The Kind and Gentle “Rock” who built NRC-IRAP
“No one deserves more credit for the success of NRC’s IRAP program than Keith,” a former colleague told a February 26th Memorial Service honoring the late NRC Vice-President Keith Cecil Malcolm Glegg. “He was the architect of the integrated national network and the program’s special focus on the needs of industrial firms, and he had a profound and lasting impact on NRC and our country.”
Keith Glegg, who was recruited by the National Research Council in 1977 to assume the position of Vice-President of Technology, passed away on November 26, 2010 at his long-time home on the Ottawa River in L’Orignal, east of Ottawa. He was 84. The Memorial service at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal last month featured speeches from former classmates, business associates, NRC colleagues, family, and friends, including one who knew Glegg as a teenager in his native Jamaica.
Glegg was celebrated as a gentle, kind, and thoughtful human being, but also as a no-nonsense “rock,” who was the anchor and foundation of several families and institutions during his lifetime.
He came to NRC from the Canadian Marconi Company where he served as Vice-President and where he had made his mark as an innovative inventor as well as a businessman and manager. Glegg, a trained physicist and engineer, was credited with the technologies that made CMC the first company in the world to produce a frequency modulated continuous wave (FM-CW) Doppler Radar system for use in air navigation systems. It was a technology and line of products that would earn the company many millions of 1960’s dollars within a few short years, helping make the firm a major economic force in Canada and, as some of his colleagues said at the Memorial, “very rich.” Glegg received the prestigious McCurdy Award in 1963 for outstanding achievement in science and creative engineering in aeronautics as a result of this work.
Later as Chief Engineer and Vice-President at Canadian Marconi, Glegg introduced a program-based management system under which managers were given budgets, responsibility for marketing, and the capacity to create innovation teams by drawing from across all divisions and branches of the company. He later applied the same philosophy to the design of the NRC Program for Industry/Laboratory Projects (PILP) as well as to development of the renowned NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).
“Keith had a vision for an integrated national innovation system
– and he did something about it !!”
When he arrived at NRC, the new VP for Technology Keith Glegg was equipped with an appreciation of the power of industrial innovation, significant technology management experience, and a deep commitment to his adopted country. NRC-IRAP had its roots in NRC’s post-war technical services and a funding program established under NRC President Ned Steacie in the 1960s, but Glegg thought it could be much more powerful.
“Keith had a vision for an integrated national innovation system for Canada,” former NRC Vice-President and Secretary General Clive Willis told Glegg’s Memorial gathering in Montreal. “And - he did something about it!”
Glegg wanted NRC to have an IRAP presence in all provinces and all regions of the country and to have the NRC program manifest as a network of integrated technology organizations rather than as a separate, overlapping and competing federal government program.
“Keith wanted to confront the fragmentation in the innovation system head on.” Glegg believed that accountability, stability, and federal priorities could be maintained with a core of NRC-employee Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs) and managers; but the majority of ITAs were to be employed by other organizations such as universities, colleges, industry associations, and provincial research organizations.
Even more than an overlay on these institutions and their services, he wanted IRAP to be intertwined and linked with them. Within the federal government, the NRC-PILP program had a laboratory network of industrial technology advisors to complement the NRC-IRAP field network. Glegg believed that funding to firms had no worth without expertise and believed in the value of his people, particularly those with industrial technology experience.
Retired NRC-IRAP Director Denys Cooper told those attending the Memorial that in the 1980s, in a year of budget deficits and restraint, Glegg mobilized a national campaign to “double the size of the IRAP field staff” and succeeded. “It meant hiring 80 new ITAs,” Cooper said. “And Keith Glegg was the final interviewer for each one of them.”
Glegg, who became the first recipient of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Public Sector Leadership Award, was regarded as an influential executive within the Government of Canada and had a significant impact on the rest of NRC as well as on NRC-IRAP. He was the executive responsible for the development of the NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI) during its expansion as a client-focused, revenue-earning information service that was ranked among the very top research and technology information organizations in the world. Glegg was also assigned responsibility for the NRC Division of Building Research, overseeing its transformation into the more focused NRC Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC).
“Keith Glegg put a lot emphasis on good governance as a key to an effective organization,” said former NRC-IRC Director General George Seaden. “He wanted industry-led advisory boards for the NRC institutes, and he wanted them to be populated with strong, experienced industry people who would challenge NRC to do better – ‘Big dogs that are not afraid to bark’ - as he put it.”
In addition to former colleagues from NRC and CMC and friends from Glegg’s McGill University days, those paying tributes to the innovator and leader included his widow Paula Dutz, daughters Carol and Louise, his son Robert, and his granddaughters Olivia and Jacqueline, who talked of his sense of humor and gentle love of animals recalling how he would carefully clean cobwebs off a disabled hummingbird or sit still to let butterflies land on his hand.
“It was very important to Keith that the communities he lived in be enriched by his presence, and this value inspired his volunteer participation on the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa and several colleges, and his involvement in promoting literacy and economic development in Eastern Ontario,” his December 2010 obituary in the Ottawa Citizen said.
Glegg, who retired from NRC in 1990, was a talented pianist, an avid gardener, and a passionate sailor well into his eighties. In his last few years of life, he wrote and published books delineating his lifelong fascination with the workings of the human brain, evolution, and human behaviour, saying that although engineering and physics supported him and his work, his real intellectual interests were issues such as the mechanism of “story telling” and the creative process in “play.”
Glegg was proud of his heritage and is regarded as a role model for young Jamaicans and Jamaican-Canadians seeking a path to careers in science and technology. He was recently honored by his old high school (Kingston College in Jamaica), and the Toronto Chapter of its alumnae association is considering the establishment of a scholarship in Keith Glegg’s honour.
Anyone interested in supporting the scholarship project, should contact Dick Bourgeois-Doyle, NRC Secretary General’s Office.