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Jack Armstrong served as chairman and chief executive officer of Imperial Oil from 1973 through 1981. Born in Manitoba in 1917, he earned degrees in both geology and chemical engineering and worked for Imperial as a summer student before joining the company full time in 1942. He worked as a geophysicist in Western Canada and for Imperial's then-subsidiary, International Petroleum Company Limited, in Ecuador, where he lived in tent camps in the jungle.
Returning to Canada in 1947, Jack was an active participant in the rapid development of the western Canadian basin following Imperial's Leduc discovery. A strong advocate of utilizing the latest advances in seismic technologies, he played a role in many of the discoveries that Imperial made in western Canada. Typical of his involvement was the selection of Imperial's leases over the Golden Spike field, which resulted in the company gaining access to 98 per cent of the reservoir.
He joined Imperial's board in 1961 with responsibility for marketing operations, was appointed president in 1970, chief executive officer in 1973 and chairman in 1974.
Jack presided over a period of major growth for Imperial and the Canadian industry. Perhaps his greatest achievements were in championing development of the oilsands, especially his personal leadership in 1975 government-industry meetings that enabled the Syncrude project, in which Imperial holds a 25 per cent interest, to go forward. His support for the development of new technologies for in-situ bitumen recovery at Cold Lake reflected his commitment to research as a tool to unlock Canada's oilsands resources. A strong believer in the oil and gas potential of Canada's north, he led Imperial to undertake significant exploration in the Arctic, with innovations such as artificial islands for exploring drilling. In this same period, he oversaw the successful start-up of Imperial's world-scale Strathcona refinery, built in Edmonton to serve the West.
Jack served as a strong spokesman for the industry during some of the most turbulent times in its history, characterized by strained government-industry relations, supply disruptions, spiralling crude oil and gasoline prices, the advent of the National Energy program and the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission inquiry into unfounded allegations of "consumer rip-offs." Through these times, he remained a staunch defender of Imperial's and the industry's integrity and practices. He was a consistent advocate of market-based energy policies and the benefits all Canadians could derive from the development of the country's petroleum resources. He enjoyed, throughout his career, a personal reputation for moral and ethical standards unsurpassed in Canadian business.