Difficult saying goodbye to beloved colleague Bonnie DuPont

I serve on the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary. Bonnie DuPont is our chairperson. Her term on our Board is sadly coming to an end. 

When she joined our Board in 2006, Bonnie worked to drive improvements in the university’s governance, risk management and human resources strategies.   She brought a thoughtful and rigorous process to executive succession planning. Under Bonnie’s leadership, our Board fledged its wings and began to soar with the eagles.  

I asked Bonnie what she intends to do after stepping down from her University roles. She said that she will now sit back and take it easy. Ha! I doubt that very much. She still brims with energy and ideas. 

We held a farewell celebration on campus on Tuesday evening. It is difficult to say goodbye to a beloved colleague. Instead of moping, however, I bask in the glow that for one brief shining moment in the history of the University of Calgary, we had Bonnie DuPont. 

Several people had the opportunity to share memories and stories about working with our remarkable leader and to thank Bonnie for her years of service. This is what I had to say about my beloved mentor:

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Bonnie has many traits that make her a superb leader. A couple of these traits are particularly noteworthy and caught my attention as an astronaut.

Like the crew of the Starship Enterprise, Bonnie DuPont goes where no one has gone before. She is a trailblazer. She was the first woman elected to the board of the Calgary Petroleum Club and became the Club’s first female President. She was the first woman or the only woman on an executive team or on a board of directors for 14 other organizations. Bonnie DuPont did not break through the glass ceiling; she pulverized it with a photon torpedo.

Secondly, similar to an astronaut, Bonnie regards preparation and training as keys to success. In the same way that great performers like Wayne Gretzky and Meryl Streep make what they do seem easy, Bonnie makes the running of a board meeting look easy. What we don’t see from Bonnie and similar great performers, however, is the countless hours of preparation and hard work off-ice, off-camera or outside the board room.

For instance, Bonnie meets regularly with each board member one-on-one throughout the meeting cycle to candidly discuss issues in an informal setting. She attends all committee meetings. This represents a significant investment of her time but it assures a smooth flow of the proceedings and builds collegiality amongst the members.

Training the next generation of leaders and facilitating lifelong learning for senior executives are important to Bonnie. She mentors members who are new to board work and provides coaching to the more senior members. For the past seven years, Bonnie has taught in the ICD Directors Education Program. She also founded the Enbridge Undergraduate Mentorship Program at the Haskayne School of Business.

Thirdly, Bonnie has a strong sense of moral purpose … a desire to always do the right thing. Throughout her career, health, safety and sustainability have been her passions. It was under Bonnie’s watch, for instance, that Enbridge initiated its use of triple bottom line reporting – a framework that emphasizes accountability for the welfare of people and our planet, as well as profit.

Bonnie DuPont has had a distinguished and successful 30-year career in the grain and energy industries. As much as she is an esteemed executive and director, Bonnie is an even better human being. Bonnie always deflects compliments that have been directed toward her and credits the team. She has superb interpersonal skills. A lunch with Bonnie is an engaging conversation. A dinner party at the home of Bonnie and her devoted partner Barry Bultz is full of probing and respectful discussion, and plenty of laughter.

Bonnie moves well in the boardrooms and backrooms amongst the rainmakers and master manipulators of Canadian business. Yet she also takes time to share her perspectives with the newcomers. For instance, there was a Chancellor’s Club event last night. During the reception hour, I caught a glimpse of how our young Scholars greet Bonnie. They adore her as a cherished mentor … for her generosity with her time and wisdom.

The ultimate compliment that an astronaut can pay to another astronaut is to say that we would like to fly in space with that person. If Bonnie had chosen not to become a Board member and our Chair, she has the traits and interpersonal skills to have become a heck of a good astronaut.

Bonnie, it was a privilege to serve on the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary with you. I would serve on any board or starship that has you in command.

University of Calgary Board of Governors Chair Bonnie DuPont bids farewell as chair

Bonnie, you would have made a heck of a good astronaut.

Farewell, Bonnie DuPont. Live long and prosper!

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