Alberta business leader Paul Kennedy may have earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and MBA from Harvard University, but it’s the University of Calgary that will be home to his legacy — one that will help shape the city and province as a world leader in innovation and technology.
The new Kennedy Scholars Program, which is currently recruiting its inaugural class, will be among the most prestigious in North America, awarding up to $200,000 between two students each year. The full-ride scholarship will support them as they earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science followed by a master’s in management.
“A couple of years ago I started to think about how we can grow the broader economy in Calgary. Specifically, the tech sector, because there’s huge potential for it,” says Kennedy, who has worked in real estate development and investment in Alberta since 1975.
“The computer science background is key, but what will give us the edge is combining that with strong business acumen.”
Kennedy knows business, after all. Over the past 50 years, he’s developed and managed millions of square feet of office space in his leadership roles with Trizec Office Properties, Vantage Property Management and Cadillac Fairview, among others.
And he knows investment. In 1995, he started his second career with Great West Life Realty Advisors, growing the pension advisory fund business more than 10-fold over the ensuing decade.
All the while, he’s seen the technology industry expand in Calgary, and he wants to keep that momentum going by investing in the next generation. That idea of interdisciplinary study — a program that intersects two disciplines — clicked for him when he met with the deans of UCalgary’s Faculty of Science and Haskayne School of Business, who immediately saw the potential in Kennedy’s vision.
“The city of Calgary is going through remarkable change,” says Dr. Kristin Baetz, dean of the Faculty of Science. “The tech sector is booming and, being home to a top computer science program and business school, UCalgary plays a major role in that transition. And that’s what we’re here for as a university — to serve the community.”
Having relocated to Calgary from Ontario herself just this past January — as Kennedy did in the 1990s — Baetz shares his admiration for the city’s can-do attitude.
There’s an exciting energy here. A wild-west ‘get it done’ determination. The Kennedy Scholars Program honours that spirit, bringing the best and brightest here to make their mark.
The award is indeed primed to attract top students from across Canada. In addition to spanning two faculties, the program is unique in that it grants scholarships each year to one local student and one from outside the Calgary area.
That was by design, according to Kennedy, who is keen to nurture home-grown talent as well as draw people to the city. “I came here from out east and was able to find success in Alberta,” he says. “I want to create that opportunity for someone else.”
Kennedy’s personal motivation is particularly meaningful, says Dr. Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business, who can attest to how awards like this change lives.
“This kind of gift gives me chills,” says Dewald, PhD’06. “It means so much to students to know that people like Paul, leaders in the community, are willing to invest in their future. When you put your name on an award like this, it shows that there’s a real person behind it — a person who believes in them.”
And, like Baetz, Dewald is excited to partner with another faculty on a program of this magnitude. “The transdisciplinary approach to research and education is foundational at UCalgary,” he says. “Calgary’s future is a mix of science and business. We need people who are tech-savvy, but we also need those who are good with other people and systems. This is the perfect way to bring it all together.”
It’s also the perfect way for Kennedy to give back to the province that gave him so much — something his family fully supports.
“My dad has a vested interest in Alberta — he made this his home, built a career here and all three of his kids still live in Calgary — so it’s no surprise to us that he chose to make this kind of meaningful gift,” says Danielle Sutton, Kennedy’s daughter.
“He’s always said, ‘You gotta have skin in the game.’ And that’s what he’s doing with this scholarship, investing his own money to attract and retain the young minds who will further develop the city and province he loves.”
For Kennedy, he’s honoured to be a part of it. “I’m pleased to be in the position to do something special like this,” he says. “And I hope it inspires others to do the same.”