Please Enter a Search Term

Major milestone

By Jackey Locke | May 22, 2014

It has been 40 years since Memorial University graduated its first class of engineers. On May 25, 1974, Memorial graduated 76 bright, eager students, each with a bachelor of engineering degree in hand.

Dr. Angus Bruneau was the first dean of engineering and applied science and he remembers that first convocation with great pride.

“It was an exciting time,” he said. “We worked very hard to keep them engaged. It was important to me to see that first class through to graduation.”

Memorial had an engineering diploma program from its very beginning, and for many years its diploma graduates went to other institutions to complete their engineering degrees. S.J. Carew, dean of the faculty of Applied Science, which was the faculty name back then, proposed to expand to a full degree program in the mid-1960s.

Dr. Moses Morgan, then vice-president (academic), strongly supported the idea to develop a degree-granting engineering program at Memorial. He solicited concepts and opinions from three engineering deans at Ontario universities and, ultimately, it was Dr. Doug Wright, University of Waterloo, who impressed him the most with his enthusiasm and new concept in engineering education, a co-operative program that he had recently developed at Waterloo. Ultimately, it was Dr. Wright who recommended Dr. Bruneau, a young, energetic faculty member at the University of Waterloo, as the best person for the job.

While the new program was modelled after the program at the University of Waterloo, it was an opportunity to prepare a new curriculum at Memorial.

“I knew why everything was in that curriculum,” said Dr. Bruneau. “If no one could explain why something should be in there, it didn’t get in. We had three disciplines – civil, electrical and mechanical – with a design course in every semester. This didn’t go over well with the accreditation board, but, ultimately, they accredited our programs.”

Dr. John Molgaard was one of the first faculty members that Dr. Bruneau hired.

“There were many demands on our time and energy,” he said. “While existing courses were taught, the new program was designed, course content was developed and facilities acquired.”

Dr. Greg Naterer, the faculty’s current dean, has been enjoying hearing the stories about the early days from Dr. Bruneau and other faculty members.

“Our highly regarded reputation of excellence has been built on a proud history and legacy built by tremendous visionary leaders – Dr. Bruneau, other former deans, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Dr. Naterer. “Since the first graduates, we've grown to over 1,100 undergradute students, six accredited undergraduate programs, 18 graduate programs, approximately 500 graduate students and about $16 million in research funding per year. We're proud of our rich legacy and I look forward to steering ahead to many more future successes.”

While the faculty’s principles have remained the same, today there are five departments in civil, electrical and computer, mechanical, ocean and naval architectural and process engineering. The faculty is undergoing major growth and a new building is on the horizon. Dr. Bruneau sees many parallels to his time as dean.

“I see a lot of similarities between what the current dean is doing and what I did 40 years ago,” he said. “He has to sort out what the patterns are and the values that need to be emphasized.”

After the first class graduated, Dr. Bruneau moved on to other leadership roles and eventually left Memorial to pursue other interests. Hhowever, his bond to Memorial engineering remains one of his strongest.

“I haven’t had a formal connection with Memorial for 40 years but I am more associated with the university now than with any of the other enterprises I was associated with,” he said.