Graham family celebrates three iron rings

Nolan, Ron and Jim Graham display their iron rings. Photo by Kate Blau.
Nolan, Ron and Jim Graham display their iron rings. Photo by Kate Blau.

Three generations of Graham family civil engineers were together in Saskatoon on March  29 for Kipling Camp #4's Iron Ring Ceremony, held at TCU Place. Ron Graham joined his youngest son, Jim, and grandson, Nolan, who both received their iron rings. The Corporation of the Seven Wardens and 26 Kipling Camps across Canada started and maintain the tradition of bestowing iron rings on engineers who commit to upholding a high standard of professional conduct.

"This is something that happens once in a lifetime," Ron said of the special occasion for his family. "It started with Nolan's choice to take engineering and continue a family tradition."

Ron's father, Peter Graham (BE'34), also graduated from civil engineering at the U of S, making Nolan the fourth generation of Grahams to study this field and receive the iron ring.

Nolan is in his final year of Civil Engineering at the U of S College of Engineering. His uncle, Jim, completed civil engineering at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom about 20 years ago and has been living and working there ever since. The UK doesn't have an iron ring ceremony, but he is now working in Canada and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get his iron ring together with his nephew.

"I'm getting involved in some of the family business interests in Canada. It made sense to get my iron ring now, too," he explained.

In addition to the significant moment for his family, Nolan appreciated the ceremony, describing it as "a bit eerie. It was a cool experience, really special." He added, "The emotions of the grads—you could feel it—ran high today."

Nolan is joining the family business shortly after graduation this year, moving to Calgary and working from Graham's corporate head office there. He will start out focused in the area of construction and project management. First, though, he has about a month of travel planned to Greece and Spain. After the rigours of his civil engineering studies, it's safe to say he's earned this break.

"Engineering is a lot of hard work," he said emphatically. "In the end, though, it's worth it. You gain so much knowledge and confidence. It's a wonderful feeling."

Ron Graham (BE'62) is Chairman of Graham Group Ltd., an employee-owned construction solutions partner organization active across North America. He and wife Jane Graham are enthusiastic and involved supporters of the College of Engineering and the University of Saskatchewan. Ron was the college's 2012 C.J. Mackenzie Distinguished Graduate Lecturer and following that was inducted to the College of Engineering Alumni Wall of Distinction. In the spring of 2013, he received an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

The Ron and Jane Graham School of Professional Development at the college is substantial evidence of the couple's commitment to the college, the university and the engineering profession. The school exemplifies their interest in mentorship of young engineers to help them through life past graduation. A desire to support engineering students and working engineers in developing skills like communication and entrepreneurship led to the creation of the school.  Ron and Jane enjoy an active involvement in the school, meeting annually with the dean and school leaders to discuss planning and activities.

Nolan benefited from studies at the Graham school while in engineering, and said of that experience, "It helped me realize how important communication skills are to success in this work. The public speaking and presentations we had to do—I know that will help me in my career."

Life for these three members of the Graham family, though their homes are spread across two continents and three countries, follows a similar pattern. All three joke that home is—or will be shortly in Nolan's case—on an airplane. There will be no follow-up celebration to the morning's iron ring ceremony; Ron and Jim must get to the airport to board separate planes heading off in different directions.

Kate Blau is the communications officer for the U of S College of Engineering.
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