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Matthew Brister, BSc'81, and Tara Brister, BSc'82

Arch Award Recipients - Alumni Service Award

Recognizes graduates whose philanthropy and/or volunteer commitment has served to advance the University of Calgary and its alumni. The award honours those who have improved the lives of fellow graduates and future alumni. 

Despite their humble demeanour, the Matthew and Tara Brister story truly reads like a superhero film: fast-paced, multi-faceted, complex and inspiring, all the while showing us the compassion and strength of the human spirit.

This year’s Alumni Service Arch Award-winners, Matthew, BSc’81, and Tara, BSc’82, have each independently made massive impacts on the University of Calgary community and its alumni and together they are community-builders, high-impact philanthropists, mentors and innovators.

“My impression of Matt and Tara as a team is that they are both creative, hard-working people who have achieved amazing things in their life — yet they have not rested on their laurels,” says nominator Dr. Kamala Patel, PhD, Executive Director of Live Cell Image Laboratory. Instead, they embody the classic Spider-Man quote: "With great power comes great responsibility.”

Matthew and Tara created the Tamaratt Fund as a vehicle to drive their philanthropic work. At UCalgary, they have given to strategic initiatives including the Tamaratt Professorship in Geoscience, the Tamaratt Experimental Lung Suite, the Snyder Institute’s Catalyst Fund for Innovative Research and the LCI.  

“My first recollection of meeting Matt and Tara was during a tour of our Live Cell Imaging Lab. Both were curious and engaged during the tour, asking about the systems, who we serve and how we make a difference in research,” says Dr. Patel. “Tara, in particular, was the one who seeded the idea that we could work with main campus — the LCI is at the Cumming School of Medicine — and leverage the energy of students in business and beyond, providing them with experience in medical research and helping us serve our community. [Through] Matt’s practical, results-driven approach to mentorship, he was able to meet me where I was in terms of creating a business plan for the LCI, recognizing that I had no experience, but did have a desire to learn and a willingness to make and then learn from my mistakes. He gave of his time and experience, which were invaluable!"

Since its establishment, the Tamaratt Fund at the Calgary Foundation has contributed to the support and mentorship to the UCalgary and Calgary community. For Matt and Tara, giving of their time, energy and experience is just as important as giving through philanthropy. This hands-on approach aligns with their support of experiential education. The Tamaratt Professorship in Geoscience was established in 2007 to help scientists learn to be more effective teachers and its impact on students was immediately felt in the Faculty of Science and continues to this day.

Matthew Brister, himself, underwent a change of focus when he undertook his BSc at UCalgary.

“I wasn’t keen on geology before uni, but knew I was looking for a career in Calgary’s [oil and gas] industry, and it wasn’t going to involve engineering,” he recalls. “So, I tried geology and, by the end of the first year, I knew it was something I could really enjoy.”

“It’s developed into a career that has provided great adventure, opportunity, rarely feels like work, and, after 40-plus years, it’s not over yet. My U of C degree gave me a leg-up entering the business and friends for life.”

Matthew currently serves as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Cumming School of Medicine and is now chair for the Strategic Advisory Board for the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases.

Tara, meanwhile, has spearheaded their gifts to the UCalgary General Endowment Fund, Calgary Alumni Association scholarships, the Dino’s 5th Quarter Association and the Gallagher Library. This combination of impactful philanthropic endeavours enhances the educational experience of UCalgary students, both past and present, enriching the education and research environment.

“They actively work to leverage their achievements and skills to make the world a better place, through philanthropy, through mentorship and through engaged participation in the community,” says Dr. Patel.

The University of Calgary Alumni Association describes Arch Award recipients as leaders and innovators, demonstrating excellence in their professions and champions for the betterment of their communities. Matthew and Tara Brister epitomize this, working tirelessly to make UCalgary, the city of Calgary and the world a better place.

Matthew Brister and Tara Brister

Attend Alumni All-Access

As in previous years, the Arch Awards kicked off Alumni All-Access (Oct. 12 to Oct. 22, 2023). Everyone is welcome to join in on ten days of amazing events to discover new ideas, explore what UCalgary has to offer and have fun! 


My heroes in real life are people who go to work every day bringing energy and the desire to do a good job, whatever that job may be.

Tara Brister, BSc'82

Getting to know Tara Brister

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting outside after a busy day with a glass of Pinot, enjoying the view.
What is your greatest fear?  
Not knowing what will happen next.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?  
Now that Queen Elizabeth has passed, I’m looking for her replacement, but haven’t found them yet.
What is your greatest extravagance?  
Flying in business class.
Which talent would you most like to have?  
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Better eyesight.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising three children who are independent, generous, productive and grateful members of their communities.  

We have been very lucky, and many years ago I committed to live in the minute and not let opportunities that presented themselves pass by without taking a shot, so I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy quite a few special 'moments' and my family is healthy.

Matthew Brister


Getting to know Matthew Brister

Was there any particular moment that stands out for you with the University of Calgary?
The first and last day of classes every year, especially my fourth! I really enjoyed university, maybe too much.

What is a thing about Tara that you really admire?
Brains, beauty, and no B.S.
Is there something about Tara that only you know that you wish others knew?
Tara has the keen eye for real estate value and has designed and built, or renovated, about 10 projects.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?   
It continues to evolve. Some combination of six inches of new snow, taking my grandkids to a park, a dinner at home with friends or our whole family, some travel adventures.  
What is your greatest fear?   
After any problems in the birth of our children or grandchildren, almost failing In business a couple of times, or the dream where you sleep through your final exam, there aren’t too many I can think of... Probably the thought of parachuting or bungee jumping.  
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?   
Maybe the elderly version of a short temper, sometimes; I don’t think twice before emailing.  
What is the trait you most deplore in others?   
People not treating others with a basic level of respect and dignity.  
Which living person do you most admire?   
Ukrainian President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy would be up there. I don’t really admire Elon Musk, but what he has been able to achieve is disruptive in many different spheres, and quite amazing.   
What is your greatest extravagance?   
I consistently overeat good Chinese food and I’ve been known to watch about eight hours of football any Sunday.  
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  
What do you most dislike about your appearance?   
I don’t look enough like George Clooney.  
Which living person do you most despise?   
Putin is right up there. Unfortunately, there are a few closer to home, as well, but generally people who pontificate with no ability or intent to deliver.  
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?   
“In all honesty,” plus one I shouldn’t repeat but rhymes with… “truck.”  
When and where were you happiest?   
A few may be…I’ve had the same partners over 40 years that are very good friends and our families have become friends.  We had the opportunity to live in London and it was a fantastic experience for our family. We were very, very lucky in how COVID unfolded for our family, relative to many others - although not the “happiest” times by any stretch; emerging intact and having made some progress had us happy and thankful.  
Which talent would you most like to have?   
(Assuming this is one I don’t have?) [the] ability to play an instrument.  
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  
I’d be younger.   
What do you consider your greatest achievement?  
Other than my Arch Award?  
Seriously, [I] wouldn’t classify any as “great.” I’d say it’s a work in progress. We hope to continue to contribute to the community that has afforded us a tremendous opportunity, that we have been able to take advantage of, both in business (O&G, energy transition) and in support of several not -for-profit initiatives we really value (mostly around education and health care).   
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?   
I love the view from above, so maybe a hawk.   
Where would you most like to live?   
Well, we have five houses so hopefully the answer is, “at home”! [The Bristers have had homes in Calgary; Dayman Island; Whitefish; London, England (recently sold); and Hawaii.)]  
What is your most treasured possession?   
I’m almost 65, so ‘“time” is becoming pretty treasured.  
Nothing I own is irreplaceable.   
Which historical figure do you most identify with?   
I like those that history shows were up to the task and led well. In politics, maybe Churchill or Nelson Mandela, from a Canadian perspective, Jean Chretien, Peter Lougheed.
Who are your heroes in real life?   
My mom. In sports, I loved [hockey legend] Jarome Iginla’s game and Brian O’Driscoll (Irish rugby centre).    
What is your greatest regret?   
Don’t have any great regrets yet.

These incredible alumni are changing the world with vision and purpose. Meet the 2023 Arch Award recipients.