The story of Science '48½

Metallurgy students: Back row: T.W. Trumper, Stuart E. Martin, Ross Huffman, Derek T. Austin. Front row: William Seniuk, K.H. Heino, Albert Kirkman.

After the Second World War, Canada was inundated by veterans eager to restart their lives. The federal government was determined to smooth their transition into civilian life, so the newly created Department of Veterans Affairs dispensed financial assistance for veterans who wanted to get a post-secondary education.

Over the next five years, 175,000 veterans took up the offer, many seeking entry to Queen’s.

As the economy transitioned from war to peace, the allure of a career in engineering exuded a powerful attraction. Two varieties of engineering students entered Queen’s in 1945. There was the usual influx of four-year students aiming for graduation in 1949. There was also a more eager cohort of 350 freshmen who were in a hurry to get out into the booming national economy.

To accommodate this ambition, the faculty devised an accelerated BSc program, one that ran 12 months a year. (During the war, Queen’s medical degrees had been similarly compressed.) At the culmination of first year, the students in this program would move immediately into a summer school for more classes. The pattern would repeat after second year, with the effect that these students would have a degree in hand in the fall of their third year at Queen’s. They became known as the class of Science ’48½.

The tightknit class had its own engineering society, sports events, dances and social activities, and yearbook, the Tricolor ’48½. In this publication, class president Roy Hurd gave a snapshot of his classmates:

"We of Science ’48½ came to Queen’s three years ago, one of the most varied groups ever to come to this campus. Ages varied from twenty-seven to seventeen; some were married with growing families, others single and hardly conscious of a fairer sex; some were just out of high school and some were war veterans and men with five to ten years’ experience in industry. One thing we have had in common – one purpose – to proceed to the degree of Bachelor of Science, Queen’s University."

Professor Douglas Ellis, Dean of Applied Science, had this message for Sc’48½ members in their yearbook:

"You will receive a kindly welcome and generous assistance in this profession of ours from the older men whom you will meet through the various societies and institutes. Among Queen’s people whom you will find scattered over the globe, you will realize that you are “of the family” and you will be warmly welcomed. In your turn, you will have the chance to welcome still later new-comers."

Taking this message to heart, in addition to the welcome and support they gave to engineering students who came after them, the members of Science ’48½ have actively helped aspiring engineering students.

In 1998, on the occasion of their 50th anniversary, they established the Science '48½ Mature Student Entrance Bursary. The bursary is given to promising students who have been out of the traditional education system for at least three years. The bursary has now enabled 16 men and women to pursue engineering at Queen’s.

The newest recipient is Patrick Shorey, who began his studies in September. Mr. Shorey has worked in the marine sector for the last six years, most recently aboard small youth sail-training ships that operate seasonally on the Great Lakes. He often worked alongside practising engineers and naval architects. While studying for his captain’s licence, he was exposed to the principles of ship design and he wanted to pursue the field in more depth.

The bursary has made a huge difference in his life, he says. The financial support of the class of Sc’48½ means that he can focus on his studies, without the stress of balancing a job in addition to school and home life. (He and his partner are expecting their first child this autumn.)

The small community of fellow Sc’48½ scholars has also been a source of advice and perspective. While there is only one Science ’48½ bursary recipient added every year, the bursary is renewable for three more years.

Fellow Science ‘48½ scholars like Shelby Nicholson, Sc’17, now in his fourth year, are on campus to help Mr. Shorey navigate the school system. The Sc’48½ bursary community also meets in Kingston every fall for a celebratory dinner. In September, Mr. Shorey met previous bursary recipients, now established in their careers, as well as original Sc’48½ member Bob Scally.

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