We ended up saying our number one (priority) is the education of our young people—that is not an expenditure, not a cost, it is an investment in the future of our province and it will pay back.
Don Getty

Remembering Don Getty

Former premier was committed to post-secondary education, even during economic hardship.


Former Alberta premier Don Getty, a steadfast supporter of post-secondary education and a University of Alberta honorary-degree recipient, has died.

Getty, Alberta’s 11th premier, passed away Feb. 26 at the age of 82. Leader of the province from 1985 to 1992, the former Edmonton Eskimos quarterback and oil company president strengthened Alberta through his focus on advancing agriculture, rural development, the energy sector and economic diversification, and through his belief in the value of post-secondary education.

"On behalf of the University of Alberta community, I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the Getty family and to our fellow Albertans. Don Getty was a dedicated family man, a proud Canadian and a committed builder of this province, and so today we at the university join the community in mourning his loss,” said U of A President David Turpin.

Getty, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the U of A in November 2013, was unable to give his convocation address in person, but through his son Darin shared a speech that expressed regard for the U of A.

“The University of Alberta has a unique and important place in the province of Alberta, and I always respected that when I was premier,” Getty said.

Getty was honoured to receive the degree in a private home ceremony in 2013 from U of A Chancellor Ralph Young, who came to know the former premier through community work over the years.

“He was pleased and proud that the university had taken this opportunity to recognize him, but he was also exceptionally humble. He was one of those people who did the things he believed in and never looked for recognition or acknowledgement for all that he contributed to Alberta,” Young said.

During a political career that began when Getty was elected as an MLA for the Progressive Conservative Party in 1967, he served as Alberta’s first federal and intergovernmental affairs minister, then helped Alberta establish its constitutional right to ownership of its natural resources in his role as minister of energy and natural resources. Getty was named a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1999 for his years of public service.

After a six-year hiatus, Getty returned to the political arena in 1985 to be elected as Alberta’s premier, a post he held until stepping down in 1992. As premier, Getty was a firm believer in the value of post-secondary education, even in stormy economic times during his tenure. Facing a huge provincial deficit and low oil prices when he came to office, the government felt it was still important to maintain support for higher education and research, including at the U of A, Getty said in a 2008 on-campus interview.

“We ended up saying our number one (priority) is the education of our young people—that is not an expenditure, not a cost, it is an investment in the future of our province and it will pay back,” Getty said in the interview, which was part of a Charter Day celebration for the U of A.

Young noted that Getty supported Grant MacEwan University’s ambitious plans when it wanted to expand to a downtown campus. As premier, he also established an advisory council on science and technology designed to bring together government, post-secondary and business sectors to explore the potential for economic diversification.

On a personal level, Getty was proud that his son Darin graduated from the U of A, Young added. “He believed young people should have an opportunity to achieve whatever they could through post-secondary education.”