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Supporting student success

Legacy Donation Spurs Innovation in the Classroom

Alumni and donors collaborate to create innovative spaces for students in Bill Richards’ legacy
Leighton Wilks instructing in the W.E. (Bill) Richards Clasroom.

THOSE WHO WORKED closely with the late Bill Richards at Dome Petroleum shared his steadfast belief that nothing great is ever achieved alone. So when Glenn Wickerson, BComm’71, learned that Haskayne had a classroom dedication opportunity, he thought of his mentor and friend, and reached out to three other “Domies” — Hal Kvisle, MBA’82, Bruce Waterman and Steve Savidant. As a team, they approached other donors and achieved their goal with the new W.E. (Bill) Richards classroom in Scurfield Hall.

Richards is remembered as an innovator, visionary, risk taker and scrummage-style team player, something well represented in the tech classroom dedicated in his memory and officially unveiled in May 2016. In fact, it’s as though the innovative space was created with Richards in mind.

What is most striking about the room is its focus on collaboration, imitating today’s work environment for Haskayne students. Waterman observes, “(The room is) like a series of little communities that belong to a larger development. It allows people to be more participatory and more innovative, and that’s something Bill loved.”

The technology in the classroom augments the experience, but doesn’t control it. Each of the 10 stations has a large screen which can display divided views or be shared with the entire class. Each workgroup is kept in touch with what others are brainstorming and achieving. Students prepare for the real world in this innovative space and instructors are more like roving managers than lecturers. Wickerson adds, “Bill never talked about his management style, but he implicitly knew how to get the most out of his people, much like a good sports coach. He stimulated us in lots of creative ways.”

Kvisle thinks there’s no better tribute to Richards. “Bill would have loved this room. He was very inclusive, always encouraging others to put their best ideas forward. He recognized that high-value projects are usually conceived in the lower levels of an organization; they percolate upwards. Bill was a strong leader ― he inspired everyone at Dome to make things happen through extraorinary team efforts!”

Richards left a legacy of innovation in our province as well. Alberta’s Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) system didn’t exist before Richards and a handful of others created it back in the ’70s. Savidant explains, “Bill realized the value of capturing NGL liquids. This system has created multiple billions of dollars for Alberta Treasury, and for Albertans employed to build and operate the system. Plus, it provides the feedstock for the petrochemical industry in Alberta today.”

In the spirit of this great oil industry achievement, all four men agree that Richards would tell Haskayne students that nothing meaningful in life is accomplished without risk. As Waterman elaborates, “You can’t play it safe all the time. It’s not a fun way to live a life or have a career. Assess the risk and reward equation, manage the risks as best as possible and outperform. Not much of consequence is accomplished without risk.”