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Paul and Gerri Charette donate $1 million to establish research chair at RRC

May 26, 2015

17547884593_b6316dc216_kRed River College alum Paul Charette, former CEO of Bird Construction, and his wife Gerri have donated $1 million towards the establishment of a research chair for RRC’s School of Construction and Engineering Technology (SCET).

The province will provide matching funds to create the new chair position, which will be called the Paul Charette – Manitoba Applied Research Chair in Sustainable Construction.

“We are humbled by Paul and Gerri’s generous commitment and very pleased that the province has responded with matching funds,” says David Rew, interim president of RRC. “It’s an excellent show of confidence in SCET, and in our nationally recognized applied research program.”

The new position will support student learning while helping the construction industry develop innovative processes, technologies and applications to reduce costs, boost productivity and create more sustainable infrastructure. The Chair will also lead SCET’s research program.

“Being a 40-year veteran of the construction sector, it’s clear that research and innovation are lagging far behind other sectors,” says Charette. “I believe that sustainable infrastructure is what our industry really needs to move toward.”

Charette says applied research benefits not only the sector through new product innovations, but also students, by engaging them in the process and teaching them to be critical thinkers — an ability they’ll need to become advocates of change in the sector.

“We need students that will challenge their managers to do things in new ways,” he says.

Dr. Shokry Rashwan, previously the research manager with National Research Council Canada’s Centre for Computer-Assisted Construction Technologies, has been appointed to the new Chair position.

“Manitoba’s construction sector is heavily reliant upon the College for qualified – and increasingly, technology- and innovation-savvy – graduates,” says Rashwan. “I’m excited to be filling this critical role and look forward to working with both students and industry to meet the sector’s current and future needs.”

It’s an especially exciting time for construction innovation in Manitoba, with the College’s recent $1.75-million award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to establish the Centre for Building Envelope Performance (CBEP), which is expected to significantly increase access to the College’s facilities, equipment and expertise for Manitoba’s building industry

Rashwan is now the third research chair at Red River College, joining Fred Doern (School of Transportation, Aviation and Manufacturing) and Janet Jamieson (School of Health Sciences and Community Services).

“After a decade of applied research at the College, we are pleased to be responding to the research needs of our communities with established research chairs that provide direction and leadership to their schools,” says Ray Hoemsen, Director of Applied Research & Commercialization.

(Above, seated: Lloyd Schreyer, Chair, RRC Board of Governors; Gerri Charette; and Paul Charette, former CEO, Bird Construction. Standing: Christine Crowe, Interim Vice-President, Academic and Research, RRC; Freyja Arnason, Manager of Partnership Programs, Research Manitoba; David Rew, Interim RRC President; Nancy Wheatley, Dean, School of Construction and Engineering Technologies, RRC; and Ray Hoemsen, Director, Applied Research & Commercialization, RRC.)