By Tyler Lowey
Whether it be Cariboo College, University College of the Cariboo or Thompson Rivers University, the institution has always believed smaller class sizes are a greater way to foster academic development. Mark Leriger De La Plante (Leriger) agrees. He used his Cariboo College education to launch a successful four-decade career in the oil and gas industry. Now retired, he’s paying it forward for future students with a legacy gift to fund bursaries.
Finding a path
Growing up in Calgary, a teenaged Leriger entered the workforce in the seismic field with his father. He worked several summers in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan before deciding to enroll at the University of Calgary to pursue a degree in marine biology.
Three months in, he was pulled away from his studies after accepting an overseas seismic contract in Africa. Although he appreciated the opportunity to travel the world, Leriger also needed to finance his way through college following the passing of his father. He returned to North America two years later and spent time working in the Arctic before revisiting his education.
His preference was to find an institution with a more intimate setting than the theatre-style classes he took previously. Leriger saw an advantage in attending a school in the B.C. Interior.
His parents had property on Shuswap Lake that made him eligible for reduced tuition back in 1971. That, and the ability to one day transfer his science credits elsewhere, pushed him to pursue an academic career in marine biology.
“I enjoyed the smaller classes at Cariboo College with terrific professors, which led to some great discussions. Of course, the climate was incredible, too. Kamloops has so much to offer. I loved skiing at Todd Mountain (now Sun Peaks) or water-skiing on one of the lakes,” said Leriger, who served as the Student Union president during his second term.
Fifty-three credits later, Leriger transferred to the University of Victoria, where he graduated with a double major in economics and marine biology.
Reflecting and giving back
During his post-secondary years, Leriger was grateful to receive a scholarship from PanCanadian Petroleum Limited. Midway through his studies, Leriger considered leaving to resume working to oil and gas, but PanCanadian convinced him to take one more year of physics and math, with a job as a geophysicist waiting for him on the other side.
“The oil and gas industry was just beginning to boom back then and Jacques Cousteau wasn’t offering me any jobs at that point, so I finished up my degree and moved back to Calgary to resume my career in the oil and gas field,” said Leriger.
For the next 41 years, Leriger navigated the flourishing industry. He worked for several large oil and gas companies before starting his own geophysical consulting business, where his clients included many large oil and gas corporations in Canada and around the world.
Since selling his company in 2015 and retiring one year later, Leriger now resides in Victoria, B.C., and enjoys his time in his second home in Scottsdale, Ariz. All these years later, Leriger remains close with some of his classmates from Cariboo College and still owns property in Kamloops. He’s been with his partner, Pam, for 10 years and has three daughters. So much of his life can be traced back to his decision to head west for college.
“Cariboo College was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Leriger.
He loved his beginning in Kamloops so much, he wants to provide future students the same opportunity that he was given. This past January, Leriger made a $50,000 legacy gift to establish a bursary endowment that will support students at TRU beyond his lifetime.
For information on planned giving, contact to Director of Planned Giving and Stewardship Nena Jocic-Andrejevic at email@example.com or 250-377-6122. Or visit tru.ca/foundation.
If you attended Cariboo College or University College of the Cariboo (between 1970-2004), you’re part of a special group — the TRU Charter Alumni. Learn more at tru.ca/alumni/charter.html