Time to Contribute

    Glenn Stowkowy sets his sights on building up the Alumni Association

    By Karen Sherlock on May 3, 2013

    Glenn Stowkowy is a VP and community leader. Now, as incoming president of the Alumni Association, he finds a new way to give back.

    If you visit Glenn Stowkowy, ’76 BSc(ElecEng), and his wife, Donna, it’s entirely possible you’ll leave with a package of home-baked goodies. It’s the kind of warmth and generosity that seems to come naturally to the family.

    A visit to the Stowkowys’ unpretentious St. Albert home one evening is filled with laughter, banter and easy conversation with Donna and Glenn, their son, Kyle, ’05 BA, and his new wife, Laura Stowkowy (Neeland), ’10 LLB, who are over for a visit. Kyle teases Glenn about his golf score and Donna ribs her husband about being handsome.

    Laura and Kyle, who were married last September, are over this night for dinner — a common occurrence for the foursome and the extended family. Glenn’s two brothers’ families, Donna’s two brothers’ families, and now Laura’s parents and siblings, get together regularly for holiday meals and special occasions.

    Glenn counts nine other alumni in his family. Aside from Laura and Kyle, there are his two brothers, Allen, ’77 BSc(CivEng) and Steve, ’79 BSc(CivEng), a niece, a nephew, two sisters-in-law and an aunt. His new daughter-in-law brings more connections: both Laura’s parents and six of her seven siblings are U of A grads.

    A strong U of A connection is one reason Glenn has chosen to volunteer on the Alumni Council for the past four years and has accepted the role as the association’s newest president.

    But his desire to give back goes deeper, says Donna.

    “We’re so grateful for what we have, and it is all because Glenn got a great education. He was employable after he finished engineering and he has worked in the same profession for 37 years. We’re grateful for the opportunities that we’ve been given. Now we want to give back.”

    A Passionate Community

    Since graduating in 1976 with a BSc in electrical engineering, Glenn Stowkowy’s career has kept him connected to the university in another way: through Stantec, where he is now a vice-president, he has been involved in designing and building several landmark buildings on campus over the years. He has also volunteered many hours as an alumnus, helping organize class reunions from the 10-year mark right up to his 35-year reunion in 2011 and, most recently, serving as engineering representative on the alumni association’s governing body.

    He speaks from personal experience about the benefits of staying connected as an alumnus.

    “I was a little nervous about getting involved in the Alumni Association at first. But when I did, I found working with the other people really interesting. They’re bright, thoughtful and very talented, and they are passionate about the university. It’s engaging and inspiring to be part of those initiatives,” he says.

    “There’s the fulfillment of giving back, but there’s also the camaraderie of working with people in the same cause.”

    Giving back is a strong motivator for Stowkowy. Aside from his U of A volunteer work, he coached minor hockey for 14 years, starting when Kyle was four. Then they both spent another seven years refereeing. He still hears “Hi, Coach!” now and then or gets an email from a former player, though those once-young kids are now in their 30s. He likes to think he has instilled a love of the game and maybe inspired his players to keep playing or to coach one day. Kyle certainly has a love of the game — he continues to play in two rec leagues despite a busy law career at Parlee McLaws in Edmonton. (Kyle broke with family tradition by earning his law degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 2009 — a fact he is constantly teased about by his family.)

    It’s easy to see why Stowkowy’s players still remember him and greet him warmly. He has a relaxed, easygoing manner and a ready sense of humour, often self-deprecating. He’s pretty humble, too. Getting him to blow his own horn is not an easy matter.

    But back in St. Albert, his family readily fills in the gaps with words like dedicated, trustworthy, loving, hard-working and genuine.

    For Kyle, his father is a role model, mentor and, he says sincerely, his best friend. Some of his fondest memories involve his dad, he says.

    “Glenn is kind. It’s the first thing I noticed about him,” says Laura. “He is comfortable to lean back and let other people take the spotlight.… He listens and he makes people feel valued.”

    Donna adds: “Throughout his hockey involvement, through all his business dealings, Glenn never sought any accolades. He never asks for attention. He just gets the job done and is quiet about it.”

    Then she turns to her husband and jokes: “Now you say something nice about me.”

    Building his community.

    Stowkowy’s 37-year career as an electrical engineer has been a rich one. After graduating at the age of 20, he started as an engineer-in-training with Allsopp Morgan Engineering. Within two years he became a partner and shareholder. (His work even played a part in his marriage: he and Donna began dating when Glenn’s company did the Youville expansion at the General Hospital where she worked as a nurse. They celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this year.)

    The firm eventually became Stantec, which boasts offices and projects around the globe. Stowkowy is vice-president in buildings engineering, responsible for the key client sectors of education, science and technology, and airports and aviation.

    He expresses gratitude for an amazing group of mentors at Allsopp Morgan — John Morgan, Harry Dowhan, ’59 BSc(ElecEng), Glenn Parker and Don Hickey, ’71 BSc(ElecEng), now U of A vice-president of facilities and operations — and says he has tried to emulate their good qualities in his own work. “I learned a lot from their quiet, confident leadership, their emphasis on the importance of excellence, and their different styles and personalities.… And all four of them were just fun to work with.”

    Stowkowy is proud to have played a role in prominent Edmonton buildings such as the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Edmonton International Airport expansion and, currently, the proposed Edmonton downtown arena.

    Particularly meaningful for him has been his involvement in the design and construction of landmark U of A buildings, including several for the engineering faculty. He considers it a career highlight to have returned to his former faculty to work on projects with dean David Lynch and faculty members who, in some cases, were there when he was a student. He was electrical engineering consultant for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Facility, the Engineering Teaching and Learning Complex, the Natural Resources Engineering Facility, the National Institute for Nanotechnology, the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy and the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences.

    From an engineering point of view, the buildings presented some interesting challenges. Some work at NINT, for example, involves materials at the molecular and atomic scale. That meant wiring had to be installed and layered without creating electrical forces that could affect sensitive processes and research; air pressure, temperature and noise variations had to be reduced to a minimum; and structurally, even minute vibrations such as those caused by someone walking down a hall had to be virtually eliminated. “They actually tuned their equipment to take into account the effect of the magnetic north pole,” notes Stowkowy. “It was a unique building.”

    When he’s not at work, putting in volunteer hours or on the golf course with Kyle, Stowkowy is out running and walking: a couple of hours several times a week. Professionally, he sits on the steering committee for the Alberta-Canada Fusion Energy Program. He served as president of the Edmonton chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society, and is currently past president. He was on the Alberta executive of the Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society for four years and continues to sit on the national membership committee.

    Stowkowy says one constant in his life is an ambition to make things better. “If there’s something that’s not right or appropriate, let’s not just sit and watch. Let’s do what we can to make it better.”

    That attitude comes through when he speaks of being an active alumnus. He believes alumni can play a valuable role in supporting the U of A and post-secondary education.

    “It helps all of us if we can be better representatives of the university, to help increase recognition and appreciation for its role. Given the importance that post-secondary education has for Edmonton and Alberta and Canada, it’s important that it remains a prominent focus for alumni and the public as a whole.”

    The university needs its alumni, he says — possibly now more than ever.

    “The university doesn’t make it on its own. Its volunteers are a big part of it,” he says. “A lot of our predecessors put in their time to make things better when we were going to school; now it’s time for us to contribute.”