Oct. 26, 2022

Canadian Football Hall of Famer and UCalgary chancellor tackles more than sport

2022 Top 40 Under 40: Jonathan M. Cornish, current chancellor of the University of Calgary; President Emeritus, Calgary Black Chambers; investment advisor, RBC Dominion Securities
Jonathan M. Cornish
Jonathan M. Cornish Avenue Magazine

Although Jon Cornish may never have crossed the Jack Simpson stage to actually receive a UCalgary diploma, the 37-year-old is going to become very familiar with that stage come convocation.

As chancellor, Cornish (who uses they/them pronouns) will meet every new grad over the next four years — exactly the sort of ambassadorial role they relish. For nine seasons, Cornish was a running back with the Calgary Stampeders, breaking multiple rushing records and winning the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s Top Athlete, before taking a new path as an investment advisor at RBC Dominion Securities. Along the way, they founded a non-profit organization to help support and nurture young BIPOC professionals. To date, the Calgary Black Chambers has raised more than $150,000 and given out $75,000 in scholarships to more than 30 recipients. As chancellor, Cornish intends to embrace the Calgary Black Chambers’ core values of mentorship, scholarship, fellowship and advocacy.

How did you flip from football to advising people on investments?

I took continuing education courses at the University of Calgary that helped me complete my Chartered Financial Analyst designation. I’m now a proud CFA Charterholder because of that program which I finished in 2018.

What is your current job?

I am an investment advisor with RBC Dominion Securities. Along with my wife, Kiran, we help people with their money and investment-related goals, building wealth and securing legacies for our clients.

What do you miss about student life?

When I was studying for my CFA Charter, I was still playing for the Stampeders and holding down a job at the Market Mall TD Branch. While many football players stuck with the team, I was introduced to so many people with my CFA classes that many of them became my closest friends — ones that I hope to have for life.

Can you recall any funny moments while you were a student?

Frequently, I’d be asked, “Do you ever get told you look a lot like Jarome Iginla?” My default response was, “I get that a lot.” Then someone else would typically chime in and say, “That’s Jon Cornish.” It always led to a good chuckle.

Where did you hang out on campus?

While I didn’t frequent the place, I had one of my favourite all-time live-music experiences at The Den. The Canadian group, Five Alarm Funk, came through with their eight-piece band and went hard all night. To experience something so big in such a small space like The Den was incredible. No other musical experience has come close to this.

What has been your biggest career highlight?

In my first career, the team highlight was winning the Grey Cup twice and as an individual, my proudest moment was when I broke my own record for most rushing yards by a Canadian. In my second career at RBC, I was able to create an opportunity for my wife Kiran and I to work together and build a successful business.

If you were to go back to school, what would you take?

I’d like to get a PhD in physics. I would love to explore the edges of what we know about the universe.

What do you wish you knew more about?

How to lead. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have the leadership opportunities I’ve had, but I know I can be a better leader.

Who are your biggest heroes?

When I was growing up, it had to be Michael Jordan and Donovan Bailey. Now, it’s Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama.

Any advice for students or new grads? 

Know the value of "no" and "yes." A "no" can help you focus and a "yes" can help you expand. Know when to deploy both.

A guilty pleasure?

I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid. Still am . . . always will be.

What are you watching or reading these days? 

Reading Ineffective Habits of Financial Advisors and watching She-Hulk.

Why is mentorship important?

I know my mentor launched me on a path which is why I am where I am today. Being able to avoid missteps and know exactly where you should be going is a benefit that everyone should be able to access.

Can you take me through a moment that’s stuck?

My chancellor at the University of Kansas once told me, “It’s not how much you can help yourself, but how much you can help others that defines who you are.”

If someone were to act out your life (in a movie), who would star you?

Vin Diesel, of The Fast & Furious fame.

What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

“Do you miss playing football?”

What is one thing that nobody knows about you?

That I suffer from trypophobia. It’s a real thing . . . I actually can’t stand bunches of small, irregular holes together, like honeycombs, fruit seeds or bubble wrap.

With files from Avenue Magazine.

Meet the entire 2022 cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honourees at Avenue Magazine.

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