Ann McCaig is a dedicated volunteer who has made lasting contributions to Calgary, the province and the country. Her strongest accomplishments are seen in her work to strengthen and support post-secondary education and her eloquent advocacy of programs for children and youth.
Ann’s small town prairie upbringing lies at the root of her commitment to community service. Her early years in Saskatchewan centered around family, church and community. Ann’s mother and father, the local John Deere implement and Chrysler dealer, led by example. It was a world where, as Ann points out, “if you wanted something, you did it yourself. You raised the funds and had fun doing it.” This environment provided Ann with a powerful combination of traits – a sense of warmth and compassion for others, tempered with a healthy dose of determination, strength and self-sufficiency.
Ann earned a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1961 and moved to Calgary to teach English and history. She returned to Saskatchewan, where she married her first husband in 1962, and continued to teach for a short time before turning her attention to helping with her husband’s business and raising their three children: Roxanne, Jane and John. Ann also served as a youth counsellor at Lakeview United Church in Regina and helped establish one of the city’s first group homes. That initiative was Ann’s first major fundraising project. Besides being a moving and rewarding experience, it showed her she had valuable skills to offer as a fundraiser and community advocate.
In 1970, Ann returned to Alberta with her young family and settled in Calgary. She enjoyed the energy and vitality of the city and valued its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, which have long served as a place of reflection and recreation for her. Ann’s first husband, Roger, died in 1976. She worked through the challenge of the following years with characteristic strength and determination, continuing to raise her young family and serve as a volunteer. She married Bud McCaig in 1984.
The same year Ann began a new chapter in her life with Bud, she also embarked on a new relationship with the University of Calgary. She was approached by her friend and mentor, Peter Lougheed, and asked to serve on the U of C’s board of governors. Although daunted, she accepted the position, spurred on by Peter’s insistence that it was “time to get to work.” And work, she did. She served on the board from 1984 to 1994 before becoming chancellor in 1995. With her characteristic dedication, she took on her new duties as a full-time job. At the end of her term in 1998, the university conferred upon her the title chancellor emeritus in recognition of her outstanding service to the school, which has also included co-chairing the Faculty of Management’s $13 million fundraising campaign and serving as vice-chair on the national Building on the Vision $40 million campaign. Ann continues to serve as one of the university’s most dedicated and passionate ambassadors.
Ann’s work to support post-secondary education in Alberta and across Canada includes service as a trustee of the Killam Estate. In this role, she helps to oversee the administration and distribution of scholarships to post-graduate students at Canadian universities, as well as Killam Fellowships and Prizes for Canada’s leading professors and scholars.
Ann’s passion for children and youth, as well as her skill as a businesswoman, can be seen in her work as chair of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre in Calgary. She is a dedicated supporter, advocate and fundraiser for the Centre, which provides residential treatment for youth aged 12 to 18 who are struggling with multiple addictions. Ann’s efforts are driven by the knowledge that it is a place some of its young residents have come to call “the last house on the block.” Ann is currently working on a fundraising project to expand the Centre’s capacity from its current limit of 30 residents.
Ann has also served as co-chair of Alberta Children’s Hospital’s All for One-All for Kids campaign, which raised $50 million for the new Calgary facility. She was Chair of the Calgary Zoo’s Tusks and Tails Ball, which raised $1 million over four years for education and conservation education at the zoo. Other community service duties include past chairperson of the Calgary Foundation, board member of the Banff Centre Foundation, director of the Calgary United Way, National Director of the Shaw Festival Niagara-On-The-Lake and Director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. She has served on the board of Suncor Energy since 1995.
She is a recipient of the Canada 125 Award, the YWCA Woman of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award and a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International. In 2001, Ann received an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Calgary. In 2004, she was one of the inaugural recipients of the University of Calgary Education Partnership Award as part of the University’s Celebration of Excellence.
Ann often draws inspiration from the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “you must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Ann McCaig takes those words to heart. She doesn’t shy away from a challenge, preferring instead to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She has done a great many things to make her community, province and country a better place to live and, in doing so with such grace and passion, she has inspired others to do the same.
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence