Click below to read more profiles of this year's Compelling Calgarians
Chief Roy Whitney
He was afraid to go into the water, like many six-year-olds. But Roy Whitney’s sister, Marilyn, was having none of it. His eldest sister picked him up and threw him into Fish Creek. “That’s the only way you’re going to learn.” That “sink or swim” incident foreshadowed Chief Roy Whitney’s future career.
Jay Westman — homebuilder, philanthropist, entrepreneur — is, by his own description, “a ridiculous optimist.” So, while acknowledging a year Calgarians and the economy struggled, he expects a rebound by the third quarter of 2021 because “we’re survivors. We’re an entrepreneurial city.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant both a high and a low for Neil Zeller. A low because a photography business he worked so hard to nurture has seen a downturn, but a high because he was able to visually document the experience of Calgarians in the pandemic.
Dr. Amy Tan
When Dr. Amy Tan sees Albertans flouting the mask directive, she says she feels despair. Tan, who prior to recently moving to B.C. was a family and palliative-care doctor in northeast Calgary, has been at the forefront of Masks4Canada, a grassroots volunteer group that has touted the benefits of wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Chris and Kelsie Snow
Assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames, Chris was diagnosed with ALS (a progressive nervous system disease) in June of 2019. His wife, Kelsie, a freelance writer, has been chronicling the family’s journey in her blog.
Playwright and filmmaker Ted Stenson always played on bad high school sports teams. So he never understood redemption stories, where the underdog surges back to triumph. It was his own, more mundane high school experience the 36-year-old took into his first feature film.
Dr. Malinda Smith
In August, the University of Calgary joined several other institutions in Canada — and only the second in Western Canada after UBC — to add the position of vice-provost of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to its roster. Dr. Malinda Smith was excited to be chosen for that inaugural role.
He’s a global leader in a fast-emerging field, his pioneering work in wearable technology taking him around the world and capturing the attention of scientific journals and leading news publications such as Forbes.
Virtual Gurus founder and CEO Bobbie Racette, with her tattoos and less-than-stuffy corporate work wear, may not initially shout “leader of a multimillion-dollar tech company.” But underestimation is something the entrepreneur has been fighting most of her 43 years.
Quansah is the creative force behind Kujo’s Kid Zone, a YouTube sensation that has grown from 93 subscribers to close to 600, and from 200 views to more than 55,000. The show, aimed at youngsters between the ages of two and eight, aired its first episode in February after nearly two years of planning.
It’s an endeavour borne of experience, one that Hanif Joshaghani and Tiffany Kaminsky hope will help steer others onto a better financial path. “The concept of (debt) delinquency was near and dear to my heart because of some of the delinquency episodes that I had first-hand as a kid,” said Joshaghani, who with Kaminsky co-founded local tech company Symend.
Hanif Joshaghani and Tiffany Kaminsky
As a youngster, Adora Nwofor wanted to be a ballerina. But after a few lessons, it was “no” to that dream from her teacher, because the now six foot one inch Black woman was already “too big.” The 45-year-old, named president of Black Lives Matter YYC last year, continues to take “no” as a motivation.
Words are important to Adam Massiah. As a kid, he penned poetry to “confide my struggles,” then wrote and performed songs professionally as a hip-hop artist. Now, at age 27, the computer technology graduate is leader of United Black People’s Allyship.
Catriona Le May Doan
Winner of two Olympic gold medals in speedskating, Le May Doan has shifted seamlessly into broadcasting and motivational speaking. Currently, she’s president and CEO of Sport Calgary. But it was her role as lead athlete mentor in 2018 that whet her appetite for something more.
A trench dress for Meghan Markle may have kick-started Nina Kharey’s international fashion design career, but a unique line of pandemic-inspired scrubs will be top-of-mind this year. The founder of House of Nonie this month launches Folds, modern, antiviral, athletic wear for health-care workers.
Mark and Lauren Giordano
As fine a hockey player as Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano is, the efforts by him and his wife Lauren on the charitable front continue to gain as much respect, if not more. TeamGio each year helps 4,000 kids in Calgary schools with book donations, funds and inspirational talks.
Life changed for Amanda Hall on a visit to a remote Tibetan mountain top, watching the monastery’s monk check his iPhone. It confirmed for the oil industry geophysicist that lithium (used in lithium-ion batteries for iPhones and electric cars) was her future.
Author, filmmaker, historian — there are a litany of terms to describe Cheryl Foggo. But which of those would she use? “I think of myself as a writer, and I write in a lot of different forms and some of those forms lead me to other types of creations, such as directing and producing,” Foggo said. “Basically, I’m a storyteller.”
She hit the stage singing gospel and country music at age three, with a professional singer — her mom — as backup. “I came out of the womb singing,” says 32-year-old Bebe Buckskin, who grew up on northern Alberta’s Paddle Prairie Metis settlement and spent her younger adult years playing coffee shops, open mikes and busking.
It began with a plastic stick, shooting a plastic puck into a bucket on the concrete floor of his immigrant parents’ home in small-town B.C. For Dampy Brar, the first child on either side of his family born outside India, the inauspicious start led to a professional hockey career and, last year, a prestigious award from the NHL.