Young consulting engineers earn scholarships in honour of former chair

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by Richard Gilbert last update:Sep 22, 2014

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC)-Canada recently awarded scholarships to two young professionals in honour of a past chair, who died in plane crash.

“The candidates were very good this year and in the case of Selena and Simon, they have been leaders in the young professionals movement, not just in their own provinces of B.C. and Quebec, but are active at the national level across Canada,” said John Gamble, president of the ACEC-Canada.

Both Selena Wilson of McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. and Simon Davidson of Roche Ltd., Consulting Group are involved in the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) and have taken leadership roles with FIDIC young professionals.

The 2014 Allen D. Williams scholarships were presented at the ACEC national conference at the chairman’s dinner, which marked the closing of Summit 2013 in Lake Louise, Alberta.

The $5,000 award is presented annually to a young professional employed by an ACEC member firm.

The winner must demonstrate a commitment to the consulting engineering industry in their province or territory.

The scholarship was created to enable a young professional to attend the annual FIDIC conference.

It covers registration, airfare and accommodations.

The 2014 FIDIC conference will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The judging panel reviewed six submissions this year.

“Each applicant prepared a 300-500 word essay about what the scholarship will do for their career and what they will bring to the young professionals group when they come back from the FIDIC conference,” said Leon Botham, vice-president in charge of McElhanney Consulting Service’s Saskatoon office.

“This is the first time two scholarships have been awarded and these are two outstanding candidates that need to be recognized for their efforts.”

Wilson is a transportation engineer, who has served as a steering committee member with the ACEC-BC Young Professional (YP) Group, the ACEC YP Network, and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) YP Forum Steering Committee. Most recently, she was elected chair of the Steering Committee serving a two-year term that will conclude at FIDIC’s 2014 annual conference.

Davidson is a project manager and manager of Roche’s start-up office in Ottawa-Gatineau.

He is the founder and chair of the Roche Young Leader Network and co-founder and current chair of the Association des ingénieurs-conseils du Québec (AICQ) YP Forum, as well as chair of the ACEC YP Network.

He is a member of the FIDIC YP steering committee and initiated a new international training platform for YPs within FIDIC.

Botham created the scholarship to commemorate Allen Williams, a past ACEC chair and founder of Williams Engineering Inc.

“Allen was a huge promoter of getting young professionals involved in the association and he spent a lot of time talking to university students about consulting engineering,” he said.

“He wanted to get people involved at an early stage. If young people were interested in the business side of consulting engineering, he was a proponent of making an investment at an early age and encouraging them down that path.”

Sixty-five year old Williams died in a plane crash in October 2007, when the plane he was piloting crashed in rugged terrain near Golden B.C.

The crash also killed Steven Sutton, the engineering firm’s chief financial officer.

The two men were attending a business retreat in Golden.

Miraculously, the only occupant to survive the crash was William’s three-year-old granddaughter Kate Williams, who rescuers found hanging upside down in the wreckage.

She was strapped into a child safety seat.

According to Botham, he came up with the idea for the scholarship while talking to Williams’ widow Dorothy at a FIDIC conference held in Quebec city in September 2008.

“I approached her and asked if she would be supportive of fundraising and starting a scholarship in his name,” he said.

Botham raised $17,000 by shaving his head and set a fundraising goal of about $100,000 to $120,000.

He shaved his head again in front of a room full of delegates at Summit 2013 and raised an additional $16,000.

This pushed the scholarship fund to its final goal of $120,000, which will allow interest to cover the yearly cost of sending a young professional to the FIDIC conference.

Tragedy strikes family and company twice

Reagan Williams, 41, became the new president of A.D. Williams Engineering Inc. after his father was killed, but in a cruel and tragic turn of events, he also died about six month’s later in a plane crash.

Five people were killed when a plane piloted by Williams crashed on March 28, 2008 near Wainwright, Alberta.

The crash of the company-owned plane also claimed the lives of Phil Allard, the company’s chief financial officer, and Rhonda Quirke, another company executive.

According to Transportation Safety Board investigators, the plane suffered a mid-flight breakup that caused the craft to disintegrate in the air.

The single-engine Piper PA-46 Malibu, was en route to Winnipeg from Edmonton’s City Centre Airport when it disappeared from radar.

The five employees were planning to attend a meeting at the company’s Winnipeg office.

last update:Sep 22, 2014

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