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Queen’s engineer returns to graduate after 70 years

  • Bruce Jameson is hooded by Lynann Clapham, Associate Dean (Academic), Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science during Tuesday afternoon's Fall Convocation Ceremony.
    Bruce Jameson is hooded by Lynann Clapham, Associate Dean (Academic), Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science during Tuesday afternoon's Fall Convocation Ceremony.
  • Bruce Jameson is handed his diploma before going on stage during Tuesday afternoon's Fall Convocation ceremony at Grant Hall.
    Bruce Jameson is handed his diploma before going on stage during Tuesday afternoon's Fall Convocation ceremony at Grant Hall.
  • Bruce Jameson is congratulated by Chancellor Jim Leech after receiving his degree in engineering chemistry more than 70 years after he first arrived at Queen's.
    Bruce Jameson is congratulated by Chancellor Jim Leech after receiving his degree in engineering chemistry more than 70 years after he first arrived at Queen's.

Bruce Jameson earned a summer internship in the research department at Imperial Oil in Sarnia, Ontario in 1946. He was 22 years old then, with a sharp mind, a strong work ethic, and a fresh, state-of-the-art education in engineering chemistry from Queen’s.

All this was buoyed by the post-war optimism of the time. Anything seemed possible.

The job was an excellent opportunity for a young man to gain some on-the-job research experience at one of Canada’s largest petroleum companies. It worked out well. Jameson’s managers were pleased enough to offer him full-time work starting the following autumn, after he completed his final year at Queen’s. But more than that, it was that first summer in Sarnia when, at a regular bible study group, he met Annabelle. 

Life happened: marriage to his sweetheart, six children, 39 industrious and successful years at Imperial Oil, grandchildren, retirement, and great-grandchildren. It’s the kind of story anyone would be lucky to live but there was at least one loose end.

One of the course requirements for graduation with the class of Sc’47 was German II. No German II; no degree. Jameson doesn’t have German II.

“It was a different time and there was no pressure by my company to get the formal degree,” he says. “We were married immediately after I left school. We had a child the next year. We were busy with a family and building a house.”

Decades later, and long into retirement, Jameson’s story was relayed to his grandson David Currie.

“I work in the petrochemical industry and, though he didn’t seem to talk much about himself, he always seemed knowledgeable about the technical work I was doing,” Currie says. “It turned out that he held some Canadian patents and did some really important development work, so I started prying a little more.”

It just didn’t seem right to Currie that his grandfather, now 93, hadn’t earned his degree after such a long and accomplished career as an engineer. So, he decided to ask administrators at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s if the university could grant Jameson his degree now, even without German II.

Currie reached out to his industry contacts to find records of his grandfather’s career. It was a tall order considering Jameson retired in 1986. The trail led eventually to Doug MacLaren, Applied Process Research Section Head at Imperial Oil. Though Jameson’s personnel records have long since been destroyed, MacLaren was able to piece together much of Jameson’s work history by sifting through department publications and technical reports.

“Mr. Jameson had a long, productive career as a chemist at Imperial Oil Research,” writes MacLaren after a long list of citations in a support letter to Queen’s. “As a chemist, he was able to participate in the development and implementation of several pivotal processes and techniques that transformed the petrochemical industry in the mid-20th century. Some of this work remains referenced today in the petroleum industry.”

It was enough to convince Dean Kevin Deluzio and Associate Dean (Academic) Lynann Clapham to waive the extra credit and grant Jameson his degree in engineering chemistry. On Tuesday, Nov. 14 Jameson, Currie and some of their extended family attended Fall Convocation at Queen’s so Jameson could receive his degree in person.

“It would never have come about if I had to do it,” says Jameson. “David did it all. I enjoyed my time at Queen’s immensely. Even though I didn’t get the degree, my time at Queen’s prepared me for my working life. I had 39 years in industry and 31 years of retirement, so I’m doing all right.”