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The story of John Bockstael, University of Manitoba Service Award winner

A builder of Winnipeg—past, present, future—and an engineer of tomorrow’s student success

March 23, 2014 — 
John Bockstael

John Bockstael

The Bockstael name has been synonymous with construction in Manitoba for more than a century. Today, countless brick-and-mortar examples of their work dot the city and province—cementing their legacy to the community. But perhaps one of the strongest foundations ever created by the family-owned company is the one president and CEO John Bockstael helped establish at the U of M in 2008: the Friends of Engineering (Manitoba) Inc.

The tremendous engineering talents cultivated at the U of M create a competitive advantage for the province and fuel innovation across sectors from construction to manufacturing, agriculture to health sciences, and, of course, hydroelectricity. Bockstael and some peers, recognizing the importance of ensuring the success of future generations of engineers, rallied their fellow industry leaders to the cause of supporting the Faculty of Engineering and its students. What better way to ensure the professionals they recruit are world class than by collaborating with the faculty to help deliver its promise of an excellent engineering education?

Today, the Friends of Engineering is “the envy of many engineering schools in Canada,” as one of Bockstael’s colleagues put it, and a tie that has helped tightly bind industry leaders across the province to the faculty, its students and to one another. The volunteer group—of which Bockstael was the founding chairman of the board—advises on elements of the engineering curriculum; funds various student-supporting activities from competitions to conferences, helps students find summer and post-graduation employment, supports co-op education and shares their collective knowledge with the leaders of tomorrow of Manitoba industry.

Beyond his commitment to ensuring the best possible education experience for tomorrow’s U of M-trained engineers, Bockstael was also actively involved in the fundraising drive that helped create the new engineering complex which opened at the U of M in 2006. Not surprising, given his family’s history of creating the spaces in Manitoba where we can successfully live, learn and play.


In 2014, the Distinguished Alumni Award has grown to include four new categories. The new awards recognize University of Manitoba graduates who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in their professional and personal lives, and who have been inspirations to fellow alumni, current students and the community.

John Bockstael [BSc(CE)/1980] will receive the University of Manitoba Alumni Service Award, which recognizes graduates who have demonstrated superior leadership and service to the University of Manitoba. Bockstael’s name is synonymous with construction in Manitoba; in 2008, he helped establish the Friends of Engineering that partners students with industry leaders in the province.

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