1996 Distinguished Alumnus
Mel Svendsen (AST '68), Chairman of SMI Holdings Limited; retired Executive Chairman, President and CEO of Standen's Ltd.
"Receiving the Alumni Award from SAIT was quite an honour, no doubt about that. Aren't we always surprised with something like that? You do your business and you don't think anyone is paying attention.
I think for many of us, SAIT was a big change in our lives as we left home to go to school. In my case, I was a farm boy going from a school that was Grades one through 12 totalling about 300 people. You had to be 21 to be an adult in those days, but we felt pretty grown up being away from home.
The friends I made at SAIT — classmates and others on student council — were just incredible. I still see some of them. They've gone on to be great citizens and many of them are great employers. Our instructors used to tell us, 'We're teaching you how to get a good job.' So many of them not only got good jobs, but went on to create good jobs. I'm proud to be a part of that.
I was with Standen's from graduation until 2015 when I retired. I went from entry level through to becoming the CEO. It was a fun journey. I enjoyed pretty much everything about it, from receiving my first bonus cheque from the owner who founded the company in the 1920s to becoming an owner. The only negative was it was demanding of my time. If I had to do it again, I would moderate that to have more family time."
After graduating from SAIT's Automotive Service Technology program in 1968, Mel Svendsen signed on with Standen's Ltd. in Calgary. In 1990, he became part owner in the company, which produces vehicle suspensions. In 1995, he was appointed president and chief executive officer. He retired in 2015 and founded SMI Holdings Limited.