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Remembering Richard Walls: 1948 - 2023

McGill community mourns the passing of a passionate supporter of McGill students and alumni in Western Canada

Richard Walls

Richard Walls, PhD’78, DSc’13, was a long-time donor and tireless champion for McGill University for nearly two decades. He played an integral role in strengthening McGill’s roots in Western Canada and helping the University attract top students from the western provinces. 

A geologist and entrepreneur in the oil and gas industry, Dr. Walls died in Calgary on August 2 at the age of 74, surrounded by his beloved wife Carolina and their five children.

“Dick Walls was uniquely colourful and larger than life,” says Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal for University Advancement at McGill. “He was outspoken about how his experience as a student at McGill had changed his life, and he was passionate about providing students from Western Canada with the opportunity to study at McGill. Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him and working closely with him will miss the infectious energy and take-charge approach he brought to every undertaking on behalf of McGill and its students.”

Together with his wife Carolina Walls, BSc’85, DSc’13, Dr. Walls became deeply engaged as a donor and volunteer in the McGill community in the early 2000s, beginning with a lead gift to help establish the T. H. Clark Chair in Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, in memory of McGill’s legendary paleontologist and geologist Thomas Clark. 

But Dr. Walls’s most defining legacy at McGill is the Best in the West Student Awards program, which he and Mrs. Walls created in 2008 with a lead gift of $1 million. Designed to support McGill's ability to attract top undergraduate students from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Best in the West scholarships help relieve the financial burden for students from the western provinces who want to study at McGill and have served as a powerful force in fostering national unity.

Since the program's inception, more than 330 students have received funding, thanks to the support of more than 200 individual donors.

Dr. Walls also served on several volunteer boards at McGill, including the Campaign Cabinet and the Western Canadian Advisory Board, in support of Made by McGill: the Campaign for our Third Century. In recognition of their dedicated volunteerism and inspiring support for McGill students, Dr. and Mrs. Walls received honorary McGill doctorates in 2013. In 2021, both were also honoured with Distinguished Service Awards by the McGill Alumni Association. 

Dr. Walls grew up in Kentucky and earned his Bachelor of Science in geology from Morehead State University in 1971. He completed his master’s degree at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill before seizing the opportunity to do his doctoral studies at McGill with Dr. Eric Mountjoy, a renowned expert on sedimentology, carbonates, and the structure of the Canadian Rockies.
He went on to build a distinguished career in the oil and gas industry, founding five companies involved in the exploration and development of energy resources. A recognized expert in Devonian oil and gas reservoirs in Western Canada, he was also responsible for discovering significant oil and gas deposits in Western Canada and the Texas Gulf Coast.

Richard Walls will be dearly missed, but his proud legacy of support for McGill students lives on through the many beneficiaries of the Best in the West scholarships and the positive impact they will make across Canada and beyond.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked to please consider making a donation to the Best in the West Scholarships.