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Gastops Founder Honours Mentor, Supports Students

Posted by Elizabeth Thompson on September 25, 2017 in News
Dr. Roland Gagne (Left) with Dal Engineering alum, Bernie MacIsaac (Right)
Dr. Roland Gagne (Left) with Dal Engineering alum, Bernie MacIsaac (Right)

Growing up as a farm boy outside Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Bernie MacIsaac (BEng (NSTC’70) had no idea he’d one day build and lead a successful company, known world-wide for its innovations in systems engineering.

Today, the founder Gastops is helping a new generation of engineers succeed, thanks to his leadership gift to the IDEA Project campaign.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate,” says MacIsaac. “I came from absolute poverty but succeeded in getting my engineering degree, which set the course for the rest of my life.”

Discovering a mentor… and a friend

After trying his hand (unsuccessfully) at farming, then ironworking, MacIsaac eventually enrolled as a mature student at St. Francis Xavier University in the engineering diploma program. He arrived at Nova Scotia Technical College (NSTC) in 1968, graduating two years later his honours Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree.

Thanks to a generous National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) scholarship, this top student then headed to Carleton University in Ottawa, eventually earning both his Master and Doctorate degrees. In the process, MacIsaac found himself at the National Research Council (NRC) analysis laboratory, where he met his future mentor and boss, Dr. Roland Gagne.

“I’d already discovered control systems at Nova Scotia Technical College,” MacIsaac explains. “And Roland’s passion was the emerging field of computers. With his help, I combined the two.”

Under Gagne’s guidance, the young MacIsaac learned the art of computer simulation of complex systems. “But more importantly, Roland showed me how to tackle challenges without fear.”

“For Roland, every problem had a solution, as long as you broke it down into bite-sized pieces.”

“This remarkable individual made me a better engineer.”

An investment in success, given with thanks

In tribute to his long-time friend, MacIsaac and his wife Ann directed part of their campaign gift to funding a student lab, the other to establishing a scholarship in Dr. Gagne’s name.

“I’m humbled and honoured,” says Gagne. “Part of our job at the NRC was to make other people successful. We never looked more than to be of service. And that same philosophy lies at the heart of this scholarship.”

“Dr. MacIsaac and I are both happy we spent our lives in system engineering and hope this funding will encourage others to do so.”

For MacIsaac, his motivation was simple: “I wanted to honour an extraordinary scientist and a dear friend, and what better way than by giving others the same kind of chance I enjoyed?”

“Education made the difference between a hardscrabble life and a highly satisfying and successful career for me. I’m immensely grateful to all who helped me, and that’s why I’m giving back.” – Bernie MacIsaac

Bernie MacIsaac and his mentor Dr. Roland Gagne