Life as one of UWaterloo’s First Civil Engineers

I grew up in Hamilton Ontario and at the age of six, my mother and I, the oldest child, were advised by two army officers, who visited our home, that my father was killed overseas in the war, on February 15, 1945.

This was a very emotional time for my family, especially for my mother who was already working hard to support us. With my dad out of the picture I knew that I would not be able to go to university, as we had limited funds. So I decided at the time, that I would go to high school to become a draftsman.

Then during high school, I received a personal letter from the Department of National Defense, which said I was eligible for a scholarship if I was accepted into a university, since my dad had passed away in the war. I immediately presented the letter to my teacher (A. Davies ), who took me by the hand and walked me down to the principal’s office where he requested that I be transferred to the academic stream immediately, as I had all the attributes to be a Civil Engineer and was eligible for a Federal Government Scholarship.

So what was the next step in this new life plan for Don Roughley?

old Waterloo handbook

Well, I began to work harder, I joined some sports teams, and eventually stood at the top of my class in the academic stream. Once grade twelve hit I was still unsure about where I wanted to attend university. Then one day, my friend showed me an ad for pre-engineering enrollment at Waterloo College and Associate Faculties and I knew that advertisement was meant for me. I made some enquires, wrote an exam, and was accepted in July, 1957!

My first work term was a great disappointment but then A.S (Bert) Barber “the father of co-operative education in Canada” stepped in and everything changed. Once Bert was appointed the Director of Co-operative Education he purposely sought me out and made an appointment to meet me, he then invited me to a meeting with the Surveyor General of Canada! Because of Bert Barber and the way he presented the co-operative program the Surveyor General was extremely supportive and interested in the new engineering school and its approach to education. I was then appointed by the Surveyor General and assigned to their Toronto office. I loved the job so much that I stayed for three work terms and was offered a job upon graduation.

A.S Barber always kept in touch with me and was an incredible mentor. He played a significant role in many students' lives and their transformation from boys to men, who were bright, dedicated, and truly hard working. His efforts have led to the greatness of the University of Waterloo and I am truly thankful for him and his impact on me.

A.S Barber helped me get my foot in the door and after a very successful career I eventually received my tenure as Director of Transportation for the Hamilton Wentworth Region. I was then contacted by the University of Waterloo and invited to become a member of the Industrial Advisory Council and later became its Chairman. Interestingly enough, Bert reached out to me again and provided some valuable advice which helped me become the first City Manager of Waterloo. This role allowed me to support the University in numerous ways so I was excited to climb on board. Two of my most significant contributions involved the University’s theatre program and the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery.

Donald Roughley's memories

The partnership between the City of Waterloo and the University is a strong one. As students, we knew little about what was going on behind the scenes regarding partnerships, the building of buildings, finances, and the issues concerning the creation of the University of Waterloo and the position of other Engineering Schools, negative to Co-operative Education. I recommend that all UWaterloo graduates read WATERLOO, by Kenneth McLaughlin to learn about the creation of one of the best Engineering schools in the world.

There is no doubt that my life has been unbelievably interesting and fulfilling with a life of extraordinary mentors, interesting positions, and fulfilling contributions. I’m currently enjoying the cottage life with my supportive family and I’m able to relax and enjoy it thanks to everything I experienced and learned at the University of Waterloo.