In more than 15 years as chair and instructor with Lethbridge College’s Civil Engineering Technology program, Al Laplante helped build the careers and futures of hundreds of students.
Now, thanks to the generosity of “Big Al” and his family, future generations of students will receive support to help them succeed through the Al Laplante Scholarship for Civil Engineering Technology.
Before Laplante passed away in October 2020 at the age of 82, he committed to a planned gift to Lethbridge College to add to the scholarship fund he established on his retirement in 2000. That gift is being supplemented by an additional commitment from the Laplante family to bring the total endowment to $120,000. To date, 19 students have been awarded scholarships which recognize academic excellence in a student’s first year of the program, and many more will be helped by the additional gift.
“He was intensely proud of the college and of the fact that he was the founding chair [of the Civil Engineering Technology program],” says Dan Laplante, Al’s son. “He went to every scholarship banquet that he could and met a lot of scholarship winners. He wanted to make sure more students would have the opportunity to succeed in the program. As a family, we wanted to make sure we stepped up to support that as well.”
One of eight children, Al Laplante was born in Vimy, Alta., in 1938. He attended the University of Alberta’s Civil Engineering program and was a standout hockey player under legendary Golden Bears coach Clare Drake. After graduating with an undergraduate and master’s degree, Laplante worked in both the private and public sector before moving his family to Lethbridge in 1983, when he joined the faculty at what was then called Lethbridge Community College.
“As a college, our people are our greatest asset,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “We are fortunate that people like Al Laplante choose to be a part of the college and put their energy into building our legacy. We are thankful that Al felt strongly enough to continue that connection to supporting future generations, and we appreciate the additional support of the Laplante family.”
Among his accomplishments as chair was leading the push to get the fledgling program accredited by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) as well as teaching countless future engineering technology professionals the finer points of soils and land surveying in his own unique fashion.
“Al was the cornerstone of the Civil Engineering Technology program,” says Warren Salberg (Civil Engineering Technology 1985, 1992 Distinguished Alumni), who was a student in the first year of the program and later worked alongside Laplante as an instructor until the latter’s retirement. “He made sure students had a blend of hands-on experiential learning as well as a solid theoretical knowledge. As an instructor he was 100 per cent dedicated to his students. As a colleague, it was amazing to have him as a mentor.”
The Civil Engineering Technology program Laplante helped to begin is still going strong nearly 40 years later, graduating skilled technologists who are contributing to build the world around us.
“He believed that the more you give, the more you get back,” says Dan Laplante, of his father. “Lethbridge provided our family with an opportunity and he never forgot that. Our family is proud of our father and grateful for what the community and the college provided to us, and it always has a spot in our hearts for that.”
To make a donation to the Al Laplante Scholarship for Civil Engineering Technology or to learn more about planned giving, please visit https://www.lethbridgecollege.ca/give or call 403-320-3457.