The Systems Design Engineering class of ’83 recently gathered in Muskoka, Ontario to celebrate their 40-year reunion. A group of roughly 30 SYDE classmates – more than half the graduating class, along with 15 spouses – reflected on their adventures since their graduation 40 years ago, along with the importance of staying connected and what it means to be a Waterloo Engineering alum.  

SYDE graduates go on to work in a variety of industries around the world, and this class was no exception, with many pursuing careers internationally. For this class, reunion weekends have become an important get-together to nurture friendships.

Back in 2008, Judy Farvolden took charge, with the help of many enthusiastic SYDE classmates, and plans were soon underway for the class's first off-campus reunion in Prince Edward County to celebrate 25 years since their class graduation.

David Ho, who has been living abroad working in the telecommunications sector, and now a business investor in Hong Kong since 1988, booked his ticket immediately. Winning the award for the furthest travelled SYDE ’83 classmate, Ho has returned from Asia for every SYDE reunion.

I travelled halfway around the world to attend the reunion and shared with everyone how much I was looking forward to the next one

David Ho, BASc ’83

After the success of the first event, Bill Tatham and his wife Janna offered their Muskoka-area cottage for the 30-year reunion in 2013. It too was a terrific success, with people travelling from all over to rekindle old friendships and strengthen connections.

Word about these fun and meaningful class of ‘83 reunions spread, and interest grew for a special 40th reunion in 2023, which the Tatham once again offered to host. 

As part of that 40th reunion, Mark Turchan, who has spent most of his career in the U.S., scheduled a trip to Kitchener-Waterloo (his hometown) to participate in the 2022 UW President’s Golf Tournament.  

At the tournament, fellow SYDE alumni John Vellinga (BASc ‘91) and Katherine Vellinga (BASc ’92) were auctioning off a custom vodka experience of their highly successful Zirkova Vodka Brand in support of University of Waterloo student-athletes. Turchan placed the winning bid and invited the Vellingas to deliver the experience at the 40th reunion in the Summer of 2023.

It is quite extraordinary that after 40 years, the class of ‘83 still gets together. Such a lasting bond is a testament to the camaraderie they shared as students.

John Vellinga, BASc ’91

Another Kitchener-Waterloo native, Robert Ober moved to Silicon Valley after graduation and had only seen a handful of his classmates in the intervening years, including a few meetups with Ho in Beijing. The reunion was an event Rob felt he couldn’t miss. He was pleasantly surprised at how easily he fell back in step with his classmates, recalling names and stories from their undergraduate years.   

“It was fantastic getting together with people I had been close to, but haven’t seen in forever,” said Ober. “There was a lot of laughter at the reunion, and it didn’t seem like a lot of time had passed.”   

Also in attendance was John McPhee, a systems design engineering professor who got to know many of the class of ‘83 students as he completed his graduate studies at UW.  

“Every class is unique in terms of where people go after graduation and the diverse career paths they take,” said McPhee. “It is truly exceptional how this group has come together for these special reunions.”  

Turchan said, “Based on the feedback, the 40th reunion was a tremendous success, and our class wants to up the frequency of these events to every five years or less!”

The group agreed reunions are a special opportunity to reconnect and continue to build relationships. They have come to understand that their shared Waterloo experiences shaped not only their professional paths but also their values and outlooks on life. With many in the SYDE class of ’83 now transitioning towards retirement, their delight in each other’s company is a reminder that success is not solely measured by career milestones, but also by supportive relationships, purposeful impact, and ongoing curiosity.

Interested in building your Waterloo Engineering network? Find out how you can get involved.