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Thursday, June 23, 2011

  • Report on the billion-dollar pension fund
  • Names, awards and achievements
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Report on the billion-dollar pension fund

The market value of the faculty and staff pension fund is close to a billion dollars this year, and the liabilities actually north of a billion depending on how the calculations are done. A report on the fund was presented to the university’s board of governors at its June 14 meeting.

Janet Passmore, the associate provost (human resources), told the board that the university won’t file an official fund valuation with the government this year. A valuation was filed as of January 1, 2010, and another one isn’t required until 2013, although it could be submitted sooner if the university wanted to do that, she pointed out.

A filing as of January 1, 2011, would have shown an “unfunded liability” (deficit) for the fund, with the negative amount varying depending on which actuarial formula was used to calculate it.

On a “going concern basis”, the assumption that the university and its pension plan will keep going indefinitely, the fund shows assets with an “actuarial value” of $885 million. Liabilities, or the cost of paying everybody’s pension forever, are estimated at $1,027 million.

On a “solvency basis”, the assumption that the university and the pension fund would go out of business tomorrow, the assets are listed at market value, which on January 1 was $958 million. Liabilities in that case were $997 million.

Passmore said that despite the unfunded liabilities, Waterloo is not about to ask the government for “relief” as some other universities have been doing — meaning a request for more time to make up the solvency deficit with extra contributions to the pension fund.

“The university is making additional contributions to meet the unfunded liability,” her written report said. “Under the funding protocols, the university contributions to the Registered Pension Plan and Payroll Pension Plan were set at 145% of required member contributions. Effective May 1, 2011, the university increased its contribution to 155% of required member contributions, which, on a full year basis, will result in an annual special payment of $8.4 million toward the going concern funding shortfall.”

Passmore, who chairs the board’s pension and benefits committee, reported that during 2010, the pension plan’s investments earned a a return of 8.49 per cent. That’s not as much as the previous year’s return, 14.7 per cent, but it looks good beside the 21.5 per cent drop that the fund’s investment suffered during the economic disaster of 2008.

The report said 40 per cent of the fund is in the stock market, 38 per cent in fixed-income securities, and 22 per cent in real-return bonds.

At the beginning of this year, there were 1,432 retired staff and faculty members, or their survivors, receiving pensions, with another 422 deferred pensioners (people who have left the university but aren’t yet receiving pensions). The fund had 3,518 active members (current faculty and staff paying into the pension plan) and another 93 members on long-term disability.

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Names, awards and achievements

On Tuesday, the Daily Bulletin reported on six Waterloo winners of the Ontario government's new Trillium Scholarships for international graduate students, and listed their names. An update: one of the six, Morteza Kayyalha of electrical engineering, has chosen not to accept the scholarship, the graduate studies office advises. "We are instead pleased to welcome Keyvan Kasiri to the systems design engineering department." Kasiri is an MSc grad from Iran's Shiraz University, described as "a top student in his field, graduating first among electrical engineering graduate students at his university".

[Architect's model]A duo of Waterloo architecture students are among the first winners of the AZ Awards, sponsored by the design magazine Azure. The winners, some chosen by an international jury and some by “the people”, were honoured June 16 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Among them: the “A+ Award” for best student project. In that category, the jury prize went to 2010 architecture graduate Alexander Josephson for his MArch thesis project, “Temporary Mosque”. The “people” selected a project by second-year student Katherine Kovalcik entitled “Visions of Settlement”. “This is a sweep by Waterloo Architecture projects  over those submitted by schools from around the world,” says the director of the architecture school, Rick Haldenby. He adds that Kovalcik’s work (right) is the project she did during her 1B term last year, and calls the award “absolutely remarkable”.

The "summer" newsletter from Propel, Waterloo's Centre for Population Health Impact, announces the end of an era: Roy Cameron of the department of health studies and gerontology will end his term as director of the centre as of June 30. Not only has he headed Propel since its creation in 2009, he was director of its predecessor organization the Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation all the way back to 1995. "It felt like the right time for a change in leadership," says Cameron in a farewell message. "Starting in July, I'll be taking a sabbatical, which will give me a chance to pursue some publications which have been on the back burner. Over the year, I hope to get a sense of ways that I can contribute to the centre and to the field in a different way." Serving as interim co-directors of Propel will be Barb Riley of applied health sciences and Steve Brown of statistics and actuarial science.

[Chesney]Bill Chesney (left), faculty member in the drama department and associate dean (undergraduate studies) in the faculty of arts, was honoured earlier this month at the annual Arts Awards Waterloo Region. Chesney received the "Hemmerich Flanagan Performing Arts Award", recognizing his work mentoring actors, and organizing stage productions, both on campus and in the community, including the Magnetic North Festival of Canadian drama last year.

The "main" entrance to the General Services Complex, facing the Davis Centre, is back in operation after some seven months of construction work, a change that visitors to the human resources department will welcome with a sigh of relief. • The Mixed Integer Programming Workshop, hosted by Waterloo's departments of management sciences and combinatorics and optimization, has brought more than 100 mathematicians to sessions in Ron Eydt Village this week, winding up today. • The latest issue of Alternatives Journal, published in the faculty of environment, focuses on "Rocking the Environment"; that's singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer on the cover, and Björk is inside.

And . . . a few days ago I wrote that as far as I know, Terry Downey, formerly of the department of political science, is the only person from Waterloo who has served as president of two different post-secondary institutions. It's a matter of how exactly you frame the criteria, but an e-mail message quickly arrived to suggest that Michael Higgins might qualify: he was president of St. Jerome's University, 1999-2006, before leaving to head St. Thomas University in New Brunswick. And who wrote to remind me of this historical note? Maureen O'Donoghue Rich, the current chair of the board of governors at St. Jerome's.


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[Find Ralph poster]

'Ralph is a big fan of the ice cream from Federation Xpress," says the latest promotion from over that way. "If you spot a photo of him somewhere on campus, bring him back to his favourite place and be rewarded in ice cream! Tweet your search attempts with #fedsfindralph." As of yesterday, seven of the 50 Ralph pictures concealed around campus had been located, says Kirsty Budd of the Federation of Students.

Link of the day

St. John's Eve

When and where

Pre-enrolment for winter 2012 undergraduate courses, June 20-26 on Quest. Details.

Physics building shutdown of de-ionized water 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Farm market 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Environment I courtyard (also July 7, 14 and 21).

‘Experience Meditation’ introductory seminar sponsored by Sahaja Yoga Meditation Club, 9:00, 1:00 or 7:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Innovation showcase and commercialization competition featuring students in Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program, 10:00 to 5:00, Davis Centre foyer and lounge; keynote talk by Kunal Gupta, Polar Mobile, 12:00; competition finals 2:00.

Student accounts office, Needles Hall, will close for the day at 1:30 p.m.

Career workshop: Interview Skills: Selling Your Skills, 3:00 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

‘Oriental Carpets: Mystique, Patterns and Elements’ (Studies in Islam workshop series) 7 p.m., Dunker Family Lounge, Renison U College, RSVP j3miller@

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Erick Engelke, “Active Directory Consolidation Project” Friday 9 a.m., IST seminar room.

‘Managing Your Personal Brand as a Woman Engineer’ talk by Sandy Kemsley, 1984 systems design graduate, sponsored by Women in Engineering, Friday 12:30, Carl Pollock Hall room 3604, RSVP rwittke@

Quantum Frontiers distinguished lecture: Ralph Merkle, Singularity University, “Molecular Nanotechnology and Molecular Computing” Friday 2:30, CEIT building room 1015.

Canada’s Wonderland trip organized by Federation of Students, Saturday, $54 in advance at Feds office, Student Life Centre.

4-on-4 beach volleyball tournament organized by Campus Recreation, Saturday, Federation Hall courts, registration ($40 per team) at athletics office, PAC.

Bright Starts Daycare Fun Fair to raise funds for equipment, Monday 5:00 to 7:30, Paintin Place day care, UW Place complex, includes barbecue.

Canada Day, Friday, July 1, university closed. North campus celebrations 2 to 11 p.m. Details.

Engineering alumni golf tournament July 10, Grey Silo Golf Club, tee time 10:00, $85 (students $75), reservations at Engineering Society office or e-mail djbirnba@

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