Today’s business leaders must turn toward generating social value, not just shareholder value, said David Cornhill, founding member of AltaGas, who has served as its chairman and CEO since its inception in 1994.
“Today is not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new journey,” to make our children and grandchildren proud, he said. “And we will succeed if we respect the land, the benefits are shared and friendships are nurtured.
Cornhill spoke to graduates from the Ivey Business School and School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the Tuesday, June 16, morning session of Western’s 305th Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD), upon Cornhill in recognition of his distinguished career in the energy industry and his philanthropic efforts.
Business endeavours graduates embark on starting today must look to creating opportunities for all and fostering environmental and social good, he noted.
Cornhill earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Western in 1977 and an MBA from Ivey in 1980. Preceding the days of AltaGas, an energy infrastructure company, he served at Alberta and Southern Gas Co. Ltd. As president and COO, vice-president, finance and administration and treasurer from 1987-94, and in various roles at Gulf Canada, from 1980-87.
In 1994, Cornhill started from zero when he founded AltaGas. Within 20 years, the company had grown to 1,500 employees across North America and held a value of $8 billion.
AltaGas, an energy infrastructure business with a focus on natural gas, power and regulated utilities, creates value by acquiring, growing and optimizing its energy infrastructure, including a focus on clean energy sources. Because of Cornhill’s leadership, it is a good corporate citizen, supporting causes such as health, social services, education, and First Nations entrepreneurship. In 2014, the company provided $500,000 to the Indian Business Corporation, an Aboriginal financial institution, so that it could partner with an organization to help First Nations entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.
A recipient of the Calgary Ivey Leadership Award (2010), Cornhill has also been recognized with the Ivey Distinguished Service Award (2010) and the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2000).
In his citation, Ivey Dean Robert Kennedy praised Cornhill’s dedication to bettering the world by way of business as well as his many philanthropic efforts throughout his career.
“Mr. Cornhill’s success shows us that there are no limits to what you can do when you put your energy into your business, people, and the community. He has blazed a path for others to follow,” Kennedy said. “(He is) a humble leader, generous philanthropist, and avid visionary whose devotion to developing the energy sector remains evident throughout his career.”
“Your generation has a responsibility to respect the land, ensure its benefits are shared and to nurture friendships you’ve made at Ivey. My generation has a responsibility to help you,” said Cornhill, who also currently serves as director of Alterra Power Corp.
“Part of success is not going with the grain, but going against it. To be successful, one must not just see strategic opportunities – one must have the courage to act on them.”