Walking through the history of Scurfield Hall

Haskayne 50th Anniversary

Most people walking through Scurfield Hall are thinking about their last class or their next assignment, but when Malcolm Munro wanders through the bright space, he thinks about visiting Harvard, Yale and other business schools in the early 1980s.

"When I walk through the building these memories always pop into my head," says Munro, professor emeritus and chair of the Scurfield Hall Building Committee 1981-86. "I think 'Oh yeah, we got this idea from the University of Virginia or we got this from Northwestern."

The committee including Munro and then dean Michael Maher traveled to dozens of universities around North America to get ideas for building Scurfield Hall. "I grew up in the house building and real estate business and we always looked to see what the other guys are doing," explains Maher. "So if we were going to build a business school we'd better see what the other guys are doing and see their best work and their biggest mistakes."

Maher was determined to get it right. He arrived as dean of the Faculty of Management in 1981, just months after Ralph and Sonia Scurfield donated $4 million and Scurfield's business, Nu-West Group Limited, donated another $4 million to build a home for the faculty, funds that were matched by the province. In October 1983, Ralph Scurfield grinned from ear to ear as he worked the shovel at the sod turning ceremony.

Before Scurfield Hall, business students were taught in a "dog's breakfast" of classrooms in six different buildings around campus and faculty offices were scattered on three different floors of the Math Sciences building. "Not having a physical home inhibited the growth of our programs, offered no home for our students and made it difficult for Calgary's business community to identify with the faculty," says Maher.

The building, with case-based classrooms and communal space from Harvard and oak paneling and sponsor signage from Yale, was to be situated on the eastern side of campus to make Scurfield Hall more accessible for business and community leaders. By 1984, a comprehensive plan was in place for the Faculty of Management complex.

"The question was: how do we design a building that's going to be flexible enough to meet our current and future needs while also being able to accommodate new and unforeseen technologies," says Munro. "We made lots of good guesses but you can't do everything right, nobody can see into the future."

Scurfield Hall opened its doors in January 1986, about a year after its namesake and benefactor died in a skiing accident. Ralph Scurfield was 57. His granddaughter, Kendra, was born a few months later and you have to think he'd be pleased she graduated with an MBA from the Haskayne School of Business.

"It was nice walking into Scurfield Hall and seeing his portrait every morning," she says. "I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I was raised on the stories. My grandfather was a teacher and a carpenter and both of those certificates were always in his office--I think he'd be thrilled with how big the business school is and the reputation it's getting around the world."

Where did that come from?

Many of the design features you see in Scurfield Hall were inspired by buildings at business schools around North America. Here's a partial list:

  • Harvard Business School's Great Hall inspired our atrium.
  • Classroom design ideas came from Harvard and Richard Ivey School at Western University (then the University of Western Ontario).
  • Yale School of Management was in a former IBM facility and had oak paneling in the halls and corporate sponsors' names displayed on classrooms and elsewhere. That's where we got the idea for both.
  • At University of Texas-Austin you could walk through a 19th century bank, inspiring us to acquire the Toronto Stock Exchange trading post from the old TSE building in Toronto. It was donated and shipped by the Reichmann Brothers and Olympia and York.
  • University of Virginia Darden School of Business had a balcony over the reception area which inspired the third floor bridge overlooking Shell Forum and NuWest Commons.
  • The University of Texas-Austin displayed paintings and sculptures it bought from arts students. That inspired the Committee for Art in Scurfield Hall (CASH) which buys and sells undergraduate art every year to put on display and add interest to the space.
  • Northwestern University had an auditorium, although it only had light switches near the podium and people had to grope in the dark to turn on the lights. We added more light switches to our auditorium.
  • At the Darden School, we learned it was important to make all regular faculty offices the same size, thereby avoiding competition for larger offices.
An interior view of construction of the Scurfield Hall skylight roof

An interior view of construction of the Scurfield Hall skylight roof

The opening of Scurfield Hall

The opening of Scurfield Hall

A sign designating the site of Scurfield Hall during the sod turning ceremony

A sign designating the site of Scurfield Hall during the sod turning ceremony

Construction of Scurfield Hall as seen from Social Sciences

Construction of Scurfield Hall as seen from Social Sciences

Construction of the interior of the Scurfield Hall atrium

Construction of the interior of the Scurfield Hall atrium

Sonia Scurfield, wife of Ralph T Scurfield namesake of Scurfield Hall inspecting the hall during construction

Sonia Scurfield, wife of Ralph T Scurfield namesake of Scurfield Hall