WORDS FROM THE SUMMIT
From the crisp acoustics of the Winspear Centre to the imposing presence of the forthcoming Edmonton Clinic, Dr. Jim Montgomery, P.Eng., takes pride in the work he and his professional peers accomplish. In fact the Centennial Leadership Award winner says there’s simply no better profession for him.
BY FRANCINE MAXWELL
Does earning an APEGGA Gold Medal foreshadow great things to come? It certainly did for Jim Montgomery, P.Eng., who more than three decades later would receive APEGGA’s most prestigious Summit Award.
Dr. Montgomery, whose work can be seen in some of Canada’s best-known modern structures, graduated at the top of his University of Alberta engineering class in 1973 and received the medal. He went on to obtain postgraduate degrees from the University of Illinois.
At the Summit Awards Gala in Calgary in April, the chief engineer with Cohos Evamy accepted the Centennial Leadership Award.
“There’s nothing else I’d rather be than an engineer. Engineers can do so much,” he says. “They are consultants, they are business leaders, they deal with people. It is not a narrow-field industry. It makes me feel good to walk through a project I’ve completed. I wouldn’t want to change that.”
He clearly loves and has excelled in civil engineering. But early on, he was uncertain which discipline he’d choose.
I work with a company that’s unusual in that
mechanical and electrical engineers, and we have architects and interior designers.
I like that we can go from breaking ground to decorating a room, start to finish.
– Dr. Jim Montgomery, P.Eng.
“I was always good in math and science, and engineering just seemed like a logical choice. The more I learned, the more I liked it. It came down to almost a coin flip, whether I went into civil or mechanical engineering. In the end I decided to go with civil,” Dr. Montgomery says.
That decision led him to some large, well-known and complex projects. Among the myriad of multi-million-dollar builds is the Alex Fraser Bridge in Vancouver, completed in 1986. With a main span of 465 metres, it was the longest cable bridge in the world at the time.
“There were lots of challenges with that build,” says Dr. Montgomery, whose company of the day was in charge of providing erection engineering services to the contractor.
Construction involved the balanced cantilever method — starting from the piers and continuing until the cantilevers from each pier met at mid-span. Each piece had to be braced up as work progressed to prevent swaying.
Dr. Montgomery joined Cohos Evamy in 1988, a move that has involved him with many major projects — including one of his biggest to date. When the new Edmonton Clinic at the University of Alberta is finished, it will encompass nearly five city blocks and be among Edmonton’s largest buildings.
Other accomplishments include the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Headquarters in Ottawa and two recent projects at the U of A — the National Institute for Nanotechnology and the Markin/CNRL Natural Resources Engineering Facility.
Of all the buildings and projects he’s had a major hand in, however, it is two of the smallest that mean the most to Dr. Montgomery. They are Edmonton’s Francis Winspear Centre, and animal overpasses in Banff and Lake Louise.
“We’ve had people from around the world come to see those overpasses and ask us how we designed them. They are pretty unique and employ an innovative design. It’s very flattering and satisfying to have them so well received,” Dr. Montgomery says.
Praise has also come the Winspear Centre’s way. “I’ve heard from performers themselves that they feel it is one of the best venues in North America. I feel very proud to be in that building, even if I’m just there to enjoy a performance.”
He may go unnoticed to much of the Winspear crowd, but Dr. Montgomery has become something of a household name among his peers. Besides APEGGA, he holds memberships in sister associations in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, and he is currently a member of the Canadian Standards Association Technical Committee on Steel Structures for Buildings, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Concrete Institute.
Dr. Montgomery is a fellow in the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, and he has sat on the board of directors for the Consulting Engineers of Alberta and for the Steel Structures Education Foundation. He was a professor at the University of Alberta and a partner in Lamb McManus Associates Ltd., before joining Cohos Evamy.
Dr. Montgomery is happy with where he’s landed. “I work with a company that’s unusual in that we’re structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, and we have architects and interior designers. I like that we can go from breaking ground to decorating a room, start to finish.
“No, I plan to stay right where I am. I want to keep improving our ability to make each design work and integrating all the different facets of the company.”
Dr. Montgomery was astonished to find out he had been nominated for the Centennial
Leadership Award, much less that he’d won it. He was nominated without
his knowledge, and was delighted.
“It is a privilege and honour to receive this award from APEGGA,” he said during his acceptance speech in Calgary. “I expect that many of you feel the same way I do about our profession. At the beginning stages of a project, you go out to the site and you look across a river or an empty field or at a broken-down building and there is nothing much there.
“Then at the end of the project when you return, you see something of value that you were a part of creating and you don’t need anyone to thank you because you know that in some small way, you were part of making the world a better place.”
The Centennial Leadership Award is presented to an APEGGA member who has attained the highest distinction in engineering, geology or geophysics. This can occur with the member as an executive or director of an outstanding project or continuing enterprise. In these cases the member must have conducted, guided or directed, or been responsible for the practice of the specific profession. A recipient may have also attained the highest distinction because of invention, research or original work, or because of an outstanding or exemplary career in teaching the professions.