It’s a blessing to have a mentor, and an honour to win an award, but the appreciation that comes with winning an award named after your mentor is indescribable. Just ask Joanne Manser,  a senior advisor with Suncor’s Community Investment group and the 2020 recipient of the Hazel Gillespie Community Investment Leadership Award.

Hazel was the director of community investment when Joanne joined the team at Petro-Canada, now part of Suncor’s business. Hazel was a leading figure in the Community Investment world in Calgary for decades, and she knew when to spot individuals that shared her passion for giving back. It didn’t take Hazel long to notice Joanne’s potential for making an impact in the company and in the community. Joanne continued to gain experience in community investment and attributes much of what it means to work with and alongside community to Hazel’s leadership and mentorship.

Shortly after Hazel’s retirement in 2009, Calgary’s corporate community investment community developed an award in honour of her tireless commitment and passion for community investment. The award recognizes Hazel’s characteristics demonstrated through her long career: generosity, strategic thinking and commitment. Sadly, Hazel passed away from cancer in 2012, but served on the award’s selection committee before her death.

“I clearly remember the event where we came together to celebrate Hazel and the creation of this award. If you were to tell me then that I would become a future recipient, I’d have had a hard time believing you. How could I ever be compared to Hazel and her legacy?” asks Joanne. “When I reflect on my career, Hazel is a constant thread.  I will be forever grateful that she took a chance on me – leading to the relationships and lifelong friendships I have within my work today.”

“In addition to more than 15 years supporting community investment initiatives in communities where Suncor operates, Joanne’s nomination also highlighted her work to develop and lead SunCares—a meaningful program for Suncor employees,” says Kim Nordbye, manager, Suncor Energy Foundation and community investment. “The result is an international program that enables Suncor employees to volunteer, support and donate to causes that matter most to them and their communities.”

How a company invests in communities and the impact of those investments depends on the skill, strategy and heart of community investment professionals—from Hazel to Joanne, that sentiment holds true.