In memory of alumnus, business leader Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps [BA/67, LLB/70], a nationally recognized oil and gas executive who advocated for national unity, died on April 20 at age 71. Named president and chief executive officer of Westcoast Energy in 1987, he was, at age 40, one of the youngest CEOs in British Columbia. Phelps grew Westcoast from a conservative utility to a linchpin of the province’s economy, with more than $10 billion in assets.
Born near Montreal, Phelps moved to Winnipeg at age 13 and graduated from St. Paul’s High School at 16. After earning two degrees from the University of Manitoba, he practised law in Winnipeg, later moving to Ottawa to advise and assist the Ministers of Justice and Energy. Phelps jumped back into the private sector in the early 1980s, joining Westcoast Transmission (later renamed Westcoast Energy).
In 2002, he founded and chaired Dornoch Capital, a private investment company. Phelps also chaired the Business Council of B.C. and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and served on many other professional boards.
Canadian Business called him “the very epitome of the modern corporate man,” yet he also devoted significant energy to civic matters. Phelps was founding member and co-chair of B.C.’s “Yes” committee in favour of the Charlottetown constitutional accord, defeated in 1992 in a national referendum. He participated on the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and chaired the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital Foundation.
Phelps and his wife Joy supported many initiatives at U of M including Robson Hall. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada and recipient of several honorary degrees. He leaves behind his wife, three daughters, and eight grandchildren.