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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

  • Convocation forecast: 3,400 degrees
  • Talks by special visitors
  • Sivak leaves post as graduate dean
  • Townhouses would be for families
  • And a few other events
Chris Redmond

Convocation clothes: the Princeton story

Allison Salter, graduating with a degree in kinesiology, will be the valedictorian at today's convocation session, speaking on behalf of the graduating class.

Convocation forecast: 3,400 degrees

More than 3,400 students will graduate at UW's Eighty-Fourth Convocation, which starts today and continues Thursday, Friday and (in two sessions) Saturday in the Physical Activities Complex.

A total of 3,030 undergraduate and 388 graduate students will receive their degrees and diplomas during the five ceremonies. Convocation will also see awards of honorary degrees, "distinguished professor emeritus" status, gold medals and other special awards.

Today's convocation ceremony, starting at 2:00, is for the faculties of applied health sciences and environmental studies, as well as the independent studies program. Today's gold medal winners, for the highest standing in a bachelor's degree program, are Jessica Biederman, receiving a BSc in health studies and gerontology, and Reid Van Brabant, collecting a BES in geography. Awards for "distinguished academic achievement" go to Rachel Freeman (kinesiology), Lisa Lavigne (recreation and leisure studies), Marnie Cluckie (architecture), Timothy Wiens (environment and resource studies), and Elise Hug (planning), as well as Biederman and Van Brabant.

Bob Norman, retiring kinesiology professor and former dean of AHS, will be named "distinguished professor emeritus", and Brent Hall of the ES faculty will receive one of this year's Distinguished Teacher Awards.

Two visitors will receive honorary degrees. Finnish biologist Paavo Komi will receive a Doctor of Science degree and address the graduates. Komi is head of the department of biology of physical activity and director of the Neuromuscular Research Centre at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Canadian Architect and engineer Morden Yolles will receive a Doctor of Environmental Studies degree.

[All smiles]

Swiss ambassador Urs Ziswiler was on campus Monday, returning a visit to Switzerland by UW vice-president (university research) Paul Guild and exploring possible connections with the university. David John (right) of the Germanic and Slavic studies department told him about plans to create a Centre for German Studies through the coming Campaign Waterloo. "Since we performed Swiss author Friedrich Duerrenmatt's 'Besuch der alten Dame' in April, which he co-sponsored and attended, we have been discussing how the Swiss Embassy could help us toward our goal," says John. "The Ambassador wanted to meet our department to discuss this further."

Talks by special visitors

Several of the people who are receiving honours at convocation will also give talks while they're here over the next few days:

Very Rev. Stan McKay, former moderator of the United Church of Canada, who's on campus to receive an honorary degree tomorrow, will be the guest of honour (and the speaker) at a dinner tonight sponsored by St. Paul's United College. He'll talk about the role of education in the lives of native people, as St. Paul's raises funds and support for a planned "centre for native initiatives". "St. Paul's has been teaching in the area of native studies for years, but we now wish to address the needs of aboriginal students themselves," says college principal Graham Brown. "An aboriginal counsellor will be hired soon to minister to native students." I don't know whether any more $40 tickets for tonight's dinner are available, but Arlene Sleno at St. Paul's (884-1465 ext. 201) would have information.

Mario Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Nobel prize winner in chemistry, receives his honorary degree on Friday, and will lecture Thursday afternoon on "The Antarctic Ozone Hole". The talk will start at 3:00 in Davis Centre room 1350, and I'll say a little more about it in tomorrow's Daily Bulletin.

And this year's J. W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation is being awarded to Peter Savich, a 1985 math graduate (and great Warrior basketballer) who's now with California-based Overture Services. In addition to receiving his medal at Saturday morning's convocation, he'll be giving a talk on Friday afternoon (2:30), under the title "Trapped in Silicon Valley During the Grand Chase". It too sounds like something a bit out of the ordinary, and I'll say more about it in this Bulletin tomorrow or the next day.

Sivak leaves post as graduate dean

You might say there was good news and bad news yesterday about Jake Sivak, UW's dean of graduate studies. "I am pleased to announce," wrote provost Amit Chakma, "that Dr. Jacob Sivak, Dean of Graduate Studies, has been an awarded an esteemed Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Industrial Research Chair."

But then: "As a result of the establishment of the Industrial Chair in vitro ophthalmic toxicology with Bausch & Lomb at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Sivak will be leaving his administrative post to focus his energies on the research program." Sivak has been dean since September 1999.

Chakma's announcement continued: "Notice was recently received from NSERC approving the establishment of the chair, and Dr. Sivak has tendered his resignation. In order to allow for an orderly transition of his position as Dean, Dr. Sivak has agreed to stay on in that capacity until the end of August.

"Dr. Sivak is an outstanding candidate, with demonstrated expertise and experience, as well as international stature and respect who can bring the research program to fruition.

"The research program will focus on validation of the concept for an alternative method for safe product testing. It is aimed at replacing the Draize eye irritancy test, which is one of the most reviled toxicology animal tests using large numbers of rabbits that are often subjected to extreme discomfort. While the Draize test has been in use since 1944, concerns have been raised that the results do not always correlate well to the human eye and there is unacceptable variation between results in different laboratories.

[Sivak] "Dr. Sivak (left) has been working for a number of years on tests based on bovine lenses acquired from dead animals at abattoirs. There has been some confirmation that at least in some cases, the proposed bovine lens test is a more accurate reflection of the toxicological effect on the human eye than is the Draize test.

"The results of this research program are expected to be applicable around the world and will allow cosmetic and pharmaceutical producers to streamline their in-house product development while improving customer safety and satisfaction.

"Funding for the research chair totals $1.2 million, evenly split by NSERC and Bausch & Lomb, over five years. The University of Waterloo has agreed to support the research by hiring two junior faculty members with the freed-up salary funds resulting from the chair approval.

"I know you will join with me in congratulating Jake and thanking him for his dedication as Dean while wishing him all the best in successfully tackling what has become one of his life's research goals."

Sivak, a professor of optometry at UW since 1972, was chosen as dean through the work of a nominating committee in 1998. The same nominating committee procedure, set out in UW Policy 44, will be used to find his successor.

Townhouses would be for families -- by Barbara Elve, from today's Gazette

A proposal to have a developer build a new townhouse residence on UW's north campus is aimed at providing more student housing without increasing UW's debt, says Bud Walker, the university's director of business services.

Advertisements have gone out for a developer interested in building "one hundred and fifty to three hundred" townhouse units north and west of the existing Columbia Lake Townhouses, and leasing the complex back to the university.

The ad speaks of two-bedroom units designed for students with families. "The anticipated occupancy date for the complex is January 2004."

The ad, says Walker, is "really a feeler to see if it's feasible, if a developer wants to enter into that kind of arrangement." The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, and several inquiries had been received by late last week, he said.

Such a deal would be somewhat similar to the one for UW Place. The former Married Students Apartments is leased from the Ontario Housing Corporation for a 50-year term, with UW assuming ownership in 2020. "With this arrangement," says Walker, "we're seeking a shorter lease period or an out clause to exercise if necessary to avoid tying up university capital that may be needed for other projects."

The university recently racked up some $28 million in debt with the construction of Mackenzie King Village and renovations to UW Place. And that's long-term debt, says Dennis Huber, vice-president (administration and finance), noting that residences are usually amortized over a 25-year term.

The UW board of governors recently approved debt management guidelines designed to keep the university's debt service ratio to four per cent or less. While "we're nowhere near that yet," says Huber, as debt rises, the potential exists that higher interest rates may be charged and the need for collateral will increase.

UW's total debt is about $82.5 million, with some $50 million in secured outside debt, he said. The balance includes projects such as Federation Hall that were financed by the university internally.

The establishment of a townhouse community for graduate students -- for couples and families -- would help free up additional residence space at UW Place for single graduate and undergraduate students, says Walker. For now, he adds, the plan is to leave the current Columbia Lake Townhouses -- 100 units housing 400 students -- as a residence primarily for single undergraduates, with the adjacent new townhouse development sharing community space.

Married students and families were formerly housed at UW Place, but that residence is now sought after by single students who enjoy the night life in the nearby university plazas.

For students with children, townhouses are a better arrangement than walkups, Walker notes, and the site northwest of campus is close to the new shopping centre at the corner of Columbia Street and Fischer-Hallman Road.

And a few other events

To tan or not to tan? Well, maybe there's no choice today, under a summer drizzle, but it's a key question for healthy summer living, right along with issues of smog, exercise, heat exhaustion and how to eat in hot weather. Linda Brogden of health services gives a free session today with "Information for Summer Living", sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program; it starts at 12 noon in Davis Centre room 1302.

The LT3 technology centre sends word that today's scheduled "design café" session on "teaching research methods" has been postponed "due to a death in the family of one of the presenters. Rescheduling information will be announced."

"Dance Adventure", which held a recital in the Humanities Theatre last night, has another one this evening (7:30).

Tomorrow morning is scheduled to bring the technical speaker competition in UW's faculty of engineering, sponsored by the Sandford Fleming Foundation. Competitions have been going on within the departments; tomorrow at 10:00, the winners from the departments face off for a $300 first prize. Tomorrow's talk takes place in Doug Wright Engineering room 2534.

Tomorrow also brings a one-day workshop on "issues in community re-entry" for brain injury patients. The event is sponsored by UW's Centre for Applied Health Research, among other agencies, and will take place in the Clarica Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute. Last-minute information should be available from the CAHR at ext. 6884.



June 12, 1994: UW's faculty of mathematics is featured on the CBC television business program "Venture". "Somebody in this country is doing something very, very well," says host Robert Scully.

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