Al Royce, Class of 1976, Receives Top Award
Al Royce, UND Law '76, was awarded the Sioux Award on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at the annual Sioux Award Banquet hosted by the University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation. The Sioux Award is the highest award given by the University, and it is given in recognition of those UND alumni who have distinguished themselves through professional achievements, participation in community service and loyalty to UND. Story below written by Alyssa Konickson, UND Alumni Association.
Al Royse, ’72, ’73, ’76, was born to lead.
The retired partner from Deliotte & Touche and national chairman of the American Heart Association has an impressive resume.
But before he served as University of North Dakota Alumni Association & Foundation Chair — even before he was elected to the North Dakota Legislature — he was selling fruits and vegetables at his family’s business, Royse’s Watermelon Kingdom (now Royse’s Twin Cities Produce) in Mandan, N.D. Al, the oldest of five siblings, has always done what needed to get done.
“I remember selling watermelons when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s leadership, but it taught me how to interact with people at an early age.”
When Al came to the University of North Dakota in 1970, he planned to join the wrestling team, but a knee injury derailed that plan. So it was time to put his people skills and work ethic to use. From 1972 to 1976, he finished up his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, his master’s, and a Juris Doctor at the UND School of Law. He also spent time as a graduate teaching assistant – and still teaches as a guest lecturer the past six years through UND’s Executive in Residence program at the University of Shanghai.
While on campus, Al was elected president of the SAE fraternity, State Chairman of College Republicans, and, at age 22, became the second-youngest lawmaker ever elected to the North Dakota Legislature “at a time when nobody got elected under the age of 30 in North Dakota” – and was selected as the Outstanding Freshman Representative. He was also honored as his hometown’s Citizen of the Year by the Mandan Jaycees, an impressive honor for someone so young.
“Having a number of leadership roles develops your ability to go beyond just the norm and gives you experience that’s invaluable later in life,” Royse said. “What I think is really unique about UND grads is we have grit. We're used to hard work. And you find that's a significant distinguishing attribute in professional life. If you’re prepared to do the work and go the extra mile, it gives you a big advantage.”
Al is proof of the advantage of North Dakota grit. Midway through his 34 years with accounting firm Deloitte, he served four years as the Managing Partner for the Tax Practice of Northern California (including the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley) — in a position that, though not the highest he served, he called the most rewarding. During that time, the practice quadrupled its revenue, leading all Deloitte firms in revenue growth and overall quality. Later, when he served as the first national managing tax partner of its Clients and Markets Group, Deloitte Tax was named the highest-ranked tax service organization in the world by International Law and Tax Review. He is still considered the godfather of many of Deloitte’s most innovative ideas and practices, and he is proud of his role in quadrupling the size of his practice, dropping the attrition rate to the lowest in the country, and improving Deloitte’s national reputation.
“I had the opportunity to lead and develop a vision for a large number of professionals, and I found that really rewarding,” he said. “There is very little more satisfying than helping people succeed.”
When Al retired as Senior Partner in 2010, a letter was sent to all of the firm’s partners, describing him as "a rare talent, a true leader, and an innovator.”
After retirement, Al dove into nonprofit work, making the decision to serve organizations with a history of getting results and directly impacting people.
He began by serving as board member and Chair of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. During that time, the organization underwent its largest fundraising campaign ever (the $324 million North Dakota Spirit campaign), tackled a divisive nickname and logo issue, and opened the new Gorecki Alumni Center. “The University has given so much to so many people, and it was nice to have the opportunity to give back,” he said.
In 2015, Al was elected to serve a two-year term as national chairman of the American Heart Association, the largest health care nonprofit in the country with over 32 million volunteers and donors. “When you think of the impact this organization has made on saving lives and improving people’s quality of life — it is incredibly rewarding, satisfying, and humbling,” he said.
He’s proud of the fundraising work he’s led with the AHA, opening doors for transformational research initiatives on heart health and stroke prevention and care. “We changed our vision from being a dispenser of information to being a catalyst for change,” he said.
He still serves on the board, and recently accepted the position of chairman of Voices for Healthy Kids, an alliance between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AHA, with more than 30 national charities involved, designed to improve the health of all our children.
He also has found time to serve on his town’s city council, a number of other regional Bay Area boards and councils, and chair the Peninsula Family Services for Northern California.
Even in retirement, it doesn’t appear that Al Royse plans to step down from leadership anytime soon.
“I’m not a perfectionist, but I like to do things well. And when you do things well, leadership opportunities present themselves.” As Gandhi once said, "You need to be the change you wish to see,” and there is no better way to impact change than to lead it.