On November 2, the U of T Engineering community gathered at Hart House to celebrate 10 alumni and students for their outstanding achievements, and their contributions to the Faculty and the engineering profession.
“Alumni are a vital part of our university community,” says Dean Chris Yip. “The recipients of these awards are exemplary torchbearers of our Faculty’s 150-year legacy. Through their unwavering commitment to innovation, service and excellence, they have become beacons of inspiration for our students, and ambassadors of change in our community. Through their exceptional engineering accomplishments, they inspire us all and demonstrate the profound impact engineers can have on society. Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients.”
Engineering Alumni Medal
First awarded in 1939, the Engineering Alumni Medal is the highest honour awarded by the Engineering Alumni Association. High achievement is the common thread that links past recipients of this medal. In their diverse careers, these individuals have demonstrated superior accomplishments and have responded with flair and excellence to the challenges they have faced. They are outstanding role models for engineering students.
The career of Professor Emerita Jane Phillips (ChemE 5T3) broke important ground for women in engineering. After earning her engineering degree from U of T in 1953, Phillips completed her MASc at Bryn Mawr, and her PhD at Johns Hopkins. In 1964, she returned to U of T as a lecturer and was one of the first women faculty members in engineering.
Phillips went on to join the PEO Council in the mid-80s as a Lieutenant Governor’s appointee, co-founded the Canadian Catalysis Foundation in the late 80s, and was elected PEO President in 1992. She also led the development of U of T’s Ethics in Engineering course and was involved in early Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Women in Engineering committees.
Engineering Alumni Hall of Distinction Awards
The Hall of Distinction is an assembly of extraordinary alumni, selected for membership by their peers for their lifelong accomplishments. These are graduates whose performances have ultimately defined what is most exemplary in our graduates and in our profession. The careers of the members stand as examples and add a sense of reality to the aspirations of successive generations of engineering students. Located in the Sandford Fleming Building, the Hall of Distinction is a familiar daily presence in the lives of students and is often visited by alumni and their families.
Professor Mark Kortschot (EngSci 8T4, ChemE MASc 8T5) has held numerous leadership roles in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering including eight years as an Associate Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, five and a half years as the Chair of Engineering Science, and half a year as the Acting Chair of First Year.
He played a significant role in the Faculty’s efforts to incorporate entrepreneurship and design into the curriculum, and helped to launch both the Entrepreneurship Hatchery and the first-year design course Engineering Strategies and Practice. His expertise in these areas was developed through his own entrepreneurial work as the inventor of the Sole Skate, one of TIME’s top ten toys of 2010, and as the co-founder of Légère Reeds Ltd., which produces synthetic woodwind reeds used by top musicians around the world.
In 2013, Kortschot was recognized with a fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and in 2022, earned the Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award within U of T Engineering. He also received the prestigious 2007 Alan Blizzard award for co-leading the development of Engineering Strategies and Practice, and he co-authored the text, Designing Engineers, used in this course.
Michael Kropp (ElecE 8T6) is co-founder, President and CEO of PEER Group, a leading global supplier of factory automation software for the semiconductor industry. Kropp launched PEER Group in 1992 with fellow U of T Engineering graduate, Bob Harris (IndE 7T5).
With a focus on technical proficiency, Kropp executes a business strategy by applying engineering principles to the software development life cycle, resulting in several key innovations in semiconductor factory and tool automation. Under his leadership, PEER Group matured into a 250-person, product-focused software company with offices in Kitchener, Toronto and Dresden, Germany. In 2023, Kropp became the first Canadian member of the SEMI North American Advisory Board.
Beyond his professional achievements, Kropp supports STEM-focused youth programs and implemented a comprehensive student co-op program at PEER Group to help inspire and nurture the next generation of engineers. He also drives corporate fundraising efforts for charities dedicated to improving the health, well-being and opportunities for disadvantaged families, youth and pets in the Region of Waterloo. These initiatives have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a significant and lasting positive impact on the lives of local residents.
As a life-long champion of mentorship, Nick Stark (MechE 7T8) garnered many awards over the course of his 45-year career at HH Angus and Associates Ltd., including the 2017 PEO/OSPE Medal for Engineering Excellence.
Stark’s contributions include actively guiding young engineers while ensuring that the profession stays future-focused overall. Examples include his membership on the CSA Technical Committee on Health Care Facilities; the role of vice-chair of Z8000, Health Care Facilities; and two decades of chairing the CSA Subcommittee on Special Requirements for HVAC Systems in Health Care Facilities.
Michael Zahra (ElecE 8T8) is a seasoned business executive, most recently as President and CEO of Drone Delivery Canada. Under his leadership, the company was recognized with the 2021 Ontario Innovation Award and the Top Small/Medium Employer award. He held prior leadership positions with Staples Professional, Yahoo, Schlumberger, Alcatel and Motorola.
Over the course of his career, Zahra has become known as a business turnaround and growth expert. He has shared his insights with U of T Engineering as a speaker, startup mentor for the Entrepreneurship Hatchery, mentor in the Skule™ Mentorship Program and as a judge in the University of Toronto Engineering Kompetition (UTEK). Zahra also serves on multiple boards, including the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), GrandBridge Energy, North York General Hospital, Junior Achievement and Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust. He also consults in emerging technologies.
2T5 Mid-Career Achievement Award
The Class of 2T5 was the first class in Canada to receive iron rings at The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Since 1975, the Class of 2T5 annually presents the 2T5 Mid-career Achievement Award. This award recognizes a graduate (11 to 25 years from undergraduate graduation) who has earned respect within the profession as well as the broader Canadian community.
Professor Alison McGuigan (ChemE PhD 0T5) is a leader in regenerative medicine, creating lab-grown tissues through her TRACER platform to explore metabolic reprogramming of tumour cells.
McGuigan earned her undergraduate degree in Material Science and Engineering at University of Oxford, followed by a PhD in Chemical Engineering at U of T alongside BME Professor Michael Sefton, a leader in the field of tissue engineering.
She completed post-doctoral research in microfluidics and microfabrication at Harvard University, with Professor George Whitesides, a pioneer in applying microfluidics for biological applications, and then completed a second post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University in developmental patterning and morphogenesis.
7T6 Early Career Award
The Class of 7T6 annually presents the 7T6 Early Career Award to engineering graduates who have attained significant achievement early in their career and shows promise of further contributions. The award is presented to an individual who is distinguished early in their profession, community, university and other related fields.
Atul Patidar (ECE MEng 1T5) is the founder of Farmkart Online, rent4farm and the non-profit The Next Impact. Launched in 2015, Farmkart is an agricultural supplies store for farmers in India and can deliver orders to remote places within 24-36 hours, allowing rural farmers to purchase fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, regardless of location. In 2021, Patidar launched his second venture, rent4farm, offering greater accessibility to machinery rentals for over 1,000,000 farmers.
Patidar subsequently founded a non-profit, The Next Impact, offering financial support to more than 100 Indian children for their education. During the pandemic, The Next Impact also launched an online self-assessment tool to track the spread of COVID-19 that helped authorities understand the spread in Central India.
Malcolm F. McGrath Alumni Achievement Award
Named in honour of Malcolm McGrath on his retirement as Assistant Dean – Alumni Liaison, this award recognizes contributions of personal service to the Faculty, the University or to the community. McGrath was the first assistant dean responsible for alumni affairs and development in the Faculty. Among his many accomplishments are the growth of the Annual Fund, the Engineering Open House, the introduction of the Skule™ Stage Band and the establishment of the Graditude Campaign.
As Class Leader, Electrical & Computer Engineering Ambassador, a founding member of the Skule™ Society Executive Committee, and Chair of the Skule™ Lunch & Learn Speaker Series, Lauri Hiivala (ElecE 6T5) has attracted volunteers and donors from around the world. And as an ECE Alumni Awards Committee member since 2019, Hiivala has championed other volunteers, but now it’s his turn to be recognized.
Over ten years of chairing the Skule™ Lunch & Learn, Hiivala transformed it into a global gathering for alumni of all career stages. He has spearheaded class gifts, encouraged classmates to identify potential award recipients and made strong friendships with alumni of all ages. Hiivala also cofounded the Class of 6T5 Electrical Engineering Award, and in 2017, he and his wife, Jean, established the Jean & Lauri Hiivala ECE Undergraduate Award, and the Jean & Lauri Hiivala Research Fund for Heart Health.
L.E. (Ted) Jones Award of Distinction
This award was established to acknowledge the contributions of Professor Emeritus L.E. (Ted) Jones and is in recognition of the contributions over his long and distinguished career to students, alumni and the Faculty. It also pays tribute to his continuing support and dedication to the Engineering Society and the Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) of the University of Toronto. The award endorses Jones’ great appreciation of the arts and his love of music.
Wing Yan Chan (IndE 2T2 + PEY) graduated this year. Her impact on the community around her has nevertheless been remarkable. When Chan was in first year, she joined the Skule™ Choir ensemble. With an Engineering Music Performance minor alongside her Industrial Engineering studies, she soon became the group’s primary collaborative pianist, and ultimately its manager.
From 2020 to 2022, Chan also led Musicians at Your Door, a U of T-wide group performing at GTA retirement homes, care homes and hospitals. When the pandemic hit, Chan transitioned the group to online delivery, working with the institutions to bring music to the residents virtually.
With her own YouTube channel and ongoing community activities, Chan has built a reputation as a talented musician and a leader who lifts others up.
Engineering Alumni Network Scholarship
Presented to a part-time or full-time student in good standing, proceeding to second, third or fourth year in any program in the Faculty. Recipients are selected based on the demonstration of a passion for engineering-related design, creativity and innovation as exhibited by involvement in the Skule™ community through design-related extracurricular activities, co-curricular involvement and/or entrepreneurial pursuits.
Kai Hashimoto (ChemE 2T5) is a third-year chemical engineering student at the University of Toronto and the incoming Project Manager of the Blue Sky Solar Racing design team for the 2024-2025 design cycle.
In 2022, Hashimoto joined the team as an aerodynamics member with an interest in computational fluid dynamics. From soldering solar arrays and orchestrating road testing of the team’s 11th generation car in Western Ontario, to studying dynamic vehicle behaviour under crosswind, Hashimoto’s passion for the project helped motivate his teammates while attracting new members, and fostering a multidisciplinary community among undergraduate engineering students, alumni and faculty.
Hashimoto is proud to be part of the team, and furthering its missions of innovation, sustainability and education. His role as Project Manager will begin after the team returns from the World Solar Challenge in Australia.