Spring convocation: Industry leader receives honorary degree

(Edmonton) This province, Canada and indeed the world are in desperate need of individuals who can lead, says Ron Triffo, and that young engineers have within their grasp a golden opportunity to fill this void.

Triffo, who would know a thing or two about using an engineering degree to lead change, spoke on leadership while accepting an honorary doctor of laws degree in front of the 2011 class of University of Alberta engineers June 7.

Triffo was instrumental in transforming Stantec Inc. from a private regional civil engineering firm to one of North America’s largest public multidisciplined engineering and architectural design firms. He is chair of Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, a past chair of the Alberta Economic Development Authority and ATB Financial, a founding director of the Consulting Engineers of Alberta and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

"Individuals who have the talent to imagine and to plan, who have the attributes to attract followers for a common cause and who have the ability to act in a timely fashion, are in high demand," said Triffo, long-time higher-education supporter and patriarch of the family for which the U of A's Triffo Hall is named. "Indeed, they are critical to the future success of society."

During his convocation address, Triffo outlined the five principles of leadership that he lives by—people, consensus building, communication, execution and leadership—which he says is a full-time job.

"A good leader is not a one-trick pony. A good leader is a well-rounded individual who provides leadership beyond just his or her position or profession. That same leader who excels in business is often found demonstrating those same desirable qualities with the local kids’ soccer team or fundraising for their favourite charity," said Triffo.

"A good leader does not quit at quitting time, and a good leader can be counted on to give back in a big way to his or her community. And finally, it is my experience that a good leader never forgets the many people who supported their journey to success. And, in particular, never forgets the institution that provided so much of the underpinning of their success.

"Master these traits, and combine them with the hard-earned degree that you are about to receive, and leadership success is within your grasp."

Read a full transcript of Triffo's convocation address.