James Kenneth Gray
Jim Gray is a respected community leader with a solid reputation for getting the job done. His energy, determination and optimism are reflected in a number of valued Calgary facilities and social programs.
Jim came to Calgary in 1956 to pursue a career in Alberta’s energy sector. In 1973, he co-founded Canadian Hunter Exploration, an organization that became one of Canada’s largest and most successful natural gas companies. As Canadian Hunter grew and prospered, he took care to focus on the bigger picture, creating an employee-friendly work culture and maintaining an awareness of environmental conservation and sustainability. Jim also worked to develop Alberta’s stature on the international stage. He enjoyed a successful tenure as Chair of the 16th World Petroleum Congress, which was staged in Calgary in June 2000.
Jim has met with equal success in his efforts as a community leader and fundraiser. As in his business career, he has earned a reputation as someone who can see beyond the immediate call to action to find an innovative, long-term solution to the issue at hand.
His work to improve the quality of life for Calgary residents began in the summer of 1962 as discussion around the city focused on disappointing attendance at the Calgary Stampede. It occurred to Jim that participation might grow with the addition of a petroleum show. He wrote a formal proposal for the show, drummed up support for the idea among his oil industry colleagues, and succeeded in creating a successful addition to the Stampede.
The experience showed Jim that one individual’s actions could make a difference, and that finding positive solutions and creating strong teams could go a long way in addressing community and social needs. It also provided him with an approach to community leadership that has served him well in the 40 years since that first endeavour. While Jim points to the strength of the teams on which he serves as the reason for his success, his contribution as a team builder and leader cannot be ignored.
He chooses to invest his energies in causes that focus on education, children and families, particularly those with a local connection. Over the years he volunteered with organizations such as the Science Alberta Foundation, the Achievement Centre for Youth, the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter and the Calgary Native Friendship Centre. Jim has also supported the Calgary Academy and Renfrew Educational Services – two facilities that offer specialized educational support to children with unique learning challenges and special needs.
Jim has also worked to further his belief that productive and democratic debate are key ingredients for a healthy society.
He serves as Chair of the Canada West Foundation, a Calgary-based organization that promotes discussion on political, economic and social issues of the day.
One of Jim Gray’s longest community associations has been with the YMCA, beginning when, as a young adult, he noticed a group of inner-city Calgary Herald paperboys with no where to channel their energies. Soon, Jim was offering the group free swimming lessons at the YMCA. He went on to help develop summer camp programs in the 1960s and 70s and, more recently, to spearhead a successful effort to build a new Calgary facility. Jim’s contributions were recognized nationally in 1994 with the YMCA Fellowship of Honour. He continues to make the YMCA a part of his routine, arriving at 5:30 am for a daily swim.
After 28 years of operation, Canadian Hunter Exploration was sold in 2001. Jim remains active in the business community, serving on a number of corporate boards including Canadian National Railway, Emera, Hudson’s Bay Company and Brascan Corporation. His work as a Director with Temple Exploration, a new exploration company, gives him the opportunity to share his wealth of experience and balanced approach with the next generation of oil executives.
Jim’s involvement with community organizations has helped him live a balanced life – something he points to as key in ensuring overall success. “I think it’s a danger for people to get blinders on and focus only on business,” Jim says. “Strong communities and families lead to good, strong business ethics. If we don’t channel our energies to the overall quality of life we enjoy, we’ll lose it.”
Jim Gray has proven that fact through a lifetime of making a difference to his community, the province and the country as a whole. He received an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Calgary in 1991, a Citation for Citizenship from the Government of Canada in 1992 and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.