Summit – As Albertan as beer, horseshoes and rock 'n' roll

Words by Bryan Weismiller
Photos by Roth and Ramberg

There's the prairie beer baron, the affable horseshoe club and the hard-living music critic. Trace the origin of Mount Royal University's scholarships and bursaries back to their roots and you're bound to uncover a colourful cast of characters.

Though their stories are distinct, these Mount Royal supporters all share meaningful connections to the community. "We are immensely proud of the breadth of our student award supporters," says Stephen Shapiro, executive director, Development and Alumni Relations. "The generosity of our community helps create more successful futures by breaking down the financial barriers faced by many students.

"Not only do these gifts provide financial assistance, they also contribute to a sense of belonging among our student body."

Mount Royal presented more than 4,500 student awards in the past academic year. That tally is slated to grow over the next decade in keeping with the University's strategic plan.

Here, we profile three supporters behind student awards and success.

As legend has it, Calgary’s original microbrewery began one night with a bottle of whisky and an unquenchable thirst for a better local beer. Add a resourceful brewmaster to the picture, and the late Ed McNally had the early beginnings of Big Rock Brewery.

While the city is now dotted with a dizzying variety of beer brewers — pint-sized and otherwise — back in 1984, it took McNally’s bold entrepreneurial spirit to take on the mass producers dominating the suds market.

“Ed McNally was a visionary who wasn’t afraid to forge his own path for something he believed in,” says Big Rock spokesperson Susanne Fox. “He was one of the province’s trail-blazing entrepreneurs.”

Big Rock has developed into one of Alberta’s quintessential success stories over the past three decades. The company has grown its product line, increased its production volume and expanded its operations nearly nationwide.

That success has enabled the craft brewing company to help others realize their untapped potential.

The brewer hands out a host of post-secondary scholarships, but perhaps none more fitting to McNally’s legacy than the Big Rock Brewery Scholarship for Entrepreneurs at Mount Royal University. The scholarship is awarded to a full-time Bachelor of Business Administration student who minors in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“The McNally family believes that their success lends to others’ success,” says Fox. “It’s part of the McNally’s DNA and part of the company’s identity.”

For Fox, an alumna of Mount Royal’s Journalism program, her alma mater shares traits with her current employer. During a tour of Big Rock’s southeast facility, Fox pointed to a special collection of barrel-aged beer. Each of the hulking casks was identified by an employee’s name.

“Just like at Mount Royal, everyone here is more than just a number,” she says.

AWARD

The Big Rock Brewery Scholarship for Entrepreneurs

RECIPIENT

Torin Hofmann

Program

Bachelor of Business Administration – General Management, Marketing (Minor) and Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Minor)

Pitching horseshoes was more than just a summertime fling for a group of Calgarians who mortgaged their homes to kick-start what’s now North America’s largest site for the grand ol’ game.

The Calgary Horseshoe Club — as it’s known today — was formed in 1978 when horseshoe enthusiasts from the Forest Lawn Night Owls and the No. 275 Royal Canadian Legion joined together under one banner.

With membership soaring higher than their U-shaped discs, the group decided it needed a new home.

In the late 1980s, the club held a two-day casino fundraiser to help pay for its new digs. Six members put up their homes to back the bank loan to provide the float for their first casino.

“We’re very proud of our rich history in the city of Calgary,” says past club president Linda Skiehar. “There are many folks who sacrificed to ensure that our club started successfully.”

Today, the club still runs out of the same barn-style building, tucked away in the city’s southeast industrial park. With 20 indoor pits and 10 outdoor pits, the Calgary Horseshoe Club boasts being the biggest on the continent.

And, while the clubhouse is cavernous at more than 1,850 square metres, it’s still home to a close-knit group of ringers. Members range from picnic players to championship pitchers.

Skiehar estimates about 90 per cent of players have children or grandchildren attending post-secondary. That’s why each year the club awards the Calgary Horseshoe Club Scholarship to one full- or part-time student under the age of 22, in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Sport and Recreation Management.

“The future is in our youth,” says Skiehar, a registered nurse who updated her education through Mount Royal’s Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension. “The young adults of today can carry the torch forward to promote sports.”

AWARD

calgary horseshoe club scholarship

4

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge on sport and wellness, so i can give back to my community when i graduate this spring.”

When James Muretich arrived in Calgary, “rock ‘n’ roll came to town.” At least that’s what you’ll hear from some of the city’s music scene veterans, such as artist Tom Bagley, who says the above of his late friend and colleague. Muretich, a charismatic rock journalist, entered the picture sometime in the early ‘80s.

Until then, there was no bona fide entertainment writer in Cowtown. Media outlets, in fact, shunned entertainment writing because it wasn’t considered to be a formal part of the craft. Muretich helped to legitimize the practice. Writing in the pages of the Calgary Sun (the Albertan) from 1979 to 1983 and then the Calgary Herald for two decades, the sharp-witted wordsmith gained a loyal following. He also reached audiences through CJSW-FM alternative radio station and its monthly magazine, VOX, as well as his community access music video show.

“Muretich was more than a voice — he was THE voice,” says Brad Simm, a long-time music magazine publisher, who also works with Mount Royal University journalism students to produce the Calgary Journal. “He was a freight train of verbiage, ideas and energy.”

Muretich was a street reporter who hung out with all walks of life — and partied with them, too.

He paid his own way for shows at every dive bar, motor inn and punk venue in the city to give little-known local acts their first taste of newsprint. Then, he’d turn up to review the big-name bands at the Stampede Corral and the other marquee venues of the day.

“He was totally immersed in the culture,” Simm said. (Muritech) “had a work-hard, party-hard lifestyle.” Sadly, in 2006, he died at the relatively young age of 54 from a brain tumor.

The next year, friends of the rock reviewer established the James Muretich Memorial Bursary, which benefits a full-time Mount Royal Journalism student each year.

Simm believes that Muretich’s willingness to immerse himself into the local music scene serves as a road map to success for the new generation of journalists.

“There are so many opportunities to engage in the DIY culture,” Simm says. “It’s much easier now to pick up a camera and get out there.”

AWARD

james muretich memorial bursary

YEAR OF STUDY

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“the scholarship helps pay for tuition, which goes a long way towards helping me finish my education.”