It’s a blessing to have a mentor and an honour to win an award, but the appreciation that comes with winning an award named after your mentor feels indescribable. Just ask Joanne Manser, senior advisor, community investment, who is the 2020 recipient of the Hazel Gillespie Community Investment Leadership Award

Joanne started working for Petro-Canada in 2005 in Communications, when Hazel Gillespie was the company’s director of community investment. It didn’t take Hazel long to notice Joanne’s potential for making an impact in the company and community. Joanne then joined the Community Investment (CI) team, which she has been a part of ever since.

In 2008, people from the community investment, fundraising, and non-profit sectors developed an award to recognize characteristics Hazel demonstrated: generosity, strategic thinking and commitment. Sadly, Hazel passed away from cancer in 2012, but served on the award’s selection committee before her death. The committee continues to review nominations annually.

This year’s nominees were a high-calibre group to assess. As the selection committee narrowed their choices, one committee member remarked that she couldn’t believe Joanne hadn’t won already. But Joanne’s not receiving the award earlier was partly a case of spending so much time on the committee herself. That commitment was deemed a “very Hazel thing to do” and became one of the factors that ultimately led the committee to choose Joanne.

“I clearly remember the event where we came together to celebrate Hazel and the creation of this award. If you were to tell me then that I would become a future recipient, I’d have had a hard time believing you. How could I ever be compared to Hazel and her legacy?” asks Joanne. “When I reflect on my career, Hazel is a constant thread. She showed me what it means to work with and alongside community, and I will be forever grateful that she took a chance on me – leading to the relationships and lifelong friendships I have within my work today.”

When the award launched in 2009, an article in the company newsletter remarked that the way a company invests in communities and the impact of those investments depends on the skill, strategy and heart of CI professionals. From that publication through to today – from Hazel through to Joanne – that sentiment remains true.

“It didn’t take long for Jo to become a critical member of our new team after the merger,” says Cathy Glover, retired director of Suncor Community Investment. “I watched her move from someone who was working the process to someone designing it. I am incredibly proud of the leader she has become.”

In reference to SunCares, Joanne’s nomination highlighted that she worked to understand what’s important to employees. “Working with others, she focused on surfacing tensions with the historical program to better understand employee motivations, touchpoints, emotional responses, and opportunities,” says Kim Nordbye, manager, Suncor Energy Foundation and community investment. “The result is an international program strategically aligned to Suncor purpose and values, providing flexibility and choice.”

Typically, Joanne would receive her award at the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Generosity of Spirit ceremony. However, like many events in 2020, the ceremony has been postponed. For now, AFP has been celebrating philanthropy on Twitter, using the hashtag #AFPCalgaryhereandnow.

This award for Joanne as a Suncor representative follows the 2019 celebration where Suncor was named Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist.


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Hazel Gillespie Community Investment Leadership Award – 2020

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