We Are All Stewards

We Are All Stewards

For Ann McCaig, giving is a way of life

By Mike Fisher • Photography by Jared Sych

Relaxing on a blanket in the sunshine, a young Ann McCaig was tired, but thrilled that she’d just helped her parents and their friends build a baseball diamond for the community.

“From the earliest days of growing up in rural Saskatchewan I can remember my parents being an example of generosity,” says McCaig.

Today, McCaig is a member of the Order of Canada and the Alberta Order of Excellence and has received the Generosity of Spirit Award for Outstanding Lifetime Philanthropist and the YWCA Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award—honours that recognize the generosity inspired during her youth.

“Whether it was helping to build a barn, providing meals for someone who was out of work, or contributing to a community project, giving to others and volunteering was a way of life for my parents and something they involved me in from childhood.”

McCaig’s deep roots in volunteering led her to the Calgary Foundation, where she served as a board member, chair of the Development, Executive, and Governance committees— and, from 1994 to ’97, provided leadership as the Foundation’s first female board chair.

Respected as iconic philanthropists, McCaig and her late husband, Bud, who died in 2005, made major contributions to education, medicine and the arts. In 1995, she established the Jonathan Paul Scott Scholarship Fund, administered by the Calgary Foundation, at Queen Margaret’s School in Duncan, B.C., in memory of the son of a close friend.

McCaig says helping children and youth is the most rewarding aspect of her philanthropy.

“I believe we are all stewards, and an essential aspect of being a steward is ensuring that what we’ve been given gets passed on to those who come after us,” she says. “The ideal is that we give children even better opportunities than we were given. This is a big part of what has motivated my work in education and health care.”

The many youth projects she has been involved with include the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre and the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

McCaig also sees Indigenous peoples as a key part of the community fabric. She was honoured to be given the name “White Wolf Woman” in a naming ceremony by Blackfoot Elder Casey Eaglespeaker for her support of Indigenous peoples in Alberta.

“The naming ceremony was one of the most sacred and most meaningful experiences of my life,” she says. “It made me appreciate, at an even deeper level, how much we can learn from our Indigenous brothers and sisters.” She says reconciliation is essential to building a healthy nation that truly embraces and provides opportunities for people of all cultural backgrounds.

McCaig believes philanthropy is alive and well among younger Calgarians, including her own children, whom she is proud to see serving the community as volunteers and donors. “I am very passionate about raising up a new generation of philanthropists and volunteers to continue to build our city, our province, and our country,” she says.

Even when she was a child, she saw how working together for common goals could bring people together, especially when they are willing to pitch in and create opportunities for others. She has revisited the park in Tisdale, Sask., where she helped to build the baseball diamond, and it still makes her smile.

“There is nothing quite as rewarding, even exhilarating, as being part of a team of people who are united by a shared desire to improve the community and the world around them,” McCaig says.