Autumn 2017

Up Front

I had just arrived at work when I got the phone call that changed me and my family forever.

It was 1992, a year after I graduated from the University of Alberta’s pharmacy program. I’d just landed a job at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute, working directly with doctors on patient care. I was a happy 24-year-old with a great job.

Then my mother called with devastating news: my father had suffered a heart attack and was in emergency care. I rushed out of the building, got back in my car and drove across the city. I wondered if my dad would be alive when I got there.

To my relief, he had survived and was set for a full recovery — but only after many months of hardship for all of us. With his furniture business struggling and my father unable to work, it was up to me to support our family and keep the store afloat. I worked days at the Cross and nights balancing the books at the furniture store.

Now, two decades later, I see this family crisis as a blessing in disguise. After praying every day for my dad’s recovery, I grew closer to my faith. As I immersed myself in the family business, I found out that I adored sales, which laid the groundwork for a future career in real estate. Above all, those months as my family’s breadwinner forced me to find a deep inner strength — something I continue to tap into during hard times.

Each one of us has a story of overcoming adversity. A moment when you looked past your insecurities for the greater good — of your family, of your community. As UAlberta alumni, we share this story. Our university was founded as a place for people to reinvent themselves, to try anything, to be anyone.

The 21 men and women you meet in this issue of New Trail turned the obstacles they encountered — some of them personal, some societal — into insight and innovation. For opera singer and voice instructor Elizabeth Turnbull, ’84 BMus, the suicide of her husband turned her into an advocate for suicide awareness. For Edmonton school principal Bradley Burns, ’94 BEd, the childhood poverty he stepped out of made him an unwavering champion for underprivileged students. For psychiatrist Lorne Warneke, ’63 BSc(HonsCert), ’67 MD, the repeated discrimination he witnessed against the sexual and gender minority community only emboldened him as their advocate.

I hope you find inspiration in these alumni stories as you seek the courage to make your own change in the world.

Ayaz Bhanji, ’91 BSc(Pharm)

President, Alumni Association