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"If you’ve got the combination of the education and the drive and ambition you can do great things."
Stan Grad has combined determined action with his gift of vision to found enterprises, establish companies and change the ranching, oil patch, educational and philanthropic face of southern Alberta. He exemplifies the spirit and values of entrepreneurship, leadership and philanthropy.
Stanwill George Peter Grad was born in Vancouver, B.C., in 1944. Stan was six years old when his family moved to Alberta to begin running a small motel outside Calgary. His first summer jobs were baling hay for a neighbour and milking dairy cows. That early experience led to a lifelong passion for ranching.
Before he turned 30, Stan started Soderglen Ranches Ltd. with a quarter-section of land and a few cows. Under his ownership and presidency, Soderglen has become a highly-respected business and the largest seedstock cattle operation in the nation. It boasts a breeding herd of some 2,600 cows grazing on 22,000 acres on three ranches northwest of Airdrie, southwest of Fort Macleod and southeast of Cardston. Soderglen is recognized throughout Canada for its unique development of hybrid genetics, concentrating on breeding bull predictability and outstanding customer service.
Stan’s great accomplishments with Soderglen have been equalled by his success in the energy sector. A self-confessed poor student who didn’t like studying and failed his first year at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Stan worked for a while as a roughneck on a drilling rig. Persuaded by his father to go back to school, he returned to SAIT and obtained a diploma in Petroleum Technology. Stan started as a field technician for Mobil Oil and continued to work for the company in the summer while earning his Petroleum Engineering Degree from the University of Wyoming.
Stan worked his way up in the industry, with various companies, from Operation Engineer to Senior Vice-President of Production and Operations. Together with partner Willard Walker, he then co-founded Grad & Walker Energy Corporation, an oil and gas exploration and production company for which Stan served as President and CEO. The company reached the TSE 300 Index before being sold to Crestar Energy in 1997. That same year, he married his wife, Jane (née Addeman). Officially “retired” after the sale of Grad & Walker, Stan went on to co-found the well-servicing company, Canyon Technical Service, as well as several more small exploration companies to develop assets in southeast Alberta and northern Argentina, and conduct exploration in Colombia and Papua New Guinea, all of which were sold to major firms.
Stan has helped numerous community organizations with the same high level of skill and leadership that he brought to his professional life. He has served on the Board of Governors of Mount Royal College and is a founding member of the Calgary Stampede Foundation. Attributing much of his success to what he learned at SAIT, he has supported the school’s students over the years as a visiting speaker, fundraiser and board member. In 2011, he made a significant donation to help build SAIT’s Trades and Technology Centre.
The project closest to Stan’s heart has been his long-term involvement with the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS). The death of his teen daughter, Kristine, after a car accident in 1990 prompted him to do everything he could to support emergency medical transportation and treatment for accident victims in rural Alberta. Stan has served as a long-time director and chair of the organization and co-chaired a 1997 capital campaign. He also serves as co-chair of the STARS Canada Society. Stan and Jane have made significant donations to STARS for its various campaigns. Stan and Jane’s concern for the welfare of others also inspired his donation of four ultrasound machines to the University of Calgary / Foothills Medical Centre, as well as their plans for a rural health park.
The personal circumstance that led to Stan’s commitment to STARS was not his first exposure to the importance of a rapid response in the face of a life or death situation. In 1968, Stan was honoured by the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, Priory of Canada when he used his knowledge of practical first aid and a determined and resourceful application of artificial respiration to revive a man rendered unconscious by toxic gases near Olds, Alberta.
A keen hunter, Stan’s frustration with the decline of both wild and released pheasants led him to organize a group of like-minded enthusiasts to develop the Upland Birds Alberta (UBA) project. The Alberta Conservation Agency took over the UBA and renewed its commitment to Alberta’s Pheasant Release program for the benefit of hunters and local economies. Stan also is a member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Water Fowl, and Pheasants Forever.
SAIT has recognized Stan as a Distinguished Alumnus and, in 1997, awarded him with an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Technology degree for his extraordinary contributions to the petroleum industry and his commitment to improving the social well-being of Albertans. The former Heart Centre at the centre of the SAIT campus was renamed the Stan Grad Centre to recognize Stan’s exceptional support for the school. In 2012, Stan was honoured to be selected as one of four Laureates to be inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame by Junior Achievement.
Described by his friends as humble and unassuming, Stan plays down his many achievements and awards. “If you’ve got the combination of the education and the drive and ambition,” he says, “you can do great things.” His passion, entrepreneurial spirit and deep commitment to giving back to the community through his many philanthropic activities are truly inspiring.