NAIT Celebrates

Ray Pisani is named the Distinguished Friend of the Institute for his outstanding contributions to our polytechnic and impact in the community.

Ray Pisani

NAIT Celebrates Ray Pisani

From the classroom to the boardroom, Business Management graduate remains “NAIT’s biggest fan”

“For me, giving back comes from the heart – from a place of caring and really wanting to help.  I probably benefited more personally and professionally from my association with NAIT. That’s why I've stayed connected since graduating.”

When Ray Pisani retired as chair of NAIT’s Board of Governors in 2022, the board and Executive team gave him an Ooks jersey with “Pisani” boldly printed on the back. It was a fitting tribute to his nearly decade-long tenure as a key player for the polytechnic.

“I’m one of NAIT’s biggest fans,” says the 1984 Business Management graduate who served for 9 years on the board, three of those years as chair.

Pisani saw the institution through unprecedented growth. As a board member, Pisani saw the construction of both the Centre for Applied Technology and the Productivity and Innovation Centre. He also helped guide the acquisition of part of the Blatchford lands, securing space for the institute’s growth for decades to come.

“When I joined the board, we were at a time of reflection on NAIT’s previous 50 years as a polytechnic,” says Pisani. “Where we were, and where we were going for the future.”

For what that reflection yielded, combined with his influence and leadership, Pisani is being recognized with NAIT’s 2024 Distinguished Friend award.

A career focused on supporting Albertans

Pisani’s involvement with the board represents just one aspect of his affinity for his alma mater.

“I’ve stayed connected with NAIT almost from day one, since graduation,” says Pisani. “Nearly 40 years ago, I followed my heart to NAIT,” he adds. “Yes, my heart.”  

He’d followed his high-school sweetheart, Rita – now wife of nearly 38 years. She’d attended NAIT’s Engineering Design and Drafting program the year prior.

“Your first year as a student can sometimes be a little overwhelming, a little daunting,” Pisani recalls. “But honestly, it felt like home - like a special place because Rita was there.”

As a student, Pisani spent many hours in NAIT's former Business Tower lounge. He fondly recalls taking breaks from studying to play cards, sustain himself on vending machine food and watch the airplanes land on the adjacent Blatchford airport (which he’d later help procure.)

“Choosing NAIT was one of the best decisions I ever made. I got a great education that helped my career to take off,” he says.

Despite graduating during the ’80s economic recession, Pisani was almost immediately hired at Alberta Blue Cross, where he spent most of his 36-year career. He thrived there, earning a respected name for himself in the health-care industry. It was the pinnacle of his career when he became the organization’s president and CEO in 2010.

In recognition of his leadership, when Pisani retired in 2019, Alberta Blue Cross unveiled the Pisani Plaza, a wellness park at Edmonton’s downtown core, in his honour. Today, he has taken on a chairman role with the ABC Benefits Corporation Foundation.

NAIT’s biggest fan

Through it all, Pisani never lost touch with NAIT. Soon after taking the lead at Alberta Blue Cross, several former instructors even sent him notes of congratulations.

“It really speaks volumes about the institution,” says Pisani.

Connections such as those solidified his decision in the early 2000s to return to NAIT and provide industry advisory support. For a time, he also helped with annual fundraisers, such as the SS Benefit Cruise and golf tournament.

“There is a mantra that says we live in the communities we serve, and we serve in the communities that we live,” Pisani says. “And NAIT has been an important part of the fabric of our community, not only in Edmonton, but province wide.”

He knows that fabric is woven, in large part, by alumni – a community he’s proud to be part of, and proud of having supported.

Looking back on the different phases of his time with NAIT, he recalls a particularly special moment. In 2013, at NAIT’s 50th Convocation, Pisani was awarded an Honorary Bachelor of Business Administration. He was invited to address the graduating class to share his perspective and experiences.

“Hopefully I imparted some wisdom to some of those students on the way that helped their careers,” he says. “I know for me, it has truly been an incredible journey.”

NAIT Distinguished Friend Award

The Distinguished Friend Award recognizes an individual or family who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the welfare and the advancement of NAIT through their contributions and advocacy.

More 2024 NAIT Celebrates Recipients

Champions, community-builders, mentors, visionaries and leaders make up the 2024 NAIT Celebrates award recipients. Read more about the lasting impact each has made through their spirit, dedication and generosity.

Sandvik Coromant

Sandvik Coromant is named the Distinguished Industry Partner for their leadership in the community and long-standing support of machinist education.

Robyn Dawson

Robyn Dawson receives the Distinguished Alumni Award for helping Alberta businesses and communities thrive as a leader in media planning and buying.

Marcie Kiziak

Marcie Kiziak receives the Alumni Award of Excellence for her advocacy of women’s success in business, and her leadership as the CEO of NOVA Cannabis.

Arlo Maverick

Arlo Maverick receives the Alumni Award of Excellence for his support of the community and achievements as an award-winning musician, promoter and filmmaker.

Shreya Nandiraju

Shreya Nandiraju receives the Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award for her success and leadership in the engineering and automation fields.

Priya Winsor

Priya Winsor receives the Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award for her career achievements as founder of Compass Chocolates and for her support for the community.

2025 Award Nominations

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