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2017 Calgary Awards Recipients Bios

The Community Achievement Awards

Edmond Agopian, Arts

Edmond Agopian, ArtsFor almost three decades, Edmond Agopian has been a significant contributor to the Calgary Arts community. Edmond is an accomplished and world-renowned violinist, conductor, composer and educator, having taught master classes and conducted orchestras all over the world. Throughout his tenure at The University of Calgary's School of Creative Music and Performing Arts, Professor Agopian has been a tireless mentor to emerging young artists. His dedication to teaching and inspiring students to reach the highest standards has earned him the utmost respect of students and colleagues alike. Many of his students have gone on to successful international careers as professional musicians. Since 2002, he has been the Music Director of the Calgary Youth Orchestra at the Mount Royal University Conservatory, taking hundreds of students on international tours to immerse them in the history and culture of the world's greatest composers. Under his mentorship and direction, the Calgary Youth Orchestra has performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Edmond's unrelenting passion for music and formative teaching of Calgary's young musicians has strengthened Calgary's arts community and brought recognition to our city.

Ian MacGregor, Commerce

Ian MacGregor, CommerceIan MacGregor is an innovator in the field of engineering with a bold vision of diversifying the province's oil and gas industry, to fundamentally change Albert's economy and its stature on the world market. Trained as a mechanical engineer, and as President, Partner and Co-Founder at North West Capital Partners Inc., Ian has been identifying and investing in seed-stage Alberta-based companies for 30 years. In his role as President, CEO and Chair of North West Refining Inc., he is mobilizing to help build the Sturgeon Refinery, which will process crude from the Alberta Oil Sands. The project includes carbon capture and storage, making the carbon footprint among the lowest in the world. Ian's drive to make things better is fueled by his curiosity and informed by the past – he houses a collection of historical metal making tools in a private museum that he opens up to participants of the annual Beakerhead festival. Ian's vision to develop next generation energy infrastructure projects will benefit Calgarians and Albertans for decades to come. This passion for designing better solutions makes him an exemplary recipient of the Calgary Award for Commerce.

Gail Simper, Community Advocate

Gail Simper, Community AdvocateGail Simper is a long-time community advocate, volunteer and exceptional neighbour. She has volunteered quietly, diligently and behind the scenes for 25 years, acting as the institutional memory of the Bankview Community. Gail epitomizes the definition of community advocate as she has transformed her community and positively impacted the lives of many residents. Under Gail's stewardship, over $500,000 in improvements have been made to Bankview that includes everything from new playgrounds, irrigation in parks, gazebos, benches, basketball courts, and a community garden. Of the many community projects Gail has championed, the Buckmaster Park expansion is a true testament of her dedication to her home community. Complete with new benches and historic plaques honouring Bankview's heritage, Buckmaster Park is a versatile greenspace and gathering place just steps from the heart of Calgary's downtown. Gail's selfless nature and generous spirit make her a most deserving recipient of the Community Advocate Award.

Distress Centre Calgary, Community Advocate Organization

Distress Centre Calgary, Community Advocate OrganizationDistress Centre Calgary has been providing free 24/7 crisis support to Calgary and area for almost 50 years. The organization's mission is to provide compassionate, accessible crisis support that enhances the health, well-being and resiliency of individuals in distress. Distress Centre Calgary is the city's only 24/7 crisis service, with over 450 highly trained volunteers and support staff responding to 117,000 contacts in 2017 alone. Recognizing the iPhone generation's preference for online chat and text, the Centre introduced Connecteen chat and text, with a 115% increase in contacts from 2016 to 2017, and almost one quarter being suicide-related. Crisis intervention phone services are offered in over 200 languages, an essential service with the increasing number of immigrants in Calgary. Distress Centre Calgary supports people who are homeless or poverty-stricken, unemployed, dealing with mental health issues, grieving, suffering from addiction, depression or anxiety, or just having a bad day. No issue is too big or small for the critical service it provides to the citizens of our city.

Honourable Mention

Children's Hospital Aid Society, Community Advocate Organization

Since 1908, the Children's Hospital Aid Society (CHAS) has been quietly raising funds and volunteering to improve the health and well-being of children and youth in Calgary and area. CHAS today is made up of 75 volunteer women who each pay an annual fee to belong to the society. Since 1977, CHAS has raised over $9.8 million donating $4.7 million to The Alberta Children's Hospital and the remainder to numerous community agencies. For the last 110 years, The Children's Hospital Aid Society has been making Calgary a better place to live.

Cynthia Prasow, Education

Cynthia Prasow, EducationCynthia Prasow is a passionate educator, leader and advocate who has impacted so many lives during her 30-year career. Cynthia's contributions to the University of Calgary alone make it clear education is her life passion. As a leader of students and Director of Student Experiences at The Werklund School of Education, Cynthia shares her passion through leadership. Her work as an educator has seen her lead workshops, speak at conferences, and Chair Boards in an effort to convey best practices in education. Cynthia has initiated school based programs in special areas of need and supports teachers and childcare workers in the implementation of the Alberta program of studies for Early Years education. Cynthia's community service includes establishing a school based program for vulnerable youth through the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) program and supporting the learnings and history of Judaic education in Calgary's Jewish community. This past year, she co-chaired a project to raise funds and design a pre-school playground that opened in the Fall of 2017. Cynthia is passionate that all children are entitled to the best possible education opportunities and that we as families and community need to ensure appropriate resources are available and allocated for our leaders of tomorrow.

Dr. Hugh A. Dempsey, Heritage

Dr. Hugh A. Dempsey, HeritageAs historian, archivist, museum curator and educator for over 60 years, Dr. Dempsey has made a sustained and extraordinary contribution to the awareness and preservation of Calgary's, and southern Alberta's heritage. His long and storied career began with the publication of his first book, Historic Sites of the Province of Alberta. In 1956, Hugh became the first archivist at the Glenbow foundation, immersing himself in Alberta's history and initiating a progressive and unconventional acquisition program of records and artifacts. He was diligent in rescuing archival materials, and documenting his countless interviews with important figures in our history, including his writings of the deep roots and contributions of Alberta's Indigenous peoples. Since retiring in the 1990s from the Glenbow and his teaching position at the University of Calgary, Dr. Dempsey continues to research, write, collect and preserve Calgary's heritage. For this extraordinary contribution, Dr. Dempsey is most deserving of the Calgary Award for Heritage.

Yuvraj Singh, Youth

Yuvraj Singh, YouthYuvraj Singh is an inspiring young leader, exemplifying the spirit of volunteerism to benefit many Calgary charities and community organizations. As a high school student at Sir Winston Churchill, Yuvraj founded the first high school Sikh Students Association in Alberta and started the Langar Week initiative, a Sikh tradition of serving free food to all. The club served a hot meal to 2000 SWC students over a week period to engage the student body regardless of race, gender or faith. Yuvraj took this concept outside of school and founded the United Sikh Youth Calgary organization, through which he and a team of friends run the Eradicate Hunger Campaign to combat poverty and homelessness in Calgary. Yuvraj is a strong supporter of causes related to heart disease and diabetes, volunteering his time and his voice (in multiple languages) to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. To be so accomplished and engaged in community, and eager to give back at such a young age, can only mean endless possibilities for this inspiring young man, a true leader of tomorrow.

Dr. Mary Rozsa de Coquet, Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Mary Rozsa de Coquet, Grant MacEwan Lifetime AchievementDr. Mary Rozsa de Coquet is a champion of the Calgary community, a connector of people and a mentor to many aspiring artists. A former school teacher, Mary's contributions to the city of Calgary are numerous and diverse, including a seat on many boards and committees, collaboration with the University of Calgary and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and instrumental support of the Calgary arts scene via the Rozsa Foundation, to name a few. Mary is a member of the Order of Canada and her leadership influence has a global reach via her membership in the International Women's Forum, a collective of accomplished women from 33 nations dedicated to advancing women's leadership locally and globally. In October 2017, Mary was awarded the prestigious “Woman Who Makes a Difference Award” for Canada at the organization's world leadership conference. Known as a thoughtful philanthropist, Mary invests significant personal time and resources to solve issues and change the landscape of the Calgary community. Her life's work of linking research, business and innovation will ensure a sustainable and vibrant arts community for generations to come. To recognize Dr. Mary Rozsa de Coquet's remarkable achievements is to honour her with the Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement Award for her 30 plus years of leadership and vision to make Calgary a better city, and a wonderful place to live.

J. Murray McCann, Citizen of the Year

J. Murray McCann, Citizen of the YearMurray McCann is a successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist whose contributions to the Calgary community make him a most worthy recipient of this award. Throughout his 50-year career as a Chartered Accountant, Murray has founded and led numerous successful businesses. He believes in giving back to the community and through the McCann Family Foundation has quietly established, funded and volunteered with several initiatives of tremendous impact in Calgary and around the world. Two of Murray's notable recent projects are the Homes for Heroes project, focused on improving the quality of life for Canadian veterans, and the Field of Crosses Memorial project, honouring Southern Albertans who have served in the military and fallen in the line of duty. Murray McCann is a visionary and a humanitarian who truly cares about others, and has taken his success in life and channeled it back into philanthropic endeavours that will continue to enrich the lives of Calgarians for years to come.

The Signature Award

Brian Felesky

Brian FeleskyFor over 40 years, Brian Felesky has been an influential member of the Calgary business community, and contributed to improving the quality of life for Calgarians through his tireless volunteer and philanthropic community involvement. Mr. Felesky co-founded the boutique law firm Felesky Flynn in 1978. Over the years, the firm made a national name as the expert on Canadian tax law, with Brian Felesky the person to call when you had a complex corporate tax transaction to navigate. Upon leaving the firm after 33 years, Brian was approached by global investment banking giant Credit Suisse Securities (Canada) to manage the firm's expansion into the Western Canadian global energy market. Today, Brian remains active in business as a Director on several Boards, but his focus has turned to more philanthropic involvement primarily benefiting Calgary's newcomers and youth. He sits on the Calgary ‘We Day – Free the Children' organizing committee, the advisory council for the Immigrant Access Fund, and is a co-founding member of Awali – a teacher development project in East Africa. Most recently, he co-founded the Top 7 over 70 awards program, a seniors' recognition event. Mr. Felesky has been honoured for his many contributions to the community, and is most worthy of the latest, The Signature Award.

The Award for Accessibility

Calgary International Airport – YYC LINK Passenger Shuttle

Calgary International Airport – YYC LINK Passenger ShuttleThe YYC LINK Passenger Shuttle is a one-of-a-kind, universally accessible compact transit system which offers a seamless experience when travelling through the Calgary Airport. The system consists of custom designed electric vehicles operating on a dedicated route that links all domestic and international concourses. The project began in 2010, and service to the public began late October 2016. The goal of the YYC LINK was to create a universally accessible transportation system within the terminal that did not differentiate between levels of mobility. The YYC LINK provides access and inclusion to persons with limited mobility, persons without limited mobility, persons with reduce hearing and/or sight, as well as families travelling with toddlers in strollers or oversize carry-on luggage. From the onset of design through construction, the Alberta Building Code regulations were exceeded which was key to the project's success. Having just completed its first year of operation, YYC LINK Passenger Shuttle has become a valued service with more than 2,600,000 riders to date. The YYC LINK Passenger Shuttle is an experience not to be missed when visiting the Calgary International Airport.

The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

"Darwin's Moving" by Taylor Lambert

'Darwin's Moving' by Taylor LambertThis well-written narrative offers a portrait of a rarely seen side of Calgary, as only movers see it. It tells an authentic but non-judgmental story involving not always positive characters but real and compelling people just the same. Lambert takes us behind the scenes of a familiar industry that is almost completely undocumented in literature, to reveal the cycles of poverty and addiction that ensnare its transient workers. Ex-cons and drug addicts are invited into spacious homes, entrusted with the care and transport of the possessions of the upper-classes – a unique bridging of two normally segregated worlds.
In his weird and wandering journalism career, Taylor Lambert has been a sports writer, a columnist, and has covered breaking news at newspapers in four cities. Today he is an award-winning long form magazine writer and the author of four books, including Darwin's Moving, and Rising, an acclaimed literary journalism exploration of the 2013 Alberta flood. But before any of that, he was a furniture mover.