Larry Andrews knows all about taking chances — it’s in his blood. When his parents drove west to Alberta in 1954 from a farm in Carrot River, Sask., they took a chance on a new beginning for their young family. With four kids in tow, the couple packed up their belongings — all of which fit in the trunk of the car. Once in Edmonton they got to work, his father as a foreman at the Texaco oil refinery and his mother as a campaign volunteer and writer for the Sherwood Park News.
When Andrews was only 17 years old, his father died. His mother, Eileen, went back to school and eventually became an administrative assistant at the University of Alberta. She worked full time while being a single parent to five children. “Education was continually stressed,” says Andrews. “That and hard work.”
Two years after his father’s death, he enrolled at UAlberta in the bachelor of arts program along with his teenage sweetheart and then-wife, Linda. Like Eileen, Linda valued education and encouraged Andrews to stick with school — even though he wasn’t sold on the student life. “I was relatively uninterested,” he says.
But Linda insisted.
Andrews may have been unclear on a career path but when he and Linda learned they were expecting their first child, he knew he had to plan for a secure future for his family. He saw an opportunity in UAlberta’s accelerated law program that, at the time, allowed students to earn an arts and law degree in five years. It seemed like the smart way to go. “But you were supposed to be somewhat of a student,” he says. In his interview, after making a good impression on the admissions officer, Andrews was given an entrance exam, a precursor to the LSAT. “I probably shouldn’t have done well, but you know that some days you’re a diamond and some days you’re a stone? Well, I just happened to nail that exam.”
Once classes began, Andrews realized he was going to have to hustle to keep up in the competitive environment. Luckily, this was a trait his mother had passed along. “She was always encouraging me to go forward.” After graduation, he articled with the Edmonton law firm Matheson and Co. before he and colleague Colin Taylor set up their own firm. In 1975, Andrews once again recognized an opportunity: a booming province like Alberta needed more places to live and work. So he left his law career to create the land development company that would eventually be known as Landrex.
The career change was a big risk — especially with three young children at home — but Andrews’ business grew quickly along with the province. His appreciation for his opportunity at UAlberta inspired him to give back — by helping students stretch farther and researchers explore their limits. “I remembered the favour the university did, by considering me outside my grades,” he says. “It was a real advantage that I got to go to law school.”
Andrews is enthusiastic about the UAlberta programs he supports — the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and the Landrex Distinguished Professorship in the Faculty of Arts, currently held by archeologist John W. (Jack) Ives, who researches First Nations people in Western Canada during the Ice Age.
“If we can find bright people and agree somewhat on a philosophy, and then empower them and get out of the way, things work rather well,” says Andrews.
Andrews’ wish to inspire others is echoed by his children, who help run the Andrews Family Trust. “This has absolutely been at the core of our family,” says daughter Brooke a UAlberta arts graduate who is attending law school in London, England (pictured above). She describes her family’s giving as personal — a way of showing appreciation for organizations that help the community thrive. “I think my dad views the university as having propelled and prepared him for the success he has had. He hopes to give other students the opportunity he was given.”
That opportunity was a driving force for Andrews, but so were the determination — and bravado — he learned from his mother. He points to a memory of her from 2008. In the face of the global recession, Andrews, who had become a successful businessman by forging ahead and taking risks, bemoaned the crash to his mom. “She looked at me and said, ‘Well, you better put your shoulder to the wheel.’ ”