Friday, July 24, 2009

Chair Chat

In looking at past issues of the Civilian, I realized that we have not officially
welcomed the Mining, Geological, and Mineral alumni to the Department!

In 2006, the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program (formerly Mining/Geological Engineering) was brought under the administrative umbrella of Civil Engineering.

While the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program retains its unique identity, the move resulted in several benefits to both programs. Mining and Civil engineering were
two of the three original engineering diplomas offered by SPS in the 1880s (the third was Mechanical), and it is wonderful to see our cooperative history flourish to this day. So, on behalf of the Department of Civil Engineering, we welcome all the MIN/GEO alumni!

Since our last issue of the Civilian, I’ve met several hundred CIV/GEO/MIN alumni in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.

Our very first Alumni Dinner was attended by over 100 alumni and we expect the numbers to grow for next year’s event (February 26th, 2010).

Remarkably, this year we are offering our 90th year of survey camp! We’re celebrating with a birthday bash at Gull Lake on September 19th. We need your help to get the word out. Please contact your classmates to ensure that they know about this celebration. Details can be found on our website.

In summary, the upcoming important dates are:
Saturday, September 19th, 2009 – 90th birthday party of Survey
Camp at Gull Lake. Go on line for details of this event and to register.

Friday, February 26th, 2010 – Our Second Annual Alumni Dinner at
89 Chestnut.

As always, please ensure that your classmates and other alumni are receiving this newsletter. If they are not receiving it, ask them to contact Nelly or Colin to update their mailing addresses in our records.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Have a great summer!


Saving Survey Camp

When Survey Camp opened its doors for the first time in August, 1920, the toll of the Great War was still being counted. The losses were unprecedented, not only in
terms of actual wartime casualties, but in our capacity to support the systems, structures and functions of civil society that kept populations alive in peacetime as well.

While the world was turning to civil engineers to lead in the rebuilding of Europe, huge challenges also existed back in Canada. The School of Practical Science and the
government of the day recognized that thousands of skilled men returning home meant unpredictable population shifts and greater demands on the country’s infrastructure.

The vast, largely untouched lands north of Toronto were prime to be opened up for settlement, and civil engineers needed the perfect place to learn how to do it – a
beautifully rugged tract of land on the shores of Gull Lake.

Survey Camp has existed through some remarkable times: the Great Depression, World War II, the moon landing, and the walls of its historic buildings echo with such history.

Today, however, the challenges may be even more complex than in the past. In today’s environmentally threatened world, civil engineers are being asked to do more than

Today’s Challenges
The sudden, deep economic crisis that gripped the world in 2008 has placed huge financial constraints on all institutions’ budgets, and the University of Toronto is no exception. In January of this year, the University’s Administration faced the difficult decision to suspend the endowment payout slated for April 30, 2009.

Although the Faculty found internal sources to fund the majority of obligations normally supported by endowment, it resulted in enormous pressures on our operating budgets.

While we have been hit hard by the decline in financial markets, this situation cannot compromise our ability to deliver the highest quality education of any research university in the world. It is even more important that we re-commit ourselves to preserving Survey Camp – a unique feature of our Engineering Program that sets us apart from all others.

The heritage buildings at Gull Lake are beautiful, but they are aging along with the equipment stored inside. When it was originally built, the property was rather isolated. But the massive growth of the cottage market has meant that it is now situated in the middle of a prime vacation destination. Given these conditions, the case to sell-off the land could be seen as more compelling than ever.

We know that the closure of camp would be a devastating blow to the thousands of you whose University memories were distilled in those few weeks. Even worse would be the larger educational cost: the threat of closure and sell-off comes at a time when the world is turning to civil engineers on a scope never seen before in history.

Engineers are now being asked to solve the greatest problems of our time: the environmental and even social troubles that threaten the future of the very planet itself.

Our program has changed to meet these educational needs. The overarching theme of environmental, social and economic sustainability now permeates every course we teach. We know we can’t let our program shrink, and we’re ready to do something to protect it. We hope that you will join us in our efforts to Save Survey Camp.

The Opportunities
Ironically, the same phenomenon that is threatening Survey Camp may also prove to be the key to saving it. Huge demand for cottage space in the vicinity of Gull Lake
means that we have an opportunity to build a viable income property on the site.

The cottage(s) that have been proposed could be rented to alumni, faculty, staff, and other friends of the Department at highly competitive rates, turning Survey Camp into an inexpensive, convenient vacation site that supports an educational cause close to all our hearts.

The building projects envisioned could be wrapped into course work for current students as well as research for graduates and faculty. Topics such as sustainable buildings, envelope design, and energy could all be tied directly to each phase of the development, providing a hands-on value added experience for our students that would be unmatched in engineering education.

With this new development, we envision camp as a sustainable part of the Department that will serve students and alumni, be protected from the ups and downs of the financial market, provide a remarkable educational opportunity – and all this while staying committed to the principles of ecologically friendly design.

What We Need From You
In order to make this work, we need plenty of support from all corners of our community.

We need to tap into the vast know-how of our alumni group, and we are facilitating this through several different Alumni Task Forces. The first, the Survey Camp Initiative group, will help write a master business plan for the project,outlining its scope, initial financial cost, and logistics of making the project happen. The second will focus on External Relations, helping us to ensure that we are making
and maintaining the right connections and sending the right messages as an institution of higher education. The final group will deal with the Student Experience, and will ensure that we keep our program vital, relevant and interesting
in these challenging times.

We will need donations in kind – construction materials, supplies, tools, and transportation for all of this to Gull Lake. If you have or work with building materials, this may be the perfect way for you to get involved. Indeed, it would be of great practical help in accomplishing our goal.

Finally, we need financial donations of any amount, from individual supporters that might help us offset material costs or furnishings to class or industry sponsorship that could name a cottage and then use it throughout the year.

If you are in touch with classmates from your years, please be speak with them about the potential of this initiative. Several small donations, when pooled together, can have amazing results.

Survey Camp has survived plenty of monumental changes in the 20th Century. As we head into the future, we can ensure that we are prepared to protect this vital asset, the crown jewel of our Department, from all the unforeseen challenges that lie ahead. We can’t wait to get started, and we would love to hear from you. Please be in touch.