Albertans honoured with Order of Excellence

Three Albertans who have made a significant contribution to the agriculture industry have been honoured by being named recipients of the province's highest award —  The Alberta Order of Excellence.

The husband and wife team of Merle and Barbara Olson of Calgary, veterinarians and researchers and principals of the Solvet company, along with the late Cor Van Raay a long time farmer and cattle feeder in the Picture Butte area just north of Lethbridge were among eight Albertans inducted into the order this week by Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani.


After graduating from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1981, Merle Olson spent three years in a veterinary practice in Pincher Creek, AB, later moving to Calgary where he worked at the University of Calgary for 20 years.

Dr. Merle Olson

In 2009, he established Alberta Veterinary Laboratories Ltd. to market products for use in animal health. AVL has developed and manufactured over 50 products for farm animals at their manufacturing facility in Calgary.

 Olson created Solvet to market products through veterinarians. Not only are the products driven by veterinarian requests, practicing veterinarians are providing technical support in the field.


Barbara Olson, a long time instructor at the University of Calgary, completed a Bachelor in Sciences at the University of Manitoba followed by a Master of Sciences in Toxicology at the University of Guelph. She obtained a Doctorate in the Department of Veterinary Physiological Sciences (WCVM University of Saskatchewan) complemented by a Post-Doc at the University of Calgary.

While teaching at the University of Calgary in the Department of Biological Sciences, Barbara became involved in regulatory work and as a member of a research group involved in conducting contract and in-house research studies for submission to the FDA and Health Canada on medical devices (catheters, implants), biofilms, drugs and vaccines. She brought all those skills and experience along when she joined Solvet full time.

Today she serves as director of Quality and Regulatory Affairs for Alberta Veterinary Laboratories (AVL) /SOLVET.

Solvet products are manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility that is the only GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) plant in Alberta. The company produces a wide range of veterinary products that includes antimicrobials , disinfectants, gastrointestinal, pain-relief, and parasiticide products.


Born in Holland in 1936, Van Raay immigrated to Canada in 1959, eventually arriving in southern Alberta some 60 years ago, where he began his career in agriculture. He started out growing beets, later adding barley, potatoes, and wheat to his crops. In time, he bought land and cattle, developed large feedlots, and honed his marketing skills.

Van Raay became a leader in the cattle and grain industry. With his business acumen and leadership abilities, it was natural for him to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and he became partners in numerous business adventures. In later years, Van Raay successfully extended his farming enterprises into Saskatchewan.

Working along side Van Raay in the diversified farming operation was his wife Christine. They raised six children, Kenneth, Brenda, Sandra, Colleen, Michelle, and Darren.

Van Raay believed Canada and his Southern Alberta community provided opportunities, which contributed to his success. In a spirit of gratitude and generosity, he gave back to his community by supporting a variety of organizations with monetary donations and service. Among them are the YMCA, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge College, and St. Michael’s Health Centre.

Van Raay passed away in July 2021 at the age of 85.

The Alberta Order of Excellence recognizes Albertans who have made an outstanding provincial, national or international impact. It is the highest honour a citizen can receive as an official part of the Canadian Honours System. The new additions will bring the total membership of the Alberta Order of Excellence to 197.

Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-815- 3719 or by email at [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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