Les was born in Whitemouth, Manitoba in 1915. He received his bachelor's degrees - both from the University of Manitoba - in electrical engineering in 1939, and in civil engineering (following his return from overseas during the Second World War) in 1947. He started his career, in 1947, with the City of Winnipeg's Sewerage and Waterworks Department. Recognizing that there were no local consulting engineering firms to provide services to the City, Les seized the opportunity and, in 1955, founded W.L. Wardrop and Associates - one of Manitoba's first engineering consulting firm. Initially, he offered, with his staff of four, services in public works engineering and housing-subdivision servicing.
Les's vision was to establish a firm which would gain a national reputation and have offices in other parts of Canada - a firm which would provide solutions to a wide variety of emerging engineering challenges. By the 1960s, W.L. Wardrop & Associates had offices in Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, and Regina, and was offering services in civil, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering. In the 1970s, the Edmonton office was opened, and the firm expanded its services to include pulp and paper, solar energy, and nuclear engineering. The firm also launched projects in West Africa, and created the International Division, which now encompasses the globe.
Among the firm's many projects, those that will be recognized immediately by Manitobans include the Portage Avenue overpass at Polo Park, the Pembina-Jubilee traffic interchange, Ladco's 750-acre Windsor Park housing development, and the Bishop Grandin Boulevard and bridge over the Red River in Winnipeg; the Pinawa townsite; the servicing of Winnipeg Beach; and the Department of National Defence's Civil Defence Radar Station at Gypsumville.
When it came to offering new services, Les Wardrop was legendary for his attention to detail. Before hiring experts to enable the firm to deliver services in new areas, Les would personally delve into each newfield, spending countless hours researching the discipline, learning the intricacies of the technology, determining user-sector needs, and formulating a marketing and business plan. His co-workers were always amazed at the level of detail to which he would educate himself in new areas. It is because of his extraordinary vision, intellect, and passion for new knowledge in emerging areas that Wardrop holds the world leadership position it does today.
In 1980, Les Wardrop retired from active participation in the company; but he continues, to this day, to serve on its Board of Directors. Since his retirement, Les has maintained a close relationship with the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He served as principal organizer of both the homecoming events for his two graduation classes, and was one of the first volunteers, in 1998, to join the unofficial campaign for the new Engineering and Information Technology Centre. He became an Honorary member of the official campaign committee in 2002, and has been an inspiration ever since, actively serving the committee, campaigning, and attending meetings in a spirit truly representative of engineering in this province.
In 1977, Les received the Meritorious Service Award from the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba for his extraordinary engineering achievements and community involvement. In 1990, the University of Manitobas Faculty of Engineering dedicated the "Les Wardrop Reading Room" at its library in his honour. And in 2002, the Consulting Engineers of Manitoba paid tribute to Les by naming him the first honorary presenter of its prestigious Keystone Award for consulting engineering excellence.
Les Wardrop has been honoured by his profession and by the people of Manitoba for his pioneering contributions to engineering, for his exemplary contributions to his profession, and for his outstanding contributions to the economic development of Manitoba. Through his contributions and their recognition, he has brought great honour to the University of Manitoba, his twice alma mater.
-citation delivered by Dr. Doug Ruth, Dean, Faculty of Engineering