Carleton remembers

This column provides an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the lives of individuals whose contributions have shaped Carleton University over the years. If you wish to make a submission, please contact the editor at

Jim Whenham, the University’s first Director of Physical Plant, passed away on November 20, 2006. Jim, an architect and engineer, came to Carleton in the mid-1960s from Winnipeg where he had been a principal in a large architectural firm. His initial challenge was to capture control of and then coordinate the work of the planners and various contractors and subcontractors involved in the planning and construction of this campus. While the rough outline of the campus had been established and some of the buildings constructed before he arrived, his job was made more difficult because the rapid growth in student numbers meant that much of the work that had been done needed to be changed. Between 1965 and 1972, the changing government attitude towards university growth resulted in at least three major downward changes in capital funding.

As a result, the financial basis for projects already underway changed in midstream and serious redesigns were required.

Jim was able to use his ability as a “quick study” and his great imagination to turn the sprawling business of building the new Carleton into a manageable problem. He pioneered the use of project management in the design and construction, despite the strong opposition and concerns of the Board of Governors with regard to financial control.

When the building boom ended in 1972, Jim turned his considerable talents to the job of maintaining the campus and its buildings. He was one of the first institutional managers to plan and implement significant energy savings projects.

Jim will be best remembered by the people who worked with him and for him. While he worked within a hierarchical structure, his style was more akin to today’s flat, collaborative structure. He worked with all the employees of Physical Plant and tried very hard to make their contribution to the work of the university useful as well as meaningful to them.

He was a very talented man whose contributions to Carleton are all about us and he will be remembered by his colleagues and friends as a wonderful human being.

Submitted by Don McEown, Secretary Emeritus of the Board of Governors.

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