Legacy bequest establishes the Randy O'Dell Centre for Electrical Trades
When Randy O'Dell moved to Calgary from New Brunswick in 1978, he was a young electrician looking to start his career. Over the next four decades, O'Dell built a very successful business — O'Dell Electric Ltd. — and, when he died a year ago, left a generous gift to SAIT that will help many other electricians get their start in the industry.
With an initial $2 million contribution, the O'Dell estate is creating The Randy O'Dell Centre for Electrical Trades. The Centre will benefit thousands of SAIT students in three apprenticeship programs within SAIT's MacPhail School of Energy — Appliance Service Technician, Electrician and Electrical Motor Systems Technician — as well as students in Pre-Employment Electrician and Master Electrician programs.
"Randy wanted to give back to Calgary, that's for sure," says Sherry Payne, a longtime friend and colleague and the executrix of O'Dell's estate. "This city afforded him great opportunities that he wouldn't have had in small-town New Brunswick. He was very proud of the people we had on staff at O'Dell and he wanted to give back to the industry that gave him such a successful career."
A legacy to leave
O'Dell was never afraid of hard work. In fact, he started working at the age of 12 after the death of his father left his mother with five children to support. O'Dell, the youngest child, had no way of knowing his part-time job at an asbestos insulation company would lead to asbestosis in his lungs and, eventually, to his death at age 65.
"Randy was very dynamic. He had a big personality — it was bigger than he was. And he was very focused. He lived and breathed his business. He was very smart and he knew how to put the right people in the right places," remembers Payne.
"Once it became evident that his illness was very serious, there was a legacy to leave. He wanted it to be something that was meaningful to him," says Payne. "All of our apprentices, pretty much, have gone through SAIT. It only made sense to support the Institute."
Curriculum, infrastructure and equipment
"The legacy of this gift is actually quite phenomenal," says Lisa Weatherby, the Interim Dean of SAIT's MacPhail School of Energy. "This is one of the most significant gifts SAIT has ever received. It will impact literally thousands of apprentices in Alberta.
"The gift will be dedicated to enhancing the curriculum, infrastructure, and lab equipment in our electrician apprenticeship programs and will create new student awards."
Wellspring's Randy O'Dell House and SAIT's Randy O'Dell Centre are both scheduled to open in 2019.
"Randy built a successful business in this community and he really wanted to make sure he did something to leave a permanent legacy for others," Weatherby says. "Randy O'Dell House will do this for cancer patients and The Randy O'Dell Centre will do this for SAIT students."
Written by Jennifer Allford
Video by Grant Nolin