Wednesday, June 4, 2008

  • Johnston reappointed to June 2011
  • Building projects total $354 million
  • Board discusses branch campuses
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Portrait of Johnston]
Johnston reappointed to June 2011

David Johnston, UW’s president since 1999, is to serve two additional years, taking his term through to June 30, 2011, officials announced last night after the university’s Senate and Board of Governors gave approval.

It’s a third term for Johnston, and will take his total service to twelve years and one month, longer than any other UW president has been in office. He was appointed to the usual six-year term beginning June 1, 1999, then an abbreviated four-year term starting July 1, 2005.

A memo is being issued this morning from Bob Harding, CEO of Brookfield Asset Management and chair of UW’s board of governors. “The University community is overwhelmingly supportive of this reappointment," he writes. "The mutually beneficial linkages David has fostered with public and private sector partners alike are extremely important as UW strives to achieve the vision set out in its sixth-decade plan. David is a strong advocate for academic excellence and is widely regarded as the doyen of university fundraising in Canada.

“I am delighted President Johnston has accepted reappointment and enthusiastic about being able to continue to work with him to effect the realization of Waterloo’s ambitious goals.”

Johnston, who is 66, is a graduate of Harvard, Cambridge and Queen’s, and served as dean of law at the University of Western Ontario and principal of McGill University before coming to Waterloo. He is an active scholar in the field of securities and communications law, and has served public agencies and the government as an advisor on matters ranging from Internet broadband access to the Mulroney-Schreiber political scandal.

He wears a lapel snowflake indicating his status as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour awarded in this country.

Johnston’s enthusiasms are many, from hockey (he was an All-American at Harvard) and the achievements of his five daughters, to the creation of international links for Canada and Waterloo, and the development of “smart communities”. His proposal to make Waterloo Region “the knowledge capital of Canada”, with leadership from UW, has led to a continuing community-wide project.

In speech after speech, Johnston has boasted about “what’s in the water at Waterloo”. He told an audience in Windsor earlier this year that “the power of partnerships has allowed us to move from grain to brain. Where we once relied on making beer, spirits, and shoes, we quickly turned to exporting mathematical software packages, large text software retrieval systems, process control software and wireless communications technology. . . .

“In Waterloo we cherish ideas and innovation, and together we have created the fertile environment in which they can flourish.”

Johnston’s reappointment was recommended by a nominating committee set up in the usual way under UW’s Policy 50. The committee, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and board of governors representatives, invited comments from the university community about a possible reappointment and the kind of president UW will need over the next few years.

The president is the university’s chief executive and, according to the policy, “is responsible for overseeing and upholding policies and for maintaining the intellectual independence and integrity of the University by exercising academic leadership in both internal and external matters”.

Johnston's reappointment was made official by vote of the board of governors in a brief closed session at the end of its regular quarterly meeting in Cambridge last night.

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Building projects total $354 million

The board of governors gave official approval yesterday for construction of two new buildings on the main campus, and was told that the university is now committed to building projects worth more than a third of a billion dollars.

The total figure is $354,852,000, said a written report from Mary Bales, chair of the board’s building and properties committee. Almost half of that amount is going for the Quantum-Nano Centre, budgeted at $160 million, which got final approval yesterday and will be the focus of attention at a groundbreaking ceremony at 2:30 on Monday.

Some of the needed funding for the various buildings, started or soon to be started, is on hand, the board was told, but $169 million is still to be found. Said Bales’s report: “The unfunded portion, for which annual (principal and interest) payment totals 2.6% of UW’s annual gross revenue, is well within the Board-approved debt management guidelines set at 4%.”

The long-awaited Q-N Centre — a home for the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Waterloo Nanotechnology Institute — was designed in 2005-06 and will stand five storeys tall on a site between the Biology and Math and Computer buildings. Its floor space, 284,000 gross square feet, makes it slightly smaller than the Davis Centre.

“The Quantum-Nano Centre is the most complex scientific building ever constructed for the University,” said a summary presented to the board, which was told that tenders from construction companies were received in April and “came in approximately 18% over the independent pre-tender cost estimate”. At yesterday's meeting a contract for $130 million plus tax was awarded to Aecon Construction Group Inc. Donations of $36 million have been received for the Q-NC so far, the board was told, along with $50 million from the provincial government. Grant and tuition fee revenue from nanotech students will be another major source of funding for the building, as well as research grants and “future donations”.

The other new building approved yesterday is Engineering V, intended as a home for three academic departments — systems design, electrical and computer, and mechanical and mechatronics — as well as a “student design centre” where such projects as the solar car will be based.

The building, on part of the present parking lot B, is to be linked to Engineering III by an overhead walkway that will cross the ring road and the railway tracks. The architect designed a six-storey building with a total of 176,000 gross square feet, a bit larger than E3. Tenders were received in April, and yesterday the board approved a construction contract worth $44.3 million (plus tax) to Bondfield Construction.

Financing for the building will come from past and future operating funds, Ontario government funding for the expansion of graduate enrolment, and other sources, including a $1 million gift from the student Waterloo Engineering Endowment Fund, the board was told.

A groundbreaking event for Engineering V is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. and is open to the UW community.

In her report to yesterday’s meeting, Bales also noted that work on updating the overall campus plan is nearing an end. “The Steering Committee has received Urban Strategies’ vision for updating the Campus Master Plan, which is predicated on continued growth and intensification over the next two decades,” she wrote, adding that a final document will probably be ready for the board’s next meeting in October.

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Board discusses branch campuses

Yesterday’s meeting of the UW board was held in the “loft” of the Architecture building in Cambridge — a converted, century-old factory with broad floors of scarred hardwood — and so it seemed fitting that discussion at the long meeting briefly turned to the merits of “brownfield” sites for future branch campuses.

The board was asked to approve some changes to an existing statement on principles for “development of off-campus sites”, mostly to add a specific requirement, missing in the previous version of the document, that such projects must be “beneficial to UW’s academic mission”. Ken Seiling, chair of Waterloo Region and one of three civic leaders who are members of the board, commented on a clause that gives clear preference to “greenfield” sites — those that have never been built on. Local governments now tend to favour redevelopment of older sites, he said, and to catch up with the times, the university should reconsider that aspect of the guidelines. Lawyer Jud Whiteside, a member of the board’s building and properties committee, said the topic would certainly come up for more discussion by the committee.

Admiration for the Architecture building was a theme all through the meeting, which heard a brief welcome from Rick Haldenby, the director of the architecture school. When the meeting ended, members and guests were invited downstairs to a reception in the Design at Riverside gallery, which is currently showing a selection of the best architecture student work of the past year.

Sticking with the theme of off-campus sites, the board meeting heard a presentation from Leo Rothenburg, the chair of civil engineering and soon to be acting dean of the engineering faculty, about planning for the proposed Abu Dhabi campus. It was much the same talk he gave to UW’s senate a few weeks ago, touching on UW’s international development, conditions in the United Arab Emirates, and details of how UW’s programs in engineering, information technology and accounting are meant to work at a campus half a world away.

“This could be one of the most risky ventures that we have undertaken,” provost Amit Chakma told the meeting. However, he said, Abu Dhabi is a very business-friendly jurisdiction, where the authorities are keen to make the program work. And if worse comes to worst, he said, “We have the capacity to pull back,” because UW isn’t sinking any money into infrastructure. A local partner will provide and operate the buildings, while UW is responsible for curriculum and instructors — who could, if necessary, be brought home to Waterloo, along with any students who wanted to come.

A board member asked about living conditions and the state of human rights in Abu Dhabi, which Rothenburg had described as “traditional autocratic authority plus modern education and vision”. Chakma said the secretary of the university “is putting together a package” of information and best practices that will benefit faculty and staff who would consider going to the remote campus for a term or two. “There will be certain groups who would not be comfortable there,” he conceded, “but there will no pressure for anyone to go who is not comfortable doing that.”

A student member of the board asked what plans UW has about the services it will provide to students, including health care and other support. “What we do should be academically identical,” said Rothenburg, “and we will do our best to replicate the culture of Waterloo." He added that the local partner “has a lot of experience in dealing with student issues.” There will be an Engineering Society for students on the Abu Dhabi campus, he said, and he expects to see back-and-forth movement by student leaders between Waterloo and Abu Dhabi.

The program is drawing much interest on the part of existing UW students, he also said. “I’m sure that there will be opportunity for our students to go there,” he suggested, to study or take co-op work terms. Current hopes are to enrol the first students in Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2009.

The meeting also heard some mentions of UW's other remote locations: Rome, where the architecture school runs its term-abroad program; Nanjing, China, where science and environmental studies operate programs; and Stratford, west of Waterloo, where a branch campus and a program in digital imaging are in the planning. There were a couple of references to 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, by a new name: "the mother campus".


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Keystone event tomorrow

Games, music, food, and a chance to celebrate the campus are all promised for noontime tomorrow, as the annual Keystone Campaign outdoor event runs from 11:30 to 1:30 on the Matthews Hall green. "Come dressed to party!" say organizers, and "complete your door prize coupon for a chance to win a great prize." The two-hour period "has been designated as paid time off for all faculty and staff". For night shift staff, a similar event will run from 10 to 11 p.m. Thursday in South Campus Hall.

Dean speaks in Thursday roundtable

Some high-profile people will take part in a “peer-to-peer roundtable” being held in Toronto tomorrow (Thursday) on the topic of “Investing in Research and Innovation”. Among them: John Wilkinson, the provincial minister of R&I, and Ken Coates, UW’s dean of arts, as well as leaders of the MaRS Discovery District, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and biotechnology firm Sanofi-Pasteur. The event will be held over the lunch hour at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre, high atop Yonge Street; there’s a $45 charge to be there in person, but the webcast is free, and the discussion will subsequently be aired on Rogers Cable.

Link of the day

International Year of the Potato

When and where

Co-op employer interviews for fall term jobs continue through June 20.

Procurement and contract services trade show of UW suppliers continues: computers and audio-visual Wednesday, Corporate Express (office supplies) Thursday, 11:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre lounge.

Career workshop: “Career Exploration and Decision Making” 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

‘De-cluttering Your Garage’ brown-bag session with Brian Bast of Garage Revolution, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, 12:00 noon, Math and Computer room 5158.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Help Students Prepare for Your Class” 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Nortel Networks Institute Distinguished Seminar: John Yeow, systems design engineering, “Biomedical Micro/Nano Devices” 1:30 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Anne Harris, faculty of arts, retirement celebration 3:30 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP; donations invited for a bursary in her honour.

Penny Pudifin, graduate studies office, retirement celebration 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., University Club, RSVP

Computer science information night about fourth-year courses, refreshments, 4:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Lifestyle Learnings session at Columbia Lake Health Club, boardroom, 340 Hagey Boulevard: “What to eat before and after a workout” 5:30 p.m.

Perimeter Institute presents William D. Phillips, National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Time and Einstein in the 21st Century: The Coolest Stuff in the Universe”, 7:00 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 519-883-4480.

Wilfrid Laurier University convocation ceremonies June 4-6 in Waterloo, June 11 in Brantford, details online.

UW Retirees Association tour of “stately homes and gardens” in the Hamilton area, Thursday, $67 for members and guests, information 519-744-3246.

Alumni tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Thursday 2:15 p.m., reception follows, details online.

Retirement party for Bill Futher, information systems and technology, after 38 years at UW, Thursday 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., South Campus Hall, Laurel Room. RSVP to by May 23.

Let’s Dance rehearsals June 5-6 and performances June 7-8, Humanities Theatre.

‘Late Night Picture Show’ of “films with a social conscience” sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group: “Dr. Strangelove” Thursday 9:00 p.m., Matthews Hall green behind Student Life Centre (rain location CEIT room 1015).

Canada’s Wonderland bus trip organized by Federation of Students, Friday, tickets $40 (non-students $48) at Fed office, Student Life Centre.

Kenneth A. Woolner, formerly of UW department of physics, “share your favourite anecdotes, stories and memories of his life”, Friday 4:00, University Club.

5-km run and 1-km walk in support of Hildegard Marsden Nursery, Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., details and registration online.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses: continuing students, June 9-14; new students, July 14-27; open enrolment begins July 28.

Spring Convocation: applied health sciences and environmental studies, Wednesday, June 11, 10:00; science, June 11, 2:30; arts (some programs), Thursday, June 12, 10:00; arts (some programs), June 12, 2:30; mathematics, Friday, June 13, 10:00; computer science, June 13, 2:30; engineering (some programs), Saturday, June 14, 10:00; engineering (some programs), June 14, 2:30, details online.

School of Planning graduation reception and Ring Ceremony Wednesday, June 11, lunch 12:00, ceremony 1:00 p.m., South Campus Hall, information

Canadian Mathematical Society awards banquet, honours to high school students placing highest in the 40th Canadian Mathematical Olympiad, Thursday, June 12, 5:30, South Campus Hall.

Internet Gambling: Current situation and future trends, talk by Robert Williams presented by UW, Waterloo Region Action Group on Gambling Issues and Waterloo Public Library, June 13, 10 a.m., Albert McCormick Community Centre, 500 Parkside Drive, details online.

25-Year Club annual reception Tuesday, June 17, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

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