Glass Canada

Don Ward 1943 – 2018

September 6, 2018  By Patrick Flannery

Don Ward, former president of Griffin Glass in Calgary and long-time leader in the Glass and Architectural Metals Association (GAMA), passed away unexpectedly at the age of 75 on Sept. 3. Ward began his career with PPG and became famous for his tireless volunteer work both in glass associations and provincial and national construction associations. 

In 2012, Ward was profiled in Frank Fulton’s You Bet Your Glass column in Glass Canada magazine. In response to Fulton’s request for information, Ward provided the following description of his life and career in his own words, which we now offer here in full.

I joined Canadian Pittsburgh Industries (CPI) in May of 1965 as the packer in the warehouse. I moved up to a cutter on the plate table and into auto glass soon after starting the job. The first Glassworkers Apprenticeship class was held in January 1966 at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). I was one of the pioneer apprentices enrolled in that initial class. That four year course was far different than the current sophisticated program; the students were teaching the instructor and developing the curriculum as we were being instructed ourselves. During my apprenticeship I worked on many of the major projects in Calgary as well as spending time as the shipper and receiver, thereby getting exposure to office work, and office politics, in a large multinational organization. As an apprentice it was exciting to be learning every day in the field and the more formal schooling at SAIT. When I received my Certified Journeyman Glassworker (now called Glazier) and Completion of Apprenticeship Certificates in 1969 I was given some projects to run and continued to learn and teach the trade to my coworkers. The apprenticeship program, as you know, is staffed by tradesmen who have gone through the program and I was fortunate to have worked with most of the folks who have been in teaching positions at SAIT. The now retired senior Instructor, George Formos had been my apprentice when we worked at CPI/PPG. The current senior instructor, Ed Dalzell had been a workmate of mine at CPI/PPG and had been our superintendant at Griffin Glass. The other instructors at SAIT, Brian Risby and Gene Aquilini were both good tradesmen at Griffin. I was a member on the Local (LAC) and Provincial Apprenticeship Committee (PAC) for some 18 years and helped with the curriculum changes, drafting of the Red Seal Interprovincial Examination, marking of the practical examination projects and regular committee work. Government staff had chaired the apprenticeship committee meetings until industry took over the Chairman position. At that transitional time I accepted the role of Presiding Officer of the Provincial and Local Apprenticeship Committees and held those positions for more than 10 years. The PAC is responsible for promoting apprenticeship while maintaining industry’s wishes and making recommendations related to standards and requirements for training and certification in our trade. My time on the Apprenticeship Committees allowed me to work with other industry personnel to better the program and move our trade forward. There is now a satellite campus for Alberta in Edmonton which will train the apprentices from the northern part of the province. This glazier apprenticeship schooling has evolved into a world class program over the last 46 years with many apprentices advancing into office positions within their companies or into ownership positions in their own companies.

CPI changed the corporate name to PPG to take on the name more closely associated with the American parent company. During the early 70s we became very busy with more than 100 tradesmen on staff. I was promoted to Field Superintendant and worked at that for a year or so. This position afforded me more learning and experience in the operation of the field portion of the business. An opening for an estimator became available in the contract sales department. When our branch manager offered the position to me I accepted. After one year, I was promoted to Contract Sales Manager and was fortunate enough to learn the ins and outs of contract sales from a very good manager and mentor, Glen Jones, who also gave me freedom to do things my way after a short time. Going through the big boom of the 70s in Calgary gave me plenty of headaches as well as countless opportunities to learn more about the business end of the glass industry. Market share and profitability increased during my time in the contract sales office. During my tenure as Contract Sales Manager I was also the Architectural Representative for PPG and made many lasting friendships in the Architect’s and engineer’s offices in Calgary.


In 1981, after more than 16 years with PPG, I joined Griffin Glass Industries, a company with a proven track record since 1960, as a Vice President. The company name was revised to Griffin Glass (1981) Ltd. Rather bad timing perhaps as the recession hit in 1982 but we persevered and made a go of it. Our majority partner, Ken Kennedy, retired in 1985 and I took over as President of the company. My business partners, employees and I left our mark on the city and province over the ensuing years with many prestigious projects bearing Griffin Glass products built by our office and field team. At times we had in excess of 50 people on staff. I retired from Griffin in the later part of 2003.

I have been extremely involved in the volunteer work of the trade and the construction industry as a whole. While still at PPG I was involved with helping keep the fledgling Glass and Architectural Metals Association (GAMA) going. I was the President of GAMA in 1980, 1981 and 1984. This was valuable experience in preparing for some of the other volunteer positions I held later. It is very beneficial to learn how to chair meetings and deal with volunteer organizations when you are with your peers in your own chosen industry. GAMA remains a very active association where competitors gather monthly to bring the association and individual companies together for the good of the industry. GAMA gave me the privilege and honor of becoming an Honorary Life Member in 2001. Our trade associations fill a very important role in the construction industry with their work and GAMA remains an established, strong and vibrant association. Many of our industry volunteers have used GAMA as a springboard to go on to other organizations to help those groups become stronger with precious volunteer time, ideas and effort.

GAMA nominated me as their representative on the Board of the Calgary Construction Association (CCA) where I remained a Director for 17 years. At the time, that was the longest continuous active term of any Director. I served 3 years on the Executive Committee of the CCA Board including a term as President in 1992. I decided to forego the customary wooden gavel or the carpenter’s claw hammer gavel that some other Presidents had used and opted for something a little different. I had a custom “glass” gavel made from clear acrylic rod that I used to chair the meetings. During my tenure at the CCA I was quite involved the Standard Practices Committee that dealt with contract issues including promoting the use of complete drawings and specifications prior to tender call. I was a vocal member on the Task Force Committee that lobbied the Provincial Government to reduce the statutory holdback on the Alberta Standard sub-contract document from 15% to 10% thereby giving us all an extra 5% on each progress payment! This was, needless to say, not an easy task to complete but we did win the day and accomplished our objective to the benefit of all trade contractors. While on the Board of the CCA I met with and worked with the Mayor, City Aldermen and bureaucrats to keep the lines of communication open with our association and to deal with all civic construction issues. You meet a lot of interesting people as you go through life.

My work with the Calgary Construction Association was very rewarding as I was working with the cream of the crop and the leaders in the Calgary construction industry and an exceptional staff at CCA. I was awarded the Ted Walden award in 1998 “in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contributions, achievements and dedication to the objectives of the Calgary Construction Association”. In 2002 I was the recipient of the Person of the Year award “in appreciation for outstanding service”. I was awarded a number of other Executive Awards for my tireless work and involvement in many of the ongoing committees and ad hoc committees.

As a strong believer in fairness in bidding I became quite involved with the Alberta Bid Depository (ABD) through the Calgary Construction Association. I was a member of the ABD local committee for many years, Vice Chairman from 1984 to 1987 and Chairman from 1987 to 1990. The ABD was completely revamped in 1990 and I toured the province getting comments from the stakeholders and speaking on the changes to the bidding system and attempting to protect the interests of the trades. I became the initial Chairman of the Board of the Alberta Construction Tendering System (ACTS) when it came into effect in 1991. ACTS came into existence the same day as our wonderful GST!

As a member of the Executive on the CCA Board I was also a member of the Alberta Construction Association’s (ACA) Executive Committee for 3 years. This association deals primarily with the provincial government with advocacy and public relations on all provincial construction matters of interest to all trades and contractors. Much the same work as at the local level but now at the Provincial level with different players at the table and somewhat bigger stakes.

In 1992, as if I didn’t have enough volunteer positions to keep me busy, I accepted a position on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Construction Association. I spent 10 years on that Board where I was heavily involved in the Standard Practices Committee dealing with contract document issues, tendering practices and the promotion of construction industry standard documents. I was also an active member on the Standard Practices Steering Group. I spent much time revising wording and conditions on Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) documents where I took great care to ensure that all sectors of the construction industry, not just trade contractors, were protected and treated fairly. The CCDC is comprised of members from Canadian Construction Association, Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, Construction Specification Canada and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. I was a member on pretty well every sub-committee for the Trade Contractor’s Council dealing with the National Association. During my ten year involvement with this CCA I served a 3 year term as the Chairman of the Trade Contractor’s Council after serving two years as Vice Chair. One of my personal priorities was to have the other members of the Board refer to us as trade contractors rather than subcontractors. Although we do in fact sign subcontracts for much of our work I felt we should be called by the more respectful term of trade contractors. I made a point of personally writing very long, comprehensive, accurate and informative reports to bring back to the Calgary Construction Association after the National Board meetings. As you can imagine, reports dealing with national and contract issues can be rather boring so I ensured that each and every one of my reports has some humour injected into them. While Chair of the Trade Contractors Council I chaired a Strategic Planning session for the Council. This helped us set the direction, purpose and priorities for the next few years on how the Council could become more effective and stronger. I was so impressed by the benefit of this process that I made a suggestion that the Calgary Construction Association do the same thing and, guess what? I got to Chair Calgary’s Strategic Planning also to plan for the future and establish a mission statement during this process as well!          

I was very fortunate to be involved with the Canadian Construction Board of Directors as, again, I was working with and involved with the leaders of our regional, provincial, national and international construction industry and not a meeting went by without me learning something to help my business. I travelled to all provinces in Canada with the exception of New Brunswick to attend Board and committee meetings and made additional lasting friendships. I am a Gold Seal Certificate (project manager) holder through CCA. In 2000 I was awarded the Ernest Dobbelsteyn Memorial Trophy “for outstanding contributions made to the Trade Contractor’s Council and Canada’s Construction Industry”.

I was also the construction industry representative on Industry Advisory Committee at SAIT in my spare time.

Frank, you asked about my success, approach and business philosophy, my answer to those last two questions would be fairly straightforward although not short:
1.. Treat your business partners, employees, suppliers and customers with respect and fairness.                             
2.. Hire good people, buy quality products from reputable suppliers, don’t take all the work in town just be satisfied with a share of the good profitable work, put a fair markup on everything you sell and have some fun at work every day.
3.. Put some time and energy into volunteer work for the betterment of yourself and the groups you are working with. Encourage your staff to get involved in association and industry work as well. Be committed to making a difference.                                                                                                                                                                        

Perhaps the reason for my success can be found in the above philosophy, Frank.                                                             

I had a small saying posted in my office at Griffin that read: There are three types of people – Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what happened. We must be in the first group if we have any hope of being successful.

Here is a bit of personal history that you may or may not find useful but I give it to you for your perusal:

Born in Swift Current Sask. and schooled there until completion of grade 6

I graduated from Crescent Heights High School in Calgary

I signed up and joined the Royal Canadian Navy in January 1962 and served a 3 year engagement as a Radioman in the communications field dealing with voice, teletype and Morse code communications, secure coded messaging, radio operations and maintenance. My security rating was up to and including Top Secret. There wasn’t a lot of action other than N.A.T.O. exercises and general military practices with other allied marine forces. However, this was the time of the Cuban Crisis when all Canadian and American military operations were on full alert for a possible all out war. I saw a bit of the world but mostly just ocean waves and storms in the ever frigid North Atlantic.

I am married to Dianne (since 1966), we have 3 sons. All our sons are involved in the construction industry in some manner. Our oldest son Jeff is married to Katyuska, they have a 10 year old daughter, Ariani. Jeff is a Professional Engineer and Project Control Manager for the reopening of the steelmaking metallurgical coal mine at Tumbler Ridge B.C. This is one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world; it was closed down in 2000 due to sliding world coal prices. The preliminary work to reopen the mine is valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Our middle son Travis is married to Julie. Travis has his Journeyman and Glazier Completion of Apprenticeship Certificates. He has taken over the reins at Griffin Glass. Travis has been at Griffin for 20 years and is working longer hours than I did when I was in the hot seat and he is doing a great job.

Our youngest son Kevin is married to Janis, they have a 2 year old son, Dylan. Kevin has his Project Management Professional (PMP) designation and is a Project Manager with PCL in Calgary. His present project at the Foothills Hospital was a runner up for the Alberta Construction Magazine’s top project for 2011

I was involved with the Scouts Canada Wolf Cub organization in Calgary. We moved to the small town of Okotoks just south of Calgary where I remained involved when our boys were younger. Being the Akela in the Okotoks Cub Pack was a very rewarding time for me as I met many great kids and their parents.

I was part of a group in Okotoks who worked to put more facilities and programs in place for youth in the community.

I was the President of the Okotoks Photography Club and enjoyed the photography and darkroom aspects of this hobby.

I am presently involved as President in a condo development project in Nosara, Costa Rica with a group of friends. These friends, Dianne and I are learning about being developers, foreign laws, foreign legislation, foreign cultures, Costa Rica environmental issue and the like. Quite different from what I did in Canada.

I have a few other irons in the fire at present but I am spending much more time with “retirement” pursuits nowadays.

We spend our winter months in the Palm Springs area of California. We also try to spend relaxing time at our condo with an unobstructed ocean view of the Pacific coast at Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica, when it is not rented to other people enjoying the wonderful Costa Rica experience.

Official obituary

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