Ralph Barclay Young was born in Saskatoon in 1945. He remembers his youth as a simple and fortunate time. While Ralph and his three brothers didn’t have many luxuries, they made up for it in opportunity. Ralph participated in everything available, from sports to school activities, from Cubs and Scouts to church functions. He grew up working in the family book and stationery business, doing everything from cleaning floors, taking out garbage, delivering packages to customers on bike, managing inventory and serving customers. He credits family and community for instilling the values that have served him well throughout life.
One of those values is education. Although Ralph had a childhood interest in architecture, the nearby University of Saskatchewan lacked an architecture program, so he opted for the next-closest thing - civil engineering. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1967, Ralph re-located to Winnipeg and worked as a young engineer on bridge design and construction projects. His thirst for education led Ralph and his wife Gay to Edmonton in 1969 to complete the University of Alberta’s Master of Business Administration program. Ralph then shifted his focus to building a career.
Ironically, it was Ralph’s MBA education that almost kept him from joining the company that would define his career. In 1971, he found himself in a tough job market, but persisted, and was hired by Melton Real Estate as the Junior Assistant to the Development Manager. Melton’s interview panel were skeptical; he was overeducated and probably wouldn’t stay long with the company. Luckily for Melton and for Ralph, the concern proved unfounded. Ralph’s tenure with the company only ended upon his retirement, some 42 years later.
In the mid-1970s, Melton Real Estate sold its real estate brokerage business and became Melcor Developments Ltd., one of Western Canada’s largest real estate developers. In his time with the company, Ralph served in a number of roles, including Manager of the Calgary Region and Vice-President of the Land Development Division. He became Melcor’s President in 1997; in 2000, he also took on the role of CEO, until his retirement from Melcor in 2013. Ralph continues to serve on the board of Melcor Developments Ltd. and the board of Melcor REIT.
Ralph helped lead the organization through a tremendous period of growth. Today, one cannot travel through Alberta’s major centres, including Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer as well as numerous smaller municipalities, without encountering a Melcor development. Under Ralph’s leadership, Melcor developed and maintained a culture of integrity and professionalism which has left a lasting, positive impact on the province. It has developed hundreds of high quality and affordable communities across the province to benefit Alberta families and businesses. Melcor is also a significant developer and owner of commercial office and retail centres and owns and manages golf courses associated with several of its communities.
To Ralph, Melcor’s corporate accomplishments are matched by the way the company encourages community involvement. As with his business career, Ralph had a habit of making everything and everyone around him better. This led him to take on a long list of community and charitable opportunities, with Ralph consistently leaving organizations in a better place than he found them.
Perhaps no organization has benefited from Ralph’s efforts more than the University of Alberta. He served the institution as a member of the Alumni Council, Senate and the Board of Governors. He also served on the School of Business Advisory Council, the board of the Business Family Institute and the University of Alberta’s Land Trust and Council on Aboriginal Initiatives. He most recently served as the University’s Chancellor from 2012 to 2016. As Chancellor, he chaired the University Senate of 62 volunteer community members. That position regularly allowed him to represent the University to its many stakeholders, and took him to communities throughout the province to engage citizens and to ensure their interests and concerns were communicated back to the university’s leadership. His favourite part of being Chancellor was the chance to interact with the university community and its students. In particular, he considered it a great honour, on behalf of the University’s Senate, to confer degrees upon graduates at convocations.
Ralph has always had a strong interest in history, particularly that of the Canadian prairies. Driven by this passion, he ensured the preservation of western Canada’s historical records at the University of Alberta Library through the establishment of the Prairie Roots Endowment. It started when Ralph donated his personal collection of historical books and documents, some 37 boxes full, to the U of A. When a collection of documents of Major General Sir Sam Steele, one of the most important individuals in Canadian and RCMP history, was discovered in Great Britain, Ralph played a role in ensuring they became part of the library’s collection and a useful tool for future scholars.
Other educational institutions have benefited from Ralph’s involvement, including Grant MacEwan University, Norquest College, the Tevie Miller Heritage School and Alberta College.
Ralph’s community and philanthropic efforts have extended well beyond the academic world. His volunteer work is guided by strong principles and values. Edmonton has benefited most from the hours he has devoted to “giving back.” As chair of the Edmonton 2004 Centennial Celebration Committee and co-chair of the Carillon Clock Tower Foundation, his leadership contributed to the construction of the City of Edmonton Carillon Clock Tower and the redevelopment of Sir Winston Churchill Square, leaving the city with enduring landmarks. The Centennial Committee was responsible for a year-long celebration culminating in a major event on Churchill Square on October 8, 2004. He has been involved with the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club, Scouts Canada Northern Lights District, the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority, Telus Edmonton Community Board, the Edmonton Police Foundation, the Glenrose Hospital Foundation and the Caritas Health Group. Ralph and Gay support many philanthropic initiatives through their family funds at the Edmonton Community Foundation.
Professionally, Ralph has been a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta and has served as President of the Urban Development Institute at the civic, provincial and national levels. He has also served on a number of transformative provincial organizations such as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, the Province of Alberta’s Audit Committee and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. Ralph has also been an active member of municipal, provincial and federal election campaigns starting in the 1970s through to today.
The Rotary Club of Edmonton has had the benefit of Ralph’s long-standing participation. In addition to serving as its President in 1990-91 and serving on its board of directors, Ralph and Gay have hosted nine Rotary exchange students, familiarizing these young people with Canadian culture. Ralph also serves with Canada’s military as an Honourary Lieutenant Colonel in the South Alberta Light Horse Regiment. Ralph provides strong support for the arts, having served on the boards of the Winspear Concert Hall Society, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Citadel Theatre.
Ralph believes that our history defines who we are, and that the history we create today will define what the future will yield. Ralph’s most recent project is serving as Chair of the Lieutenant Governor’s “History and Heroes Alberta Foundation.” Its goal is to ensure that Albertans of all backgrounds and generations develop greater knowledge and respect for Alberta's proud provincial history and for the heroes who contributed to its heritage.
Ralph’s accomplishments have led to many honours, including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee Medals, a Governor General’s 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, the Alberta Centennial Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal. He has received the City of Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence Award, the Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary and an APEGA Summit Award. He has been inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, Urban Development Institute Life Membership, as well as the Alberta Building Industry and Land Development Hall of Fame. He has received both an Honourary Arts Degree and a Distinguished Citizen Award from Grant MacEwan University, and an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree and the Alumni Honour Award from the University of Alberta.
Ralph has lived on the Canadian prairies all his life and feels exceptionally fortunate to have made Alberta home for his family for the past 50 years. He has lived his life with a generosity of time and spirit and an underlying belief that we all can, and should, build a better Alberta. Today, he enjoys dividing his time between Edmonton and Canmore, alongside Gay, his children, Marnie and Ross and his nine grandchildren.