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Wednesday, January 7, 2004

  • Remembering UW's second president
  • UW could lend money to pension fund
  • And a little of this and that
Chris Redmond

Eastern Rite Christmas

[BCM portrait]

Remembering UW's second president

A funeral service will be held this morning for Burton Clare (Burt) Matthews (right), president of UW 1970-81, who died January 2. The service begins at 11 a.m. at the Church of St. John the Evangelist (Anglican) in downtown Kitchener.

A reception follows in the great hall of UW's Village I. All are invited. There will be refreshments, a photo display of Matthews's life, and guest books to sign.

The reception runs from 12 noon to 3:30 p.m., and there will be brief remarks by UW president David Johnston and other dignitaries when they arrive after the funeral. Speakers will include Alastair Summerlee, president of the University of Guelph, of which Matthews was president 1983-88.

The official death notice describes Matthews as the "Greatly loved husband of Lois; inspirational and respected father of David and his wife Jane and Tom and his wife Ellen; proud grandfather of Geoffrey, Amy, Stephen and Krista. He will be fondly remembered by Trish Breithaupt (Matthews) of Calgary and his brothers, George of Kerwood and Jim of Tillsonburg. . . .

"Burt touched many lives and shaped many minds. He was a quiet leader, a man who challenged us, brought out the best in everyone he met and pushed us to levels we would not have otherwise achieved. . . .

"In memory of Burt, donations to the Parkinson Society of Canada or the Heart and Stroke Foundation can be arranged through the funeral home, phone 745-8445 or www.edwardgood.com. A private graveside service will be held at Parkview Cemetery, Waterloo, following the reception."

Event offers 'doable ways of being'

A half-day session for staff members is scheduled for Friday afternoon under the title "Are You Ready to Become an Optimal Person?"

It's co-sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program and the staff training and development committee. Says a flyer: "This presentation will introduce and offer you specific and doable ways of being and behaving that you can learn and use to become even more of an 'optimal' person than you are now. The presentation touches on the rationale, with a greater focus on questions you might have, and provides the possibility of learning whatever 'optimal' ways of being and behaving especially appeal to you."

Registrations go to Johan Reis in the health services department.

UW could lend money to pension fund

The pension and benefits committee has been discussing how to "rebuild" a shrinking pension fund without endangering either individual employees or the university budget, minutes of its recent discussions show. And a memo written by three of the faculty representatives on the committee, summing up the situation, has been circulated by both the faculty association and the staff association. Here's what it says:

"The P&B Committee has been discussing the consequences of the low rate of return of pension plan investments in 2001 and 2002. The major impact is that the employer, the University, is likely to have to make extraordinary contributions to the Plan.

"In the past, both the University and the employees have benefited when there was a large surplus in the plan (early retirement provision, contribution holidays, SERP etc.). All Committee members agree that both parties should share the extra costs in bad times, like the present.

"The Committee proposes that any extraordinary contributions should be viewed as a loan to the Plan from the University. Since money cannot be removed from the Plan, we suggest that the loan can be repaid by reducing the annual contribution of the University when the Plan has returned to a surplus position. The average annual University contribution over a number of years will at least match the employee contribution.

"This proposal has no impact on individual pensions as currently specified and increases the long term viability of the Plan. . . .

"Each year, the Plan actuary calculates the value of the assets and the liabilities (the cost of present and future pensions for members of the Plan). . . . At the last valuation, the assets and liabilities were essentially equal. If the assets exceed the liabilities, the Plan has a surplus; if the assets are less than the liabilities, the Plan is in a deficit position. Based on the calculations and assumptions, the actuary also recommends the contribution of the University to the Plan as a percentage of the employee contributions. For example, this year, the recommended contribution was 131% of the employee contributions. . . .

"We must file a report on the status of the Plan to the Provincial and Federal Governments at least once every three years. . . . If we file a report on the Plan when it has a deficit position, the University must make extra payments to retire the deficit over a period of five to fifteen years. . . .

"When the plan had large surpluses, improvements were made, including the early retirement package. It was agreed, at the time the improvements were introduced, that $35 million of the surplus would be earmarked within the pension fund to generate income to pay for the plan improvements for current and future employees. Therefore, a reported surplus of $35 million really means that the plan is breaking even since that amount has been committed to pay for the improvements. At the last evaluation, most of this earmarked surplus had disappeared due to poor stock market performance.

"To pay for the loss of income from the earmarked surplus, the actuary will recommend that the University contribute about 165% of the employee contribution, rather than 131%. The extra 34 percentage points (about $3 million) is an extraordinary payment to the Plan since it was agreed that the earmarked surplus was to be set aside to pay for the plan improvements.

"We propose to treat the two types of extraordinary payments as a loan from the University to the Plan. The Plan will repay the University when there is sufficient accumulated surplus. In this instance, since we cannot remove money from the Plan, we are proposing that the loan can be repaid by reducing the amount of the annual University contribution. . . . The University contribution will at least match the employee contributions over a longer period. In a year when there is an outstanding loan and sufficient surplus, the University contribution may be less than the total employee contribution. . . .

"We expect that the University will loan money to the Plan only if we have to file a deficit position but there may be other circumstances to be determined. We have not decided if the University would be repaid before the reserve fund is replenished. The Committee is still discussing the length of time for the averaging and other implementation details.

Library books borrowed on term loan during the fall term are due today.

Meeting for developers interested in the next project in the north campus research and technology park, 2 p.m., Waterloo City Hall.

Perimeter Institute public lecture, Leonard Cassuto, Fordham University, "Defrauding the Honor System: Physics, Society, and the Bell Labs Scandal", 7 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, Hazel Street.

Auditions for FASS, tonight through Friday, 7 to 10 p.m., Studio 150 in the Humanities building (note change to previously announced location).

The Pre-Bomber Show on CKMS radio, 9 p.m., tonight giving away tickets to Billy Talent at Federation Hall on January 24.

Art gallery reception for the opening of two exhibitions, "Vivid" and (by retired fine arts professor Don Mackay) "Digital Journey", Thursday 7 to 9 p.m., East Campus Hall.

"The University is responsible for the payment of pensions regardless of the status of the Plan. Over a long period, the University must contribute sufficient funds to keep the Plan viable. The University has contributed on average about 115% of the employee contributions over the past 20 years. The P&B Committee expects that the University will continue to more than match the employee contributions over the long term.

"Since employees' pensions are guaranteed, the amount of money available for each member on retirement will not be affected by this proposal. However, since the loans will effectively be repaid from the surplus, the surplus will be smaller and thus the chance of implementing further Plan improvements or contribution holidays will be less. For the University, the proposal will avoid extraordinary costs and allow for better budgetary planning. If the University is required to make significant long term extra payments, money will have to be taken from other areas of the budget and all employees will be affected. If the money is treated as a loan, these other areas of the budget will not be as threatened."

And a little of this and that

I wrote yesterday that the faculty of science webcam faces north towards the Math and Computer building. Several people -- including two from the department that operates the camera -- wrote to tell me I was lost in the snow; in fact it faces south, towards the Physics building and the Dana Porter Library. My apologies.

Let me say a bit more about the festschrift launched yesterday by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies. It's published, says David John of that department, "to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of exchange between Waterloo and the University of Mannheim in Germany. Co-edited by Beate Henn-Memmesheimer of Mannheim and David G. John of Waterloo, the volume, entitled Cultural Link: Kanada-Deutschland, published by the Röhrig Universitätsverlag, St. Ingbert, documents the hundreds of program and faculty participants and the more than 100 resulting master's and doctoral theses. It contains further historical articles from the perspectives of both universities as well as essays by participating faculty."

A little financial advantage for staff and faculty members that had been in operation since last July ended at the close of the year. Starting July 1, as announced last summer, the university-paid portion of employee life insurance premiums was being paid from the "excess reserve" in the benefit plan, which meant that it wasn't classed as a taxable benefit to employees. "This temporary relief is expected to last six months," the announcement at the time said, and indeed, after six months the reserve was used up. As of January 1, UW reverts to paying its share of the premium directly, and the result is a benefit on which employees are taxed.

The development office sends word that this month's list of winners in the Keystone Campaign donor draw has been posted on the Keystone web site.

A note from the residence life office: "Do you want to be a don? The fall 2004 and winter 2005 don hiring process has begun. Do you enjoy helping others? Are you a leader? Do you like challenging yourself? Well, donning is for you! Find out more about the donning role and the application process at the Don Information Night on Wednesday, January 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of Village I. Also check online for more information. Donning is an exciting and rewarding experience -- are you up for the challenge?"

And a memo from retail services notes a change in the business hours for Artworx, the satellite store in East Campus Hall that specializes in art supplies (convenient for folks in the fine arts department). This term, Artworx will be open noon to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday; the schedule begins today.


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