Nov. 15, 2023

Meet the donors

Just as a single spark can ignite a roaring flame, philanthropy is the catalyst that starts something special at the University of Calgary. Meet the donors who are sparking positive change by empowering students, advancing research, driving innovation and more.

While we’re commemorating anniversaries for several spaces and programs at the University of Calgary this fall, we’re also celebrating donors who have hit giving milestones of their own. Get to know a few of them here:

portrait of a man and woman

Jeanne Lefebvre and her husband Harvey Olsen, Harvey Olsen, BSc (Eng)’71, MEng’76

Courtesy Jeanne Lefebvre

Jeanne Lefebvre: 50 years

Jeanne Lefebvre recalls the surprise of discovering, on her first day at UCalgary, that she was the lone female among 400 first-year engineering students. “My reaction was, ‘Oh boy,’” she says with a laugh. “My whole career was being a pioneer.”

Four years later, Lefebvre, BSc (Eng)’73, graduated with an electrical engineering degree and was immediately snapped up by IBM Canada, launching a successful career. But she never forgot her time at UCalgary. In fact, 1973 was the year she made her first gift. Lefebvre is also a faithful contributor to the Class of 1973 Engineering Bursary and helped organize her class’s recent 50th anniversary celebration. Since 2006, the group has raised $128,000 for the award, which goes annually to two students entering the Schulich School of Engineering who completed high school in a rural area of Western Canada.

For many UCalgary donors like Lefebvre, supporting future generations of problem-solvers is important.

“I want to help first-year students — I want them to stay because I know they’ll love it.”

Jeanne Lefebvre, BSc (Eng)’73

“I will do everything to ensure that people who have the savvy, knowledge and intelligence to go through engineering, will graduate and improve the world,” says Lefebvre.

portrait of a woman

Donna Santos Studio

Brianna Solberg: 10 years

As a former member of the UCalgary Dinos women’s volleyball team — starting in 2013, when she also made her first gift as a student — Brianna Solberg was eager to show support for her alma mater.

She had considered coaching or mentoring or, at the very least, attending some home matches. But, Solberg, BA’18, MPP’19, ended up moving to Regina, working as the director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, so showing appreciation for her time with the Dinos quickly found another direction. With her husband, Lance Dueck, BA’17, she set up the Solberg-Dueck Women’s Volleyball Award.

“It helps me feel connected to something that is such an integral part of my life. Even though I now live far away, I really want the team to know that former players still support them.”

Brianna Solberg

The annual $2,000 award goes to a Dinos women’s volleyball player in any faculty.

“I want to award athletes who are not only committed to the sport, but who are also invested in their academics and involved in the community,” says Solberg, who in 2018 won the prestigious Thérèse Quigley Award, a U Sports honour recognizing student-athlete community service. “That was something that was really important to me during my time at UCalgary.”

selfie of a man and woman on a mountain

Matt and Tara Brister

Matt and Tara Brister: 35+ years

From UCalgary, Matt and Tara Brister received the type of education that allowed them to thrive in the competitive energy sector. They appreciated the foothold their degrees provided — and never forgot it.

“UCalgary puts people in a pretty good relative position to succeed,” says Matt, BSc’81, who — with his wife, Tara, BSc’82 — was recently presented with an Arch Award recognizing alumni service to UCalgary. “(Coming out of the Department of Geology and Geophysics), I can say that we were well-equipped to compete very well.

“So, once we were able, it was natural for us to want to give back.”

The couple’s giving to UCalgary goes back more than 35 years, including sponsoring the construction of the Experimental Lung Suite at the Snyder Institute and setting up a professorship in geoscience.

Through Calgary Foundation, the philanthropists continue to support strategic initiatives such as the Snyder Institute’s Catalyst Fund for Innovative Research and the Live Cell Imaging Laboratory at the Cumming School of Medicine, and other priorities locally and internationally.

“We’ve been very lucky to have the means to contribute financially to some of the things that interest us and that we find important.”

Matt Brister

portrait of a man

Dianne Greenwood

John Greenwood: 15 years

Keen to continue his education after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at McMaster University, Dr. John Greenwood sent out a wave of applications and got accepted by nine programs. Giving UCalgary a distinct advantage was the presence of Dr. Derek Bewley, PhD, a research leader in the field of plant physiology. Greenwood admits the campus’s proximity to the mountains didn’t hurt, either.

“Being able to visit Banff on a regular basis and having instruction from a very highly regarded advisor just sort of blended together to make UCalgary my first choice,” says Greenwood, PhD’83.

Set up for success after his four-plus years at UCalgary, Greenwood was able to land the ideal job — a faculty position at the University of Guelph, where he ended up working for 27 years. To pay it forward, the Burlington, Ont., native donated to a biological sciences initiative at UCalgary 15 years ago — and he hasn’t stopped giving. The school is also included in his estate plans.

“It’s, ‘Thank you very much, Calgary. If it wasn’t for my time at UCalgary, I would not have been able to pursue my passions both during my career and, now, in retirement.”

John Greenwood

Just as a single spark can ignite a roaring flame, philanthropy is the catalyst that starts something special at the University of Calgary. Explore more stories about the difference we’re making in the community and around the world with the support of donors like you.