ONTARIO ALUMNI DINNER - OCTOBER 18th, 2005 REPORT
The third annual dinner in the present cycle was again held in The Albany Club, but this time in the fourth floor dining room dedicated to the memory of Sir John A. Macdonald. This smaller room was selected to accommodate the reduced numbers (35) who attended this year, most likely due to the difficulty of coordinating the speaker's availability with that of the Club, resulting in a Tuesday night gathering. As last year, special thanks are due to John Cary for taking care of the detailed arrangements with the Club and for his excellent choice of menu and wines, and also to Bill McConnell for assisting with the venue.
The evening proceeded with John Payne giving a brief summary of the year's activities, introducing the engineering theme of the dinner this year and proposing the toast to Canada. Heather Colhoun then gave the toast to Ireland, followed by the grace said by Peter Hearn after which the company sat down to the Albany's, always good, rack of lamb. After the meal, Hilary Selby proposed the toast to Trinity and, at the same time, provided a brief vignette of her time at College.
The main speaker this year was Professor Jane Grimson, well known to a number of our members who studied engineering. She was educated at Alexandra School and was the first female graduate in Engineering from Trinity in 1970. She gained an MSc in Computer Science at the University of Toronto before returning to Scotland to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. She is Dean of Engineering and Systems Sciences at Trinity and also Professor of Health Informatics at the College and until recently, Vice- Provost. Jane was the first woman president of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland (IEI) from 1999-2000 and President of the Health Informatics Society of Ireland from 1999-2004.
Jane began by reminiscing on her connections with Canada, from her days at the University of Toronto to her brother in Ottawa. She moved on to describe the recent changes at TCD, including the physical appearance of the campus and the faculty reorganization. Rooms have been upgraded with bathrooms ensuite; the James Ussher Library is spectacular overlooking the cricket pitch; the Lloyd Institute houses both high performance computing and neurosciences; the CRANN nanoscience building at the intersection of Pearse Street and Westland Row will be a low vibration structure shielded from the railway; and also in the same area there will be a new Sports Centre.
She explained how the new academic structure in TCD comprises Faculties, Schools and Vice-Deaneries, incorporating departments. This is a strategic plan responding to slashed budgets, which have had a big impact. There now has to be a flow of resources and faster decisions. Things are moving at warp speed although in the molasses of academic decisions. There has to be resource allocation phased in with new energy. There are now over 15,000 students, broad curriculum initiatives, small group teaching, interfaculty teaching with courses outside a given discipline, and lots of research. Trinity is now 87th in the world university rankings and ahead of other Irish universities.
There then followed a question and answer period with some tough and searching questions from the floor, well fielded by Professor Grimson. There was discussion about the North American partly taught PhD model versus the apprentice system. There were comments about the huge numbers in medicine and the enrolment of foreign students. Depth and breadth of studies were argued against specialization with consideration for a common entry and specialization later. Finally, there was a spirited defence of the value of the classics, albeit by an Oxford graduate guest (who is always welcome).
The evening concluded with Bill Jermyn thanking Jane Grimson, while again offering his eclectic and entertaining thoughts to us on a variety of subjects. They seemed to focus on the low self esteem of engineers in donkey coats in relation to doctors, though he thought vets were further down the ladder in this regard. Meanwhile, on a more philosophical note, he suggested the intention of education is to lead people out rather than be just taken in. Finally he mused on the need for, and use of, the old college bathhouse. After all who needs a bath when the terms are only eight weeks long?
Next year's dinner is scheduled for Friday, October 20th, 2006 at The Albany Club with Margaret MacMillan, Provost of Trinity College, University of Toronto and author of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, as the guest speaker.