Engineering in Parallel
My twin brother, Bob, and I were born in 1929, the apparent cause for the Great Depression. As teenagers we lived in Timmins, population 25,000 or so. Our father was a shift boss in a gold mine, our mother a registered nurse. The two of us did everything together — attended Sunday school, became Cubs, then Scouts, then Cadets during the war.
To get ahead in Timmins in the 1930s, pretty much all young men had to go down — into a mine, that is. At that time, very few Timmins folk had ever earned a degree, but our parents were adamant that we become university grads.
As usual, Bob and I thought alike. We both chose to study Civil Engineering at Queen's, mainly because we could get by with one set of textbooks and each do half the homework. We made the same mistakes on exams. Nine times out of ten, our marks were within a margin of 2% of one another.
After graduation in 1951, I was invited to interview with Gore & Storrie Limited, while Bob landed one with L.P. Stidwill Surveyors and Engineers. While walking to our respective meetings, we decided to swap places. They will never know, we thought. The rest, as they say, is history.
Bob served for about 45 years as a professional engineer and later as Chair of Gore & Storrie in Toronto, which became part of CH2M Hill. He took part in the planning of many of today’s major water and wastewater systems in Ontario and abroad.
In 1957, I was hired by Proctor Redfern. While in practice, I established many of Ontario’s sanitary landfills. I also had the unique fortune to travel the world consulting on waste projects in Canada, the US, Europe, Kenya and Brazil.
During our parallel careers, Bob and I sometimes competed for the same assignments. Confusion was the order of the day when uninformed clients interviewed us for the same consulting contract. Even longtime colleagues were puzzled when they mistook one of us for the other and wondered why they were being ignored!
Mix-ups aside, Bob and I enjoyed many professional victories. For one, Bob was lead engineer on the York Durham Sewerage Scheme. I was a lead engineer on the PARC Niagara Report for the new Niagara Region. Both reports became blueprints for millions of dollars worth of capital works. We have both been humbled by professional awards and recognition from our peers. We have also shared a commitment to serving the engineering community in various capacities.
In 1994, Bob was made a Lieutenant Governor-in-Council Appointee on PEO Council. As Chair of PEO’s Joint Advocacy Implementation Committee, he was instrumental in the creation of OSPE in 2000 and served as President and Chair of OSPE’s first elected Board. Under his leadership, OSPE’s Safe Water Task Force influenced changes to the Safe Drinking water Act and Sustainable Water and Sewage System Act, which now require meaningful involvement of professional engineers. He was later elected President of PEO Council.
After retiring, I volunteered extensively with the Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO), leading 18 municipal solid waste management projects in the Philippines, Bolivia, Honduras and Sri Lanka. Bob has also assisted CESO, advising on water and sewage projects in Bolivia.
Here at home, I have served as Chair of Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) and as a Director of the PEO’s Foundation for Education. Eventually I followed in my brother’s footsteps and joined the OSPE Board, serving as Secretary and Treasurer.When Bob and I look around today, we see a great deal to be proud of. Jurisdictions around the world can take many lessons from engineering projects and practices developed here in Ontario. All Ontario engineers — even elder statesmen like us — can and should take pride in the work that OSPE is doing to help elevate the profile of our profession.
This article was orginally printed in the Fall 2013 edition of The Voice magazine, the quarterly member magazine of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.