Change leader Hal Kvisle received an Honorary Doctor of Laws June 7

Passion for learning guided Mount Royal from college to university

Change leader Hal Kvisle.

Hal Kvisle supports Mount Royal science students through the funding of the Kvisle Scholarship, awarded each year to a full-time student enrolled in the Bachelor of Science program with a major or minor in biology, chemistry or physics.

One day in the late-1970s, a curious Hal Kvisle rode his bicycle onto Mount Royal College’s campus for the first time, checking out the building project and taking in his first glimpses of the institution that wasn’t far from his southwest Calgary home at that time. Biking around the dusty construction site, Kvisle could hardly have guessed that day the impact Mount Royal would have on him, or the influence he would come to bear on the institution over the next four decades.

MRU bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Laws on the long-time energy industry executive at the afternoon Convocation ceremony on June 7 in the company of Bissett School of Business and School of Communication Studies graduands. Kvisle also received the second-ever honorary degree (Bachelor of Arts) from the newly-minted Mount Royal University at the November 2009 convocation, two years after he concluded a five-year term as the college’s chair of its Board of Governors.

Kvisle jokes that it will actually be his third MRU degree — past president Dr. David Marshall, PhD, playfully presented him with a bachelor’s in “ministerial relations” following the consuming task of having the Alberta government grant university status to the then-Mount Royal College.

“I doubt it’s recognized in Mount Royal’s registry of degrees, but I have it,” Kvisle chuckles.

Through an illustrious career Kvisle has accumulated numerous accolades, including being named Canada’s CEO of the Year in 2008 and selected to the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame in 2012. He joined Dome Petroleum in 1975 and later founded Fletcher Challenge Energy Canada (1990 –1999) before joining TransCanada Pipelines in 1999. Within two years, Kvisle was named president and CEO. He retired from TransCanada in 2010, and on his last day he opened the original Keystone pipeline between Hardisty, AB and refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Retirement was brief. In 2012 Kvisle joined Talisman Energy as president and CEO until it was acquired by Repsol in 2015. Today he remains involved in business as board chair of ARC Resources and Finning International.

Kvisle’s relationship with Mount Royal began in earnest with a phone call from then-chair of the Board, David Tuer, in 2001.

“David quite forcefully asked if I would be prepared to succeed him as chair of Mount Royal. I was very busy as I had just been appointed CEO at TransCanada, but he told me, ‘It won’t take much of your time,’” Kvisle says. “Well, it turns out that’s what they always say to you in these situations.”

Kvisle joined the board, but asked to spend a year apprenticing as vice-chair. “I didn’t know the issues and challenges that Mount Royal was facing, so I spent that year getting up to speed. Jack Ady, who served as chair for that year, and I talked many, many times and 12 months later I felt prepared to step into the job.”

As board chair, Kvisle stickhandled through many challenges relating to growing an institution with limited financial resources. He cites three main accomplishments that came to fruition with the support of many stakeholders at Mount Royal and throughout Calgary: completing a $125-million capital project that significantly expanded campus facilities, including the construction of the Bissett School of Business in the early 2000s; securing university status from the Alberta government in 2009; and, co-chairing the $250-million Changing the Face of Education fundraising campaign from 2010 to 2014 that, in part, enabled the University to construct such campus landmarks as the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

“Working with his co-chairs, Hal played an instrumental role in supporting the Changing the Face of Education (campaign) at MRU,” says Dr. Gwen O’Sullivan, PhD, chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “His active role in successful fundraising campaigns has assisted in the translation of his career success into community success.”

Kvisle also supports Mount Royal science students through the funding of the Kvisle Scholarship, awarded each year to a full-time student enrolled in the Bachelor of Science program with a major or minor in biology, chemistry or physics.

“The Mount Royal community owes a lot to Hal, for the role he has played in shaping the history and evolution of our institution, during which time he also demonstrated a primary commitment to STEM disciplines within our context,” says Dr. Jonathan Withey, DPhil, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

While he remains an avid cyclist, it’s been a while since Kvisle travelled to the University’s campus by bike. But since that first ride to satisfy a curiosity more than 40 years ago, many of MRU’s most tangible changes — major facility developments, gaining status as an undergraduate degree-granting university and successfully concluding the largest fundraising campaign in MRU’s history — owe thanks to Kvisle’s involvement and to his passion for undergraduate studies.

“My father really instilled in us the tradition that post-secondary education is important,” Kvisle says. “One thing I knew was that for a lot of kids from less fortunate families, they can’t afford an undergraduate degree if they can’t live at home. A burning passion for me was to figure out how we could increase Calgary’s undergraduate student capacity, which was far lower per capita than most other Canadian cities, and to do so particularly for those in less fortunate economic circumstances.”

“I saw how Mount Royal, with university status, could fill a huge gap, so I was happy to dedicate a lot of time to it.”

June 2, 2021 — Matthew Fox

Watch the live stream of Mount Royal’s 2021 Spring Convocation ceremonies, which are happening in a drive-in format. Eight ceremonies will take place from June 7 to June 10.