Thursday, June 11, 2009

  • Morning and afternoon Convocation events
  • Notes from June 3 board of governors meeting
  • Historians celebrate UW's stone house
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Morning and afternoon Convocation events

The faculty of arts is in the spotlight today as two more sessions of UW’s Ninety-Eighth Convocation are held, at 10:00 and 2:30 in the Physical Activities Complex.

Registrar’s office officials say a total of 533 students will graduate in arts this morning and 594 this afternoon. Speaking on their behalf as the valedictorian are Victoria Simpson (speech communication and arts and business) at the morning ceremony and Catherine Ruta (legal studies) in the afternoon.

Peter George, president of McMaster University, is this morning’s convocation speaker and will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. George, a member of the Order of Canada, is credited with the introduction of innovative approaches to teaching and research that helped McMaster become one of the top research institutions in the country.

Also at the morning ceremony, François Paré of the French studies department will be presented with the Distinguished Teacher Award that was announced earlier this year. Phelim Boyle, a retired professor of accounting and finance, will receive a Distinguished Professor Emeritus title.

The gold medal for the year’s top BA graduate in the arts faculty will go to Georgy Orlov, who is receiving a degree in economics. The Governor General’s Silver Medal, also for a top BA graduate, goes to Cecile Michniewicz, who is graduating in music.

At the afternoon ceremony today, the speaker is university historian Ken McLaughlin, who will receive the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus title after a long career in the UW history department and at St. Jerome’s University. He is the author of two books about the history of UW, as well as several works about communities in Waterloo Region.

Larry Gravill, former chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Gravill, who was Canada's longest-serving municipal police chief, retired in December 2007 after 15 years in the position. He also served as president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as Canadian director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Regna Darnell will receive a Doctor of Letters degree. An internationally recognized anthropologist, she has done pioneering work in the history of anthropology, as well as in linguistics and native studies. She is a distinguished university professor at the University of Western Ontario, where she founded and served as director of the First Nations studies program.

Al MacKenzie, who retired last year as director of police and parking services at UW, will receive the title of Honorary Member of the University.

Kerry Lappin-Fortin of St. Jerome’s University will be presented with one of this year’s Distinguished Teacher Awards. And Steven Spencer of the psychology department will be presented with an Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

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Notes from June 3 board of governors meeting

The summer meeting of UW’s board of governors was held June 3 at the Research Advancement Centre building on the hilltop of the north campus research and technology park. Dennis Huber, vice-president (administration and finance), told the board that the room where it was meeting is actually intended to be a laboratory, but hasn’t been fitted out yet.

The RAC, which opened last year, was “conceived by Amit and David one day”, he said — that’s provost Amit Chakma and president David Johnston, who were looking for ways to provide temporary space for various UW units. The main occupant of the building at present is the Institute for Quantum Computing, whose permanent home is under construction at the centre of the main campus.

Huber paid tribute to Dan Parent, the director of design and construction services in the plant operations department, who was responsible for designing the $8.5 million RAC. He joked that conflicts over “who gets the corner office” are impossible in this building, since Parent put staircases in its four corners.

A few notes from the proceedings of the June 3 meeting:

• Without discussion, the board approved a number of changes to student fees, including a $35-per-term fee that undergraduate pharmacy students will pay to support the new Society of Pharmacy Students (SOPHS). In a referendum, 63 students voted in favour of the fee proposal and 8 against it. Pharmacy students previously were assessed the $9-per-term Science Society fee paid by science undergrads on the main campus.

• Deep Saini, the dean of environment, briefed the board about the Summit Centre for the Environment in Huntsville, Ontario, that will be available to UW after the G8 summit of world leaders is held there in 2010. The university will pay $1 a year to lease the building, Saini said, and the town of Huntsville will be responsible for most maintenance. The building includes laboratories, seminars, meeting rooms and residence space for about 50 students and six faculty, and can be used for a wide variety of courses and conferences, he said. (Later in the meeting, provost Amit Chakma, in jovial mood, assured the board that “UW’s beavers policy will simply not apply” at the Huntsville outpost, 300 kilometres northeast of here in the land of the silver birch and home of big-toothed rodents.)

• President David Johnston took time to boast about UW’s levels of student assistance, saying that Waterloo spends more for that purpose, as a share of the operating budget, than just about any other Canadian university. In 1998 the number was 4.0 per cent of the budget, or $7.3 million; now it’s 11.7 per cent, or $50.9 million. “That really is a very significant change in a decade,” he said. “We’re very proud of it, and our students deserve it.”

• Chakma, the provost, began his remarks by noting that Johnston had reached his tenth anniversary as president of UW on June 1. “And he celebrated by playing golf?” asked a mock-incredulous Bob Harding, the chair of the board. June 1, Monday of last week, was the day of the annual President’s Golf Tournament, which raises thousands of dollars every year for awards and special expenses in the Warrior athletics program. Johnston himself marvelled at the “strange” people who were actually willing to shell out money to go round the Westmount course with him, considering that golf isn’t really his sport.

• The provost gave an update on plans for the Dubai campus, where the faculty of engineering is still hoping to start offering two programs (chemical and civil) this September. “We’ve decided for business reasons to try to keep the momentum, although we’re not quite ready,” Chakma said. “We were quite worried that we might not get students.” At last count UW had made 25 offers of admission for first-year study in Dubai, and 14 students have accepted so far. “That’s good news,” Chakma said, predicting that an interim target of at least 25 students will be met.

• Both Chakma and Johnston referred to the recent promise of $50 million from the federal and provincial governments through what’s officially known as the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, or KIP. UW got money for its second and fourth priorities (mathematics and engineering expansion, and an overhaul of the Environment building) but not for five other projects that were submitted to KIP officials. Among the buildings that didn’t get the okay was a $25 million structure to provide new space for the science faculty. “We’re not giving up on it,” said Chakma, and will look for other sources of funding: “The dean and I have already started that conversation.”

• Tim Jackson, the outside governor (he heads a local venture capital firm) who chairs the board’s finance and investment committee, reported briefly. He said the committee “continues to meet monthly by conference call” in view of tumultuous economic times, and is working on “rebalancing” the investments in UW’s two big accounts, the endowment fund and the pension fund.

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Historians celebrate UW's stone house

by Jennifer Konkle, Conrad Grebel University College

On the side of a gentle hill on the UW north campus is a handsomely-preserved farmhouse — a quiet testimony to the Pennsylvania German cultural heritage it celebrates. Today the home has become a landmark overlooking Columbia Lake and the UW playing fields. The strong simple architectural lines of a past era contrast the modern lines of buildings nearby. While the Brubacher House Museum used to be on the edge of campus, the research and technology park has been creeping closer to its historic walls.

[Brubacher House]The house (left) was built of native fieldstone in 1850 by John E. Brubacher, who with his wife Magdalena farmed the land and raised fourteen children. Farming continued on the land until 1965 until the property was purchased as part of the university, when the decision was taken to preserve the farmhouse as a memorial to Pennsylvania German Mennonite settlers who had developed the land on which the university complex was built.

Before restoration could take place, the house was gutted by fire in 1968. However, plans for restoration continued with involvement and planning by the University of Waterloo, the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College, and the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation. Under the direction of Simeon Martin, a master Mennonite craftsman, and with the assistance of many Mennonite farmers, the house interior was rebuilt to reflect a Pennsylvania German Mennonite home of the 1850-90 period.

To outfit the museum, authentic period furnishings, many of them originals from Mennonite families in the area, were purchased and collected by the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario. Amongst many fine possessions at Brubacher House is the Wismer grandfather clock, the history of which dates back to the early 1700s when it was brought to Pennsylvania from Switzerland. The clock travelled to Waterloo County in the early 1800s where it continued to be passed down through the generations and was eventually donated to Brubacher House.

The Brubacher House Museum opened in 1979 as a site of historic interest and dialogue on Mennonite beliefs and traditions. It is operated for the university by Conrad Grebel. Today, the farmhouse as a museum serves to educate and interpret the Pennsylvania German Mennonite way of life to interested visitors.”

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Brubacher House Museum, a celebration will be held as part of the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario’s annual meeting in the Great Hall at Grebel on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. UW historian Ken McLaughlin will discuss the early Mennonite presence in Waterloo, and also the beginnings of the Brubacher House Museum, in his talk, "Saving the John E. Brubacher House: Giving the Past a Future." McLaughlin is distinguished professor emeritus of history at UW and a frequently published author on the Waterloo Region and its institutions, and was a member of the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation at the time it worked with UW to fund the creation of the museum. Following the meeting at Grebel, birthday cake and tours will be offered at Brubacher House. The event is free and open to the public.

Anyone can get better acquainted with the Pennsylvania German heritage of Waterloo County by visiting the museum Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 to 5 p.m. Live-in museum hosts Bethany and Brandon Leis will help visitors learn first hand about the life of a Pennsylvania German Mennonite family during the mid-nineteenth century.


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Link of the day


When and where

Waterloo Engineering Competition registration June 1-12. Details.

Co-op employer interviews (main group) June 1-18.

‘Teaching Dossiers’ workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, 12:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Graham Medal Seminar: Craig Eisler, Microsoft, “Software and Innovation: A 20-Year Perspective” 2 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Reception follows. Register ext. 37747.

School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture: Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Tsinghua University, “Communication Complexity and Its Applications” 4:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Regional Transportation Master Plan public workshops tonight (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Kitchener) and June 16 (First United Church, Waterloo), 6:15 p.m. Details.

Lebold Endowment Fundraising Banquet at Conrad Grebel University College, 6:30 p.m., speaker Ron Mathies, “Becoming a Global Community of Faith”, ticket information ext. 24223.

Autism Update professional development session with expert panel, organized by UW school of pharmacy and KidsAbility centre, Friday 9:00 to noon, Bingemans Conference Centre, information 519-886-8886 ext. 206.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: highlights of the recent Canheit and Ontario University Computing Conferences, Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

Microteaching session for international teaching assistants to practise and get feedback, Friday 9:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Child care festival sponsored by four on-campus child care centres, Friday 9:45, Village green, guest performer Erick Traplin.

‘Single and Sexy’ free preview performance Friday 1:00, Humanities Theatre, all welcome. Special performance for Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, Sunday 5:30 p.m.

Alan Morgan, department of earth and environmental sciences, retirement reception Friday 4:00, University Club, information e-mail klalbrec@

‘Is Christ Necessary for Morality?’ public debate (Rev. Scott Wilkinson, New Creation Reformed Presbyterian Church, and Bryon Williston, WLU department of philosophy) Friday 7 p.m., Wilfrid Laurier University, Bricker building room 201.

Star Performance Academy dance performance Friday 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

ACM-style programming contest to help select UW’s teams for next year’s international competition, Saturday. Details.

Rugby men’s regional junior tryouts Sunday, Columbia fields. Details.

Matthews Golf Classic for students, staff, faculty, retirees and guests, Monday 12:00 noon, Grand Valley Golf Course. Sold out. Details.

UW Recreation Committee presents “Home Health Care: Making the Right choice”, Marie Graham of Bayshore Home Health, Monday 12:00 noon, Dana Porter Library room 329.

UW Senate meets Monday 4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Social work seminar: "Spirituality, Social Work and Transformation." Monday 4:30 p.m., chapel lounge, Renison University College. Free. Details.

Emergency alert system test with messages to cellphones and computer desktops, Tuesday 10:00, details to be announced.

Staff association Golf Social Tuesday, Conestoga Golf and Country Club, tee-off 4:00, fee $40. Details.

Renison University College 1950s carnival and barbecue to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary, June 18, 11:30 to 1:00, Academic Building, all welcome.

25-Year Club annual reception Thursday, June 18, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

Last day for 50 per cent fee refund for dropped courses, June 19.

Co-op job ranking for fall term opens June 19, 1:00 p.m., closes June 22, 2:00 p.m.; match results available June 22, 4:00 p.m.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term courses; appointments June 22-27 for continuing students, July 13-26 for new students; open enrolment begins July 27.

Joanne Wade, retired from office of student awards, recognition reception June 22, 4:00 to 6:00, University Club, RSVP bdenomme@

Canada Day holiday Wednesday, July 1, UW offices and most services closed; classes cancelled; annual celebrations and fireworks on the north campus 2:00 to 11:00.

One click away

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Imprint explains the red laser that crosses campus
IQC annual report for Industry Canada
British government moves universities into 'business' department
Girl convicted of 2003 murder reportedly seeking to attend UW
'Sony Pictures and the end of the world'
Progress report on federal science strategy
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