Flying the Tricolour in Calgary
Calgary, fast emerging as one of Canada’s most dynamic, vibrant, and prosperous cities, is also home to thousands of Queen’s alumni. Coincidence? Definitely not!
They are geologists, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. They hail from the Maritimes, central Canada, the prairies, B.C., and small-town Alberta.
Some are newly retired. Others are well into their working lives. Still others are recent grads just starting to make names for themselves and launching their careers.
But despite disparate ages and areas of expertise, the more than 4,000 Queen’s alumni who call Calgary home are stitched together by a common history, and a shared experience that spans decades and disciplines.
Whether drawn home by the big sky – embroidered on the western side by the jagged Rockies – or lured to this fast-growing city by job prospects, this common thread binds them. The result: a well-connected and active Branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) that each year holds numerous events where attendees socialize, network, celebrate their common history, and find ways to give back to the university that gave them so much.
“Queen’s grads are the largest alumni group in Calgary from a school outside of Alberta, says Jim Campbell, Ed’76, the manager of Queen’s Western Canada Office – which is located at Perpetual Energy thanks to the generous support of President and CEO Sue Riddell Rose, Sc’86.
Calgary, with the second highest number of head offices in the country and as the centre of the energy sector, has plenty of jobs for engineers, business majors, and geologists.
“Calgary is the most dynamic city in Canada,” says Michael Casey, Law ’72.
And its history is linked to pioneers and exploration.
“It’s a city of risk-takers,” says Joe Lougheed, Artsci’88. “Queen’s, from an early time, seems to mold that into its graduates.”
Small wonder a growing number of Queen’s grads from all parts of Canada are flocking to the city. Other Tricolour alumni here are native westerners who took a risk when they decided to leave home and family to study among the limestone buildings of the University’s campus in Kingston.
Those first few days and weeks test students’ mettle, while also cultivating lifelong friendships. When the graduates leave for home again, they take with them their connection to the school.
“There’s a special attachment when you’re from Queen’s,” says Mike O’Connor, Sc’68, PhD ’76, DSc’92. “It stays with you forever.”
And you become part of a family, one that in Calgary continues to thrive and grow.
“As soon as you say you’re from Queen’s, a lot of people welcome you with open arms,” says Josephine Tsang, PhD ’06, a former Branch president.
They all have their personal reasons for maintaining ties with Queen’s and for supporting the institution where they were educated, came of age, and broadened their horizons. “A lot of people believe in paying it forward,” says Tsang.
The Calgary Branch of the QUAA was founded in 1951 by Keith Mitchell, BSc’34. However, it was in sizeable measure due to the passion and enthusiasm of his successor, Dr. Ernie Johnson, MD’38, that the Calgary Branch grew from its humble beginnings. When Johnson handed over the reins to Kim Sturgess, Sc’77, in 1981 after almost 30 years at the helm, his efforts on behalf of his alma mater and his own loyalty and philanthropy were commemorated with the creation of an annual award named after him, which honours Queen’s spirit in the west.
The Queen’s community in Calgary is thriving. Today, the group organizes everything from pub nights, to cultural and sports outings, to charitable fundraising events, and an annual summer BBQ that Kim Sturgess, a longtime Trustee, has kindly hosted for many years.
And here, under the endless western skies, new memories are being added to those that were created during student days at Queen’s. “It wasn’t just a four-year education,” says Sturgess. “It was a life experience.”
That point was underscored when the Review spoke recently with some of the alumni in Calgary who are living, working, and helping to make this into one of Canada’s most vibrant, dynamic, and exciting cities.
Tricolour to the core -- Kim Sturgess, Sc'77
Kim Sturgess, who graduated in Engineering Physics 35 years ago, describes herself as “Queen’s down to the underwear.” And her enthusiasm for her alma mater is almost palpable.
At the same time, she’s no less passionate about Calgary, the city she has called home for decades.
Kim fell in love with Calgary while working here as a summer student, and she moved to the city in 1978 to take a job with Imperial Oil. When the Trudeau government’s controversial national energy program stifled activity in the oil patch in the early 1980’s, Kim headed back east again to earn an MBA at the University of Western Ontario. She was in good company in London; about 20 per cent of her class had Queen’s degrees. (With such innovative and dynamic grad programs now being offered by Queen’s own School of Business, many teams of Calgary executives are earning an MBA right in city boardrooms, another way the ranks of Queen’s alumni in Calgary are growing.)
However, eventually Kim felt a tug from her adopted home in the west, and the self-described “serial entrepreneur” returned to Calgary in 1986 and built up and sold a series of companies. After a life-changing accident in 2005 she founded Alberta WaterSMART – a not-for-profit organization the goal of which is to improve water management awareness and practices in the province. Any surplus that arises from the fee-for-service work goes into projects that promote the public good.
“Water is our most important resource and we need to get smarter about how we manage it,” says Kim.
It was her father, a military pilot, who encouraged her to go to Queen’s where her uncle, John Sturgess, had done some research at the medical school.
Kim was contemplating applying to the U of T, but having grown up in the quiet of PEI, she realized she couldn’t handle the noisy, big city.
Stepping onto the Queen’s campus “was like being home,” she recalls. “I fell in love with it, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Kim has been a Queen’s Trustee and the Board’s Vice-Chair, has served on the University Council and on two campaign cabinets, and became Calgary Branch president when she took over from Dr. Ernie Johnson, MD’38, in 1981. In June she hosted the Branch’s annual dinner at her house for the 23rd year.
Why does she continue to be involved with Queen’s? The answer is simple. “Queen’s has been good to me. I want to make sure the experience continues for others,” she says.
Two Roses in the oil patch -- Mike Rose, Artsci'79 & Sue Riddell-Rose, Sc'86
Mike Rose, Artsci’79, and Sue Riddell-Rose, Sc’86, are two grads who are at the wellhead of Alberta’s thriving oil and gas industries.
Each heads a major company. They share a passion for their work, for geology, and for their shared, though not mutual, experiences at Queen’s.
While the couple’s paths didn’t overlap until they both worked for Shell in Calgary, their reasons for choosing Queen’s were similar.
Mike’s parents advised him that a university experience “away from home” would be good for him. Sue went to the U of Calgary for her first year, but then set her sights on schools elsewhere.
Both took geological field studies and today praise the down-to-earth faculty at Queen’s. They studied under some of the same professors.
Mike came to Calgary after graduation, along with “about a third of my class,” to work for Shell.
Later he founded Berkley Petroleum and then formed Duvernay Oil, which he sold in 2008 before starting Tourmaline Oil, which he continues to run today. Sue left Shell for Paramount. Today, she’s President and CEO of Perpetual Energy.
“Both of us parlayed our degrees into entrepreneurial ideas. Innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is fostered at Queen’s,” says Sue.
Their training in geological engineering has paid off handsomely, and it continues to do so. Says Sue, “We both do geology every day.”
Mike agrees. “It makes work fun if you enjoy what you’re doing,” he adds.
And both, in turn, give back to Queen’s.
Mike has returned to the Queen’s campus in 2009, 2010, and 2012 to take part in the Oil and Gas Speaker Series, an annual careers-oriented event staged by the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Mike gave Queen’s some of the proceeds from the sales of both his Duvernay and Berkley companies in the form of scholarships, grants to the Integrated Learning Centre, funding for the geological field studies program, and the fitness area of the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC). In fact, ARC’s main floor is dedicated to Duvernay in recognition of Mike and Sue’s generosity to the University.
The couple joke that off-campus housing in Kingston often has bad plumbing, and so the ARC affords students a place to get a work out and take a shower, too.
Headin’ up “the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” -- Michael Casey, Law'72
A born-and-raised Albertan with an undergraduate degree from the U of Alberta, Michael Casey, Law’72, saw his law studies as a way to further his education while seeing other parts of Canada.
With that in mind, all his applications went out of province, and he made the move east to Kingston in 1969. The smaller campus and excellent reputation of the institution’s law program were draws.
His Queen’s experience did not disappoint him. “It was absolutely top-drawer. I’m really just as happy as I can be that I went there,” he says.
Over the three years he studied in Kingston, Mike developed strong friendships with his law school classmates – many of these relationships continue to this day.
After graduation, he landed an articling job at Field Law in Calgary. He’s been there ever since. Mike practices civil litigation, but he also works on dispute resolution.
Outside the office, he serves as President and Chair of the board for the Calgary Stampede, which celebrated its centennial in July to national media fanfare. “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” has been a part of Mike’s life since he first volunteered in 1975. (His award-winning legal career as a senior partner of Field Law and his history with the Stampede were profiled last year in Queen’s Law Reports.)
With 100 years under its shiny belt buckle, this year’s event was extra special for Mike and for other Queen’s alumni in town. When the Queen’s Bands were invited to take part in the Stampede’s parade for the first time it brought together Mike’s past and present in one big exhibition that brought a smile to his face.
A little kindness long remembered -- Mike O'Connor, Sc'68, PhD'76, DSc'92
There’s no debating it. The first two years Mike O’Connor, Sc’68, PhD’76, DSc’92, spent at Queen’s were rough.
He changed his major after getting some low grades, and then he changed it again. When he suffered through a bout of mononucleosis that put him in hospital for two months, he had to drop classes and pick them up again later.
Despite this, “Queen’s never gave up on him”, as he puts it. And so he has spent years paying that back.
Born in Ottawa and raised in nearby Cornwall, Mike first learned about the Calgary Stampede when his aunt returned from a trip out west and brought him a souvenir pennant from the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” It took him another 16 years before he could see it for himself and another 30 after that before he got involved as a volunteer, but today he sits on the Stampede Board of Directors.
Like so many others, Mike says “attending Queen’s changed my life.” He met his late wife, Mary (Agar), BA’67, on the very first day of school in the fall of 1964. “It was love at first sight for me, but it took much longer for Mary to see the light,” Mike recalls with a laugh.
Queen’s remained an important part of their lives for the next four decades. Sadly, Mary died in 2004.
After finishing his undergrad degree, Mike became a geophysicist in the oil and gas industry in Calgary until Queen’s lured him back to graduate school. With their four-month-old child in tow, Mike and Mary sold their house and returned to Kingston, moving into the married students’ quarters.
When Mike earned his PhD, he returned to Calgary, where he worked as an engineering consultant before starting his own firm in 1979 with his brother-in-law John Agar, Sc’73, MSc’78, and their fellow alumnus Doug King, Sc’70, MSc’75. Their business proved to be such an environmentally innovative operation that Queen’s awarded Mike an honorary degree in 1992. However, his favourite return to campus was in 1998-99 when he and Mary lived in Brockington House for a year and served as the first “mentors in residence” to engineering students.
Even today, Mike comes to Queen’s once a year to give an inspirational lecture to first-year students. “The story is simple: yes, Queen’s can be challenging, but if I can do it, you can too,” he says.
With that goal in mind, he shares his simple secret for success in life: “Have fun, do good work, and earn a living” – always in that order.
“For me, it’s now ‘have fun, do good work and give back,’” says Mike.
Truly a member of “the Queen’s family” -- Josephone Tsang, PhD'06
A series of chance meetings with Queen’s alumni has shaped the career and life of Josephine Tsang, PhD’06.
First, there was a co-op term – while she was earning an undergrad degree at the U of Calgary – that had her working at the Department of National Defence lab under Dr. Garfield Purdon, Sc’67.
In the year she worked for Purdon she came to realize that she wanted to put herself on a path similar to her mentor’s.
Her 2001 move to Queen’s was bold, but Josephine – whose parents had sent her from Hong Kong to the small farming community of Provost, Alberta when she was 13 – was accustomed to starting fresh in a place where she knew no one.
Her family, who had settled in Calgary in 1994, drew Josephine back to the city with her PhD.
With no job lined up, she began attending QUAA Calgary Branch events in hopes of making some connections. It was a chance meeting with fellow alumnus Mike O’Connor (see above), at a Branch function that prompted Mike to hire Josephine as an environmental scientist. She continued to work for him until late last year when she took a position with Sanjel Corporation as an Assistant Manager of Corporate Technology for the oil and gas company.
Having been helped by Queen’s alumni through her own studies and at the start of her career, helping others who got their education at the University became important to Josephine. “It’s my way of giving back,” she explains.
Josephine served as Branch president, helping to organize and taking part in countless events. Doing so further expanded her network of alumni friends and contacts. It has also given her a sense of the cohesiveness of the Queen’s community in Calgary. “I’d say we’re almost inseparable,” she says.
A Gael among the Dinos -- Jim Dinning, Com'74, MPA'77
This spring, Jim Dinning, Com’74, MPA’77, spent five days at U of Calgary convocations in his role as Chancellor, shaking hands with more than 3,500 graduating students.
Decades have passed since his own convocation at Queen’s, but the memories of his time on the campus studying for both his undergraduate and masters’ degrees remain vivid.
He praises the collegial nature of his alma mater.
“We were 11,000 students in those days,” he says, “but it was like big family.”
Raised to believe that “going to university” meant going away, Jim knew his post-secondary choices would be outside of Calgary. He ultimately settled on Queen’s for his commerce degree and later his MPA.
Between degrees, he travelled and then worked in Montreal at the Institute for Public Policy Research. He was lured back home to Alberta by the crisp winters, endless blue skies, and a job in the Premier’s Office.
Later, he was elected as an MLA, representing his constituents for 11 years and three cabinet posts: Minister of Community and Occupational Health, then Education, and finally provincial Treasurer. “I’ve had a great career in government,” he says.
Jim left politics for the world of business in 1997, when he became the executive vice-president of TransAlta Corporation, a post he held until 2004. He then served as chair of the Calgary Health Region and for the Western Financial Group. He re-entered politics briefly in 2006, when he ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, ultimately losing to Ed Stelmach.
In 2007, Jim was awarded the Calgary Branch’s Johnson Award – named in honour of Dr. Ernie Johnson, MD’38, a key figure in the history of the QUAA presence in Calgary.
It was in 2010 that the powers-that-be at the U of Calgary, having an eye for talent, commitment, and stamina, recruited Jim as the university’s 12th chancellor. Says Jim, “Queen’s will forever be in my blood: Frosh Week, the Purple Room at the Douglas Library, Earl Street parties, and the Wolfe Island ferry. I’ll have those happy memories forever. But true confession? I’m a homer now. I cheer for Calgary’s Dinos.”
A family love affair -- Joe Lougheed, Artsci'88
If you ask Joe Lougheed, Artsci’88, why he came to study at Queen’s, he will tell you that the answer to that question is simple: he didn’t want to live at home.
Growing up in Edmonton, Joe knew he would eventually make Alberta his permanent residence, but going away to university would be a way to expand his horizons.
His brother Stephen Lougheed had graduated from Queen’s in 1977 with a Commerce degree (Stephen is now President and CEO of the Edmonton-based organization Alberta Innovates Technology Futures) and three of his cousins also received their educations in Kingston.
Strangely enough, it was the London School of Economics – where Joe spent his fourth year of undergrad studies – that provided the groundwork for his involvement in Calgary’s thriving Queen’s community. While in London, he met fellow alum at Branch events and realized it was a great way to network and meet people.
After graduating in 1991 with a law degree from Dalhousie, another school with a Lougheed family connection (his grandfather was a 1923 grad, and his grandmother was Halifax-born), Joe returned to Calgary to article at Fraser Milner Casgrain. He has been with the firm ever since and is now a partner. But even though he has made Calgary his home since the early ’90s, part of his heart remains in Kingston. “I’ve never really left Queen’s,” he confides.
Connecting the city he calls home with the University that helped shape him has come naturally to him. Joe has served on the University’s Board of Trustees. He was president of the QUAA in 2001-02 and prior to that served as President of the Calgary Branch. He hosts an annual wine and cheese event for Calgary alumni, and he finds himself back in Kingston a couple of times each year.
“The Queen’s-Calgary fabric is something I hold dear,” he says.
That family connection goes beyond Joe and his brother. Their dad, Peter Lougheed, LLD’1996, served as Queen’s chancellor for six years (1996-2002). The former premier, who led Alberta for 14 years (1971-85) is one of Canada’s most respected elder statesmen – a fact that was underscored recently when a survey done by the Institute for Research and Public Policy hailed him as “Canada’s best premier of the last 40 years.”
Joe Lougheed says Queen’s asked him and brother Stephen to “work on” their dad about signing on to the chancellor position. “That’s the only job I’ve helped him get,” Joe says with a laugh.
The author or our cover story, Gwendolyn Richards, is the food writer for the Calgary Herald. Photographer Mike O'Connor was the winner of our 2007 Snap Judgments photo contest. – Ed.
Queen's Bands march in Calgary Stampede parade
Seventy-seven Queen’s Bands members who took part in this year’s Calgary Stampede Parade were given a rousing welcome by local alumni. In the photo at left are (l-r) Chengbo Qian, Com’12, Raymond Lau, Sc’07, Artsci’09 (in his Queen’s tartan cowboy shirt), and Taylor Lewis, Artsci’13.
A QUEEN’S SALUTE TO A BRIGHT YOUNG MIND
Since 2006, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAs) has presented a $250 cash prize to a student or team of two who have produced a particularly impressive entry in the Calgary Youth Science Fair, an annual event that attracts more than 1,000 entrants in grades 5-12. The prize winners also become eligible for a $1,000 bursary should they come to Queen’s to study in the FEAs. In 2010, Lakshmi N. Kallambettu along with a classmate won the prize, and Lakshmi will begin his year in Chemical Engineering this fall. FEAs Associate Dean (Academic) Lynann Clapham, PhD’87, was on hand in April to present the 2012 prize to Nicole Schmidt, a grade seven student at F.E. Osborne Junior High in Calgary (perhaps a member of the Class of Sc’21?).
QSB GRADS IN DEMAND IN CALGARY
At a recent event in Calgary, the Business Career Centre at Queen’s School of Business hosted 37 of Alberta’s top employers to showcase QSB’s programs and the high calibre of its Commerce, MBA, and other post-graduate alumni. Also on the agenda was the announcement of a new partnership with BluEra, a leading Calgary-based executive search and team transformation firm led by Catherine Bell, EMBA’02. The partnership gives QSB a visible presence in the city and the opportunity to offer recruiters a local resource to consult for assistance in recruiting QSB grads. Catherine’s role also involves advising graduating students on how to tap into Alberta’s lucrative market and the QSB network when investigating their career options. – QSB MAGAZINE
Employers interested in more information on how to hire QSB graduates – in Alberta, elsewhere in Canada, or for international postings – can contact email@example.com.