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Canada’s first Engineer-in-Residence retires

August 8, 2012 — 

Malcolm SymondsMalcolm Symonds, P.Eng., the first Engineer-in-Residence in the Faculty (and in the country!), retired officially on June 30, 2012.

Seeds for the Engineer-in-Residence idea can be traced back to APEM in 1997 (before it became APEGM). Malcolm was approaching the end of his year as President, and he was also contemplating the eventuality of retiring from Bristol Aerospace. On an afternoon, following a Council meeting, he and Ron Britton of the Faculty of Engineering spent some time in the atrium of the APEM office considering the meaning of life. Malcolm expressed the hope that when retirement came, he could find a way to give back to the profession.

Fast forward about three years to a time when Ron and Doug Ruth were developing a submission in response to a NSERC request for proposals relating to their new Chairs in Design Engineering program. The idea to incorporate experienced, probably retired, engineers into the proposal as a source of on-campus, real-world experience solidified when Ron recalled that three-year-old conversation with Malcolm. When Dorothy Britton observed that there are Artist-in-Residence and Writers-in-Residence on campus, the Engineer-in-Residence title became part of the NSERC package.

The Design Engineering Chair was awarded effective January 1, 2001. In August of 2001 Malcolm, now retired from Bristol, was invited to meet with Doug and Ron to discuss what an Engineer-in-Residence might do. Potentially it was a way to give back, and in spite of the fact that none of the three participants in the conversation had any clear idea of exactly what that meant, Malcolm agreed to sign on, and he became our first E-i-R.

His half-time appointment quickly grew to a full-time commitment. He became a champion of industry when he was on campus, and a champion of the Faculty of Engineering when he visited his old colleagues in industry. The student branch of SAE needed some guidance and Malcolm took on the challenge. What had been a few car enthusiasts developed into the second largest student chapter in the world. Formula SAE, Formula Hybrid, Mini Baha and Heavy Lift Aero teams have designed, built and became serious competition with their entries. Membership on these teams have become a key qualification among employers in local industry.

Malcolm found his way into the classroom, teaching courses in Systems Engineering, Engineering for non-Engineers and teaming up with Ron Britton in a “different” grad class entitled The Engineering Design Process. He has been a tireless contributor to the Faculty and a fierce champion for students.

Eventually the Design Chair had seven E-i-Rs associated with the program. Each of them came on board under the same set of responsibilities that attracted Malcolm. They were simply asked to find ways to strengthen industry and faculty relations. Like Malcolm, they found ways to give back.

We want to thank Malcolm for his years of passionate committment to the Faculty of Engineering, and wish him a long and enjoyable retirement. Hopefully it will last longer than his first two retirements; from his naval commission, to go back to school and from Bristol, for about a year.

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