By Вen Li
"The University of Calgary is a very key and important asset to both the city and the province. The future obviously [depends on] the education of our young people."
Brian MacNeill, the 61-year-old chairman of the board at Petro-Canada and the University of Calgary’s incoming Board of Governors chair, has a special place for education and community in his busy life. As a husband and a father to U of C graduates, MacNeill hopes to bring his experience as a natural resource industry leader and a leader in the community here.
"When I retired from Enbridge, I didn’t just want to retire," he said. "I wanted to devote a certain amount of my time to board-type roles, a certain component of time related to not-for-profit organizations [such as] a university type situation, and then a component of time for leisure to spend a little more time with my grandkids and family. I’ve always been active in various endeavours in the community such as the United Way or [as a board member at] Mount Royal College."
McNeill is currently the chair of the United Way of Calgary and will retire at the general meeting this spring to focus his attention on other endeavours.
"My focus really for the community would be at the university, and it’s certainly one that appeals to me. There’s some challenges out there and I’ve been looking forward to getting involved. The university is a great asset for the community and I think we want to keep it strong and vibrant."
The years of experience and knowledge MacNeill brings to the University is a result of his involvement in the finance and resource industries for almost 40 years.
"I actually moved to Calgary from Winnipeg and worked for an oil and gas company [in 1960] and I found it quite a fascinating industry even back at that level. When I started out, I was an accounts payable clerk, probably the lowest position in the accounting department. Nevertheless, you get a good grounding there. I found the experience I got in that industry quite fascinating."
Seeking a more well-rounded education, MacNeill went to Montana State University where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree, and subsequently earned a Certified Public Accountant designation in San Francisco in 1965.
"Eventually, when I decided to leave public accounting–my first love at that point was the oil and gas and energy sector and it was at the time very much a growing sector–I came back to Calgary and pretty much have been in that field off and on since then."
The CPA has been involved in many national and international natural resource companies in a financial capacity since then, driving him to move nine separate times during his career. But the oil industry that so fascinated and interested him eventually brought him back to Calgary and to the U of C .
"[I’ve been] associated with Kinesiology because my daughter is a graduate of the U of C in Kinesiology and is currently taking a masters of educational psychology at the U of C," he said proudly of her achievements and her position at the National Sports Centre. His involvement in Dinos athletics doesn’t end there, however.
"I used to go when my daughter played field-hockey and when she coached, so I’ve been to those. I’ve been to one football game I think, but nothing since I’ve been appointed. I’ll check on the schedule next week. But I do cheer for the Dinos," he enthused. "I was hoping they’d be in the Vanier Cup this year. We [Petro-Canada] were one of the sponsors and I presented the trophy to the winning team, but as I said, unfortunately the Dinos weren’t in the event this year. I’m sure they will be next year."
Despite his involvement with the MBA, Engineering and Kinesiology programs at the U of C, being asked to chair the BoG was not his doing.
"Well, I didn’t get directly involved," he laughed. "I think the current chair, when his term was coming up, submitted some names to the government, one of which was mine. I’ve known the Premier for a number of years in a number of other endeavours I’ve been involved in [such as] the Economic Development Board of Alberta and the [Education] minister knew me through Mount Royal. So I suspect, not knowing what the process was in Edmonton, my background with the U of A and Mount Royal probably and my committee involvement must have helped."
"I’m certainly looking forward to getting involved in the University. I’ve got a great deal of respect for the U of C and the people involved there, so I’m excited and looking forward to July."