Gordon M. MacNabb, D.Sc., October 24, 1985
Gordon Murray MacNabb

I have the honour to present Gordon Murray MacNabb, a distinguished engineer and civil servant, and currently the President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. NSERC, as it is known to academic scientists and engineers across the country, is the largest sponsor of research in the country, and as such, its welfare is of tremendous importance to those of us with laboratories to run and research to do.

Gordon MacNabb was educated as a civil engineer at Queen's University and on graduation in 1954 he began a career in hydraulic and hydro-electric planning, particularly in connection with the Columbia River, In due course he rose to become the senior engineering adviser to the federal government during the negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty with the United States. He still retains an interest in the Columbia River, as chairman of the Canadian Section of the Columbia River Treaty Engineering Board.

However, in 1967 Gordon MacNabb became Assistant Deputy Minister of the federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and in 1975 he became its Deputy Minister. Those of you who are fans of the television series "Yes, Minister," will have a good idea of the problems facing a Deputy Minister, and of the skill and diplomacy needed for the proper performance of a Deputy Minister's duties.

In 1978, the government carried out a major reorganization of the way it was supporting scientific research in Canada, and one of the more important changes was the creation of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. NSERC is a crown corporation specifically charged with fostering research in engineering and the natural sciences in Canada. When NSERC was formed, Gordob MacNabb was appointed its first president, a position he still holds today.

Under Mr. MacNabb's direction NSERC has flourished, First, a five-year plan was prepared and presented to the government and to the research community of the country. The plan made clear that Mr. MacNabb was determined to ensure that all interested and qualified Canadians would be able to pursue graduate training in well-equipped laboratories. The plan was impressive, and since 1979 NSERC has been able tooffer more postgraduate scholarships, increased grant funding, and more research equipment for the operation of our university laboratories. Every year, close to 20,000 people benefit, directly or indirectly, from the grants and scholarship programs of NSERC.

If Canada is to prosper, it is essential that all of its talented researchers - the pure and the applied, the academic and industrial - must be able to co-operate and communicate. Under the presidency of Gordon MacNabb, NSERC has recognized this necessity, and has begun a wide variety of new programs aimed at fostering this communication in important modern fields like microelectronics, biotechnology, food and agriculture, new materials, and oceans, among others.

In 1978, when Mr. MacNabb was appointed to the presidency of NSERC, alarm bells rang in laboratories across the country. "Who?" we asked. "A civil servant?" "Somebody without a research background?" But long ago those concerns disappeared as Mr. MacNabb rapidly earned the respect and confidence of our country's researchers. Not only has he made it clear that he understands the needs of researchers, but he has also been brilliantly successful in interpreting those needs to politicians of all parties in Ottawa.

As president of NSERC, he has been exceptionally successful in competing for government funding and in presiding over its fair distribution to university members - students and faculty members, This is not a widely publicized activity, but it is an activity that does much to ensure our brilliant young scientists and engineers can develop their talents; it is an activity that makes it possible for Canadian researchers to do world class work in their laboratories; and it is an activity that is essential to the well-being of Canada in the modern world.

Madam Chancellor, it is an honour and a privilege for me to ask in the name of the Senate, that you confer upon Gordon Murray MacNabb the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.