Dean Pearl Sullivan was a warrior and beacon of courage

Waterloo Engineering Dean Mary Wells reflects on the legacy of the faculty's first woman dean

mary wellsPearl Sullivan was immensely proud to be part of Waterloo Engineering and invested everything she had to make it a better place for our students, faculty members and staff until her death last November.

Pearl faced her 12-year battle with cancer as a warrior, refusing to allow the illness to slow down her fierce determination to advance the Faculty she loved in every way possible.

Under her leadership as the first woman dean of Waterloo Engineering from 2012 until 2019, the Faculty reimagined engineering education and research with revolutionary spaces including the spectacular Engineering 7 building and transformative programs that will ensure Waterloo remains a leader in engineering well into the future.

The founding director of the collaborative graduate program in nanotechnology within the Faculties of Engineering and Science, Pearl was a recipient of the University’s Outstanding Performance Award in 2009.

She championed the Faculty’s work in disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, robotics and wireless communications, and expanded the potential for industry collaboration and government backing in key areas of research.

A passion for supporting students

Passionate about supporting her students, Pearl worked tirelessly to ensure they had a full understanding of engineering principles as well as the tools and facilities they needed to succeed.

An advocate for entrepreneurship, she enthusiastically worked to both elevate and champion our entrepreneurial students and alumni.

She also provided a strong voice for women and promoted full diversity and inclusion in engineering. One of her priorities was to reach out to girls in elementary school to ignite excitement about the possibilities of engineering.

In 2007, Pearl recruited me to the University of Waterloo as a mechanical and mechatronics engineering faculty member.

Pearl Sullivan at eventShe quickly became my mentor as well as a close friend who was an inspiration to me. I owe her a great debt of gratitude for leading the way and showing me what was possible.

While Pearl thrived on developing and launching major strategic initiatives, she particularly enjoyed spontaneous meetups with students, especially in their design and classroom activities, along the hallways and in the elevators.

She devoted her life to the education of young minds and the care of her beloved family: her husband Tom, a Waterloo civil and environmental engineering project manager, son Michael (Emma), and daughters Veronica and Christina.

Pearl is irreplaceable, and the memory of her personal strength will always be a beacon of courage for me and everyone who had the privilege of knowing her.