Rowe: Use your critical thinking and knowledge

Listen. Consult. Explain. Genuinely care. These four keys to success are as simple as they are difficult, Kerry Rowe told graduates at the Friday afternoon session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

“I encourage you to use your critical thinking and knowledge. But don’t be afraid to question and politely, but clearly, make your concerns known,” Rowe continued. “If you can be convinced that you are wrong, then you have learned something. But if you are right, you may have prevented a very expensive mistake.”

Rowe spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Engineering, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Friday, June 17, afternoon session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

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Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa, upon Rowe in recognition of his work as a researcher and educator in geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering.

Prior to immigrating to Canada in 1978, Rowe worked as a geotechnical engineer with the Australian Government Department of Construction. Upon his arrival in Canada, he came to Western where he was a faculty member for 22 years, serving his last eight as Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a past-president of the International Geosynthetics Society, the Canadian Geotechnical Society and the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Rowe left Western to take up the position as Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University, a position he held for 10 years. He currently holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering at Queen’s, where he is also a professor of Civil Engineering.

Rowe focused his research and consulting on the fields of geotechnical, geosynthetic, hydrogeologic and landfill/geoenvironmental Engineering. His published works have dealt with topics such as contaminant migration through soil and rock, landfill design, containment of contaminated sites and geosynthetics; they have influenced environmental practice and regulations on four continents.

In his citation, Western Engineering professor Michael Bartlett spoke of his friend and colleague’s reputation as a world-renowned researcher and consultant who has extensively contributed to the engineering profession.

“His research has impacted regulations around the world and he has projects from the Arctic to the Antarctic,” said Bartlett, adding Rowe hired a number of now-senior members of Western’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, including three who are now associate deans and the current and past chairs of the department.

“This reflects his superb mentoring of young faculty members, effectively passing on his remarkable talents as a teacher, researcher and administrator.”

In recognition of his contribution to both the advancement of the science and the engineering practice of environmental protection, Rowe was elected as a Foreign Fellow to the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010. In 2013, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (the world’s oldest scientific society). He is the only Canadian civil engineer to be a fellow of both.

Earlier this year, he was elected as a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (one of only two Canadian Civil engineers), and was the first civil engineer to be awarded an Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Steacie Fellowship.