Eric Newell is a corporate leader and innovator who has made lasting contributions to the economic health of Alberta and Canada, the strength and diversity of the country’s workforce, and the opportunities and quality of life enjoyed by his fellow Canadians. His skills as a businessman and entrepreneur, his passionate support of education and his commitment and compassion as a community leader have helped lay the groundwork for a stronger future for Alberta and for the country as a whole.
Eric’s career began with Imperial Oil and Esso, where his skills as an engineer and manager made him a valuable asset. He was frequently sent “on loan” to sites across North America, moving through postings in 15 different cities over the first 20 years of his career before coming to Alberta in 1986. His temporary assignment with the Syncrude oil sands development in northern Alberta became permanent and Eric and his wife, Kathy, settled their family in Fort McMurray. Eric’s responsibilities with Syncrude quickly grew to include service as president, CEO and chairman of the board of directors.
Through his strong leadership of Syncrude and his groundbreaking work with the National Oil Sands Task Force, Eric was instrumental in communicating the vast potential of the oil sands, bringing that potential to market and developing a new blueprint for Canada’s energy industry. He retired from Syncrude in 2003, leaving the corporation, the province and the Canadian industry as a whole with a solid plan for continued growth and prosperity.
While working to fully develop the economic potential of Alberta’s oil sands, Eric also committed himself and his organization to mining the enormous potential of Alberta communities and Albertans themselves. His influence can be seen in Syncrude’s strong sense of corporate social responsibility, which includes education and community development initiatives, strong health and safety programs and a commitment to environmental stewardship. Eric’s commitment to consensus building and finding cooperative solutions has earned him the respect and trust of the Aboriginal community, the energy industry, and government and community leaders.
Eric’s community and volunteer efforts in the areas of education and workforce development are equally well regarded. Under his leadership, Syncrude became Canada’s largest industrial employer of Aboriginal people, and his ongoing work with the Aboriginal community has helped develop educational opportunities and open up new career paths for future generations.
Eric has worked extensively to encourage Alberta businesses to work in partnership with post-secondary institutions to develop scholarships and strengthen the quality of programs and experiences available to all Alberta students. His long-standing association with the University of Alberta includes service as chair of the board of governors. He was named chancellor in June 2004.
In addition to his duties with the U of A, Eric continues to serve as chair of Careers: the Next Generation, an organization Eric created in 1989 in response to projected trade workforce deficits in Alberta. Since its inception, the program has helped some 100,000 young Albertans from across the province develop career plans, and has given thousands more the opportunity to take on internship positions.
Eric’s extensive volunteer and community service has also included duties as chair of the Conference Board of Canada, director of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, co-chair of the Alliance for Responsible Environmental Alternatives, member of the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Council; co-chair of the 2000 Governor General’s Canadian Study Conference, honourary chairman of the Edmonton Business Council for the Visual Arts, board of directors member of the Keyano College Foundation and chairman of the Alberta Winter Games.
He has been honoured with numerous recognitions and awards for his contributions, including: Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and Athabasca University; the 125th Commemorative Medal of Canada; the Canadian Business Leader award from the University of Alberta; and numerous awards from public education organizations. Eric’s commitment and integrity earned him distinction as Alberta’s most respected CEO in a 2001 poll of 1,300 senior executives from across the province. In 2000, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Despite his many prestigious awards and recognitions, Eric is humble about his accomplishments, pointing to the strong teams he has been fortunate to assemble and work with. When asked to describe his formula for success, he shares a philosophy that, like the man himself, is intelligent, forward-looking and compassionate. He suggests that the role of a leader is to articulate a shared vision, help people realize they are part of a larger community and the need to work as a team to achieve success. Anyone wishing to see that theory put into practice need only study the career and contributions of Eric Newell and the economic and social legacies he has helped to create for Albertans and all Canadians.