Beginnings

Prompted by Dean Sherbourne, a group of UW faculty decided to formalize the voluntary cooperation of members in the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments into a research unit, the Solid Mechanics Division (SMD). Its goal was to establish a centre of excellence in solid mechanics at the University of Waterloo (UW) by enriching the existing research and teaching programs. While the main emphasis was placed on the human factor (i. e., attracting outstanding visiting professors, research fellows and graduate students), serious consideration was also given to modernizing laboratory facilities and expanding the working environment and supporting staff.

Implementation of these general objectives was detailed in an application to the National Research Council (NRC) for a major negotiated grant to UW, aiming at the creation and development of SMD. In April 1968, NRC announced the three-year award of Grant D-10 in the amount of $600,000. The funds were to be expended in installments of $100,000, $200,000 and $300,000 in each year of the award term. It was the understanding of the grant applicants and of the Dean of Engineering that, whereas Grant D-10 was to help establish SMD as a centre of excellence, by the very nature of the grant UW was committed to ensuring its continuing existence and development through appropriate support and funding at the end of the award term.

Thus, SMD was brought to life in the spring of 1968 by a decision of the University Board of Governors and the generous NRC award of Development Grant D-10. One of the first tasks of the SMD steering group was to establish an administrative structure that could implement the stated objectives under the terms of Grant D-10. After considering to offer the chair to a distinguished foreign academic, the group ultimately decided to nominate, and the Faculty of Engineering appointed, M. Z. Cohn to fill that position for three years.

The founding SMD membership included Professors S. T. Ariaratnam, D. J. Burns, R. Green, N. C. Lind, J. T. Pindera, H. B. Poorooshasb, A. N. Sherbourne, T. H. Topper, and the founding SMD Chair, M. Z. Cohn. Other members that joined SMD soon thereafter and over the next few years were Professors E. F. P. Burnett, R. Dubey, G. M. L. Gladwell, D. E. Grierson, K. Huseyin, H. H. E. Leipholz, G. M. McNeice, T. P. Prasad, J. Roorda, R. M. Schuster and J. C. Thompson. It is of interest to note that the initial and early SMD membership was comprised of individuals from several different departments of the faculty of engineering, including Civil, Mechanical and Systems Engineering.

The SMD founding group and chairman agreed on a few basic operational principles:

• Minimal administration and formalism;

• Expectation of performance from key members with authority and responsibility;

• Clarity of objectives for efficient implementation.

The SMD operation was to be ensured by the following elements:

• Executive Committee, responsible for planning, funding and deciding on all activities;

• Publication Committee, in charge of policy matters for production of SMD publications;

• Area Representatives, responsible for initiating and overseeing activities in each

area of concern (i. e., structures, computer analysis and design, geotechnical, mechanics, experimental mechanics, etc);

• Task Officers, responsible for three SMD major tasks: Publications, Seminars and Library.

Main operational features were the complete decision transparency of its working committees and total initiative and authority of each task officer. Monthly SMD meetings – not exceeding one hour – were planned and rigorously held in order to keep members informed in a timely manner on all matters of general concern.

D. E. Grierson was appointed as Publications Officer, a capacity in which he served throughout the life of SMD. Over the years he was assisted by a dedicated production staff, A special contribution was brought by D. Bartholomew of UW Graphic Services who designed the SM Studies jackets and all publication formats. His response to our exigencies produced the SM Logo shown in Figure 1, that soon become our well-recognized and proud emblem on all SMD printed output.

Figure 1. SM Logo

Bi-monthly SMD Seminars, initiated and regularly held on Mondays at 3:30-5:00 p. m., became a permanent entry in our calendars. SMD staff ensured the conservation and growth of library collections that included our own publications series, as well as solid mechanics volumes and journals donated by members.