Clark Hall welcomes engineering alumni

First ever Round Table Traditions shows students how to use opportunities at Queen’s in later life

Mike O’Connor Sci’68, creator of Golden Words, speaks to students about traditions at Queen’s.
Mike O’Connor Sci’68, creator of Golden Words, speaks to students about traditions at Queen’s.

Notable Engineering alumni including the creator of Golden Words, the Tea Room and founder of Clark Hall Pub, returned to Queen’s on Tuesday to partake in Round Table Traditions Clark Hall Pub. The event was hosted by the Professional Engineering Perspectives (PEP) Talks.

Mike O’Connor, Sci ’68 who started Golden Words said the creation of the newspaper was untraditional back then, but it has evolved into a prominent Queen’s tradition today. O’Connor started off the evening by speaking to the students about traditions.

“I came to talk to you about traditions and I tell you that but you should know that I’m probably one of the most untraditional people you will have ever met in your life but I still think traditions are important, especially at Queen’s,” he told the crowd.

O’Connor said he decided to start Golden Words because he felt the university needed another media outlet.

“When I see you, I see me 46 years ago, but you are all different,” he said.

O’Connor recalled that his roommate at Queen’s had bought a customized yellow leather jacket and put ‘Queen’s Engineering’ on the back, which led to the tradition of leather Engineering jackets today.

Michele Romanow, Sci ’07 and MBA ’08 started the Tea Room and also sat on the Board of Directors for EngSoc. She said the event is a great way for students and alumni to connect.

“I think it’s wonderful to share how I used my experience here and how it impacted my life. It means so such to have the opportunity to give back,” she said.

Romanow said she first started the planning of the Tea Room during her second year at Queen’s and opened the store for the first time in the fall of 2007 during her fourth year.

“We were at a very interesting point in time. We weren’t just telling engineers to make things lighter or faster anymore, we were telling them to make things greener,” she said, adding that the Tea Room was a way to put the sustainability encouraged in engineering into a physical entity.

“I think I was genuinely skeptical about [green engineering], so I thought why not take it and try to make it into something physical, like a high-marginal business like coffee and see if we can make it sustainable,” she said, adding that the Tea Room helped her gain experience that she uses as director of strategy for Sears Canada.

“I think it largely operates in the same principles that it did when we first found it. It was about environment and education,” Romanow said.

Brian Sterling, Sci ’74, said he was excited to speak to students about his experience at Queen’s and tell them about how an idea turned into Clark Hall Pub.

“It was after an EngSoc meeting, I was on the EngSoc council and we were talking about how we could get students and professors together in a social [environment] sort of break down the barriers,” he said. “This was still in the days of where faculty was looked at like these removed god-like entities.”

Sterling said at first they turned a lounging room into a pub every Friday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“I think the first few times we did it on a Friday afternoon we actually put an ad on Golden Words,” he said, adding that although it was difficult at first to get professors to come, they always ensured they had at least three or four.

“When we first started it, we told people about it and said ‘if you bring a prof, you both get a free beer,’ ” he said.

Since those days, Sterling said Clark has changed a lot.

“Where the pillar is, that was the wall, the bar area used to be rooms for the Engineering Society, and the area in front of the stage is where the Golden Words office was,” he said.

“It was small room; it was more like a lounge than a pub. There was no bar, no fridges, no taps, basically it was a lounge that we turned into a pub for three hours on a Friday afternoon,” he said, adding that each Friday they had to apply for a liquor license since they didn’t have University licenses then.

Sterling, who was in chemical engineering, said working at Clark Hall Pub helped him realize his passion for working with people.

“Clark Hall really helped me understand that what I really like to do is work with people. So what I did when I went out to look for jobs that involved working with people a lot and that meant sales,” Sterling said, adding that he now heads an agricultural firm in Guelph.

“Getting a good education is important but using the opportunity at Queen’s to learn outside the classroom is probably as important if not more important.” Kevin McCormick, an organizer for the event, greeted students at the talk and said it was a great opportunity for students to have a chance to listen to alumni and their stories about life after Queen’s.

“In engineering a lot of your classes are quite technical and you can sometimes start to forget what engineering really is and what you could actually do with your degree,” McCormick, Sci ’11, said.

McCormick along with Vaughn DiMarco founded PEP Talks in early 2010 and organized the event with the help of their committee members.

“We had an event last year at the very end, this was our third event,” McCormick said, adding that the committee is supported by both the Faculty of Engineering and the Engineering Society.

“They are both helping us either way they can. We’re not sure if it will become a part of Eng Soc,” he said.

McCormick said the committee really hopes it becomes a tradition to host the Traditions at Clark Hall Pub night annually.

“[We hope] it will continue after we leave the school,” he said.

PEP Talks is hosting their next event on Oct. 22, in which Chief Nuclear Officer Wayne Robbins will be speaking to students about being an Engineer and Nuclear history.

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