102-year-old U of T Engineering alumnus embodies the spirit of Spring Reunion

Alex King
From left: Dean Cristina Amon, Claire King, Alex King, Bill King and Helen Morgan outside of Convocation Hall. (Photo: Roberta Baker)

U of T Engineering alumnus Alex King (ElecE 3T5) returned to his alma mater on May 29, 2015 to attend the Chancellor’s Circle Medal Ceremony. He was presented with a medal celebrating 80 years since his graduation — the only alumnus to receive the designation this year.

“It makes me very proud,” King said. “Receiving an 80-year medal is pretty special.”

King, who is 102, attended the Spring Reunion ceremony with his wife, Claire, son, Bill and daughter, Helen. He lives in Collingwood, Ont. and had not visited the St. George campus in many years — far too many for him to remember. He said that King’s College Circle looks similar, but there are many new buildings he has never seen before. When he was enrolled in electrical engineering at U of T, all of his classes took place in The Little Red Skulehouse — the original home to U of T Engineering, which was demolished in 1966.

“We had to take organic chemistry,” he recalled. “I don’t know what that had to do with electricity, but we had to take it anyway. I had Professor E.G.R. Ardaugh, and I remember he gave us the formula for sugar, which had too many letters and numbers for us electrical engineers to remember.”

King’s first job after graduation was as an electrician at the Lake Shore Mines in Kirkland Lake, Ont. He went on to teach applied electricity at Kitchener Collegiate Institute, then spent eight years (1945–1953) as a professor at U of T’s Ontario College of Education (now the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto). He retired in 1978 after a lengthy career at Simpsons-Sears as vice-president of personnel. After his retirement, King spent time consulting companies across Canada on how to install profit sharing and pension plans.

His affiliation with the renowned Class of 3T5 is one that he cherishes. He said that alumni from his class met regularly for many years, and were still having reunions when he was well into his 80s.

“I had a lot of buddies in those days,” he said. “It seemed like we got closer as we got older.”

King said that throughout his life he was a “victim of circumstance” — always embracing new opportunities. He feels that it’s important that students and young alumni alike embrace the same mentality.

“Never hesitate and don’t miss a chance,” he said.

King attributes his long life to his wife, Claire.

“God put my wife beside me,” he said. “That’s why I’m still around — and I’m enjoying life every day.”

Around campus with Skule™ alumni

U of T Engineering caught up with other alumni who were on campus during Spring Reunion to find out about their favourite Skule™ memories and the importance of staying involved. Visit our Spring Reunion gallery featuring photos from the various departmental lunches, kids’ activities, lectures and the engineering dinner.

Lauri Hiivala (ElecE 6T5)

Lauri Hiivala

What does Spring Reunion mean to you?

Other than my 25th reunion, which was a milestone event, I had not attended Spring Reunion until my 45th, shortly after I had retired. That is when I came to realize the importance of trying to reconnect with some of my classmates, most of whom I had not seen for many years. As a result, some of us who live nearby are planning to get together periodically.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Skule™?

Before the official opening of the Yonge–University line extension by the Toronto Transit Commission, the Engineering Society arranged for an unofficial opening by President John F. Kennedy, impersonated by one of our students. This event took place at the nearby Queen’s Park Station with all of us in attendance accompanied, of course, by the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad [sic].

Why should alumni, who have never been to Spring Reunion, come out and get involved?

Having realized the importance of reconnecting with some of my classmates, we were able to contact 35 of the original 53 members of our 6T5 electrical engineering class, not all of whom are still alive unfortunately. Of these, 24 were able to attend at least one of our reunion events over the years. This gave us an opportunity not only to reunite with old friends but also to rediscover our alma mater and see and hear about all of the changes that are taking place. As one of my classmates said after it was all over: “I had the time of my life and will never forget it.”

Lauri currently volunteers his time helping to organize the monthly Skule™ Lunch & Learn events.

Paul McLean (ChemE 7T5)


What does Spring Reunion mean to you?

Spring Reunion is an opportunity to come out and enjoy time with the friends and colleagues that you went to school with. It brings back a lot of old memories. This particular reunion is my 40th. I was a member of the Engineering Society in 1975, so when they asked for class leaders to help out with this year’s reunion, I thought it was time to step up again. I was able to successfully get about a quarter of my class to come out this year.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Skule™?

Put it this way: we did a few things we probably shouldn’t have been doing. This one time, in particular, a group of us lifted a Mini Cooper onto the steps of Hart House.

Why should alumni, who have never been to Spring Reunion, come out and get involved?

It’s a great time to see how much things have changed since you’ve been gone. It’s also a chance to give back and get involved with some of the alumni programs and to volunteer your time with the University.

Elaine Campbell (ChemE 8T0)


What does Spring Reunion mean to you?

Even though I moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago, I’ve always stayed connected. The University is part of my family and Spring Reunion is a great time to come back and see the other part of your family — the people you spent four years getting your degree with.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Skule™?

I was in Skule™ Nite during my first year (1976–77) — the same year the Sandford Fleming Building caught fire. It burned down the week that Skule™ Nite was on. I remember feeling like, in addition to the usual Skule™ Nite festivities, we were helping to gain back the morale of our classmates after the fire. It was a great, fun group of people and we really felt like we were pulling the Faculty back together.

Why should alumni, who have never been to Spring Reunion, come out and get involved?

When you come out to Spring Reunion, you get a chance to reconnect with the ways the University helped to launch your career. Many of us met our spouses and significant others here. There are so many great memories connected to Skule™, and when you walk the hallways they come flooding back. It was really hard work while we were here, but when you come back for Spring Reunion you only remember the fun parts.

Elaine currently sits on the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry’s Board of Advisors.

Laurence Gutcher (EngSci 9T0)

Laurance Gutcher

What does Spring Reunion mean to you?

I graduated 25 years ago and this is the first year that my class is part of the groups that are being honoured. Having not come to Spring Reunion in the past, I thought it was time to reconnect back to my roots here at the University, especially with Engineering. It also gave me an opportunity to bring my wife, who is originally from Ottawa, to U of T’s downtown campus. I have two children — eight and 10 — who I was able to sign up for the Skule™ Kids program to get some exposure to see what Dad did while he was at University.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Skule™?

In my fourth year I had the opportunity to be the vice-president of finance for the Engineering Society and it was a blast. Being a part of the Engineering Society in a senior position was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.

Why should alumni, who have never been to Spring Reunion, come out and get involved?

Being able to re-experience and reconnect with the things that I did 25 years ago is really important. I would encourage others to come down, walk around and see their old haunts and be a part of it all again. There are a lot of fond memories. It’s a really good feeling.

— Jamie Hunter