New student commons makes space for face-to-face

‘People created opportunities for me through their philanthropy, and now we want to do the same,’ says a donor behind the project

Kate Black - 14 March 2022

Whether it’s a student entering the workforce or an executive looking to build a stronger business, Court Carruthers, who graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree in 1993, has similar advice to offer them: find good people and collaborate often.

“If you surround yourself with great people, great things will happen,” said Carruthers, president and CEO of global packaging distributor TricorBraun.

One problem: in the recent remote-work environment, these meaningful face-to-face interactions have been in short supply.

Court, his wife Kirstin and two boys Aidan and Liam are helping to create new opportunities for students to work together through their support of the Carruthers Student Commons. Opening in fall 2022, the commons will update the former Winspear Business Library location to provide vital space for students’ current needs: career and academic advising, spaces for student groups and class project meetings, room for networking events and additional upgrades including workstations and storage lockers.

Court Carruthers ('93 BCom) and his mother, Gay.

The Carruthers family’s most recent gift is a continuation of their ongoing support for the university, including a scholarship in honour of Court’s mother, Gay, and major gifts to prior capital campaigns. Carruthers also served on the school’s advisory council for 10 years, where he helped guide the school through the economic recession of 2008 and the transition of new deans. He was recognized for his support of the school and other community initiatives with an Alumni Award of Excellence in 2008.

This time, supporting a project in the Business building feels like a particularly full-circle moment.

“I have so many joyous memories of time in that building,” said Carruthers, reflecting on the hours he spent in Winspear as an undergrad — and the generosity that made learning in that space possible. “

People created opportunities for me through their philanthropy, and now our family wants to do the same.  It is also important to us that what comes next in that space is something the Winspear family would also be proud of. ”

Although he completed his degree in a speedy three years, Carruthers filled his time at the school to the brim. He loved digging into the comprehensive business education he got at the University of Alberta — learning everything from accounting and finance to organizational theory and sociology — but most of the magic came from the extracurriculars: writing for The Gateway, serving in student government, and getting involved in charitable initiatives such as United Way.

He’s remained a lifelong learner ever since. Carruthers career, which has seen him leading multi-billion dollar businesses around the world, has always been accompanied by extra studies on the side, including completing his MBA at Queen’s, the directors education program at Rotman, and earning his ICD.D and CPA, CMA designations. He’s currently pursuing a doctor of business administration at Pepperdine University in California.

Of all these academic experiences, he still says his time at the U of A has been the one that had the most impact.

“I’ve probably learned the most at the U of A. It was such a foundational and transformational experience,” said Carruthers. He credits much of this transformation to the time he spent outside of the classroom connecting his studies with real problems and real people and growing under the guidance of strong mentors. 

Now, he’s excited to pay it forward through his family’s support of the commons.

“So much learning happens in the extracurricular and student groups. I was involved in all of that as a student, so it’s exciting to see it all come together in one space.”

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Sarah Kowalevsky
Assistant Dean, Development