University community well represented at Top 7 Over 70 awards

Program recognizes and celebrates amazing contributions of older people

A former dean, alumni, and recipients of various university honours are among the 2019 Top 7 Over 70 award winners that were announced in Calgary yesterday. The biennial awards program recognizes people in and around the city who have achieved “remarkable success” in activities they started after they turned 70. Not only do the awards honour the individuals, but they also help promote the fact that older adults bring a lot of energy, innovation and ideas to the community.

"There are a lot of elderly people, 70-plus, who are doing some very interesting things out there,” says Dr. Eldon Smith, MD, one of the winners. “I'm deeply honoured that they thought I was one of them but honestly, there are a lot of people who are very vigorous and working hard every day and making some significant accomplishments.” Smith, 80, is a cardiologist and professor emeritus from the Department of Medicine who joined the University of Calgary medical faculty in 1980 and served as dean from 1992 until 1997.

  • Photo above: Calgary’s 2019 Top 7 Over 70 award winners from left: Sylvia Rempel, Jacqueline Cameron, Gus Yaki, John Lacey, Bob Brawn and Ken Stephenson pose for a photo after they were announced at the cSPACE King Edward building in Calgary on Sept. 12, 2019. Photo courtesy Postmedia Calgary

Several years ago, he co-founded a company, Cardiol Therapeutics Inc, to commercialize a cannabinoid compound for treatment of inflammation in heart failure. “Things have gone really well for us and we took it public in December. We're listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange now and have been doing some very interesting things,” he says. “We're not quite in clinical trials yet but we're imminently going to be starting administering it to patients.”

Jacqueline Cameron, BA’05, BEd’07, was in her 50s when she studied psychology and French at UCalgary. And she was in her 70s when she started a business making clothing for people with mobility challenges after her husband, Jack, developed a degenerative muscle disease and began using a wheelchair. She is “totally overwhelmed and humbled” by receiving the Top 7 Over 70 award. “It was a nice surprise,” says Cameron, 81.

Super-Fly Adaptive Apparel sells the fashionable, comfortable and functional clothing she had been sewing for her husband. “This was done not because I wanted to get into business, it was done out of love and compassion for my husband. These clothes made it possible for him to look as he liked to.” The “easy on easy off” line of pants, shirts, outerwear and even swim trunks includes lots of stylish zippers and makes life easier for people with mobility issues and for those who care for them.

2019 UCalgary honorary degree recipient Dr. John Lacey, LLD’97, 87, is known internationally for his innovation in oil and gas exploration and pipeline technology, and celebrated locally for applying his significant business acumen to support arts, health, science and education ventures in Calgary. The award is “a wonderful recognition by one's peers, friends and community,” he says. “It’s very special.”

Lacey helped steer the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra from bankruptcy to growth and he started the Naomi and John Lacey Virtuoso Program to attract world-class talent to the city. “It’s good fun,” he says. “I never reached retirement age, that’s a fact, and frankly I think people are missing out on not doing things. There is a lot of help needed out there, all sorts of things.”

Energy industry veteran Bob Brawn, BA’89, received a University of Calgary Distinguished Business Leader Award in 1996, lent his talents to an advisory council to the university and supported a number of campus initiatives through the Brawn Family Foundation. Now 83, he is working with Heritage Park to develop natural resources exhibits and developing a 34-acre senior retirement complex in Calgary that has different types of housing and recreation options. 

“All awards are very much appreciated and you become very humbled by receiving them,” he says. “It’s a nice honour and a wonderful tribute and I’m not sure I deserve it. Having lived here most of my life and being born here, you want to give back and I appreciate being recognized for it.”

The Top 7 Over 70 awards has led to the creation of InterGen, a program that partners older adults with younger entrepreneurs to share their decades of experience and expertise and help boost Calgary’s economy. For the first time in Canada’s history, there are more people over 65 than children under 15. By 2036 there will be about 10 million older adults in Canada. Top 7 Over 70, which is supported by the Calgary Seniors Resource Society, will hand out awards to the 2019 winners at a gala Oct. 17.

Eldon Smith

Eldon Smith, recipient of Calgary’s 2019 Top 7 Over 70 award.

Courtesy Postmedia Calgary