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Keith MacPhail

 

Farm boys thrive in Alberta's oil and gas sector, where knowing your way around machinery is
key. Still, while going from farm to oilfield is common in many Alberta communities, going from oilfield to executive suite is something else, and few make the transition smoothly, if at all.

Among those who did was Keith MacPhail. Raised on a Medicine Hat–area farm in the 1960s,
he cracked the oilpatch early, starting in the natural gas fields of southern Alberta as a teenager.

At 20, he joined a Calgary junior, starting business studies at Medicine Hat College about the same time. Later, MacPhail graduated from the Petroleum Technology program at Calgary's
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), ultimately earning a petroleum engineering degree from Montana's College of Mineral Science and Technology in 1984.

The same year, he began working for a Calgary junior, five years later joining a then-unknown producer, Canadian Natural Resources Limited. Starting in 1989 as one of just seven staff, he
eventually became executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

Offered the CNRL presidency in 1998, MacPhail chose instead to become head of Bonavista Petroleum Ltd., later split into Bonavista Energy Trust and NuVista Energy Ltd.

In five years, Bonavista grew to be a $1.25-billion company, and MacPhail remains chairman and chief executive, apart from roles as NuVista chairman and CNRL board member. A past board
member of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, he is an owner of the Calgary Stampeders football club.

A philanthropist, MacPhail donated $10 million to SAIT in 2005 for a planned $400-million Trades and Technology Centre, insisting his gift be anonymous. Word eventually got out. His gift sparked
others, and donations ultimately totalled $117.5 million. Meanwhile, the Alberta government contributed $300 million to SAIT's Promising Futures Campaign, which MacPhail chaired from 2007 to 2012.

Donating to the Forzani & MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre, he also helped endow the Markin-MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the United
Way's Aboriginal Pride Program, Medicine Hat College and Plan Canada, among other causes.

MacPhail avoids the limelight, preferring to honour others' work rather than take credit for his own. Nominated for the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, his reaction was typical, a friend said. "I very much appreciate the nomination, but I don't know whether to thank or scold you," he told her.

 

   
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