Oct. 18, 2022
Donors’ vision comes to life as Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking moves into its new home
“Entrepreneurialism” is more than a buzzword for Doug and Diane Hunter — it’s an ethos that’s helped them navigate life’s challenges and opportunities, giving them the curiosity to think differently, the courage to take risks, and the vision to make an extraordinary investment in the University of Calgary.
This week, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking moved into its permanent home in the new Hunter Student Commons, where students and scholars from all disciplines can come together to develop and launch new ideas, inspire and challenge one another, and create positive change in the world around them — just as the Hunters have been doing for decades.
“Before I graduated, I don’t think I’d ever heard the word ‘entrepreneurial’ before,” recalls Doug, Hon. LLD’19. It was at one of his first jobs, as part of a small-but-mighty team with a Calgary petroleum consulting firm, that the concept clicked for him.
“You soon learn to carry your own weight and be productive. That was my first exposure to entrepreneurship.”
That experience may have put a name to it, but innovative thinking and problem-solving have long been in the Hunters’ playbook — dating back to when they were fresh out of high school and newly married.
When their respective families couldn’t afford to send them to university, Doug and Diane took turns working and going to school. When Doug launched his consulting business in 1971, it was Diane and their children who were the “associates” in H. Douglas Hunter and Associates.
And when they considered how they could apply that kind of fresh thinking on a larger scale, they partnered with UCalgary to foster entrepreneurialism in the next generation.
A legacy 10 years in the making
Located in the heart of campus on the site of the former MacKimmie Block (once the home of UCalgary’s main library), the Hunter Hub is a cornerstone of UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem — one that’s been nearly a decade in the making.
In 2013, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was launched at Haskayne School of Business — supported by a $5-million gift from the Hunter Family Foundation — offering entrepreneurial courses to educate and inspire future business leaders.
This paved the way for a campus-wide initiative and one of the largest gifts in UCalgary history: $40 million to establish the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking in 2017. Since then, from its temporary location in the MacEwan Student Centre, it has supported entrepreneurial experiences through unique programming and events, funding opportunities and mentorship.
The Hub also helped establish UCalgary as Canada’s entrepreneurial university, with students and scholars already transforming the economy and community — not strictly through business acumen, but also through creative thinking.
“The Hunter Hub is a place for creativity,” says Diane, BA’67, MA’69, Hon. LLD’19. “Rubbing shoulders with people who are creative and have different ideas sparks your own creativity.”
It’s something she and her husband passed along to their children, teaching them to identify problems and run with their ideas.
“We’re a family of entrepreneurs,” says son Derrick Hunter, MBA’90, president and CEO of Bluesky Equities Ltd. and a trustee of the Hunter Family Foundation. “We wanted to equip the next generation with an entrepreneurial mindset so they can be prepared to change careers multiple times over.”
Adds Diane: “This is who we are. This is what we’ve been through, where we’ve come from. Finding a way to help other people make that same track — that’s what we wanted to do.”
Breaking down silos to enrich the student experience
With the support of the Hunters, UCalgary is taking an umbrella approach to entrepreneurial thinking, helping students from all faculties develop initiative, resilience, risk-management and problem-solving skills, and transdisciplinary thinking.
“It was the vision of the Hunter family to create a space where students could come together with faculty, staff and mentors to discover for themselves what entrepreneurial thinking actually is about,” says UCalgary President Ed McCauley.
“It’s a space for them to gain the expertise, to gain the background necessary in order to take those initial steps to be very, very successful.”
Students, startups and entrepreneurial faculty and their ideas will flourish in the Hunter Hub’s new space, which includes a collision space for events and an innovation sandbox for startups to build their ventures — all designed to promote networking and engagement across the UCalgary innovation community.
Looking ahead, the Hunter Hub will keep that momentum going, expanding programming, partnering with businesses and community groups, and offering innovative programming and certificates for new students and lifelong learners, alike.
It’s an upward trajectory that will be shared by the city and province as the next generation of entrepreneurs build their careers, prepared to think outside the box and take risks.
It’s an important part of success, after all. “You have to be able to take that first step,” says Doug. “To learn from your mistakes and get support.”
“And get up and try it again,” adds Diane. “It can pay back so much more than what you expect.”
Learn more about Hunter Student Commons, including more details on what is included in the building.