The First Canadian Student Branch

For those few who may be interested, here is an outline of the launching of an electrical student branch at the University of Toronto.

Back in the 40s there were two main electrical societies with sections in Toronto, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) covering the electric power field and the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) covering communications. There was also the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), fiercely Canadian but having lost out in the 1920s to both AIEE and IRE for the interest of most Canadian electrical engineers.

As a student at the University of Toronto I took out free student memberships offered by both AIEE and IRE. In 1945-6 I was elected Chairman of the undergraduate Electrical Club. This organization arranged social events, field trips to manufacturing facilities and technical lectures. Included were annual meetings with both AIEE and IRE sections. I felt that there were just too many organizations trying to get the attention of the electrical students. So I wrote to the headquarters of both AIEE and IRE asking approval to form student branches at U of T. Permission was readily granted but without any tangible assistance. To simplify the situation further I then proposed that it be a joint AIEE-IRE student branch using the argument that most students did not know which society would eventually best represent their interests. I do not know whether there was a precedent for this in either of the societies but it but it must have made some sense in New York.

I took the simplification process a stage further my arranging that the joint branch would be a integrated into the Electrical Club structure, with the student branch handling technical topics while the club would focus on social affairs. This arrangement proved to be cumbersome in practice and was short lived. However the proposed division of functions between the club and the branch has continued.

I like to think that the formation of this joint AIEE-IRE student branch was a small step toward the eventual formation in 1963 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

contributed by Gordon R. Slemon (November 26, 2002)

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