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Fifty Years Strong

The Haskayne School of Business celebrates its semi-centennial


In 1967, the city of Calgary was 73 years old. Its growing population had reached 335,806, making it the second-largest city in Alberta. Canada celebrated its centennial which, in Calgary, was honoured in a variety of ways including construction of the Calgary Tower (originally the Husky Tower) and development of Confederation Park. The University of Calgary was just a year old and on July 1, by a margin of one vote, its faculty of business was born.

Fifty years later, the Haskayne School of Business (Haskayne) is one of Canada’s premier business schools. With six programs (including bachelor of commerce, master of business administration and executive MBA programs), 3,652 undergraduate and graduate students in 2016, 230 faculty and staff, two campuses and over 24,000 alumni in 80 countries, Haskayne is a fundamental part of Calgary. And its future looks brighter than ever.

“[The 50th anniversary] is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come,” says Jim Dewald, dean since April 2013. “The Haskayne School of Business has been blessed to receive strong community support, strong leadership and exceptional scholarship from a world-class faculty.” To celebrate the semi-centennial, the school is holding an open house on September 22 and a gala celebration on September 23. Tickets are available online.

Like all true successes, Haskayne’s story is unique and not without its ups and downs. The founding dean, Dr. James M.A. Robinson, found himself with many operational challenges in the first year: 360 students but no staff or space, and little budget.

He also had to choose between two prevalent business school models at that time: a professional one which limited specialization and a scientific-research approach emphasizing business disciplines. “He had a very strong orientation towards the professional model,” explains Vernon Jones, senior associate dean. Jones joined the school in 1979 as a faculty member and has held many administrative roles since. “But as time goes on, we try to do both, and there’s more emphasis on the scientific-research approach, which you see in our faculty today.”

The founding curriculum provided for business courses to be taught in later years following an arts and science base.

Robinson, who had worked with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) prior to becoming dean, positioned the faculty for eventual accreditation with AACSB International, which occurred in 1985. “You don’t get accredited out of the box, you have to build it up,” Jones explains. “So I credit him with setting that in motion – recognizing that we should develop in a way that would meet those standards.”

Dr. Stephen Peitchinis served as dean from 1973 to 1975 and during this time the push for a graduate program began. In 1975, a part-time master of management studies was launched. In 1977, a quota on admission was established at 330 students and in 1978 the school was renamed the faculty of management.

Dean Peitchinis also established the Management Advisory Council (MAC), which, to this day, is an invaluable resource. “By the late 1970s, we had a very substantial advisory council of leading lights in the city,” says Jones. Today’s MAC includes many Calgary and international business leaders, a number of which are alumni.

In 1979, Professor Bob Schulz, PhD, began advising student teams for the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition at Queen’s University. For 38 years, “Dr. Bob” has coached Haskayne teams who have consistently placed at or near the top.

Dawn Farrell, president and CEO of TransAlta, was an undergraduate student during this time, graduating in 1983. “Like all students I enjoyed some aspects of business school more than others,” she reflects. “I liked my finance, economics and strategy courses the best and I learned concepts in organizational design that I’ve used until today.”

She recalls taking several arts courses in her first couple years, questioning their usefulness. “What I didn’t think was necessary was in fact good for me. I am a strong advocate of a broad liberal arts background as part of a strong business degree. Ethics are absolutely necessary to be a good businessperson – focusing only on the technical aspects of business is insufficient for what is required to do the job.”

Dean George Lane had stressed the need for a physical building for several years and this was met in 1981 when Ralph Scurfield, president of the Nu-West Group, decided to donate $4 million on behalf of himself and his family and $4 million on behalf of Nu-West for the construction of a home for the school. The funds were to be matched by the Alberta government.

Dr. P. Michael Maher became dean in 1981, a position he held for 18 years. Among many accomplishments, he was instrumental in fundraising efforts. One of his initiatives was the Associates Fund, an annual drive where individuals could become associates of the faculty with a donation of $1,000 per annum.

The Future Fund Endowment Campaign was linked to the new building and launched in 1984 with a target of $4.8 million, to be matched by the provincial government. The campaign was a success and exceeded $12 million by 1988. A key element to the campaign was the naming of rooms in the new building after donors – rooms such as the Esso Theatre, the Alberta Energy Company case room and the Dingle conference room were created.

Scurfield Hall officially opened in 1986. More than 130 individuals and corporations who had contributed to the Future Fund were recognized in the building. Tragically, Ralph Scurfield had passed away in a skiing accident in February of 1985. His wife Mrs. Sonia Scurfield and family represented him at the opening.

The mid-1980s brought other developments: the launch of the executive development program, the New Venture Group (the foundation for the enterprise MBA program) and a full-time MBA program in 1986.

By the early 1990s, the pressure to expand the B.Comm. program came to a head; the quota of 330 students and the size of Scurfield Hall were far exceeded by the number of applicants. “The sense was ‘we’ve got all the facilities we need, so now we have to enhance the faculty, and make it stronger at the graduate level and in research,’” Jones explains. “It wasn’t an entirely happy situation – we certainly acquired a lot of faculty and grew, but budget cuts in the 1990s truncated that quite a bit. Nevertheless, I think the quality of the school improved a lot.”

Significant expansions to the B.Comm. program occurred: an additional $3.9 million in operating funds, capital grants and a fourth floor to Scurfield Hall. A concentration in tourism and the faculty’s first co-op program were added. The admission quota was raised to 510 students and a PhD program was introduced.

The 1990s also saw the establishment of a $2.4-million endowment for a chair of insurance and risk management, a MBA program in Poland, a bachelor of hotel and resort management program, and a M.Sc. in sustainable energy development degree program.

Renowned San Francisco Bay area technologist Gary Kovacs, who was most recently the CEO of AVG Technologies and has worked for Mozilla Corporation as CEO, Adobe, SAP, IBM and Zi Corporation, graduated with a B.Comm. from the business school in 1990.

“My experience was great,” he recalls. “It was a combination of local community and an education that I thought, and which proved to be true, would broaden my horizons. It gave me a very strong business foundation.”

Kovacs returned in the late 1990s to complete an executive MBA – a program launched in 1995. The program has grown to be one of the largest in Canada – this year, approximately 100 students took part – and, in 2005, was ranked as the top executive MBA program in Canada for career progress of graduates by the Financial Times.

For Kovacs, the relationships he made while at the school made the difference. “I really maximized the deep relationships with people that I could associate with that were all part of the Haskayne and university community. It is a community. People come into that community, they protect each other, they like each other, they help each other. I had a lot of really deep relationships, all of which I still have today.”

He recalls meeting with Richard F. (Dick) Haskayne, the namesake of the school today, who willingly spent time with a young Kovacs. “He said ‘let’s sit down’ and he spent time with me. And I didn’t matter in his world. Of course he said everybody matters, and that’s actually how he treated it.”

A name synonymous with Calgary business, Dick Haskayne has been one of the best things to happen to the management program. In 2002, Mr. Haskayne donated $16 million ($8 million in cash and $8.7 million in land) to the faculty, which was renamed in his honour. The donation was the largest charitable contribution in the history of the university at the time, and one of the largest charitable contributions to any business school in Canada.

In 2006, the 219-acre parcel of land was sold by the university to the City of Calgary for $20 million, and the Haskayne Endowment for Achieving Excellence has grown to $34 million today – among the largest at the university – generating income for the school in perpetuity. It allows the school to fund professorships, scholarships and bursaries to attract and retain students and professors.

“We’re happy about that,” says Mr. Haskayne. “I never thought I’d have that much – I started as a poor butcher’s son from Gleichen, Alberta. But I’ve been lucky financially and that’s what the [University of Alberta] business school did for me.”

“Mr. Haskayne’s name has transformed the school in terms of recognition and focus on the ethical principles that Mr. Haskayne embodies,” Dewald says.

Mr. Haskayne obtained his business degree in 1956 from the University of Alberta. After articling in Calgary he became a chartered accountant in 1959. Soon after, he joined Hudson’s Bay Oil and Gas, where he became president in 1980. He was president and CEO of Home Oil from 1981 to 1991, and president and CEO of Interhome Energy Inc.

He is past chairman of the board of TransCanada Corporation, Enbridge, Fording Inc., NOVA Corporation, TransAlta Corporation and MacMillan Bloedel. He has served as director on 20 public company boards, including Manulife, Encana Corporation, AEC and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He was chair of the board of governors of the university from 1990 to 1996 and now holds the title board chair emeritus.

He is an officer of the Order of Canada for his high ethical business standards and for having helped lead fundraising campaigns for several organizations including the university.

He’s proud of the fact the school bears his name, and highlights the myriad of notable graduates including Enbridge CEO Al Monaco (MBA’97), previous TransCanada president and CEO Hal Kvisle (MBA’82) and current TransCanada president and CEO Russell Girling (B.Comm.’85, MBA’91).

“That’s the best publicity this school can get – people who have done well in business,” he says. “I can’t think of many other places where they can talk about current chief executives over the last 10 years that have come from the same business school.”

He notes that Dewald, too, is a graduate of the school (PhD’06): “He’s a businessman – he’s been in the practical world of business as CEO and on some boards and that, in my view, from an administrative point of view, is by far the best we’ve had.”

In addition to the name change, the 2000s involved efforts to hire strong research faculty. Dean David Saunders established three donor-supported positions: the RBC Financial Group Chair held by Professor Robert Elliott; the McCaig Research Chair in Management held by Professor Alain Verbeke; and the Robson Professorship in Management held by Professor Barrie Nault. “We hired three strong, distinguished faculty,” says Jones, “who provided leadership for research.”

The hirings had the intended effect: the late 2000s saw Haskayne gain increasing international repute. In 2008, the executive MBA program ranked No. 38 in the Financial Times (U.K.) international ranking of executive MBA programs, and in 2009, the MBA and undergraduate programs ranked second among 35 MBA and 47 undergraduate programs across Canada in the Knight School ranking.

In 2010, the global energy executive MBA program was launched, and the Economist magazine ranked the Haskayne MBA program in its Top 100 list for the first time, putting it at No. 82 worldwide (No. 42 in North America and No. 3 in Canada).

Since becoming dean (he was an associate professor before), Dewald has accomplished much. “The past five years have been very active in terms of academic recruitment,” he explains. “Today, almost 50 per cent of our faculty have been recruited in the last five years.” Many of these are global researchers and active student-oriented instructors.

Dewald took the job to move the 3E strategy – established in 2011 to focus on ethical leadership, entrepreneurial thinking, and energy – forward.

Through philanthropic funding, several major centres have been established, including: the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business (2012) funded by ARC Resources and Mac and Susan Van Wielingen; the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (2013); the Centre for Corporate Sustainability (2014); and the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies (2013).

Dewald is also proud of the school’s community engagement. “We have established a collection of speaker series and community events that have resulted in over 4,000 people attending Haskayne events this past academic year.”

Kovacs, who is a member of Dewald’s MAC and a past recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the university’s alumni association, says now is a critical time for universities. “The number of degree-granting institutions in the Calgary market has grown substantially,” he says. “We’re right in the middle of a pivot point, and I don’t believe that any university can sit still and ride this out. It’s going to demand very clear identification of who we are, and I know the university and Haskayne are well aware and have been leading this.”

He says continual adaptations to virtual learning are required. “Time is the commodity we don’t have. How can a university of the stature of the U of C adapt to be flexible enough to allow people to live in the real world but also benefit from the incredible gifts it has to give?”

Mr. Haskayne is pragmatic about the future. “I don’t have any great ambition, other than the stability of the school. Every time there’s a new dean, you always wonder if it’s going to work, and I hope Jim is going to stay for another term.”

“Yes, I will be applying for another term,” confirms Dewald, who’s current term ends in June 2018, “and would hope to be able to lead our school to establish ourselves as a top-tier school in Canada, with quality research, education and community connections, focusing primarily on the areas that make Calgary a great business centre – ethical leadership, entrepreneurial thinking and energy.”

As it celebrates 50 years of existence, the Haskayne community – its students, teachers, administrators and supporters – has much to be proud of. Not only has it made an indelible mark on the city in which it exists, it has sent out into the world tens of thousands of individuals who are achieving great things every day. There is as much to celebrate as there is to look forward to.