Ralph T. Scurfield
Ralph T. Scurfield was a real estate builder and developer in Calgary, Alberta. As the owner and manager of the Nu-West Development Corp Ltd., Scurfield turned a small Calgary homebuilding company into a multinational giant during the 1960s and 70s. Scurfield is also known for supporting numerous community initiatives. He is quoted in the Calgary Herald as saying, "I have only one purpose, to serve the community. Everything else will follow through."
Born in Broadview, Saskatchewan on January 7, 1928, Scurfield earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Manitoba while holding down a carpentry job to pay his way through school. After teaching elementary school for a short time, Scurfield returned to carpentry, which led him to a career as a home builder. In 1951, Scurfield moved to Edmonton to take advantage of Alberta's booming economy. He became a construction worker for McConnell Homes and was quickly promoted to foreman.
In 1957, the owner of McConnell homes, Ches McConnell, asked Scurfield to move to Calgary to manage a struggling homebuilding company called Nu-West Homes. Scurfield mortgaged his home to buy a third of the company for $15,000. At the time, Nu-West was building about 40 homes a year and the company had a reputation for building poor quality homes. Immediately upon taking control of Nu-West, Scurfield began offering to repair previously built houses free of charge as a means of restoring the company's reputation. In time, Nu-West garnered praise for excellent customer service and quality construction. The company benefited from the construction boom in the 1960s and 1970s, and by 1981, Nu-West was one of North America's largest home building companies, worth 1.5 billion dollars. Under Scurfield's direction, Nu-West built most of Calgary's subdivisions and diversified into commercial real estate. Alberta witnessed an economic downturn during the early 1980s and Nu-West soon felt the effects of the recession. In 1984, Nu-West, now 1.5 billion dollars in debt, was sold to an American company.
Outside of his role at Nu-West, Scurfield made other contributions to Alberta's real estate industry. He donated 8 million dollars to the construction of a management faculty building at the University of Calgary, now called Scurfield Hall. He also swapped lands with City of Calgary to allow the city to create Nose Hill Park. Scurfield was influential as mentor and a leader in the real estate industry. City planners, politicians, and businessmen all sought his advice. He helped found Carma Ltd., a land development company consisting of a cooperative of home builders, which provides serviced lots to homebuilders for development. In 1964, he was president of the Calgary Home Builders' Association. Scurfield also lobbied for the establishment of national house building standards, and in 1974 he helped to introduce the "Alberta New Home Warranty Program," to provide warranty services to the home building industries.
Scurfield also had a passion for sports. His family owned Sunshine Village, a ski resort located in the Rocky Mountains, and was one of six Calgary businessmen who purchased the NHL's Atlanta Flames with the intention of relocating the team to Calgary. Scurfield's love of sports led to his untimely death on February 18th, 1985. While heli-skiing in British Columbia's Purcell Mountains, he died in an avalanche. He was 57."
Scurfield is still remembered today for his many contributions. In 2005, he finished second in voting for the 50 Greatest Albertans, as chosen by the general public. In 2008, Scurfield was again nominated as one of Alberta's Greatest Citizens. A boulevard and a park in Winnipeg carry his name as does Calgary's Scurfield Drive and Banff's Scurfield Point. The Alberta Home Builders' Association awards the top builder of the year with the Ralph T. Scurfield award, SAIT honours faculty members with the Ralph T. Scurfield Award of Excellence, and the Calgary Flames gives out the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award for the player most dedicated to community service.References
Ralph Thomas Scurfield. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 3, 2008
The 50 Greatest Albertans. Alberta Venture. Retrieved July 3, 2008
The Search for our Greatest Citizen: Best of Alberta. Calgary Herald, June 08, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2008
Brennan, Brian. Alberta Originals: Stories of Albertans who made a Difference. Fifth House: Calgary, 2001.
Maunder, Mike. A New Urban World Appears as Suburbia Transforms the Cities. Alberta in the 20th Century, Vol. 9. Edmonton: United Western Communications, Ltd., 2001.