Oration | Address to Convocation
James H. Rogers was born in Ramea, Newfoundland. He is senior vice-president of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (Paprican). Mr. Rogers obtained his undergraduate degrees in Nova Scotia (B.Sc. at SFX and B.Eng. at Nova Scotia Technical College), after which he won the prestigious Athlone Fellowship to pursue graduate studies. He received his M.Eng. from the University of Birmingham in 1964 and subsequently returned to Newfoundland to work with Bowaters in Corner Brook as senior systems engineer. In 1971 he joined Paprican, a non-profit collaborative research and education organization supported by the pulp and paper industry. Paprican has a staff of 340 scientists, engineers and technicians in two laboratories (Quebec and British Columbia) and academic programs at McGill, École Polytechnique and the University of British Columbia.
At Paprican, Mr. Rogers led in the establishment of the research programs in systems engineering and control. He was founding director of the institute's Vancouver Laboratory in 1984 and became vice-president in 1985. When he took over as senior vice-president in 1990 he became head of all Paprican's research and educational programs. His leadership has been crucial in linking industry and academia in this important sector of both the Canadian as well as the Newfoundland economy. Mr. Rogers is the author of a number of technical papers, and is a member of Order des ingénieurs du Québec, the Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, and the Instrument Society of America.
Mr. Rogers will be awarded an honorary doctor of engineering degree.
Oration honouring James Hubert Rogers
Shane O'Dea, public orator
There is a marked distinction between the industrial world and the academic world. Indeed, some would say that they are not worlds but, rather, islands separated by great gulfs of perception. Certainly such is the popular view — that the academics sit high above the landscape in their towers of learning, immune to concerns of cash, sheltered by the walls of culture while below, on their island, the industrialists, wrapped only in their balance sheets, rape and despoil that landscape. It takes a brave man to bridge these worlds, for he knows that he is likely to be seen as an invader by both, disturbing the conservatism of one and the entrepreneurialism of the other. Your candidate is just such a man.
James Rogers, coming as he did from a small island, was one alert to the dangers of crossing those great gulfs of water and of the need to cross them if one was to progress. That the place of his birth, Ramea, is an island is significant to his role in the world but it has another significance. Ramea takes its name, so we are told by the great specialists in toponymics, from the French word for branch — rameaux — and is so named for the many-branched nature of its harbour. And in that we have another indicator of Jim Rogers' future — that he would eventually work in the forest products industry.
He began crossing these gulfs when quite young when the family left Ramea for Corner Brook to have access to a broader range of schooling. That peril confronted and the fear of crossings diminished, he crossed one of the greatest gulfs in Newfoundland — that between Corner Brook and St. John's — coming to the capital and to Memorial for one year.
Then it was over the Cabot Strait to do science at St. Francis Xavier and engineering at Nova Scotia Technical College. Winning a prestigious Athlone Fellowship in 1962, he crossed the Atlantic to go to Birmingham to pursue graduate work. It was there, while on assignment with a paper manufacturer, that Jim Rogers moved off the island of chemical engineering to work with computers; to be part of the experiment of using computers in manufacturing processes. He brought this knowledge and expertise back to Newfoundland when he came to work for Bowaters developing their computer control systems and serving as their senior systems engineer for six years.
In 1971 he moved to Paprican (the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada) and there has played a very major role in both the development of their programs and in crossing the gulf between industry and academia. But, Mr. Chancellor, this needs some context. The pulp and paper industry is the second largest component of the forest products sector, which itself is the largest exporter in Canada. To maintain this position, to maintain Canada's place in this industry is a principal concern of Paprican which provides the research which gives the strength to our products.
However, this is not a simple matter of gathering all the best researchers under one roof and feeding out their findings. The industry is too diverse, too widespread for that to work. What is necessary is the capacity to develop programs across the country that serve both immediate and broader needs and to coordinate those programs with industry requirements. That is the industry side. There is also the academic side, working with the universities to bring the programs into being within their institutional framework.
As senior vice-president at Paprican, Jim Rogers is responsible for the smooth operation of all these research and academic programs and has been the person who kept the operation growing over the years. It is not easy to move between the academic and industrial worlds but he has done so with a real diplomatic and administrative skill backed by a strong and progressive knowledge of the field. Mr. Chancellor, we can see the engineer as bridge builder, maker of those solid, tangible spans that link the islands of our world. Jim Rogers too is a bridge builder, but his is more substantial and far greater reaching than those of his civil colleagues, yet much less tangible. Let us this day make that bridge tangible by our recognition and to do that I present to you, Mr. Chancellor, for the degree of doctor of engineering, honoris causa, James Hubert Rogers.
By normal measures, it is not a great distance from Ramea to St. John's. But for those who lived in Ramea in the '40s it was a long way indeed when you travelled by coastal boat! Nowadays of course, you can take the road to Burgeo and it's a short ferry ride to Ramea island. Since that convenience was introduced, I have made the trip several times including 1989 when our family joined the Come Home Year celebrations there. The faces have changed but the people of Ramea have the same charm and pride as I remember from my early years.
Our particular coastal boat took the family to Corner Brook. I am sure there is no better place in the world to grow up or to raise a family. The people, the teachers, the friendships of the '50s in Corner Brook were quite special.
I was a student at Memorial for one year, in 1956-57. Of course this was on the original campus. The university had a very special character in those days. Although my stay was short, it did give me opportunity to learn from many of the early engineering faculty who were building the foundations that
are now in place at this fine university.
I have been extremely lucky in my career. A significant event occurred during my studies in England on the Athlone fellowship. I elected to spend a year of my fellowship with Wiggins Teape, a specialty paper manufacturer at their research and development centre. At that time, industry was beginning to look at digital computers for control of their manufacturing processes. Electronic computers had been around for some time, but in the early '60s, real-time industrial applications were creating a new excitement. My project was to work as part of a team to look at the feasibility and the benefits of using computers to control paper machines. My weekly routine became driving from the R&D centre located just outside London, to Manchester on Monday mornings. For two days each week, we ran simulations of the paper machine on a very large, a very unreliable, yet a very powerful computer for that time. It occupied a room half the size of a gymnasium! Then it was back on the road to headquarters, for analysis of the results and planning the next run. This again put me back in my car the following Monday. The project would be so much easier and so much faster to do today. But then it would lack the beautiful experiences of the English countryside!
The race was on; every paper company in the world wanted to be the first to realize on-line computer control. Meantime, I had come back to Corner Brook to work at the mill, which at that time was owned by the Bowater organization. Bowater decided to enter the race. They choose one of their mills in England and I was dispatched for a two-year project to install and commission a paper machine computer control system. It was successful! We weren't the first, but we were among the first. It was one of the early
applications of computer control in the process industries. The pulp and paper industry may not enjoy a high technology reputation but in fact it uses very sophisticated technology. A recent Scandinavian attempt to improve the industry image, shows that a modern paper machine has more on-board computers than a Boeing 747!
In 1971, I went to work for the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada — Paprican. Paprican is a fascinating organization. For 75 years, it has had a dual mandate: to conduct long-term research and to educate people for careers in the pulp and paper industry. We are sponsored by over 40 companies. Thus we have 40 CEOs to answer to! These companies are in competition with each other in the market place; yet they agree to collaborate on common needs in research and education! It is a captivating work-place, combining the ambiance of an industrial research lab, with a post-graduate academic environment. We are 350 people with research labs in Montreal and Vancouver and formal links to three universities: McGill University, The University of British Columbia, and École Polytechnique. When I joined Paprican, the member companies had collectively decided that computer control and systems engineering was an emerging priority. I committed to work there for two years. Twenty-eight years later, those two years are almost up! Some of my colleagues tease me that it has taken me 28 years to do two years work!
The pulp and paper industry continues as a most important segment of the Newfoundland and Canadian economies. For 1998, Canadian pulp and paper shipments were 28 million tonnes, most of that being exported; the forest products industry contributes $30 billion to our balance of trade, more than Canada's total trade surplus. Our forests are renewable and a perpetual source of wealth provided we manage the resource well.
Nevertheless, the industry faces many challenges. Challenges from high capital and operating costs; challenges from globalization forces and from emerging competition from plantation-based fibre sources in the southern hemisphere; challenges to its environmental performance and public image.
Knowledge is the key to continued prosperity. Canada must continue to develop the infrastructure that will ensure selective knowledge development and selective knowledge application. We must be selective, and build in areas we have strengths, and focus on areas where we have an advantage. As an example from the forest industry, the fibre from Canadian forests is very special, providing unique features to forest products. Competition from inferior fibre that through advanced technology can produce good quality, low cost products, is a threat to our traditional markets. Our future is dependent upon developing new technology that takes greater advantage of our fibre resource. This will allow us to produce products of high value that cannot be matched by other fibre sources. Knowledge is the key to achieving this.
Universities play the key role in developing people with knowledge. They also play a key role in knowledge creation. But we must continue to develop the means to ensure effective application of knowledge. I am particularly proud that, for 75 years, Paprican has been very successful in providing effective linkage between industry and the relevant knowledge base in universities.
In addition, I will refer to the federal government's National Centres of Excellence Program. Paprican has participated in the NCE program since its inception in 1990. In particular, we are the lead organization in the Mechanical Wood-Pulps NCE. There are 16 universities across Canada who are engaged with us to assist Canada's largest manufacturing industry in a coordinated way with a well-defined objective. It is a good example of effective use of university expertise. The NCE program is of course part of the legacy fostered by your outgoing president, Dr. Arthur May when he was president of NSERC, prior to moving here to Memorial.
Your new president has also contributed very significantly to university-industry collaboration. He played an important role in the development of the pulp and paper program at UBC. He has contributed to educational initiatives at the national level. He has a reputation of building links to the community, of integrating the knowledge base of the university to the benefit of the community. His expertise in the resource and energy fields are especially relevant to the great natural resources of Newfoundland.
As Memorial University celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it has earned its reputation as an educator and as a research institution. It has a key role to play in the future prosperity of the province and of Canada. It also has a special responsibility to ensure the preservation of the values that are unique
Ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply humbled and delighted to receive this honorary degree. As a Newfoundlander, the significance of the recognition by Memorial University is indeed very special. I would like to thank my colleagues at Paprican and elsewhere, who deserve to share in the recognition. I would also like to thank the members of my family, many of whom are present at this ceremony. Chancellor Crosbie, President Meisen, members of the Senate, I would like to express my appreciation to you for the honour you have bestowed on me today.