Summit Awards® A Journey With Some Special Moments

By Nordahl Flakstad

From an evening dedicated to honoring years and even lifetimes of achievement, an enduring memory of the APEGGA 1998 Summit Awards® may the singular act of courage by a man who spent a few moments on stage.

Outgoing APEGGA President Dennis Lindberg, P.Eng., who has been quite ill during the latter part of his presidency, accepted an Honorary APEGGA Life Membership as well as the traditional vest bestowed on retiring presidents to a standing ovation from the audience of approximately 800 gathered at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre on April 16.

In thanking for the award, Mr. Lindberg stated: "Unquestionably this is the highlight of my engineering career — to be recognized by so many of my colleagues and friends . . . I accept this award with a great deal of pride. My involvement on APEGGA Council and committees over the last few years has always been challenging and rewarding."

He also thanked those who have assumed some of his duties when his illness forced him to step back from some presidential responsibilities.

Mr. Lindberg specifically thanked 1997-98 Past President Fred Otto, P.Eng. PhD, 1st Vice President (now President) Dan Motyka, P.Eng. and 2nd Vice-President Connie Parenteau, P.Eng., APEGGA Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., members of APEGGA Council and staff. "The biggest thanks has to go to my wife Jacquie," said Mr. Lindberg. "She has given me her unfailing support through thick and through thin and without her support I wouldn’t be standing here tonight."

Later, during the vesting ceremony, he was joined by Mrs. Lindberg. She congratulated those present for their enthusiasm and dedication to the Association, their professions and the protection of society. The last year has been a busy and exciting experience, she said. "I would like to thank many of you here tonight for your overwhelming support during Dennis’ illness. Thanks for the visits, flowers, chauffeuring, cards, phone calls and E-mail. Your kindness will never be forgotten."

Summit Winners

The 8th Annual APEGGA Summit Awards® also recognized the accomplishments of six other individuals and one project. The recipients were:

Future issues will carry profiles on the 1998 Summit recipients.

"Success is a Journey"

This year’s Summit Awards® honoring excellence in the practice of engineering, geology and geophysics in Alberta centred on the theme "Success is a Journey". The theme was complemented by a motif built around the nostalgia associated with the legendary Orient Express train running between Paris and Istanbul. Prior to the gala presentation, Summit attendees had an opportunity to relive some of the glitz and glamour of a bygone era. Supplied with "play money" they "hopped aboard" the casino car to try their hand at the roulette wheel and other games of chance. Adding to the 1940s art deco theme were the Gershwin numbers and other tunes served up by the Tommy Banks Quintet and singer Sheri Somerville.

Co-MC Rob Stewart, P.Geoph., PhD, reminded the audience that we all are on a journey. While students are "beginning your journey with our professions . . . still others, like our recipients tonight, have reached the summit of their professional and personal lives." Co-MC Arlene Howell-Pick, P.Eng. later added that the Summit recipients are characterized by "their dedication" and "a drive for excellence that is unparalleled".

It has become a tradition to dedicate the Summit Awards® to the memory of APEGGA members who have exemplified the spirit, integrity and commitment embodied by the awards. This year, two deceased presidents of the Association, Benjamin Leonard Thorne, P.Eng., and Leroy Allan "Chick" Thorssen, P.Eng., were so honored. Mr. Thorne, a senior official with the CPR who served as president in 1926. Mr. Thorssen, president in 1954, divided his career between university teaching and private industry and eventually became president of Consolidated Concrete Ltd. in Calgary.

Government Greetings

Professional members and guests in the audience were joined by family and friends as well as representatives of other professions and government. In bringing greetings and congratulations from the City of Edmonton, City Councillor Brent Maitson, P.Eng., said engineers traditionally have undervalued their worth and the role they play in stimulating economic activity and in opening educational opportunities. "Society places incredible expectations on engineers but sometimes those expectations are not compensatory with the rewards we receive, " said Mr. Maitson. Also in attendance was Alberta’s Minister of Public Works Supply and Services, Hon. Stan Woloshyn who was joined on stage by Susan Kwan, P.Eng., recently recognized in the Alberta Legislature as APEGGA’s 30,000th member. The Minister listed a number of the Association’s achievements of the past year, in particular, implementation of the Continuing Professional Development program, APEGGA’s contribution to the 1997 Growth Summit, and the signing with Alberta Labor of a memorandum of understanding on occupational health and safety. Mr. Woloshyn said: "APEGGA contributes more to the province than you give yourself credit for . . . The dedication of its members gives APEGGA the ability to respond to the ever-changing needs of the professions."

Education Emphasized

A number of the Summit Award recipients, in thanking for their awards, took the opportunity to stress the importance of APEGGA and the professions supporting young Albertans in pursuit of their educational dreams, particularly in engineering and the earth sciences.

In words directed to younger people, Spragins Award winner Raj Bishnoi urged: "have courage not to let anyone stifle you. If you do not like the structure around you in which you work, go and start your own company. Concepts and ideas are infinite, natural resources are finite. It’s your ideas that will take Alberta and Canada to the forefront in the coming century."

Honorary Membership recipient Ted Newall, vice chair and CEO of Nova Corporation, emphasized the need to train and retain more engineers, geologists and geophysicists if Alberta is to achieve its economic potential. Our province has a huge shortage of engineers and this shortfall poses a threat to continued economic growth. At the same time, said Mr. Newall: "We have a situation today where we are denying access at the University of Alberta and The University of Calgary to hundreds and hundreds of highly qualified young people because we don’t have space for them. We’re artificially rationing access to engineering education."

APEGGA, he said, must make it a high priority to spread the word within government and elsewhere, that "the road to heaven is paved with graduating more and more engineers."

APEGGA Early Accomplishment Award recipient Suzanne Kresta pointed to an environment at the University of Alberta which demands excellence and encourages leadership. One of the great driving forces at the university is its students, a resource that deserves our special attention. And Dr. Kresta cautioned: "It’s easy to look at the bottom line but it’s much harder to measure the impact we have on our students and colleagues. Sometimes we say the right thing at the right time and it makes a difference. Sometimes we see understanding happen, or attitudes change, or people grow to be a little taller in themselves . . . I urge all of you take the time to talk to the young people in your companies and in your lives to share your experiences with them. There is no more rewarding contribution you can make."

Walter Dilger, who received APEGGA’s highest recognition, the APEGGA Centennial Leadership Award, reflected on how, as a young German engineer arriving in Calgary in the 1960s, he had the benefit of a nurturing and supportive faculty. In addition, he attributed his success to many students who assisted his research. Being recognized by one’s peers with the Association’s highest award, he said, "is the proudest moment of my career as a professional."