"I just feel I have gained so much from this province and this community that no matter how long or how hard I contribute, I’ll never be able to give back what I’ve received."
A successful businessman and visionary community leader, Dennis Erker has had a larger-than-life impact on Edmonton’s arts, sports, and health-care sectors, as well as making a profound difference in the quality of life of injured members of the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and their families. He embodies the timeless spirit of giving back to society – the bedrock of community-building.
Born in 1945 in Regina, Dennis was adopted into a family of six children and grew up in the Lloydminster area, riding a horse to school for the first seven years of his schooling before moving to Alberta to complete junior and senior high school.
Although post-secondary education was not a priority for his parents, a high school teacher saw potential in Dennis and encouraged him to set his sights higher, lending him money for his first year’s tuition in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He married his high school sweetheart, Doreen, in 1965 and embarked on what would become his new career in the life insurance industry the following year, going on to establish the Fairley Erker Advisory Group, now one of Canada’s premier estate planning and group insurance brokerage firms. He contributed to his industry through leadership as President of the Edmonton Life Underwriter’s Association, as well as being a charter member of Conference of Advanced Life Underwriters, a national organization which provides advocacy to the industry through government liaison.
Realizing the importance of continuing education, he earned designation as a Chartered Life Underwriter in his early years of business and took advantage of opportunities to participate in business and motivational seminars over the years. Dennis was proud to be among the first group of recipients to earn the ICD.D. designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors from the University of Alberta Directors Education Program.
Over the years, Dennis has also added extensive community service activities to his accomplishments. For example, he has shown his love of sports through his duties as past chair of the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club and as a member of the Canadian Football League Board of Governors. He was chairman of the 1994 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Edmonton and served on the bid committee that successfully brought the World Championships in Athletics to the city in 2001.
Dennis has further fostered a greater quality of life for his fellow Edmontonians and all Albertans through his service to the Minerva Foundation, the Edmonton Community Foundation and Edmonton Northlands. He is the founding chair of the U of A Sports Wall of Fame and past chair of the U of A President’s Council. He served as a classroom mentor through Junior Achievement and continues to support this very worthwhile organization that promotes entrepreneurial skills in our young people. Dennis has also served in a leadership capacity on capital campaigns for the Mazankowski Heart Institute and the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
One of Dennis’s most enduring contributions is his longstanding support for Canada’s men and women in uniform. In his role as Honorary Colonel of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Dennis set out on a vision to create a temporary residence for injured members of the military, RCMP and other first responders who require medical treatment in Edmonton. He put his heart and soul into a community-wide push to raise the $10-million needed to build Valour Place, a 12-bedroom facility that was the first of its kind in Canada. “It provides hope away from home,” explains Dennis. In addition to ongoing efforts to build a self-sustaining endowment for the facility, he continues to volunteer regularly at Valour Place, in duties such as planting flowers and tending to the garden.
Of all the volunteer activities Dennis has been involved in, he says being Honorary Colonel of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment has been the most rewarding. “I don’t think you can render a service of more importance than to put yourself in harm’s way for the freedom of your country or the freedom of all people. I feel honoured to offer what support I can to those who keep our country safe.” Dennis has further supported awareness of Canada’s military legacy through participation in activities such as the annual four-day military march in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands. He has participated in several military exercises with members of his regiment. In his capacity as Honourary Colonel, he has taken a leadership role as Chair of the Council of Honourary Colonels at the national level.
Dennis has also been active on numerous corporate boards. He is a past board member of both the Alberta Securities Commission and Income Alberta and has served on the boards of the Workers’ Compensation Board, First Canadian Insurance, Millenium Insurance, Corus Entertainment, Canadian Hydro Developers and Novatel.
For his remarkable service to the community, Dennis has been honoured with both the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee Medals as well as the Alberta Centennial Medal and an Alberta Achievement Award. In 2012, he became a member of the City of Edmonton Salute to Excellence Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) in recognition of his support for the Canadian military. He holds an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the U of A.
Dennis’s drive to tick a variety of things off his personal bucket list has been as dauntless as his passion for helping the wider community. He has completed three marathons, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, flown in an F-18, skydived in New Zealand and hiked through Bhutan.
His leadership, dedication and generosity are an inspiration to all Albertans. Dennis attributes his enormous wellspring of energy to his lifelong belief in the power of volunteerism. “I think most things we work on a volunteer basis produce better results, produce a better sense of community and produce pride in the community,” he says. “I just feel I have gained so much from this province and this community that no matter how long or how hard I contribute, I’ll never be able to give back what I’ve received.”
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence