The Colin Sewards Bursary

Colin made many friends in his short life, some of whom got together to set up a Memorial Fund at Queen’s to which others were invited to contribute. The response was magnificent, resulting in this bursary. Colin was a very considerate and thoughtful person, who positively influenced many of his contemporaries at school and at Queen’s; as one of his friends wrote: “he taught us that fun and laughter can go hand in hand with academic and future success as well as with kindness and compassion”. He would have been delighted to have helped in any small way an Applied Sciences student at Queen’s, and to wish that student every success in his or her career.

Colin was born in Alton, England, and came to Canada with his parents at the age of 1 year. He grew up in Kanata, Ontario, which during this period became known as “Silicon Valley North” because of the many high-tech industries that located there. Colin was fascinated with technology from an early age, building electromechanical pinball machines, crystal and then more elementary school for the volcano he built for a Science Fair project, which belched forth realistic lava and smoke, powered by dry ice. When barely into High School, he was offered, by a friend of his father, who knew of his interests, a part-time job at a semiconductor design company helping to assemble microphotographs of integrated circuits for the purposes of reverse engineering. He showed great talent at this work and was soon working weekends and vacations, first reverse engineering and then designing memory and microprocessor chips. The company president of the time recalls with amusement this sixteen year old lecturing PhDs from Hewlett Packard on how to design memory chips!

Colin was set on being an engineer (like his dad!) from an early age, and after gaining various technology prizes at the Earl of March High School, he graduated from Grade 13 in 1984 and went to Queen’s to study Electrical Engineering, paying his own way with his earnings from the semiconductor design part-time and vacation jobs. He threw himself with great energy into the various activities that arose, both in residence (Gordon House) and in class. Where others merely sprinkled themselves with purple dye, Colin had to bathe in it, to the consternation of his parents when they came to collect him at the end of term. He enjoyed residence so much he stayed for a second year, becoming a popular Floor Senior. At the end of second year, he decided that a way to fortune was to buy a house in the student ghetto and rent it out to students, which he proceeded to do with the profits from his semiconductor design jobs. He spent the summer renovating the house himself, showing a natural aptitude for anything involving design, construction or technology. The main feature was an immense home-made hot tub in the basement!

He occupied the house, with four student friends renting rooms, until he graduated in 1988, when returned to Kanata and Calmos Microsystems, where he became an official full-time employee after years of being part-time. He progressed rapidly in the company, becoming a senior engineer after a year, and had just completed the design of a new product, a high-speed digital synthesizer chip. At the same time, he had taken some of the equity out of his student house as a down payment to buy a house in Richmond, which he was in process of renovating and converting into an apartment and two commercial rental areas, when he died in a car accident on Hwy 401 in a snowstorm, as he was returning to work after driving down to Belleville to give his girlfriend a Valentine present.