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You Bet Your Glass: February 2012

Alberta’s industry hero

February 13, 2012  By Frank Fulton

In my last column, I told you about my trip to Edmonton to attend the
Canadian Glass Association’s Glass Connections conference.

In my last column, I told you about my trip to Edmonton to attend the Canadian Glass Association’s Glass Connections conference. While I was there I got asking around about some of the noteworthy players in the glass and glazing business in western Canada and was told that if there was any one guy worth telling everyone about, that guy would be Don Ward. I caught up with Don in Palm Springs, Calif., where he works at retirement during the winter months.
If there were a Nobel Prize for contributions to the glass and glazing industry, Don Ward would have to be the heavily favoured candidate to receive it.

Don Ward was born in Swift Current, Sask., and moved to Calgary while still in grade school. He spent a few years serving as a radio operator with the Royal Canadian Navy in the early 1960s, and upon his return to Calgary in 1965 got his foot in the door of the glass industry with a warehouse job at Canadian Pittsburgh Industries (CPI).

Don started at the bottom and through hard work, dedication and an unwavering drive to learn, came up through the ranks. He attended the very first glassworkers apprenticeship training program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and was in its inaugural graduating class in 1969, receiving his Certified Journeyman Glassworker certificate. Ward says, “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.”


While working on the tools for CPI on a number of large projects during the boom years of the 1970s he was promoted to field superintendent overseeing 100 tradesmen before moving a few years later into the office as an estimator and eventually becoming the contract sales manager for the newly renamed PPG.

It was during this time that Don began his remarkable contributions to volunteer work for the betterment of the glass and construction industries when he got involved in the fledgling Glass and Architectural Metals Association of Calgary. He eventually became president of that association of local glazing contractors for the first time in 1980. He would serve as president twice more in 1981 and 1984.

In 1981, after more than 16 years with PPG, Ward joined Griffin Glass Industries, a company with a proven track record since 1960, as a vice-president, and changed the company name to Griffin Glass (1981) Ltd. The majority partner, Ken Kennedy, retired in 1985 and Don took over as president of the company.

Even though Don had long ago completed his SAIT apprenticeship training, he continued his involvement with that group as a member on the local and provincial apprenticeship committees for some 18 years, helping with curriculum changes, drafting the Red Seal Interprovincial Examination, marking the practical examination projects and keeping up with regular committee work. Government staff had chaired the apprenticeship committee meetings until industry took over the chairman position. At that transitional time, Don accepted the role of presiding officer of the provincial and local apprenticeship committees and held those positions for more than 10 years.

GAMA nominated Don as their representative on the board of the Calgary Construction Association in 1989 where he remained a director for 17 years. At the time, that was the longest continuous active term of any director. He served three years on the executive committee of the CCA board including a term as president in 1992.

In the next issue we’ll take a look at Don Ward’s involvement and leadership on a remarkable number of initiatives that benefited the industry.

Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He has
been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via e-mail at

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