Class of 1995
Ronald Southern is the co-founder and Chairman of ATCO Ltd. His vision transformed a two dollar a day rental business into a billion dollar global success story. Today, ATCO Group is an Alberta-based worldwide organization of companies with assets in the billions, and has three main business divisions: Power Generation, Utilities (natural gas and electricity transmission and distribution) and Global Enterprises (industrials, technology, logistics and energy services).
In 1947 R.D. Southern and his father, S.D. Southern created the business Alberta Trailer Hire with the purchase of 15 utility trailers. This unique, custom-built trailer met housing needs of oil industry workers. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alberta in 1953, Mr. Southern set aside plans to begin a medical career and chose instead to continue with Alberta Trailer Hire, which later became ATCO.
For more than sixty years, Southern has remained committed to quality control and customer satisfaction. An inspiring leader, he once said, “Plan carefully, surround yourself with people that can get the job done, then delegate.” This philosophy has made ATCO one of the largest suppliers of workforce housing in Canada and brought a significant share of international markets.
Mr. Southern is unwavering in his support of the community. Together with his wife Margaret, the Southerns built a world class show jumping facility, Spruce Meadows, where they continue to provide strong leadership in fostering excellence in competitive and amateur competition. Both Mr. and Mrs. Southern were inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2006, Mr. Southern was appointed Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The Canadian Manufacturing Hall of Fame inducted Mr. Southern in 2007 and the next year the Modular Building Institute welcomed him and his father to their Hall of Fame for their vision and dedication in pioneering the workforce housing industry. Mr. Southern has also received many honorary degrees and has served as director of several corporations including Canadian Pacific, Canadian Airlines, and Chrysler Corporation of Canada.
As of 2008, Ronald Southern remains Chairman and majority shareholder of ATCO. His daughter, Nancy Southern, succeeded him as President and Chief Executive Officer in 2003. Mr. Southern was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986, promoted to an Officer in 2003, and eventually elevated to a Companion in 2007.