Feb. 7, 2022

Changing of the Guard, UCalgary Alumni Association Board Chair transitions

It’s a behind-the-scenes position, one that Helen Sunderland, BMus'87, MBA'92 has so ably mastered. Her honesty, speed, wit, charm and ability to run a tight and productive meeting that moved us all to action — and emotion — will serve as beacons to the board she hands over the reins to incoming President and Chair, Ian Minnifee, BA'94
Alumni Association Presidents

More than two years have flown swiftly past since I took the helm of the University of Calgary Alumni Association (UCAA) Board of Directors as your chair and president. And now I say farewell. As I move on to the role of past chair, I am pleased to be succeeded by Ian Minnifee, BA’94, in whose capable hands the future course of the UCAA will be ably plotted and steadily skippered.

I look back over these two years with mixed emotions. Of course, whoever would have predicted that the world would be seized in the grip of a global pandemic? Whoever would have foretold how each of us would respond to this new status quo? Could any of us have possibly imagined “Zoom fatigue?” Nevertheless, the UCAA Board of Directors boldly navigated through these sometimes dark and difficult days, and I’m grateful to each member of the Board for their unwavering commitment and dedication. I also send my heartfelt thanks to all alumni who volunteered in any capacity to help us further the initiatives of the Alumni Association. Thank you all.

When I became chair of the Board in 2019, the UCAA was 170,000 members strong. Now, we boast more than 200,000 alumni, and we can be found all over the world. Clearly, the pandemic has not slowed us down.

Over these past two years, the UCAA Board actively worked to increase awareness of the Alumni Association and what we offer to our members. Our extensive programming, designed and executed by the top-notch university staff members dedicated to Alumni Engagement, continued throughout the pandemic, albeit virtually. We still enjoyed record numbers of participants who joined our webinars and online sessions to connect, engage and better themselves.

Our annual Alumni Weekend pivoted to become an entire Alumni Month in September 2021 — renamed Alumni All-Access — and the virtual offerings varied in subject and were well-attended. We also, once again, held our annual pinnacle event, the Arch Awards, live-streaming the ceremony around the world. I’m proud to say the UCAA neither skipped a beat, nor lost momentum during these challenging times.

I do believe that, as alumni, we can continue to be a loud and proud voice that advocates for our world-class university. Who better to hear from than those who lived the student experience themselves? In sharing our message with our communities far and wide, we strengthen the image and perception of our alma mater. How UCalgary can continue to positively impact our city, province, country and planet is still not fully charted. Yet, I am hopeful that the support of we, the alumni, will only strengthen the evolution of this vibrant, ever-changing institution as it continues to play its vital role in our community.

I am grateful to have served as the chair of your UCAA Board of Directors and I throw my enthusiastic support behind Ian and the Board as they navigate the next chapter of the Alumni Association’s journey.

And we are so immensely grateful for you Helen . . . your creativity, innovative ideas, speediness, hard work and tact have made working with you a true privilege — UCAA Board