He was also actively involved in the establishment of the Faculty of Management at the University of Calgary, where Scurfield Hall is named in his honour. But perhaps his greatest passion of all was skiing, which led to his purchase in 1981 of Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort located in Banff National Park.
After he bought Sunshine Village, Ralph T. Scurfield reinforced his reputation as a community benefactor. He made a $4-million private donation to the University of Calgary, with a matching donation by Nu-West Group Ltd., to begin construction of a new faculty of management building. The building, named Scurfield Hall, opened on January 1, 1986.
He was also one of six Calgary businessmen who purchased the NHL's Atlanta Flames, which were then moved to Calgary for the 1980–81 season. The other original investors are Harley Hotchkiss, Daryl Seaman, Byron Seaman, Norman Green, and Normie Kwong. When the Calgary Flames won the NHL Championship in 1989, Ralph's widow, Sonia Scurfield, became only the second woman (the first Canadian woman) to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
On Feb. 18, 1985, Ralph T. Scurfield was killed in an avalanche while Heli-skiing in the Monashee Mountains near Blue River, British Columbia.
Ralph Thomas Scurfield, B.Sc (b. January 7, 1928 in Broadview, Saskatchewan - d. February 18, 1985), the son of Ralph and Ann Scurfield (née Parsons). He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Manitoba in 1948. He was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Nu-West Group Limited (1957–1985), and was an original owner of the Calgary Flames. On February 18, 1985, he was killed in an avalanche while Heli-skiing on Mount Duffy in the Bugaboo Mountains, near Blue River, British Columbia.
Reputation built on hard work, customer service
Ralph Thomas Scurfield was born in Broadview, Saskatchewan, on Jan. 7, 1928. His family moved to the small farming community of Ninga, Manitoba, where his father was the station master on the Canadian Pacific Railway line.
Ralph was active in sports and enjoyed playing hockey and soccer as a child. Few who knew him from his rural childhood days could have imagined that the bright boy with reddish hair, who walked to the one-room school house with his pet crow on his shoulder, would grow up to become one of the most successful and influential Canadian businessmen of his generation.
Scurfield attended the University of Manitoba, working his way through school by taking summer carpentry jobs in the northern town of Churchill, Manitoba. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948, Ralph became an elementary school teacher. He taught in Manitoba for two years, before leaving to pursue his chosen trade of carpentry.
In 1951, lured by the booming Alberta economy, he moved to Edmonton, where he quickly found employment with McConnell Homes as a crew foreman. In July 1954, he married Sonia Onishenko, the youngest child of her Ukrainian-Russian immigrant parents.
Scurfield’s employer, Ches McConnell, impressed with Ralph’s work ethic and university degree, asked Ralph to move 300 kilometres south to Calgary to manage a small, financially struggling house building company called Nu-West Homes. Ralph agreed, on the condition that he be allowed to buy in as a one-third partner.
After mortgaging his house to finance his partnership, in 1957, at the age of 29, he became president of Nu-West Homes, a Calgary-based company building approximately 40 homes a year. When he moved to Calgary in May 1957, he found that Nu-West was in worse financial shape than he had been led to believe. With only a secretary and a bobcat driver as employees, Ralph went to work salvaging the reputation of the near bankrupt company by fixing previously built houses free of charge. By putting in long hours, he was able to establish Nu-West Homes as a company of strong customer service. Nu-West quickly became known for quality housing and after-sales service. Under Scurfield’s direction, Nu-West Homes flourished, and Scurfield’s personal stature grew.
In 1969, Nu-West went public, and the money raised was used to purchase land in and around the City of Edmonton. Now positioned as the province’s largest house builder, Nu-West provided the homes demanded by the quickly growing population. Nu-West continued to expand and was soon building homes and buildings across Canada and in parts of the United States.
As a result of Nu-West’s success, Scurfield’s advice was sought out by city planners, business, and political leaders. He sat as a director with numerous corporations, including Carma Ltd., The Mortgage Insurance Company of Canada, MICC Investments Ltd., and Sunshine Village Corporation.
He was a part owner Calgary Flames Hockey Club, a member of the Faculty of Management Advisory Board of the University of Calgary, a member of the Board of Governors of the Banff Centre for Continuing Education, and he served a term as President of the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada.
He travelled extensively, and was an avid sportsman who enjoyed ice hockey, football, skiing, fishing and golf. In 1969, three years before President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, Scurfield (then President of the National House Builder’s Association), was invited to visit the People’s Republic of China as part of an official business delegation. In 1981, as a personal guest of former U.S. President Gerald Ford, Ralph and his wife were in attendance to witness the first launching of the NASA Space Shuttle.
Scurfield was one of the founding members of Carma Ltd., a cooperative of independent builders who banded together to form a land development company to provide serviced lots to Calgary homebuilders. In 1963, he became president of the Calgary House Builder’s Association, and in 1969 became the president of the National House Builder’s Association of Canada.
Using his influence, Scurfield established national house building standards, and introduced the New Home Builder's Warranty Program, which continues to this day. He convinced his contemporary house building competitors that long term quality of life was more important than short-term profit.
Always defying the stereotype, Scurfield demonstrated that a land developer could also be an environmentalist. The lands which are now Nose Hill Park were once privately owned and zoned for residential development. The largest landowners were Nu-West and Carma.
Recognizing that the natural beauty of the undisturbed Nose Hill added a distinctive and desirable quality of life to Calgary, in the mid-1970s, Ralph orchestrated a land swap between Nu-West, Carma Developers and the City of Calgary, allowing the city to gain ownership of the Nose Hill, which today is the largest city-owned natural park in North America, and part of Ralph’s lasting legacy to the City of Calgary and its citizens.