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Headshot of Steve Kroft

Meet the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement recipient

May 29, 2024 — 

Steve Kroft [BA/88] is the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement

Winnipeg has long been known as the “Gateway to the West,” yet Steve Kroft has shown that our city can be the gateway to the world. He has always aspired for this city and its people to be healthier and more prosperous, and he has inspired Winnipeggers not only through his ambitious entrepreneurship but also through his devotion to community service.  Now he’s being honoured by UM for his impressive body of work.

“I wish it were named the Lifetime-So-Far Achievement award,” laughs Kroft. “Honestly, it’s very humbling. There’s a whole bunch of people behind the scenes who are really doing the heavy lifting, and so there’s always a little bit of guilt with it as well because as they say, it takes a village. I’m very proud that to receive it from my university in my city, so it means a lot.”

Kroft’s first interactions with UM were as a student, graduating from the Faculty of Arts in 1988. “I loved my classes,” recalls Kroft. “I met a professor that I really developed a great relationship with, which is often someone’s story. In my case, it was Geoff Lambert in Politics, who has since passed away. Sounds cliché, but I really broadened my horizons in terms of friend groups. I met so many different people, different kinds of people.”

He also pursued his Juris Doctor from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he had a successful commercial litigation practice. However, Kroft ultimately decided to leave law and enter business back home in Winnipeg. In 1997, he joined Conviron, a Winnipeg-based company founded by his father that makes controlled environments, providing researchers and entrepreneurs the ability to grow plants indoors. Steve excelled in this new arena. Under his leadership, the company expanded its reach to over 90 countries and was named Manitoba’s Exporter of the Year by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in 2012. In 2016, it was named Life Science Company of the Year by the Life Science Association of Manitoba.

It was really as a local entrepreneur that Kroft’s connections with UM became more significant, first and foremost as an employer. “I was just always so impressed with, especially in the last several years, the students that we recruited from the University of Manitoba.”

In the community, Steve is Director Emeritus of the Business Council of Manitoba and a member of the Board of Directors of The North West Company and the True North Youth Foundation, where he also serves as Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. He is also the Past Chair of the Board of CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, and he has served the boards of Manitoba Hydro, Assiniboine Park Conservancy, St. John’s-Ravenscourt, Prairie Theatre Exchange and the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. In 2022, Steve was the recipient of the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Medal, which is the highest honour bestowed on a member of Manitoba’s Jewish community, recognizing outstanding dedication, leadership and service within the Jewish and general communities over many years.

He has remained connected to UM throughout his life, and he is currently a member of President Benarroch’s Advisory Council and of The Associates of the I.H. Asper School of Business. He is also a former member of The Young Associates and served as a member of President Emeritus David Barnard’s Front and Centre Campaign Team. While Steve was majority owner, Conviron also made generous gifts to the University of Manitoba.

“I learned a lot about the university during that time,” recalls Kroft. “When I was involved as chair of the Business Council, the discussions were around how we can better align graduates with the needs of the business community. We have a very unique situation here, in terms of where we are with reconciliation and Indigenous communities and water. There’s a lot of things that I think the University of Manitoba is extremely well positioned to lead in. It’s an exciting time.”

In every endeavour, Kroft’s aim is to bring the most benefit to others. At Conviron, he dreamed of his family’s firm helping the world address mounting challenges, such as growing food in a rapidly changing climate. He realized on this front the biggest impact he could have would be to let go. In 2022, he sold the family business to Madison Industries because he knew it could do more good for more people if it was bolstered by a much larger company. In 2023, Steve was inducted into the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (Manitoba) Hall of Fame, which celebrates visionaries who have demonstrated leadership in the development of their company(ies) and success in their chosen industry.

“My job is to surround myself in business with people who are smarter than I am and then just provide a bit of direction and get out of the way and let outstanding people do outstanding things. And I I was able to do that in my business, which allowed me to do other things that sort of really fuel my tank. Today, I’m on five different boards. I’ve no intention of stopping that, my commitment to our city and our province is strong.”

Steve Kroft is a big dreamer and devoted Manitoban who has spent his life using his talents to benefit others. The future is no exception.

“American author Dorothy Parker said that ‘curiosity is the cure for boredom’,” says Kroft. “There is no cure for curiosity and so I am a very curious person, so I’m a lifelong learner. I look forward to learning other things. I sort of feel I’ve got another chapter to write.”

The 2024 University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence presented by TD Insurance will be held September 19, during Homecoming 2024. Get your tickets now as the event is always a sell-out!

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