For more than 50 years, Jack Donald has been an inspiring leader as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and enthusiastic community builder in the growth and development of Red Deer and Alberta. His drive, vision and business acumen have contributed immeasurably to the economy of the Red Deer area, creating jobs and attracting investment. His tireless charitable activities have benefitted many community causes.
Jack was born in Edmonton in 1934 and married his wife, Joan, two years after graduating from high school. He and Joan started their first venture into the service station business in 1957, in Edmonton, while Jack was working towards his journeyman mechanic’s ticket from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
Jack and Joan moved to Red Deer with their children, Kathy and John, in 1964. They started Parkland Oil Products Ltd. that year and then sold the company, with 38 service station outlets, to Turbo Resources in 1971. Jack joined Turbo as Director and Vice-President Marketing until he and Joan bought control of Parkland Beef Industries Ltd., a publicly traded company, which became Parkland Industries Ltd. Parkland Industries, headquartered in Red Deer, became a fuel distribution company with the familiar green and gold Fas Gas retail service stations. By the time Jack retired as President and CEO, in 2002, Parkland Industries had its own refinery and 454 retail service stations in Western and Northern Canada. Today’s Parkland Fuel Corporation is Canada’s largest independent fuel marketer and distributor.
While running the fuel distribution company, Jack also operated Parkland Properties Ltd., an investment and real estate business established in 1968. In addition, Jack was co-founder of Park Country Broadcasting (KG Country) in Red Deer. He was also a Partner and Vice-President of Brandt Industries Ltd. of Regina. He has continued to serve as a director on boards of petroleum and agriculture equipment companies.
As he worked to grow his business interests, Jack made it a priority to join like-minded, youth-focused volunteers at the Optimist Club of Red Deer, and quickly became president. His positive outlook and commitment to service led him to expand his community involvement by joining the Rotary Club. Following his service on a number of City of Red Deer committees, Jack was moved to seek and win two terms as a Red Deer Alderman in the 1970s.
After he left elected office, Jack’s commitment to education led him to accept an appointment to the Board of Governors for Red Deer College in 1979. He served for three years on the board and then continued to share his wisdom with students as a guest speaker in the Business and the Trade and Technology Studies programs. Jack and Joan, and the companies they led, have been major donors to the college for decades. The Donald’s gift in 2006 was the largest single donation in the college’s history. The Donald’s generosity led to the creation of the Donald School of Business and started a momentum of giving that helped Red Deer College reach campaign goals.
Westerner Park in Red Deer has been another longstanding beneficiary of Jack Donald’s community focus. He joined the Westerner Exhibition board in 1979 and led relocation of the exhibition grounds and the construction of both the Parkland Pavilion that hosts large events in Red Deer, and the 7000 seat Centrium Arena, home to the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. Joan and Jack’s generosity also helped to build Westerner Park’s Donald Administration Building. The community has further benefitted from Joan and Jack’s work co-chairing the very successful 2005 Central Alberta fundraising campaign for STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society).
Not content with making a difference in Red Deer alone, Jack expanded the scope of his service to the provincial level. In 1983, he was director, then chair, of the Alberta Opportunity Company that funded small businesses across the province. Between 1995 and 2000, he chaired and co-chaired three provincial tax review commissions to review and improve Alberta’s competitiveness and reduce Albertans’ taxation. He also served for more than 26 years as one of the founding directors and chairman of the Bank of Alberta which became Canadian Western Bank.
Jack’s leadership and commitment have been recognized at the local, provincial and national levels. In 2011, he was inducted into the Southern Alberta Business Hall of Fame and was named Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year in 2002. Joan and daughter Kathy have also received Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year awards. As well, Jack and Joan were presented with the G.H. Dawe Memorial Award for their contributions to education. Jack received the first annual Pinnacle Award (Business Excellence) in 1987 and the Canada Award for Business Excellence from the Government of Canada in 1989. He was inducted into the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2005, Jack and Joan received the Philanthropic Family – Generosity of Spirit Award from the Calgary chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2012, SAIT feted Jack with an Honorary Bachelor of Business Administration Degree.
It’s been an extraordinary climb for Jack, who remembers the early days of closing his service station at 7 p.m. and driving to Edmonton to pick up a truckload of gas so he could open up the next day. Often, he didn’t get back to Red Deer until 1 a.m. “I think that almost anyone, if they want to apply themselves, can be an entrepreneur,” says Jack. “It’s not something you’re born with.” His advice to young people? “Be honest with yourself, with others. Be proud of what you do, and do your best.”
One of Jack’s colleagues sums up what so many feel about the lifelong go-getter: “It is never about Jack. It is about the well-being of everyone.” That community spirit, combined with Jack’s business ingenuity, leadership, philanthropy and tireless volunteerism, is a legacy that will reverberate throughout Central Alberta for generations.