For Heather Culbert (Distinguished Alumni '03, Computer Technology '79), grassroots community involvement is what makes Calgary such a vibrant, interconnected and unique city. Heather spent nearly 30 years in the oil and gas sector, building a reputation as an innovator, leader and changer in the energy and business industries in Calgary and across Canada. When she decided to step away from her executive position and turn her attention toward the community, she did so with the same passion and desire to be a driver of change.

“Community is one of the most important things in building a great city,” she says. “Calgary is one of the greatest cities in the world for creating a platform, raising awareness and bringing the community together to make meaningful and impactful change and innovation.”

For the past decade, Heather has been involved with numerous community-enhancing initiatives. She served as Chair of SAIT’s Board of Governors and co-chaired the Promising Futures™ Campaign, and she serves as Chair and is the co-founder of both Board Ready Women and Axis Connects, where she works tirelessly with her team and fellow volunteers towards the advancement of women.

“Getting more women on boards and into decision-making roles to create that diversity of thought across the spectrum of business is something I am passionate about,” she explains.

She has also volunteered as a Trustee and Campaign Cabinet Member for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Past Chair for United Way of Calgary and Area and currently serves as Chair of the World Leadership Council for United Way.

“United Way really does help at the root cause level to improve the quality of life for Albertans and Calgarians,” reflects Culbert. “I am really passionate about their work because in order for a city to be great, it has to be great for everyone.”

In 2012 Heather set out on one of the most important and personal philanthropic missions of her life. She and John Osler, were successful in advocating for a new cancer centre in Calgary and in 2021 kickstarted the OWN.CANCER campaign, a $250-million fundraising initiative to support excellence in the new cancer centre. The campaign, a partnership between the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the University of Calgary, and Alberta Health Services, raises funds to support cutting-edge cancer research, education and patient care. As one of three campaign co-chairs, Ms. Culbert assembled a dynamic group of community leaders to join her and, thanks to this collective effort, the OWN.CANCER campaign has successfully raised over $230 million to date.

The OWN.CANCER campaign supports an estimated two in five Canadians diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime – one in four of whom will die from the disease. Last year, an estimated 229,200 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 85,000 died. Numbers like this indicate the immense need for cancer treatment and detection Calgary, a struggle Heather knows very well. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and received treatment to remove the cancer. She has been clear of the disease since, but tragically, her mother passed away from the disease in 2013.

In October of this year, the new Arthur JE Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre will open in Calgary. The new centre will be a beacon of hope for the many Albertans who are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The journey to build this new cancer centre has been over a decade in the making and Heather has been there every step of the way.

“We have a bright future for cancer patients in Calgary,” she says. “Cancer is a horrific disease.  We are fortunate to have the opportunity to have a world leading cancer centre that will make a tremendous impact for Calgarians and Southern Albertans, attracting world class talent, research and lifesaving care and technologies.”

While Heather would be the first to say that the dream of a new cancer hospital for Calgary was not a solo endeavour, her contribution of time, expertise, connection, influence and hard work has been integral in turning this dream into a reality.

“[Something like] this takes a village. This is not Heather Culbert, this is Heather Culbert and many, many people coming together to make these things happen,” she says.

For this dedication she was awarded the 2024 Calgarian of the Year award.

“I hope this inspires other people to realize that you can bring our community together on important issues and make a difference as Calgary is one of the best places in the world to be able to build a platform and make your aspirations a reality.”

a view of the moutains and stream in between

Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.