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Alberta Order of Excellence member Hal Wyatt

Harold (Hal) Wyatt CM, LLD (Hon)

"I think of all the things that were done for me and that made a difference in my life -YMCA, the church, the school. It makes you realize that it’s up to us to give the next generation a boost along the way by doing some of the same things."

Hal Wyatt’s remarkable record of contributions to Albertans and all Canadians includes leadership in the financial sector as well as extensive volunteer contributions to the arts, advanced education and community development.

Harold Wyatt was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on November 30, 1921 and later nicknamed Hal. He grew up playing an active role in community life and participating in all kinds of sports. As Hal says, he played them all but none of them well enough to be a pro. Hal and his five siblings lived through the terrible challenges of the Great Depression that left few if any prairie families untouched. He learned from an early age to work hard, and at any job that offered the potential of earning him a little pocket money.

Hal’s strong work ethic and natural leadership abilities caught the attention of his high school principal, who arranged for him to interview for potential jobs at a radio station, a newspaper and a bank. One of those options fell by the wayside due to the fact that Hal was unable to afford university tuition and reticent to take anything that didn’t offer full time employment. He opted for work as a junior clerk with the Royal Bank of Canada at a branch in the nearby community of Eyebrow, Saskatchewan. It was a choice that would eventually take him around the world and through to the highest ranks of the organization.

After his first few years with the Royal Bank, Hal chose to join the Royal Canadian Air Force becoming a pilot and flight instructor. Around the same time, he met and fell in love with fellow Saskatchewan native Isabel Margaret (Marnie) Macdonald. They were married on May 9, 1942 and went on to welcome three children to the family: daughters Andrea and Kathryn and son David.

Hal returned to civilian life after four and a half years of military service and resumed his ascent through the ranks of the Royal Bank, progressing through positions in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. As he took on more senior roles, Hal enjoyed opportunities to travel and work overseas in Asia and Australia. He also built a reputation as an insightful leader who willingly offered his guidance and experience to people coming up behind him and who enjoyed helping to turn fledgling businesses into strong economic contributors.

Hal’s service to the business sector over the years also included duties as chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, honourary chairman and governor of the Canadian Jaycees, a founding member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, trustee and board member of the American Management Association and the Asia Pacific Foundation, governor of the Canadian Geographic Society, director of the Canada Safety Council and the CD Howe Institute and chairman of the Stan Water’s Foundation. Hal has also shared his considerable acumen as a board chair, director and trustee for numerous Canadian corporations and has put his expertise to good use as a member of various Canadian Trade Missions.

In 1986, Hal retired as Vice-Chairman and Director of the Royal Bank of Canada and he and Marnie settled into retired life in their home in Calgary. Hal may have been technically retired but his schedule remained filled with volunteer duties and commitments.

The arts have been a particularly prominent focus for Hal’s volunteer service over the years. Hal jokes that, as a child, he studied violin until his family decided that it would be better for all concerned if he stopped. Nonetheless, his strong affinity for music is reflected in his great support of the Mount Royal Conservatory of Music Wyatt Artist in Residence program, which brings world class artists to Calgary with work with young students. Hal has also served as chair of the Calgary International Organ Festival, director of the Cantos Music Foundation, director of the Esther Honens International Piano Competition and a board member of the Calgary Philharmonic Society.

Promoting post-secondary and continuing education has been another priority for Hal Wyatt. He has provided leadership as chairman and governor of the University of Saskatchewan and as a board member of Concordia University, the Banff School of Management and Albert College. He has been a valued fundraiser and advisory committee member for the University of Calgary and played a key role in establishing the Mount Royal College Foundation. His seminal contributions to that College have earned him the title of Foundation Chair Emeritus.

In addition to the arts and education, Hal has found time for contributions in other areas over the years. His longstanding interest in sports prompted him to serve as a trustee for the Schenley Awards, which celebrate excellence in Canadian professional football. He has been a dedicated volunteer for the United Church, a fundraising co-chair for the Terry Fox Youth Centre in Ottawa, a board member of the Calgary Winter Festival and St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal and co-chair of the Calgary Economic Development Authority. Marnie also remained an active community volunteer and a great source of strength for Hal throughout their 62-year marriage. She died in June 2004.

For his volunteer service, Hal Wyatt was named a Member of the Order of Canada and has been recognized with the Distinguished Citizen Award from Mount Royal College, an Honourary Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan, the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal. Hal was honoured to be selected as the first recipient of Canadian Unity Council Outstanding Canadian Award and was also chosen to receive a National Philanthropy Award for lifetime service and the first International Businessman’s Award from the University of Calgary.

When asked to describe himself, Hal humbly suggests that he’s simply been fortunate in the great health, opportunities and experiences life has allowed him to enjoy over the years. Those who know Hal and have had the chance to work with him offer a more complete picture. They value Hal as a dedicated leader, a thoughtful mentor, an unfailingly kind and generous team player and a hardworking and outstanding citizen who has offered a lifetime of service to the people of Alberta and all Canadians.