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Alberta Research Council: Profile

A New Era

Alberta Research Council—Millwoods OfficeIn 1951 the Government of Alberta convened a world-class symposium which dropped the adjectives tar and bitumen from the sands of McMurray and substituted oil as more meaningful. The First International Oil Sands Conference heard a report by Sid Blair, a Research Council of Alberta employee of the 1920s, which became government policy on developing the sands.

The sheer size of this success in ARC's 30th year was a signal that the president of the university could no longer continue to chair the research council, directing its research programs as a sideline to running an exploding campus. A new order was rung in, in which the chairman would be a senior cabinet minister, significantly, most often the one with industry in his portfolio.

While Dr. Robert Newton, retiring president of the University of Alberta, carried on as director of ARC, the hunt for a full-time director of research led to Ottawa and a physicist with a 20-year career with the National Research Council.

Nat Grace was a gregarious fellow who liked to entertain his staff of 28 at his home in Belgravia. He also appreciated some venerable technology in the coal lab, a triple-beam balance. A cigar smoker, he brought his Havanas in to weigh them and make sure he'd got what he paid for.

Economy was still the watchword. It wasn't until 1956 that depression attitudes were easing. The council was able to move into a handsome four-level brick headquarters, with new labs and equipment, on 87 Avenue and 114 Street. The staff had grown to 55, including the first woman professional, Gladys Scott, a chemist in the gas and oil lab though some senior men resisted the innovation. Gladys found she was being paid $2,300 a year, $100 less than men doing the same work.

A.W. (Tony) Cashman. A Historical Review of 75 Years of Service. Edmonton: Alberta Research Council, 1996. With permission from the Alberta Research Council.


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