Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit
Kevin Mullen (’86)
Kevin Mullen (’86) believes a student who demonstrates entrepreneurship, community service and a commitment to athletics will represent the ideals valued by his parents. That’s why he is helping to ensure students with these qualities continue to be represented at Acadia.
As founder and President of Empire Custom Homes and Empire Kitchen and Bath, two Calgary-based businesses for custom luxury construction, Kevin knows first-hand the value of hard work and commitment. His parents, Roland and Leona Mullen, started their transport business in 1949 with a single truck. Today, Mullen Group employs over 6,000 people.
Mullen points out that entrepreneurs such as his father did not start out with high marks or even a university education, although entrepreneurs are the ones who create jobs and opportunities. With this in mind, he set up the Roland and Leona Mullen Business Award in 2011 to honour his parents.
“They were hard-working people, and hard work is what it takes to get through university,” he says. “They helped me get along, and I’m trying to help somebody else move forward in life so they can be successful through their own hard work. It’s there to help people get a leg up, just as my parents helped me, and hopefully some day they will pass it on.”
The award is renewable, with preference to a BA or BBA student from Western Canada (Manitoba to British Columbia) majoring in Economics. In particular, Mullen wanted to help a student who demonstrated financial need and a well-rounded approach to education. To date, about 30 students have benefitted from his generosity through the business award and a previous entrance award. He also gave Acadia’s School of Business their first 3D printers.
Mullen’s own business has grown since he founded Empire Kitchen and Bath in 1990. Today, Empire operates out of a 38,000 square-foot facility that includes an 18,000 square foot showroom and an 11,000 square foot millwork shop. His experience and success in the luxury home renovation market led him to expand into other ventures, including Empire Custom Homes, which follows the RESIDE Healthy Standard for construction materials. For its part, Empire Kitchen and Bath has won numerous awards including six North American design awards in 2018.
“When I left Acadia in 1986, I said to myself that one day I wanted to create something to give back to Acadia and especially the students who would be going there.”
After financing his own university education through bursaries and work, he decided to create a program where someone didn’t have to be an “A” student to be eligible for financial assistance.
“Acadia gave me a chance,” he says. “I think that’s the number one thing that I’m trying to do with the awards program: just give people a chance. At the end of the day, when the profs had taught me what they could and I had learned what I could, it was up to me. That’s what I’m giving the students, and hopefully also giving Acadia a chance to attract the students who want to go there.”