skip to Main Content

Ronald D. Southern (1930 – 2016)

Ronald D. Southern

Ronald Donald Southern C.C., C.B.E., A.O.E., B. Sc., LL. D was born on July 25, 1930 in Calgary, Alberta. He was a proud Canadian who loved his Alberta roots. A gifted athlete in his youth he completed his High School education at Crescent Heights High School in Calgary and then obtained his Bachelor of Science at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta in 1953.


While still in high school, together with his father Samuel D. Southern, Ron founded Alberta Trailer Hire Co. in 1947, which later grew to become ATCO Group. After graduating, Ron began working to build the business into a global corporation with thousands of employees called ATCO.


Ron was a self-made businessman who became a respected giant of Canadian commerce. His success included gas and electrical utility companies, midstream, drilling, pipelines, logistics, manufacturing, workforce housing sales, leasing, maintenance and operations. ATCO Ltd. and Canadian Utilities Limited, which ATCO acquired and repatriated in 1980, have done business in more than 100 countries around the world primarily through its Structures and Logistics businesses that provide workforce housing and other infrastructure solutions. The firms’ utilities businesses operate in Canada, Australia the United Kingdom, and Mexico. In addition to acting as Chairman of the Board of ATCO, Canadian Utilities and AKITA Drilling Ltd. for decades, Ron actively enjoyed his time on the Boards of Directors of a number of Canada’s most prestigious companies including: Canadian Pacific Limited, Chrysler Canada, Imasco, Lafarge Canada, Royal and Sun Alliance (RSA), Trimac, Pacific Western Airlines, Canadian Pacific Airlines, Canadian Airlines, Xerox Canada, Mercantile Bank, Canadian Export Development Corporation, Southam Inc., Crown Zellerback, and Fletcher Challenge.


Ronald married Margaret Visser in 1954 and they had two daughters: Nancy Southern and Linda Southern-Heathcott.


Ron and his wife Margaret of sixty-one years were the vision and driving force behind the creation, construction and operations of Spruce Meadows, which is widely recognized as the leading show jumping facility in the world. Since opening in 1975, Spruce Meadows has hosted athletes from more than 60 nations and attracted 10.2 million fans.


Numerous awards were bestowed upon Ron for his remarkable efforts, achievements and contributions including: Companion of the Order of Canada 2007, Alberta Order of Excellence 2012, The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012 and The Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service 2013.


A lifelong sportsman, Ron was recognized as the Calgary Booster Club Sportsman of the Year in 1986. He was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2013 he was named honorary chief of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and given the name Chief Sorrel Horse.
Ron was also recognized as an Internationalist. In 1990 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed on him a member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to Anglo – Canadian relations and in 1995 he was promoted to the level of Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands inducted him into the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2006 and honored him with the Holland Trade Award in 1985 in recognition of his substantial contributions to the Dutch Foreign economic relations.


Ron received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta in 1991 and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Calgary in 1976.

In 2007 he was inducted into the Canadian Manufacturing Hall of Fame. In 1996 Ron was recognized by the Financial Post as the CEO of the Year in Canada. In 1990 the University of Manitoba recognized him as the International Distinguished Entrepreneur and in 1986 the University of Alberta recognized Ron as the Businessman of the Year.

Ron traveled the world and met most of the business leaders in those countries, as well as many of the political leaders of the 20th century. He took a great interest in the people and the cultures wherever he visited, and his vast memory could recall the most extraordinary details. He cherished his many years on the Trilateral Commission.


Ronald Southern lived a life full of adventure and achievement and was truly an Alberta Champion. His achievements and generosity during his life will always be inspiration to all.






Back To Top