Dear Fellows and Friends of the Academy,
I would like to express my profound gratitude for the honour and privilege of your trust in having been elected the president of the Canadian Academy of Engineering for the 2012/2013 term.
As we all know too well, we build on the shoulders of the giants that have preceded us, and to this end, I intend to ensure the seamless continuation of the numerous important initiatives undertaken by the past eight presidents I have had the privilege to serve: Kim Sturgess, Michael Charles, Axel Meisen, John Leggat, Ravi Ravindran, John McLaughlin, Kathy Sendall, and Ron Nolan. Over the years, these stellar leaders have been the architects of many significant Academy initiatives which benefit us to this day, including:
Unfortunately, despite the quality of its membership, the Academy remains challenged in its ability to make its vision a reality, a vision that states that it should: “… provide strategic advice on matters of critical importance to Canada.” Why is this so? There are three reasons for this. Our Academy’s membership is small. This should come as no surprise … The Academy aims to celebrate only the very best among Canadian engineers. Our Academy lacks financial means. Contrary to most other national engineering academies, it is subsidized by its members only, and our membership is modest in comparison to others. Finally, our Academy lacks the volunteer organization it needs to achieve its aims.
Now, let’s take these points one at a time. As for our low membership, there is little we can do. If we are to continue to celebrate the most senior, accomplished and successful of all Canadian engineers, our membership will necessarily remain modest. As for our financial means, there is a limit to what a single Executive Director can do at Academy Headquarters in Ottawa. However, as for our volunteer organization, there is a great deal that we can do which, in time, will impact the other two!
If for a moment, we are candid about ourselves, we meet essentially once a year, deliberate, have a good time, resolve to do more to advance the mission of the Academy, and then return to the four corners of Canada to more immediate preoccupations … Fellows of the Academy, we can do better! If the Academy is to be accountable to its founding vision, if the Academy is to have real impact on our country as it was founded to do, we must do better! If we look back at every successful outcome that we have achieved as an Academy, the engagement of individual Fellows has been the cornerstone of our every success!
Let us consider the following example. Many of you have recently seen the May 25th, 2012 edition of the Globe and Mail where an 8-page supplement launched the Academy’s publication entitled: “Canada: Winning as a Sustainable Energy Superpower”! When we dissect this successful initiative, we see that it came to fruition thanks to a group of Academy Fellows from all over Canada who came together around a common purpose, gave themselves ambitious goals, and with the Board’s approval, worked tirelessly to achieve their objective! Clearly, the Academy has the capability to contribute powerfully to national dialogue when our Fellows put their mind to it!
Now, what if we had not one, but three, five or even ten teams working on ambitious projects at any given time, on a variety of topics! Would the Academy not achieve real visibility, and would it not have real impact on national policy and direction over time? Over the 2011/2012 term, with the unflagging support of our Past President, Kim Sturgess, and that of the entire Board, I have actively pursued the project of defining a framework for significantly enhancing the engagement of Academy Fellows. A pilot project, now approved by the Board, aims to go forward in creating local three volunteer Sections which will host workshops, conferences, luncheon meetings, seminars, annual meetings of the Academy, or take on special projects on behalf of the Academy. The intent is to explore the feasibility of this approach.
I deeply believe in this initiative. In so doing, the Academy’s footprint will eventually extend across Canada. More Academy activities will take place, enhancing public awareness, raising the Academy’s profile, facilitating recruitment of high-quality Academy candidates from both industry and academia and over time, and providing badly-needed direction to our nation! As we all know, much remains to be done to strengthen Canada’s sovereignty, to support its economic prosperity, to further its unity, to ensure its quality of life, to reduce its carbon footprint, and to continue to build our nation for the benefit of future generations. And we need not be shy of the notion of building our country: we have only to look at many countries in Asia today to see that there is still much nation-building going on in the world in the 21st century! Engineers have a great deal to contribute on all of these topics, and the Academy has a tremendous opportunity to fill this space!
Over the 2012/2013 term, on behalf of the Academy, I will partner with Fellows wherever they may be, and help create local Sections of the Academy in willing communities, in the hope of inaugurating a new era, one characterized by a more vital and active Academy, a truly “Canadian Academy of Engineers”!
If there is anything here that might have caught your interest, I invite you to meet with me or connect with me at any time to participate in this new phase of the Academy’s journey!
I remain grateful for your generous support, and look forward to meeting all of our members, in time.
Richard J. Marceau, FCAE, P.Eng., Ph.D.