tireless volunteers whose generosity has created change at UCalgary, the Calgary Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary, and many other local organizations, the couple’s values — Trust, Respect, Integrity, Community and Opportunity — inspired the acronym that became both their company’s name and their personal road map for how to live well. In 2019, the Chius made a $5-million gift to establish the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business to support unique student experiences including community-based learning, internships, curriculum and research. The centre is empowering a new generation of innovation leaders learning to use business principles to address social challenges.
“Elegance” is perhaps often the first word that comes to mind when people first meet Mavis Clark, BEd’72, MEd’82. The second might be “passion.” The third and fourth? “Resolute” and “visionary.” Clark has long been UCalgary’s most driven and articulate educator, volunteer and advocate for lung cancer research. When her husband passed away from the disease, she committed herself to breaking the stigma associated with lung cancer, and to helping improve its survival outcomes via increasingly robust research.
A former university senator, Clark was a teacher and administrator with the Calgary Board of Education for more than 30 years. Her energetic and generous involvement with the Cumming School of Medicine and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre helped establish the Lung Cancer Translational Research Initiative dedicated to advancing lung cancer research, increasing funding and treatment options. In honour of her husband, she created the Paul Clark Lung Cancer Fellowship, which supports postdoctoral students in the field of lung cancer research. Clark’s dedication, philanthropic giving and unrelenting optimism have helped change the narrative around a disease that has long needed more attention. She’s a force and a treasure and, indeed, a game-changer.
As individual community leaders, philanthropists and members of the Order of Canada, Joanne Cuthbertson, BEd’73, Hon. LLD’11, and Charles Fischer, BSc (Eng)’71, MBA’82, Hon. LLD’04, have long been celebrated in their respective fields (she as an education advocate and Chancellor emerita; he as a respected business leader). Together, they were an exemplary and spirited force of idealism and courage as they bettered our city in myriad ways. Sadly, Fischer passed away this year.
Cuthbertson’s unwavering commitment to taking action on a broad range of initiatives related to education, children’s health, the arts, and ethical business practice in Calgary and beyond continues on, as does Fischer’s extraordinary legacy of positive change. Among their many gifts to UCalgary — including the creation of spaces and services that directly benefit students — was their vision for, and ongoing support of, the Scholars Academy. Developed as a community for top students, the Academy provides mentorship, practical guidance and critical goal-setting assistance to one of this university’s most ambitious cohorts. Cuthbertson and Fischer’s lasting gift inspires confidence in students to soar higher than they might have imagined they could.
A practising psychologist in Calgary for more than 20 years and a triple alumna with arts and science degrees and a doctorate in psychology, under her belt, Dr. Lori Egger, BA’87, MSc’90, PhD’94, is as committed to the mental health of our community as she is to the education of the future professionals who will diagnose, counsel and guide health and wellness approaches here and around the world.
In 2017, Egger and her husband, Steve Laut, BSc (Eng)’79, made a $3.5-million gift to establish the state-of-the-art University of Calgary Psychology Clinic as a valuable resource for students, and for those who need care. “This clinic is important to us because it provides affordable mental-health support to anyone in Calgary, regardless of their background, income or circumstance,” says Egger. The in-house space, open to the community, empowers excellence in learning, supported by mentorship and innovation that enriches and accelerates access to real-life therapy settings. It’s a visionary investment in student learning, and an act of compassion and optimism for the entire community.
At 15, she started university, made the varsity field hockey team and was awarded one of the most prestigious renewable scholarships on campus. Still not yet 30, Carolina Romeo, BSc (Eng)’13, is that rare combination of being dazzlingly successful, yet genuinely humble in her outlook. Born in Argentina, Romeo immigrated to Canada as a child and took to academics with ease, even skipping a couple of grades in junior high. The youngest in her cohort by far, she was certain that engineering was for her, and has never looked back. Her receipt of the Chancellor’s Scholarship — funded by Chancellor’s Circle donors —fueled her confidence and validated her choice to enter such a challenging field at a young age. As well, she says, “my parents weren’t in a strong financial position, and the scholarship made it possible for me to go to university.”
Romeo has maintained many of the valuable connections she made as a Chancellor’s Scholar, and was recently inspired to join the Chancellor’s Circle as a donor, to ensure the award’s robustness and longevity. “The Chancellor’s Scholarship had such a positive impact on my life — it was a huge factor in helping me be able to get through school, and I want to make sure other students get the same experience I had,” she says.
The 2014 Brentwood tragedy that saw five young people, all UCalgary students, senselessly lose their lives was an unspeakably heartbreaking event. But it also inspired an outpouring of compassion and generosity in finding ways to help keep students mentally healthy and supported. Earlier that same year, Calgary rancher and businessman John Simpson, Hon. LLD’05, had pledged an undesignated $5 million to the Energize campaign with an eye to enhancing previous Simpson Family gifts in sports medicine and to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. When the tragedy occurred, Simpson was immediately moved to help UCalgary find a better way forward to helping students with difficulties they might face from the challenges of post-secondary life.
In striving to help young adults build personal resiliency, he invested in and helped create the concept of UCalgaryStrong — a dynamic, campus-wide initiative aimed at equipping students with skills to become grounded leaders able to cope with the stress of student life. As Simpson puts it, “A community that thrives through co-operation and collaboration while looking out for one another is a better place for everyone to live and learn.” His generosity has not stopped there — in 2019, he created the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education. The new centre will advance research around public policies that strengthen and support the growth and sustainability of agri-food and agri-business, particularly in Western Canada.
Just months into UCalgary’s transformative Energize campaign, Calgary entrepreneur David Werklund, Hon. LLD’12, put our Faculty of Education on the map with the largest-ever gift from an individual to a Canadian education faculty. You’ll forgive us for turning to an overused descriptor, but his $25-million gift was, indeed, a game-changer. More than simply inspiring the faculty to become the Werklund School of Education, his support quite literally changed the way education is taught at this university by making available new technology, enriching student scholarships, developing international teaching exchanges, and establishing a fund for undergraduate conferences and research.
An Alberta farm boy turned global industry leader, Werklund’s brand of philanthropy is rooted in personal, meaningful change that brings out the best in future teachers. “Through the Werklund School of Education, I would like to see teachers given tools to help them truly connect with their students,” he once said in response to the inevitable question: why give your money to a teaching program? His vision was clear, and the result is a Canadian powerhouse of excellence in teaching and learning.
Meet more of the Energizers who drove the campaign — and brought it home
Dr. Chen Fong
Radiologist, professor emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine, member of the Order of Canada and dynamic business leader, Dr. Chen Fong, MD, Hon. LLD’19, is perhaps most proud of the positive mark he has made as a mentor to a new generation of entrepreneurs. Dr. Fong is a co-founder of UCalgary’s Creative Destruction Lab Rockies, launched mid-way through the Energize campaign, and co-chair of
CDL-Rockies' Global Strategy Board. He’s a driving force for strengthening connections, diversifying our economy and elevating excellence in the community — both through his own innovative ventures (he’s the “F” in EFW Radiology and has spearheaded many other startups), as well as by raising funds for health care and academia. Dr. Fong’s inspiring involvement in CDL-Rockies helps students, faculty and community members, alike, sharpen objectives, prioritize resources, raise capital and otherwise successfully translate good ideas and knowledge into commercial enterprises. While having a brilliant mind for medicine and business certainly doesn’t hurt one’s chances for success, Dr. Fong believes the secret to cultivating a robust and future-forward world is, as he once put it: “to hang around with the young people because they have so many bright ideas.”
Elizabeth Cannon and Gerard Lachapelle
“Geomatics engineer” likely isn’t your first guess of a career match for a young woman growing up in Charlottetown in the 1960s. That was precisely the dream, however, that drew Dr. Elizabeth Cannon,
BSc (Eng)’84, MSc (Eng)’87, PhD’91, president emerita and former dean of the Schulich School of Engineering to Calgary, and kept her here. Dr. Cannon and her husband, Dr. Gerard LaChapelle, PhD — also an award-winning professor emeritus from SSE — met in the 1980s working in the then-new and (still) exciting field of GPS. Together, they have published on and patented dozens of innovations to advance the commercial application of satellite-based navigation systems. Meanwhile, their collective passion for research at UCalgary has always been in step with their desire to empower students to think entrepreneurially; indeed, that’s one of the driving priorities behind the ambitious Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High that Dr. Cannon spearheaded during her tenure as president. Proof of the couple’s commitment to sparking change lies in their establishment of the $1-million Cannon Lachapelle Award in Entrepreneurial Thinking. The scholarship fuels up to four undergraduate students each year in any discipline to explore innovation that builds community and elevates excellence around the world. (Were you expecting anything less from a bold and brilliant girl from P.E.I.?)
Don and Ruth Taylor
The Taylor name has long been synonymous with UCalgary. The family’s gifts to this campaign, and to previous initiatives, created our 21st-century library, and have dramatically boosted teaching capacity, information technology and the preservation of local history — and physically transforming our campus. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning alone — just one of their many passions — is not only a spectacular, inspiring piece of architecture but, as intended, it has sparked the development of an extraordinary community that dramatically elevates inquiry-based student learning and teaching research and training, here and around the world. Don, Hon. LLD’07, will recount his own tough time as a young teacher as motivation for his support of this one-of-a-kind program, but his desire to spark lasting positive change quite clearly extends well beyond his own experience. He and Ruth share a passion for preparing and inspiring students — in large part, by ensuring those who teach them are prepared and inspired. More than any walls or windows that the heart behind that drive — their devotion to the enrichment and success of people — that shapes the future of this campus and our community.