In the high-octane world of oil-patch philanthropy, the entrepreneurs who built Calgary’s ARC Resources Ltd. have operated much like the company they created – quietly active, with a disdain for grandstanding publicity.
But that low profile is being shed today as the ARC team, led by co-founder Mac Van Wielingen, make a game-changing gift to the University of Calgary – a $9.5-million donation to the university’s business school to embed ethical leadership in its curriculum, research and culture.
The donation creates the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business, which will serve as an umbrella body for leadership and ethics teaching and research in the Haskayne School of Business.
“It allows us to really focus on putting leadership and ethics into the core curriculum, and having the additional funding to hire new people,” Haskayne dean Leonard Waverman says. “And the centre doesn’t sit in any particular subject area – it is across the whole school.”
Over the past 15 years, Mr. Van Wielingen and colleague John Dielwart have developed ARC Resources into a large conventional oil and gas player with market capitalization of about $7-billion. A sister firm, private-equity investment company ARC Financial Corp., has about $2.7-billion under management.
The ARC executives say the organization has always striven to cultivate leadership, but the donation’s direct catalyst was Mr. Van Wielingen’s dismay over the 2008 financial crisis and his perception of ethical hollowness in many executive teams.
“I was appalled by the inability of business leaders to look at the root cause of the business failures,” he says.
“Mac took it personally,” says Mr. Dielwart, who was pulled into the exercise by the intensity of his mentor and colleague. The events triggered a dialogue with Mr. Waverman that culminates with the new centre.
Now the ARC leaders and the university are talking about pushing this leadership training into other programs across the institution.
The founding donors of the centre are Mr. Van Wielingen and his wife Susan through their Viewpoint Charitable Foundation; ARC Resources led by Mr. Dielwart; ARC Financial Corp.; and ARC Financial CEO Kevin Brown and his wife Nadine.
Notably, the centre will not be called the ARC or Van Wielingen leadership centre – the donors spurned the common practice of requesting the name of the company or principal donors be put on the front door. Says Mr. Waverman: “They say, ‘it’s the Canadian centre – it’s not us.’”