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Stamp of approval

(May 18, 2000, Gazette)

Dr. R. Seshadri (L) accepted a first day cover of the new engineering stamp from Frank Connors.

Photo by Chris Hammond

By Susen Johnson

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was the scene of a special ceremony April 25 when Canada Post unveiled a new stamp recognizing the 75th anniversary of the ritual of the calling of the engineer, known as the Iron Ring Ceremony.

Dr. R. (Sesh) Seshadri, dean of engineering, accepted a first day cover of the stamp on behalf of the faculty, while Steve McLean, president of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland, accepted on behalf of the professional organization.

Frank Connors, director of Operations for Canada Post (Newfoundland), described the stamp as a “philatelic masterpiece.” It is, in fact, a rarity in stamp-collecting circles, and a first in Canadian postage: a tete-beche, meaning a design incorporating two halves which adjoin to create a whole, and depicts four images of great Canadian engineering achievements: the CP High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta; the Polysar company (producers of synthetic rubber) from Sarnia, Ontario; a microwave transmission tower from the Trans-Canada Microwave Radio Relay System; and the Pacemaker, developed by John Hopps at the National Reseach Council’s laboratory in 1949.

The design reflects the innovation of the profession as a whole, Mr. Connors asserted, recognizing the important role engineers play in Canada.

“Throughout Canada, where once there was only wilderness, engineers contributed to building modern cities and establishing flourishing industries,” he said. “Without them, the Canadian dream would never have been possible.”

Also on hand for the event were J. L. Barron and Roger Squires, current and past-presidents of the St. John’s Philatelic Society, and local Canada Post officials Paul Gosse, field support postmaster (Bay Roberts), and Len Carroll, retail manager. Mr. Barron, also an engineer and a MUN alumnus (class of ‘43), noted that this new stamp was very important to the Canadian stamp-collecting community, while Mr. Squires added, “It is highly-collectible and unique, so it should interest some youthful collectors, too.”

“It’s not often that engineers are recognized for their imput and leadership,” Mr. McLean added. “When we talk about Churchill Falls, for example, we often talk about money, but not about the fact that it is great engineering feat.”

Indeed, discussion of the iron ring ceremony is a relatively new phenomenon, as the ritual is generally considered a secret among the profession.

A Canadian creation, the first iron ring ceremony was held in Montreal in 1925 after a University of Toronto engineering professor identified a need for the organization to bind more closely. Designed and written by British poet Rudyard Kipling, the ceremony is a symbolic welcome into the profession and involves an oath of obligation and the sizing of a ring to be worn on the little finger of the working hand. Some 250,000 Canadian engineers have taken part in the ceremony to date.