Terri-Jane Yuzda

Avalanche Study Scholarship Celebrates Adventuresome Spirit

Engineering Grad Naomi Heffler's Tragic Death Remembered in Alliance Pipeline's Annual $5,000 Award

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the University of Calgary's online Engineering Faculty News.

By Christine Ward

The January avalanche death of U of C alumna Naomi Heffler, E.I.T., is helping to advance understanding of snow stability and avalanche control through a new graduate scholarship funded by Alliance Pipeline.

When Ms. Heffler, who received her bachelor of science degree in engineering in 2002, died in a tragic accident in January, members of her father's corporate family were among the first to rally close with a unique idea for honouring the U of C graduate's spirit.

"Naomi's dad, Howard Heffler, P.Eng., was part of Alliance Pipeline from the earliest days of our company's inception in 1995," says Al Edgeworth, P.Eng., Alliance Pipeline's president and chief executive officer. "When Naomi, a member of Alliance's extended family, died suddenly and tragically, all of our employees shared the pain and wanted to find a way to demonstrate their compassion."

The result is the Naomi Heffler Memorial Scholarship in Avalanche or Snow Science. Funded by a $25,000 contribution from Alliance's Community Investment Fund, the $5,000 annual award will support one graduate engineering student over each of the next five years.

Says Mr. Edgeworth: "The choice of snow science and avalanche control was an easy one since it's so relevant, not only to the way in which Naomi was killed, but also how she lived."

Naomi Heffler, along with six others, died in a massive avalanche, Jan. 20, while on a back-country ski expedition in eastern British Columbia. The 25-year-old was part of a highly skilled group enjoying the area near Durrand Glacier in the Selkirk Mountains. In spite of expert response by all other members of the party of 24, seven of the 13 buried skiers were not saved.

Naomi began hiking and skiing in the mountains with her sister Laura, mother Lyn, and I as soon as she could walk," remembers Naomi's father. "As she matured, her love of the mountains and the rivers grew stronger, as did her skills and sense of adventure."

While pursuing her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the U of C, Naomi swam with the university team and was active with the Engineering Students' Society. For the past six years she worked as a canoe guide in the summers in northern Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories.

She was a qualified ski instructor, who had completed Level 2 avalanche training. A graduate-level course with U of C's Bruce Jamison further inspired in her a desire to pursue post-graduate study.

Through its investment, Alliance hopes the University of Calgary will be able expand its Applied Snow and Avalanche Research Group, already recognized as among the best in the world.

But even more importantly, the company wishes to celebrate Naomi's adventuresome spirit and enduring love of all life outdoors.


Home | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us