Wednesday, June 27, 2007

  • City marks 150th anniversary
  • Associate VP (academic) named
  • Pension fund earns 13.25 per cent
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Toronto Girl Geek Dinners

When and where

Canada Day Book Sale by UW bookstore, Wednesday-Friday 8:30 to 4:00, South Campus Hall concourse.

Career workshop: "Career Exploration and Decision Making" 10:30 a.m., Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

[MSA logo]
Fund-raising barbecue sponsored by Muslim Students Association for its Orphan Sponsorship program (children expected from Sierra Leone and Bosnia), 11:00 to 4:00, Biology green.

Aviation program in science and environmental studies, launch celebration in partnership with WestJet, appearance by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, 1:30 p.m., Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, Breslau.

Open house on north campus planning, with staff from Urban Strategies and UW, 2:30 to 7:00 p.m., Davis Centre room 1301.

Smarter Health seminar: Octo Barnett, Harvard Medical School, "Why Not Address Clinician Knowledge Management Needs?" 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

CanTeach International information night about volunteer work in El Salvador, 7:00, training room, UW distance and continuing education department, 335 Gage Avenue, Kitchener, reservations 519-496-8265.

Southern California alumni event in La Jolla 7:30 p.m., guest speaker John Szeder, BMath 1996, co-founder of Mofactor Inc., details online.

'Public Space: Transforming the Urban Landscape' symposium including faculty members from UW and Cornell; exhibition of student projects; presentation by Plant Architects of Toronto about their design for Nathan Phillips Square. Symposium from 1 p.m. Thursday, reception 5 p.m., Architecture building, Cambridge.

Patricia McDonald, office of the registrar, retirement open house and tea party Thursday 3:00 to 4:30, Needles Hall room 3004, RSVP

'The Girl in the Wood Frock' thesis project by architecture student Andrea Ling, now at IndexG Gallery, 50 Gladstone Avenue, Toronto, opening reception Thursday 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Canada Day celebrations on the north campus Sunday, July 1, 2:00 to 11:00 p.m. UW holiday Monday, July 2 (no classes; offices and services closed).

'Bees and Beneficial Insects' presentation by master gardener, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Wednesday, July 4, 12:05 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302, registration e-mail uwrc@admmail.

Postdoctoral applications: seminar for graduate students, July 10, 10:00 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

The fine print

Canada Day is less than a week away, and organizers still need volunteers to help with the celebrations on UW's north campus. "Volunteers are the ones that really make it all happen," says one of the most energetic of them, Sheryl-Ann Schrik. Details are online.

Rooms in residence are available for students and family members visiting for Student Life 101 on July 21 — details are online.

The recreation and leisure studies department will hold an alumni brainstorming session July 10 or 11, 4:00 p.m., about plans for next year's 40th anniversary celebration. Alumni are invited to call Juliana Fung, ext. 3–5914, to indicate preferred date, or share ideas if unable to attend the meeting.

A research group in the psychology department is still looking for looking for married people to complete questionnaires on their motivations in their marriages. "You would be asked to provide personal information about you and your marriage. The questionnaires will take approximately one hour to complete." Information: e-mail

CKMS, the student radio station, is advertising for a temporary fundraising coordinator, to work 20 hours a week starting in September.

Positions available

On this week’s list from the human resources department:

• Payroll benefits assistant, human resources, USG 4/5
• Customer service assistant, food services, USG 4
• Cook, regular recurring, food services
• General cafeteria helper, food services
• Kitchen porter, regular recurring, food services
• Non-OSS admissions and recruitment specialist, engineering, office of the registrar, USG 8
• Docutech operator, Graphics, USG 3
• Information systems technical specialist, information systems and technology, USG 11-13
• Alumni officer, events and reunions (12-month contract, secondment opportunity), development and alumni affairs
• High performance computing programming specialists, Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCnet), details online.

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

[Modern apartment blocks and 19th-century mill]

The restored Abraham Erb mill beside Silver Lake in central Waterloo (photo by 'muggets' from Flickr)

City marks 150th anniversary

Happy birthday . . . not just to the University of Waterloo, celebrating its 50th anniversary all through 2007 and especially at the Canada Day celebrations on the north campus this Sunday, but also to the city that surrounds us.

The founder of Waterloo was Abraham Erb, who built a house at the corner of what are now King Street and Erb Street, and erected a mill in 1804 on the edge of Silver Lake (restored by the city authorities a few years ago, as pictured above). “Many of the settlers in the early 1800s,” the city’s web site notes, “were Pennsylvania-German Mennonites who then attracted other German-speaking European craftsmen and farmers to Waterloo starting in the 1820s. However, it was not until the 1850s when John Hoffman purchased a large tract of land, divided it into lots and sold them at public auction that the basis of a village was created.”

[Waterloo 150 logo]So Waterloo, given its name in 1816 to honour the Battle of Waterloo the previous year, was incorporated as a village in 1857 — 150 years ago. The first reeve of the village, later to be the first mayor when the village was advanced to the status of “town”, was Moses Springer, whose name now recognizes a park and recreation centre.

More from the city’s web site: “The innovative and productive early inhabitants established Waterloo as an important industrial and commercial centre. The Village had a council chamber, fire hall, post office, library, a school with three teachers, a market with several shops, four breweries, a lock and gunsmith, a blacksmith and an engineer. The persistent threat of fire to businesses and properties motivated the formation of the Waterloo Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1863, Canada’s first mutual fire assurance company. Many new insurance companies followed and Waterloo quickly became a centre for insurance, earning a reputation as the Hartford of Canada.

“During the town period, local merchants and manufacturers were producing and selling diverse products such as surgical tools, stoves and watches. Commercial enterprises were expanding rapidly and this contributed to the largely self-sufficient and stable nature of the Town. Waterloo established its own Water Commission, had a gas plant, controlled electricity and had hydro-electric power by 1928. Organized societies like the Horticultural Society (1895), the Waterloo Historical Society (1912) and C. F. Thiele’s Waterloo Musical Society (1920) contributed greatly to local culture and public education.”

In 1957 the community celebrated both its own centennial and the centennial of its most prominent company, the Seagram distillery, established at Erb and Caroline Streets by Joseph E. Seagram, who served for a time as Waterloo’s Member of Parliament. The 100th anniversary celebrations were lively, says one local resident: “Wooden nickels were given out to the large crowds of people gathered excitedly along King Street in Uptown Waterloo. All were there to join in the festivities and to watch the marching bands which came from all over Canada and the United States.

“I remember standing as a teenager in front of my family's business, the Kent Hotel (which is now the Huether Hotel), selling home-made french fries while the sound of music bellowed in the air. (Thirsty patrons could also enjoy a nice cold draft beer inside for only 10 cents.) I remember how the bands would gather at night down at the Band Shell in Waterloo Park to compete against each other, much to the delight of all of us around. I especially remember how the Preston Scout House Band, although a very good precision band, was very popular with the ladies because all the men wore tight short pants!”

Centennial organizers had hoped the star of the show might be someone who had been born in Waterloo in its founding year, but no one could be located. They did find 94-year-old John Holzman, who maintained that he had stayed young by “kissing girls and drinking goats’ milk”, and who rode in a convertible in the Dominion Day (July 1) centennial parade.

Waterloo had become a city in 1948, and since 1911 had been home to the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and an associated arts college, Waterloo College.

Almost unnoticed during the centennial celebrations was the arrival of 74 students to start a new engineering program at Waterloo College Associate Faculties. The Associate Faculties became the University of Waterloo two years later, Waterloo College eventually became Wilfrid Laurier University, and Waterloo turned in a new direction, becoming a city whose economy depended on education and technological spinoff companies. The city’s largest corporation now is Research In Motion, manufacturer of the BlackBerry wireless communications device.

The Region of Waterloo was created in 1973, linking Waterloo with two neighbouring cities (Kitchener and Cambridge) and four townships. The Region and nearby communities proudly call themselves Canada’s Technology Triangle, and the distinction of the world’s leading “intelligent community” for 2007 came to Waterloo this spring just in time for the 150th anniversary.

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Associate VP (academic) named

[McBoyle in red gown]The provost announced yesterday that UW’s new associate vice-president (academic), as of July 1, will be Geoff McBoyle (right, in convocation garb) of the department of geography.

McBoyle was dean of the faculty of environmental studies July 1, 1997, to June 30, 2004. "He is an experienced administrator who is also a master pedagogue," said yesterday's memo from provost Amit Chakma. "He has received numerous awards for his excellence in teaching including UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award (1989), the Canadian Association of Geographers Award for Excellence in Teaching Geography (2004).

In his new position, McBoyle takes over from Gail Cuthbert Brandt, associate VP since 2003, who has moved into the newly created position of associate vice-president (international). The associate VP (academic) is responsible for activities focused generally on UW's undergraduate education, including academic program reviews.

Cuthbert Brandt has also been serving as acting associate VP (learning resources and innovation), a position that's being eliminated. The provost announced earlier this spring that the LRI functions — which include responsibility for the new Centre for Teaching Excellence — will be combined with the remaining functions of the AVP (academic), now that international affairs are part of a separate portfolio.

Said yesterday's memo: "I am personally grateful to Professor Geoff McBoyle, for his long standing commitment and dedication to UW and his willingness to take on the Associate Vice President Academic role. President Johnston and I look forward to working with him, and we are confident that he will have your full cooperation and support."

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Pension fund earns 13.25 per cent

There are two ways of evaluating a pension fund, and UW’s fund is doing fine by either approach, the university’s board of governors was told at its June meeting.

“On the ‘going concern’ basis, we’re in good shape. On the ‘solvency’ basis, we’re in good shape,” said associate provost Catharine Scott, who chairs the board’s pension and benefits committee and presented the annual report on the health of the fund.

Both calculations are based on assumptions made by actuaries about how much money the pension fund is liable for — not only to currently retired staff and faculty members (1,279 of them, as of January 2007) but to employees who are currently paying premiums to the plan and may not even begin drawing their pensions for many years.

The “going concern” calculation makes the assumption that UW will continue in operation and so will the pension fund, long into the future. The “solvency” basis pretends that UW might go out of business tomorrow and meet its pension liabilities by dividing up the fund’s assets. Both approaches are used by experts to evaluate the balance between what a fund is worth and what needs to be there for financial health.

As of January 1, the board was told, the market value of UW’s pension fund was $928.6 million (up from $856.6 million a year earlier). Solvency calculations are allowed to leave out some future obligations of the pension fund, such as cost-of-living increases for pensioners, “because such additional obligations are quite volatile and erratic.” Leaving out those costs, which would add up to $287 million, the liabilities were calculated at $776.8 million, leaving a “solvency excess” of $151.8 million.

The “going concern” calculation, on the other hand, is based on an “actuarial value” of the plan’s assets, since they don’t have to be sold any time soon. That value was calculated at $854.4 million, taking into account stock prices over the previous three years. Actuarial liabilities, which do include expected cost-of-living increases, are listed at $845.6 million, leaving a funding excess of $8.8 million.

The fund’s investments drew a return of 13.25 per cent during 2006, the committee report said. During 2005 the figure was 9.65 per cent. The bulk of the fund is invested in stocks through four management companies, with about 20 per cent invested in real-return bonds.

The board of governors gave its approval to an official filing of the financial statements with the Ontario government — something that a registered fund must do at least every three years, and tries to do in a year when the balance sheets look particularly good.

At the same meeting the board approved an increase in the pension premiums to be paid by individual employees, starting July 1. UW currently puts $1.72 into the pension fund for every $1.00 that comes from a staff or faculty member; that ratio is expected to drop to $1.45 over the next two years.


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