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January 4, 2018
man in a well-appointed living room
Former University of Wyoming Math Assistant Professor Dorothy Stodola made a big difference in alumnus Stan Grad’s college career. He says: “She was short, stout, in her mid-40s, and her attitude was ‘I’m not a mathematician—I’m a math teacher. I sympathize with the freshman and sophomores and understand their difficulties when they don’t want to be brilliant specialists doing research in the subject.’ She always had a common-sense approach and helped me puzzle through the more complicated problems.” (Photo by The Alberta Order of Excellence)

Alumnus Stan Grad founded energy companies and then followed his passion—ranching and draft horses.

By Tamara Linse

Alumnus Stan Grad is obsessed with the heavy horse pull, a centuries-old event in which two draft horses in harness pull twice to three times their combined body weight. It began in 2001 when Grad fell for a team of brawny Percherons, Ike and Pete, who were competing for the middleweight division at the Calgary Stampede.

“You wouldn’t know where I could buy a team of good-looking gray horses like that pair?” he asked their owner.

“You can buy these two if they don’t win tomorrow night,” the owner replied. The team came in second, and Grad bought them for $20,000.

The rest is history. In 2009, Grad’s heavyweight team of Belgians, Jim and Ben, set a new Calgary Stampede record of pulling a 13,000-pound sled 14 feet. Then they broke their own record the next day by dragging a 13,100-pound sled. Together, the team weighed 5,026 pounds.

Then, in 2011, Grad’s 5,134-pound Belgian team of Ben and Roy broke a record yet again by pulling 13,300 pounds in the heavyweight division. A dramatic image of that team painted by Western artist Shannon Lawlor was featured on the official 2017 poster of the Calgary Stampede.

“I love the big horses,” Grad said in an interview with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. “A buddy of mine that I co-founded Canyon Technical with got me into them. He taught me how to be a teamster and how to drive the horses competitively.”

Grad and his wife, Jane, are the owners of Soderglen Ranches, the name of which Grad picked up during his time as a student at the University of Wyoming. The ranch is one of the largest seedstock cattle operations in Canada. It raises Black Angus, Red Angus, Simmental and Charolais, and its own breeds, CCM and Red and Black MAX. The ranch runs a breeding herd of 2,600 cows at three locations in southern Alberta that encompass 22,500 acres.

Though horses and ranching are Grad’s passion, he has done many other things. He grew up in Alberta, Canada, and worked on a dairy farm, which led to his lifelong love of ranching. A self-confessed poor student, he earned a degree from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, worked as a roughneck, and then came to UW and earned a degree in petroleum engineering.

After graduation, he served as president and CEO of Grad and Walker Energy Corp., which was bought by Crestar Energy in the 1990s. Grad went on to found, direct or chair additional energy companies, including MAX Minerals, Standard Energy, Wellco and Canyon Technical Services, one of Canada’s largest hydraulic fracturing companies.

Grad also has been involved with the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS). His teenage daughter Kristine tragically died after a car accident in 1990, and so he has lent his long-term support to emergency medical transportation and treatment for accident victims in rural Alberta.

Grad is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, for which he received the Alberta Order of Excellence, the highest honor the Canadian province bestows. He supports UW and is a founding member of the Calgary Stampede Foundation.

“If you’ve got the combination of the education and the drive and ambition, you can do great things,” Grad says.

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