70th OPEA gala celebrates engineering across all generations

The theme of the milestone gala, “Engineering: past, present and future,” reflected the aims of the OPEA organizers to celebrate engineering achievement over the last several generations, but with an eye to future opportunities.

Since 1947, the OPEA event has saluted Ontario engineers who have made significant contributions to the profession and their community. The annual awards gala is hosted jointly by PEO and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.

A host of individual and corporate engineering achievement was on display for the event, including success stories in biomedical technology, process safety, hostile environment Wi-Fi connectivity, and entrepreneurial product development and marketability.

And in keeping with the profession’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, some of the award-winning engineers highlighted the importance of promoting leadership opportunities for women practitioners.

John SeverinoP.Eng., an executive with PEO’s North Bay Chapter and chair of the Awards Committee, shared opening remarks and introduced Toronto radio personality John Moore as master of ceremonies for the event.

Following are excerpts from the acceptance speeches of the 11 award recipients. Full biographies of award winners are available on page 13 of the September/October 2017 issue of Engineering Dimensions. Video tributes of award recipients are available on PEO’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/PeoOnCa.


Catherine KarakatsanisP.Eng., FEC, chief operating officer, Morrison Hershfield Group Inc.

“It is so hard and humbling to be recognized by my peers and to receive this award tonight.

“I am here tonight because of the many people I’ve been surrounded by and associated with.

“I begin by thanking PEO, OSPE and the Awards Committee for considering me worthy.

“I got my start at the University of Western Ontario. It was an extraordinarily inspiring and inclusive atmosphere, and that’s very important when you’re a female in engineering, and it continues today. I started out in my career as a structural engineer but then the early ‘90s recession set in, and I had to branch out—so I have worked in almost every part of our company. I was blessed to be in a firm that respected and valued my work, despite my being a woman in a very male environment. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for many women in the engineering industry. Attracting and retaining women in engineering is of great importance to me, and I’m very concerned about the gender imbalance. As many studies have shown, having a balance between the number of women and men in organizations leads to superior innovation and financial performance. So inclusivity is good business.“


Endre (Andrew) BakosP.Eng., C.E.T., project manager, Toronto Transit Commission

“I never believed I would be standing here and accepting such an award. I have never felt better about being an engineer and about being a member of such a great organization as PEO.

“Bringing Wi-Fi and cellular communications to the Toronto Transit Commission underground is truly what we engineers stand for…to serve and protect the public.”

Nicholas Stark, P.Eng., vice president, HH Angus & Associates Limited

“I an honoured and humbled to receive this excellence award. I want to salute the people at Canadian Standards Association, where I had the opportunity to work for the last 25 years. It’s important that standards development become more universal across the country as these ultimately drive better regulation and better health outcomes. I will mention what seems to be a theme tonight: family connections. My father was an engineer, my wife, my two children, my sister and my brother are all P.Engs. Thank you all for being here with us tonight to help celebrate.”


J. Paul Santerre, PhD, P.Eng., professor, University of Toronto

“Many thanks for this award and I offer my congratulations to all the other recipients tonight.

“I’m grateful to receive an award from the professional association that oversees the career I have chosen. I’m also honoured to be an award winner in the entrepreneurship category.

“In facilitating and supporting colleagues who have wanted to start businesses, I always tell them right at the beginning to ensure that they write down why they are doing this, why they are undertaking this because there will be many challenges along the way—things that come and snag you, and lots of ups and down—and that rationale (for writing it down) will be the beacon that will actually take you through many of those challenges.

“We live in a very privileged province, a very privileged country. In this country, we are among the highest post-secondary educated citizens in the world. But we still bat below our average on entrepreneurship. We do very good, but we can be outstanding. My last words tonight are to encourage all the entrepreneurs here. If you are not involved in mentoring, in picking up this next generation of entrepreneur engineers who have a desire and the potential, I encourage you to become actively involved as soon as possible.”


Samantha Jane EspleyP.Eng., technical director, Vale Base Metals

“I am especially honoured when I look at all the other recipients who have been up here tonight and those who have gone before me—truly amazing people on our planet—and I am very humbled to be standing shoulder to shoulder with you. Early in my career, I saw a mirror in a changeroom. Beneath that mirror was a sign, ‘You are looking at the person responsible for your safety.’ It’s a little motto that I’ve taken with me through my entire life and career, and it applies to more than just safety.’ When you look at the mirror, you are looking at the person responsible for making change, for doing what’s right, for working together, to make this place a better place. So I have taken that to myself personally, to educate those I work with, those in my family, my colleagues and my friends, and say that together we are all responsible to make the changes for improving our business and our planet.”


Jan Andrysek, PhD, P.Eng., scientist, Bloorview Research Institute

“My dad was also an engineer who helped me realize that engineering was something I wanted to do from very early on. I want to thank PEO and OSPE for their efforts to celebrate engineering work. I also want to thank my colleague Dr. Tom Chau (P.Eng.) and my colleagues at Holland-Bloorview. Some of what I do would not be possible without their support.”

Craig Alexander Simmons, PhD, P.Eng., professor, University of Toronto

“Thanks to PEO and OSPE for this great recognition and for hosting this wonderful event celebrating so many inspiring engineers and their accomplishments. I’m particularly delighted to be receiving this award alongside my colleague, J. Paul Santerre, a long-time collaborator, friend and mentor. Paul, Jan (Andrysek) and I are all part of the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, where we work to solve the most pressing health problems and, in my case, engineering healthy hearts. These are inherently challenging problems that cannot be solved by traditional engineering approaches. We are very fortunate to work in a remarkable institution supported by our dean and the chairs of our departments…who have all created an environment in which engineering, medicine and biology can come together seamlessly and enable outstanding interdisciplinary team research.”


Maximilian Albert Thomas Mantha, MBA, P.Eng., vice president, area manager, EllisDon Toronto Civil and Looby Construction

“I am so honoured to be recognized like this tonight. It’s a very special moment in my career so far. When I was notified of this PEO award, I realized how lucky I’ve been and how fortunate I have been to have the employers I’ve had, the tremendous mentors I’ve had, who have provided me with amazing, incredible opportunities and lots of different challenges. I would like to thank my father Ray Mantha (P.Eng.), my mother, and my wife Julia Reed, and our eight-month-old daughter, Olivia. Finally, I hope to give back to this profession and to grow other young leaders and be involved with other young professionals, and one day share what I am learning now and help to grow the business and the organization.”


Margaret KendeP.Eng., president, Anteus Enterprises, and former dean of engineering technology, Centennial College

“It is with humility, gratitude and joy that I accept the 2017 Ontario Professional Engineers Citizenship Award. I commend PEO for establishing this award category that recognizes and celebrates a member’s volunteer work in civil society. If we know the issues of the community, we can better and more effectively be the problem-solvers for the common good. I want to thank my family, my nominators and my supporters. I also want to cite Claudette MacKay-Lassonde (P.Eng.), who inspired me to get involved with Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) and Dr. Ursula Franklin, who inspired me to help immigrant women engineers navigate the channels to their first jobs in Ontario. I congratulate all PEO award recipients. I am honoured to be in their company.”

Benny Pang, P.Eng., knowledge domain owner (acoustics) and principal engineering specialist, Bombardier Inc.

“I will treasure this meaningful award for the rest of my life. I want to thank the man who first hired me and who allowed me to be ‘the noise man’ and pursue an interesting career for almost half a century.”


Siemens Canada, Dual Education Program

Tom Murad, PhD, P.Eng., head of Siemens Canada Engineering and Technology Academy

“Thanks to PEO and OSPE for recognizing what Siemens is doing. I want to draw on the past, present and future of tonight’s celebration. I came to this country about 25 years ago and it was my dream to be recognized as an engineer in Canada. One of my early mentors is here—he believed in me when I was a young new engineer. For the present, I am honoured to be working for a great company at Siemens Global. The spirit of the company and its engineering and technology academy fulfils my heart as an engineer. The core of Siemens is belief in young engineers and the great people who work for them. At Siemens Canada, we are towards the vision to encourage everybody to do what Siemens is doing—encouraging new generations to use engineering to do what needs to be done without waiting for the government or special funding to come through first.”