Alumni Awards kick off centennial celebrations
Think about the legacy of SAIT’s more than 227,000 alumni during the past century and it’s staggering. Building communities, growing businesses, leading change and raising families – their impact in our city and beyond is vast.
So where do you begin selecting graduates to recognize with SAIT’s Alumni Awards during our centennial year? People who represent the values, diversity, talent and drive of the Institute’s graduates? Well, you ask your community. And we did. And in SAIT’s 100th year the answer was resounding, with a record 100-plus nominations for the Distinguished and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards.
At tonight's Alumni Awards ceremony, Jennifer Carlson and Lorenzo Donadeo will join the ranks of 35 Distinguished Alumni recognized since 1988 and Levi Kuta, Ron Tarrant and Josh Traptow will be recognized as SAIT's Outstanding Young Alumni.
All five are proven leaders who demonstrate exceptional accomplishments in their fields, and their outstanding contributions to their communities are an inspiration as we celebrate 100 years of alumni achievement.
Jennifer Carlson (BA ’98) — 2016 SAIT Distinguished Alumna
At the tender age of eight, Jennifer Carlson was already well on her way to mastering fundamental marketing concepts by using a pull-behind cart to quench the thirst of overheated parents at her community’s soccer fields.
“I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur,” says Carlson, founder and director of Baby Gourmet Foods Inc. “It just took me a while to find the right idea.”
When that big idea finally presented itself, Carlson was standing in a lengthy baby food aisle overwhelmed at what to buy for her six-month-old daughter.
“It was so obvious to me that something was missing, and the opportunity felt so big and so open that I immediately knew it was right,” says Carlson.
She started out making and selling high-quality baby food at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. Two years in, she was selling $30,000 of product each month and in 2008, she pitched Baby Gourmet to retail giant Walmart. Today you can find the company’s 30-plus products sold by more than 2,500 major retailers across Canada, and the company’s line of healthy snacks for kids, called Slammers, at more than 4,000 retailers throughout the United States.
Lorenzo Donadeo (WET ’77) — 2016 SAIT Distinguished Alumnus
How do you build a $6.5 billion enterprise? Incrementally, says Lorenzo Donadeo, co-founder, former CEO and chairman, Vermilion Energy Inc.
“When we founded Vermilion Energy in 1994, we literally started at zero with a plan to take the company to $2 per share and then sell it.”
That’s not what happened. Today, Vermilion hovers at about $72 per share (including $30 of dividends per share paid to date), produces 65,000 barrels of oil each day, is listed on the TSE and NYSE, and has operations in North America, Europe and Australia.
But Vermilion wasn’t immune to the ebb and flow of the oil and gas industry. “That’s where the biggest learning happens,” says Donadeo. “When oil was $10 a barrel in 1998 it was probably the toughest point in our growth, but it also taught us the importance of staying calm, having strong financial controls, and keeping the entire organization motivated and focused on what they can do to help.”
When you do see success — in good times or bad — Donadeo says it’s important to take the time to celebrate. “To succeed, you need smart people who are engaged, and you need to create a culture that respects and rewards those people for their contributions. When you do that, your company can perform at a high level because people want to be a part of that.”
Josh Traptow (AIM ’11) — 2016 SAIT Outstanding Young Alumnus
This past year has been very good to Josh Traptow. First, he added executive director for the Calgary Heritage Authority (CHA) to his impressive resumé (which includes administrative positions for two Calgary city councillors and in former Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s office) and then he was nominated for SAIT’s Outstanding Young Alumni award — twice.
To say that Traptow is fond of his hometown — and his alma mater — is an understatement. One of his earliest memories is of having lunch with his grandmother in SAIT’s cafeteria when he was around five years old.
“Calgary is my home and it means a lot to me. It’s given me everything I’ve gotten in my life so far,” he says. “Being able to give back to this city and save its heritage is the coolest thing I get to do.”
Through his work at CHA, Traptow and a voluntary advisory board advise City Council on all matters related to Calgary’s heritage, in hopes of recognizing and preserving the city’s history for generations to come.
However, even in his downtime Traptow can be found working to improve the city by volunteering on SAIT industry panels and with a variety of non-profit organizations, including the Calgary Stampede, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary, and United Way of Calgary and Area.
Levi Kuta (MDT ’12) — 2016 SAIT Outstanding Young Alumnus
Levi Kuta, Manager of Engineering and Design at Airdrie’s Alta Injection Molding, “always knew” he wanted to build things for a living.
He started off with Lego bricks as a child, and later set his sights on an engineering degree from the University of Calgary. However, he switched gears after one semester in the program and transferred to SAIT to pursue a more hands-on education.
“Without SAIT, my life wouldn’t be the same,” he says. Since graduating, Kuta has made both a name and a career for himself based on his passion for building, using the latest 3D printing and polymer technology, which he describes as the way of the future with virtually “endless possibilities.”
He’s also been named in two patents (one for an improved welding handle design, and one for a lightweight plastic collapsible beer and wine keg), and earned an Innovate Calgary TechRev award in 2015.
At Alta Injection Molding, he oversees the design team, meets with clients and provides quotes for new projects. However, he says the best part of his job is knowing his designs help bring people’s ideas to life.
Ron Tarrant (RTBN ’08) — 2016 Outstanding Young Alumnus
If there’s one word to describe award-winning radio producer Ron Tarrant, it’s “humble.” If there are two, they are “go-getter.”
In fact, one of Tarrant’s earliest memories from his time in SAIT’s Radio, Television and Broadcast News program is his Audio Production instructor Richard Stroobant’s opening speech. Stroobant asked the class, “How badly do you want this career?” It was a question that resonates with Tarrant even today. “I was always taught that if you want something, you have to get up off your rear and make it happen,” he says.
And remembering this lesson has since paid off for Tarrant — he is regarded as one of the best radio producers in the industry, and has won four international Radio and Production Awards and two awards at The Crystals, which recognize the best in Canadian radio creative.
Now working in New York City as the head imaging and sound designer for the Howard Stern Show, he writes scripts, produces bits, and creates sound design for a show that boasts an audience of 30 million subscribers.
Though he feels he’s under the most pressure he’s ever dealt with, the “pay-off” for Tarrant’s hard work is having the opportunity to work with the legendary Stern himself.
Written by Michelle Woodard and Giselle Wedemire (JA ’13)