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Tuesday, December 19, 2000

  • Alumni e-community keeps growing
  • Holiday shutdown for UW labs
  • UW gets gift of theatre collection
  • Elves promise a high-tech Christmas

Brief notes for the day

The pension and benefits committee is meeting this morning -- Needles Hall room 3004, starting at 8:30. The agenda includes various aspects of pension fund investment, as well as a review of out-of-province health coverage for retirees. It's the last meeting with Jim Kalbfleisch as chair of the P&B committee, which he's been heading since his days as an associate provost and through his seven and a half years as provost. He leaves office December 31, and the new chair of P&B will be associate provost (human resources and student services) Catharine Scott.

[Kalbfleisch at desk] Farewells to Kalbfleisch have been said at several parties already, and more are scheduled for this week, including an open house today from 3 to 5 p.m. (and again Thursday during the same hours) in Needles Hall room 3004.

As I mentioned yesterday, the new campus phone books are out, and Susan Schaefer, production manager in UW Graphics, says she's getting the usual requests from various departments to have the spine cut off and a plastic spiral binding put on. "Unfortunately," she writes, "the printing is very close to the edge, and when the books are punched for spiral binding, the information close to the binding edge is lost. Graphics is advising that departments do not spiral-bind their books."

Also from graphics comes word that Darlene Kennell, staff member in the engineering copy centre for the past 16 years, "will be leaving UW to pursue a full-time career in real estate. An informal open house in her honour will take place at the copy centre -- E2 room 2353 -- Wednesday morning."

And here's advance word that the annual Hagey Bonspiel will be held on February 24. "It's a completely non-competitive event, where any semblance of skill is purely coincidental," promises Tony Munro in the co-op department, who's chairing the organizing committee this year. "We'll be sending out registration information to past participants early in the new year," says Munro, and newcomers are also welcome. There's more information on the web.

Alumni e-community keeps growing

More than 7,000 of UW's alumni have signed up for an "e-community" that was launched a year ago -- a web site where they can trade news and reminiscences, look up the addresses of classmates and feel part of Waterloo long after graduating.

"I am happy to say," reports alumni officer Alison Boyd, "that we now have 7,300 alumni registered on the e-community, and 39 faculty or staff who are not alumni."

She says: "We are very happy with the response we are getting from the alumni. Compared to other Canadian universities we are farther ahead. For example, in July the University of Western Ontario (which has an alumni base of 170,000) had 4,800 alumni registered on their on-line community and they have been live for a year and six months. The University of Victoria (which has about 50,000 alumni in total) had 2,624 alumni registered and they had been live for a year and ten months."

Through the launching of the E-community, Boyd adds, Waterloo has made contact with some "lost" alumni -- ones whose addresses weren't known -- and is better able to keep alumni e-mail addresses up to date. "Mail-call" staff, making phone calls to invite alumni donations, also contribute to the database of e-mail contacts, which recently stood at 19,575 addresses. Says Boyd: "Our return rate of e-mail to alumni is only six per cent when the industry average is between 20 and 30 per cent."

Other news from that direction: "We have created an e-services working group from our Alumni Council meetings." Members of that group work with Boyd and alumni manager Gwen Graper "to direct us in the applications that we should add to the e-community".

Holiday shutdown for UW labs

The safety office has told managers of UW labs that there are precautions they should take before they lock the doors and head out for a holiday break.

A web page dealing with the Christmas and New Year's shutdown warns that, among other things, labs have to be prepared for the power going off during the holidays: "Due to winter weather conditions utilities, especially electricity, may be affected. It is a general rule that all laboratory processes be designed to safely survive a service failure. During the holiday shutdown this is particularly important."

It lists some recommended preparations:

The web page also has a brief checklist of "What to do if you have a lab incident":

UW gets gift of theatre collection -- from the UW news bureau

A collection of theatre books, music, magazines and memorabilia assembled by Canadian actor, stage technician and entrepreneur Brian Silversides has come to UW to help in the education of drama students.

The Brian Silversides Collection is now housed in the green room of UW's drama and speech communication department, where it is "a wonderful learning resource", says department chair Joel Greenberg.

Besides donating the collection to Waterloo in memory of her son, Bessie Silversides has given $10,000 to the department to endow the newly named Silversides Theatre Artists Series, which debuted this fall. It will now be an annual event, held each November with free admission for the university community and the public.

Greenberg says the Silversides gifts come from a family who had no previous connection with the university. "We are surprised and very grateful!"

Silversides himself, who died in 1996, "would have been pleased," says Ann Silversides, his cousin, close friend and executor. "Brian was passionate about theatre and, in particular, musical theatre. He saved the programs from everything he attended and had an encyclopedic memory for productions, directors, actors, and set designers."

Silversides was educated at the National Ballet School and Sheridan College in Toronto, and his first career was in the theatre. He worked occasionally as an actor but primarily in set design and props in England, in New York and at the Stratford Festival. He was also the star of the short-lived CBC sitcom "Jackson Piper". In his early 20s, he changed careers, buying 40 rural acres to take up market gardening and beekeeping. His honey and crafts became well known in the Brockville area.

It was the owners of TheatreBooks in Toronto, friends of both Brian Silversides and Joel Greenberg, who suggested to Ann Silversides that the family consider donating his collection to UW. It consists of CDs, videos, books and hundreds of magazines, mainly of or about musical theatre, spanning almost all of the past century.

"It is a fabulous collection; quite eclectic and a neat gift," says Greenberg. The Silversides family "wanted to see it used. And we are using it. It's available for anyone here to learn from and enjoy. . . . While no individual item in the collection is rare, much of it is hard to find because books on the topic typically are printed in small editions and both books and music CDs quickly go out of print. It wouldn't have occurred to us to start such a collection in the department. But, now that we have the Silversides Collection, we are certainly adding to it."

The Silversides Theatre Artists Series was launched last month with an informal conversation between award-winning Canadian actor and playwright Michael Healey and drama professor Gerhard Hauck. Billed as an intimate and interactive event, it allowed the audience to watch and then ask questions.

Ann Silversides, who attended on behalf of the family, calls Michael Healey "a wonderful first for the series. He is humorous and honest, without any airs or pretensions. Students related to and enjoyed him a lot. So did I."

Elves promise a high-tech Christmas

It's been an up-and-down year for one of UW's least-known spinoff companies, says Egfrth Spleng (below), vice-elf for research at WatClaus, who this week gave an end-of-year report to a crowd of shareholders (including several reindeer) in Federation Hall.

[Portrait of elf]
"Here at WatClaus we develop some of Santa's most popular new toys," says Spleng, who took a degree in recreation and leisure studies at UW before going to work for WatClaus some twelve years ago. "The kiddies are going to love the new model Engineering Lecture Building, with a lifelike Rod Coutts figurine, sold separately."

WatClaus executives are hoping the EL model -- developed in haste after last month's announcement that the building will be getting a new name as well as an additional storey -- will be more successful than the Davis Centre disaster of 1997. The scale model of Davis, developed for Christmas that year, glowed with the energy of more than 1,500 tiny computer terminals. "Santa loved it, but it never took off with the kids," Spleng said sadly. "The terminals only lit up between midnight and 4 a.m., and most children are in bed then."

And he admitted to stockholders that the company is taking a major writeoff as the result of unsold inventory of Jim Kalbfleisch action figurines this fall. Anticipating that announcement, WatClaus investors sold heavily last month, and the stock has dropped along with other high-tech equities.

"We'll recover," Spleng promised. "Some people think we're just little and merry. If we were so merry, do you think we'd have managed to carve out a high-tech niche for ourselves this fast? There's vision in this company, and we're in it for the long haul."

He added: "Waterloo is the best place in the world for small-scale high tech companies, and we just thrive in the university environment -- but we'd appreciate it if the board of governors would start making major decisions earlier in the year, so we have more time to tool up!"

Originally WatClaus occupied a single igloo on UW's north campus. Now there are more than a dozen snow-houses occupying part of an industrial mall on Phillip Street, and the WatClaus staff has grown from four to 63. It employs only elves and co-op students -- two of the world's most misunderstood life forms.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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