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Oration honouring Raymond David Findlay

Mr. Vice-Chancellor,
Much has been made in mythology and culture of those who can master the energy of the sky. Imagine cloud-gathering Zeus unleashing his fire, destroying ships in an instant on the wine-dark sea, or the Titan Prometheus stealing that fire for humanity, becoming our champion by giving us our earliest technology. Can you not hear a Galvani-inspired Victor Frankenstein's triumphant "It's alive!" and see the yellow eye of his hideous progeny open on that dark and rainy night? Can you not feel the earth shake as the Norse god of thunder—and Marvel superhero—Thor summons with his hammer the elements of the storm?
Consider, too, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, the scientists who discovered the truth in George Carlin's insight that "Electricity is really just organized lightning." From Ben Franklin and his lightning rods and Leyden jars, to Tesla, Edison, and their AC/DC wars, to Marconi's breakthrough in wireless telegraphy, which is for us in this province so close to home—these Titans are responsible for motoring and wiring our world.

There is a direct current, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, flowing from these bolt-hurling, fire-bringing sky gods, through these legendary cultural icons and these kite-flying figures in the history of electrical engineering, to the unassuming man who stands before you now.

Raymond David Findlay's career had both accidental and auspicious origins. I say accidental, because he had intended to go into mechanical engineering, but when young Ray saw the overly long line of registrants, he chose to become one of only four electrical engineering outliers that day. It was auspicious, because in 1963, when he graduated with his first of three degrees from the University of Toronto, he was awarded a prize by the newly formed IEEE, an organization that would absorb a considerable amount of his energy over the next five decades, and would eventually honour him with its Haraden Pratt Award for sustained leadership.

You may know, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, that the IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)—whose motto is the very Promethean "Advancing technology for humanity"—is the world's largest technical professional organization. It produces 30 per cent of the published literature in electrical engineering, computers and control technology, and it has more than 400,000 members in more than 160 countries, and more than 107,000 student members, who will, or may already, include many of the bright lights seated here today.
In 2002, after many years of service at the regional and national levels, Ray Findlay was the third Canadian to become its president, and there may not have been a more difficult year in the IEEE's long history in which to lead. But when he took office, Ray proved himself adept at engineering of a different kind, orchestrating with his team the IEEE's financial recovery from recession and the dot-com implosion, resolving frictions at the organization's executive level, and navigating a fraught global network in the aftershock of 9/11.

One wonders at the type of power supply needed to do all of this, and also to generate his 60 peer-reviewed publications and more than 120 conference presentations on electromagnetic fields and losses and related subjects; to secure four patents; to brilliantly teach and supervise undergraduate and graduate students for 24 years in McMaster's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and for 14 years before that at the University of New Brunswick; and to serve both of those universities in a remarkable number of administrative roles.

Ray Findlay's extensive contributions, both academic and professional, to the field of electrical engineering can only be attributed to a potent inner spark, a kind of lightning in a bottle over which he has been a true master. So now, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, for a career that has soared and crackled like Marconi's kites, for being a Prometheus in his profession, I ask you, or rather more aptly, I most humbly charge you, to confer the degree of doctor of science (honoris causa) upon Raymond David Findlay.

Jennifer Lokash, university orator