The Power of our Alumni Network

Magazine  |  Fall/Winter 2019  |  Alumni Update

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A message from the new University of Calgary Alumni Association leader

Growing up on a farm in Balzac, Alta., just a couple of kilometres northeast of today’s CrossIron Mills shopping mall, I always knew that attending university was in my future. My parents were clear that post-secondary education was not optional: it was mandatory. 

Thus began my relationship with the University of Calgary. Two degrees later, followed by a somewhat unusual career trajectory, I find myself returning to serve you as the new president of the University of Calgary Alumni Association (UCAA) and chair of its board of directors.

I don’t take this role lightly; with more than 185,000 alumni worldwide, it is no small task to represent the varied interests of our alumni. Add stepping into the shoes of Vern Kimball, our outgoing president, who did a remarkable job of creating a bedrock foundation for the UCAA, makes it an even greater honour. And an even bigger challenge — one that I am thrilled to accept.

Why should we, as alumni, care about the UCAA? I hear that question frequently from friends and colleagues. And, frankly, I’ve asked myself that very same question. In all honesty, when I convocated, I never gave a thought to coming back and serving the alumni community. But things change.

For me, being an active alumna stems from a need to have roots back in my hometown. I was afforded the opportunity to live and work in Silicon Valley for seven years and, in that time, I looked for connections to home. While I was very actively engaged in the Canadian expat community in “the Valley,” I found myself recruited to serve on the board of the American Friends of the University of Calgary. And, from there, my interest in my alma mater grew. Through my incidental connections back to UCalgary, I learned that I had ideas to offer that could help make the alumni connection to the university stronger — even a long way from home.

While I never strayed further than the United States (and I know many of you live abroad), I gained a clear perspective: I have nothing but gratitude for what I achieved so far in life, and my education at UCalgary played no small part in reaching those achievements. This continues to give me the inspiration to give back to the UCAA.

I believe that, as alumni, we can be the voice to promote our world-class school; after all, we did earn our bragging rights! And I believe in the importance of community. How UCalgary can continue to positively impact our city, province, country and planet remains yet to be seen. With one strong alumni voice, I am optimistic that we can continue to support the building of this vibrant, ever-changing institution and promote our alma mater in our many communities.

I am looking forward to serving as your president.


Helen Sunderland, BMus’87, MBA’92,
President and Chair
University of Calgary Alumni Association

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