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Career and contribution

Engineering alumnus receives faculty's Distinguished Alumni Award

Campus and Community | Alumni Spotlight

By Jackey Locke

The 2019 recipient of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Distinguished Alumni Award is John Whelan.

John Whelan
John Whelan
Photo: Submitted

Annually, the faculty presents the award to an outstanding alumnus who has had exceptional career achievements and has made significant impact on an employer, society, community and/or industry.

Mr. Whelan received the award for his exceptional career achievements and contributions in the oil and gas sector and his outstanding service to his community.

‘Contribute and compete’

“I am very honoured and extremely proud to receive this award,” said Mr. Whelan. “As I reflect on my career and life, I am so grateful for my upbringing in Newfoundland and Labrador. This includes the values that were instilled in me by my parents and the first-class education I received. The education I was afforded in this province and at Memorial is second-to-none, and it has enabled me to contribute and compete with bright people from all over the world.”

Mr. Whelan’s success can be attributed to his intellect, passion for learning, work ethic and leadership abilities. He has also given generously to his community.

“There are so many tremendous volunteers, who are improving the lives of others.” — John Whelan

He is on the board of governors of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alta. He is on the management committee and is a director with the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, and on the advisory council for Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

Mr. Whelan is also actively involved in the Calgary Corporate Challenge, an annual Olympic-style event that brings together more than 20,000 participants to raise money for local charities.

“It is very important to give back to society,” he said. “There are so many tremendous volunteers, who are improving the lives of others and helping make the world a better place. For a number of years, I coached my son’s hockey team and I recently joined the Glenbow Museum where I get to work with an extremely talented team as we go through revitalization of the museum, including a major building upgrade.”

Extensive experience

Mr. Whelan grew up in St. John’s and started at Memorial University in 1982. He graduated with a bachelor of engineering (mechanical) degree in 1988.

He started his career with Mobil Oil Canada as a subsurface engineer. In 1991 he moved to Norway where he worked on various offshore oil and gas projects. In 1999 he returned to Canada and held a variety of engineering and managerial roles with ExxonMobil Canada in Calgary, St. John’s and Halifax.

“I have always tried to learn as much as possible from every job and experience.” — John Whelan

In 2004 Mr. Whelan relocated to Houston to work first in ExxonMobil’s global planning and business analysis organization and then as technical manager for US Production. Four years later, he was appointed as operations manager for ExxonMobil’s North Sea Production in Norway. In 2011 Mr. Whelan and his family returned to Houston where he was planning and commercial manager.

In 2013 the family returned to Canada when Mr. Whelan was assigned to Imperial Oil initially as vice-president, production, and from 2017-20 as senior vice-president, Upstream.

Mr. Whelan was recently promoted to vice-president, Global Heavy Oil with ExxonMobil Upstream Oil and Gas.

Mr. Whelan has some sound advice for current students on becoming successful engineers and on the importance of giving back.

“While a good education provides the foundation for a successful career, I have found that nothing replaces the value and pride that comes from hard work, honesty and integrity, and most importantly, treating others with respect,” he said.

“I have always tried to learn as much as possible from every job and experience and, at the end of the day, I am most thankful for the support from my family and those around me.”

John Whelan (left) receives the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Greg Naterer at the 50th anniversary celebrations event last summer.
From left, John Whelan receives the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Greg Naterer at the 50th anniversary celebrations event last summer.
Photo: Bud Gaulton

“I’m delighted to see John honoured through our annual alumni award for his exceptional career achievements and service contributions to the community,” said Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “John serves as an inspiring role model for current and future engineering students, as well as the entire Memorial community.”


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