Alumni, students and supporters honoured at dinner

Thursday, November 14, 2019

More than 350 people were on hand as Waterloo Engineering celebrated both timely support and impressive success at its 2019 Awards Dinner this week.

In addition to hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students recognized for excellence in their academic and extracurricular endeavors, additional funding was announced for four student startup companies through the Engineer of the Future Fund.

Backed by donors Ray Tanguay, Don Walker, Matthew Cowan, Inga Rinne and Jatin Nathwani, the $1,500 prizes went to startups IuvoDerm, Atelier Sao, Caravai and Stacktronic.

“As you look around this room you will see why our quest to be the epicentre of technology talent is so very achievable,” Dean Pearl Sullivan told the audience. “The brilliant minds, contagious imaginations and deeply curious nature of the people here tonight are necessary ingredients to global impact through innovative solutions and emerging technologies.”

Jeff Dietz and Kathleen Forde, the Iron Ring Wardens of Camp 15, also took the stage to present a cheque for $10,000 to the Faculty.

The highlight of the annual event at Federation Hall was the presentation of awards to alumni in four categories and a longtime corporate supporter of engineering research, education and outreach.

Recipients of the five featured honours were:

Hydro One - Friend of the Faculty Award

Among many contributions by Hydro One was the establishment in 2003 of an online master of engineering program in electric power generation.

Geared toward industry professionals, the program has enjoyed both financial support and guidance from company officials, plus promotion and use of some of its facilities for exams.

Hydro One representatives (left to right) Greg Lane, Sara Aslanbeigi, Temesghen Bzauayehu, Bahareh Tehrani and Vivian Yoanidis pose together at the 2019 Awards Dinner.

Hydro One representatives (left to right) Greg Lane, Sara Aslanbeigi, Temesghen Bzauayehu, Bahareh Tehrani and Vivian Yoanidis pose together at the 2019 Awards Dinner.

Its “unwavering support” also includes endowment of a $1.5-million chair in power engineering held by Professor Claudio Canizares, and $500,000 to endow two Hydro One graduate scholarships.

Backing from the company has been instrumental in advancing research at Waterloo Engineering in areas including power distribution systems, energy storage, demand response and smart electricity grids.

Undergraduate students have benefitted from scholarships as well, and the company has funded Engineering Outreach programs and Women in Engineering initiatives, including a conference for Grade 10 and 11 students.

Bahareh Tehrani, a senior planner and engineer who did her master’s degree at Waterloo, highlighted the progress Hydro One has made in terms of diversity and inclusion, and its plans to do more, since she joined the company in 2005.

“Now we have females in all ranks in the company and on every team,” she said, noting 22 per cent of its electrical engineers are women, 10 per cent more than the industry average. “I’m really proud to be part of this organization and I’m delighted to see how it has grown and expanded.”

Martin Basiri - Young Alumni Achievement Medal

Basiri (MASc ’13, mechanical engineering) was still completing his master’s degree in mechatronics engineering at Waterloo when he took on the challenge of bringing his two younger brothers over from their native Iran to study in Canada as well.

His success in the face of long odds - recruiters had told him it would be impossible - inspired him to help other people who run into roadblocks when they try to attend institutions abroad.

Martin Basiri, left, poses with his award with Dean Pearl Sullivan.

Martin Basiri, left, poses with his award with Dean Pearl Sullivan.

The result is ApplyBoard, a company founded by Basiri and his twin brothers to guide students through the application processes required by schools and governments.

It uses artificial intelligence to help students around the world apply for universities, colleges and high schools in Canada and the United States by matching them to programs based on factors such as qualifications and finances.

Launched in 2015, and driven by a belief that “education is a right, not a privilege,” ApplyBoard now employs more than 250 people throughout Ontario and abroad.

Basiri gave an impassioned acceptance speech recalling how he couldn’t even order food in English when he arrived in Canada nine years ago and outlining his five secrets to success, including dreaming big and a willingness to fail big.

“Go for it – and don’t have a plan B,” he said. “The main reason people fail is because they have a plan B. Focus on your plan A.”

Brian Courtney and Aman Thind - Team Alumni Achievement Medal

Courtney (BASc ’97, computer engineering) and Thind (BASc’04, computer engineering) are the founders of Conavi Medical, a Toronto-based company that develops imaging devices to help cardiologists deliver better health care.

An interventional cardiologist at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Courtney built on his undergraduate degree in computer engineering at Waterloo by earning master’s and medical degrees at Stanford University, where he co-founded two medical device companies.

Aman Thind addresses the audience at Federation Hall while Brian Courtney, his partner at Convai Medical, looks on.

Aman Thind addresses the audience at Federation Hall while Brian Courtney, his partner at Convai Medical, looks on.

Thind also earned a computer engineering degree at Waterloo, then did a doctorate in medical biophysics, with a focus on ultrasound, at the University of Toronto.

The two came together to launch Conavi nine years ago and have gone on to develop two minimally invasive imaging devices - Novasight Hybrid and Foresight ICE - to improve image guidance and visualization during cardiovascular procedures.

The company employs more than 100 people, and Courtney and Thind together hold over 60 patents.

“It’s great to be back on campus seeing all of the energy, passion and talent that brought me here in the first place and helped drive an entrepreneurial spirit to go on and do what we’re currently doing,” said Thind.

Courtney recalled giving a graduation speech urging classmates at Waterloo to use their skills and educations to do good in the world.

“We have the potential to save thousands of lives with this technology, so it’s something we’re really, really excited about,” he said of their own work at Conavi.

Nikolaos (Nick) Aroutzidis – Alumni Achievement Medal in Community Service

Armed with undergraduate and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Waterloo, Aroutzidis (BASc ’89, civil engineering, MASc ’93, civil engineering) founded NA Engineering Associates in 1994.

With offices in Stratford, London and Kincardine, the consulting firm provides engineering services to the nuclear power industry throughout Ontario and was acquired this summer by the Westinghouse Electric Company.

Dean Pearl Sullivan, left, presents the Alumni Achievement Medal in Community Service to Nick Aroutzidis.

Dean Pearl Sullivan, left, presents the Alumni Achievement Medal in Community Service to Nick Aroutzidis.

Away from work, Aroutzidis has also made a mark through numerous philanthropic and community endeavors, including instrumental efforts to create Rotary Respite House, a facility in Stratford that provides respite care for parents of children with developmental delays or who are medically fragile.

Organizations including the Stratford Junior B hockey team, the Huron-Perth Lakers Hockey Association and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association have all benefitted from his volunteer work.

Financially, Aroutzidis has supported the Stratford General Hospital – including money for a new MRI machine and a new pediatric room – and provided scholarships at Stratford high schools, and for engineering students at the University of Waterloo and Western University.

He spoke about learning the importance of giving from his parents in Greece before coming to Canada with just $1,200 and working his way through school at full-time jobs.

“It’s very simple,” Aroutzidis said of his philanthropic focus. “If we want to have a better world, we have to help others – because this is our legacy as human beings.”

Joseph M. Natale – Alumni Achievement Medal for Professional Achievement

Since graduating from Waterloo with an electrical engineering degree, Natale (BASc’87, electrical engineering) has gone on to become a leading executive and leader in business management and telecommunications.

He spent 14 years at Telus and for the last two years has been president and CEO of Rogers Communications, where revenues have increased six per cent during his tenure.

Natale is known as a results-driven, customer-first business leader with beliefs in a culture of inclusion, collaboration, transparency and accountability, values reflected in impressive employee engagement at Rogers.

Outside activities have included service on the board of trustees for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and with the CivicAction Leadership Foundation and the United Way.

Since joining Rogers, Natale has also expanded the company’s social responsibility program to include national volunteer and national giving initiatives for all employees.

He was unable to attend the awards dinner.

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