C.W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures


The C. W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures, established in February 1994, is the result of a generous gift from the Carry Family in honour of Mr. C. W. (Bill) Carry, in recognition of his significant achievements in steel structural engineering.

Bill Carry is recognized in Western Canada as a pioneer in the steel construction business, and his construction skills in steel structure engineering are responsible for a number of Alberta's landmarks. The downtown Edmonton skyline reflects the design work of Bill Carry in the Milner Building and Oxford Tower in Edmonton Centre. Manulife Place, a distinctive building of its size, is the result of an innovative structural steel framing system carried out by the Carry firm. Other testaments to Bill Carry's construction skills are the defense-related work at Namao, Greisbach, and Cold Lake, Syncrude and the Great Canadian Oil Sands plants at Fort McMurray, the Scotford oil refinery and Redwater petrochemical plants in the Edmonton area, and the Daishowa and Alpac forest product plants in northern Alberta.

Born in Winnipeg, Bill Carry first attended St. John's College and then the University of Manitoba, where he graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1926 and an MSc degree in 1929. Bill Carry worked his way through all the plant engineering jobs at Dominion Bridge, and then moved to Calgary in 1936, where he worked as a sales engineer with a subsidiary of Dominion Bridge - Riverside Iron Works, until 1945.

At this time, Bill Carry and his wife, Muriel, formed CW Carry Ltd., a company that started out cleaning used oil drums for Imperial Oil. The discovery of oil in the province along with the healthy post-war economy resulted in the firm rapidly establishing itself as a supplier and fabricator of structured steel and a major business enterprise in the Province of Alberta, which flourishes to this day. In 1958, the firm was sold to Canadian Iron Foundries (now Canron), with Bill Carry being retained as Regional Vice-President and a Director of the company. In 1967, Bill Carry and his son, Roger, established CW Carry (1967) Ltd., and in 1971 they purchased the assets of CW Carry Ltd. from Canron. They constructed the existing Carry plant in 1974, designing it to accommodate the medium structural steel market as well as to recognize the savings to be made in the efficient handling and movement of steel inventories. It was also in 1974 that Bill Carry sold the balance of his interest in the firm to Roger, retaining his position as President until his death in 1992.


The objectives of the Chair are to advance, enhance, and promote the use of steel in buildings, bridges, and other structures. This is done by continuing and strengthening the strong research program that already existed in this area in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and by a strong commitment to education.

Chairholder of the C.W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures

The first person to hold the Chair is Prof. G.L. Kulak, P.Eng., a long-time staff member at the University of Alberta and a person known for his national and international contributions to steel research. Dr. Kulak held the Chair position from the establishment of the Chair to June 30, 1997, one year after his retirement from the University of Alberta.

In February 1998, Dr. J.J. Roger Cheng accepted the C.W. Carry Chair from Prof. G.L. Kulak. Dr. Cheng joined the University of Alberta in July 1984 and has been actively involved in teaching and research in the area of steel structures. Under the new chair of Dr. Cheng, the University of Alberta continues to strengthen the internationally recognized research activities in steel structures established by Dr. Kulak and others in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The C.W. Carry Chair - Strong as Steel

By Connie Bryson

Bill Carry

Growing up in Winnipeg, Bill Carry shared a paper route with the late R.M. (Bob) Hardy (LLD [Hon] ’77) who was Dean of the Faculty of Engineering from 1946-1959 and from 1963-1971. The two paper-boys became lifelong friends.

You could call it the gift that keeps on giving. In 1994, the Carry family of Edmonton made a generous gift to the University of Alberta in honour of the family patriarch C.W. (Bill) Carry. At the time, the endowment for the C.W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures—$2 million—was the largest donation the University had ever received.

But the legacy of the gift represents more than its monetary value. Fast forward 15 years and you can see the impact—an unbeatable reputation for high-quality undergraduate and graduate education in steel structures, Canada’s largest university research group in steel structures, and research results from this group used in the Canadian Steel Structures Design Standard as well as design codes and specifications in many other countries.

“The biggest impact of the Carry Chair is that it ensures that the University of Alberta will maintain its reputation for excellence in research and education in steel structures,” says Dr. Roger Cheng, current holder of the Carry Chair and head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

“People might think that since steel structures is a well-established area, maintaining the area should not be an issue. The reality is that priorities shift over time and important things can be put on the back burner. Having the Chair means this won’t happen.”

Bill Carry’s son Roger thinks that his father would have wanted his name associated with excellence. “My father was a very good engineer. He was a great innovator and did a lot for steel construction in Canada. He would have been surprised by the gift, but he would have been proud. So would my mother.” Bill Carry was born in Winnipeg in 1905. He graduated in Civil Engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1926 and went to work for Dominion Bridge Company. He was transferred to Calgary and then to Edmonton after a subsidiary of Dominion Bridge, Standard Iron Works, suffered a major fire. It was Bill Carry’s job to design and construct a new plant.

A dispute over his pension caused Carry to resign from Standard Iron in 1945. Encouraged by his wife Muriel, he set up his own company: C.W. Carry Ltd. Although the company’s first job was cleaning used oil drums from Norman Wells, C.W. Carry Ltd. quickly became known for steel fabrication.

The years immediately after World War II were pioneering days in the steel-construction industry. Fabricators and the subtrades carried almost all of the design responsibilities without the benefit of significant input from consulting engineers.

Many of Alberta’s landmark structures are a result of Bill Carry’s know-how and his company’s construction skills: defense related work at Namao, Greisbach, and Cold Lake; work at the Great Canadian Oil Sands and Syncrude plants at Fort McMurray; the Scotford oil refinery; the Redwater petrochemical plants; and the Diashowa and Alpac forest product plants in northern Alberta. In Edmonton, the downtown skyline reflects the work of C.W. Carry, including the Milner Building, Oxford Tower, and Manulife Place.

In 1958, C.W. Carry Ltd. was sold to Canada Iron Foundries (Canron). Bill Carry remained with the company as vice president until 1967 when he started a small steel business with his son Roger, a chartered accountant. In 1971, C.W. Carry (1967) Ltd. purchased the assets of the old company from Canron. Roger led the rebuilding of the company, and C.W. Carry Ltd. is once again a leader in the steel-fabrication business. Bill Carry passed away in 1992.

“I wanted to do something that would carry on my father’s name, something that would be linked to his pioneering work in steel structures,” says Roger Carry. That idea was mulled over with family friend Dr. Geoff Kulak (Civil ’58), a Civil Engineering professor at the U of A and an international authority on steel structures. Dr. Kulak was named as the first holder of the Carry Chair.

Dr. Kulak recalls, “When Roger and I began to discuss this, we recognized that we had an opportunity to do something significant—that we could do more than just pay someone’s salary.”

Indeed they did. To maximize the use of funds, the University used the income from the endowment to fund a junior faculty position while keeping Dr. Kulak’s position. Dr. Gilbert Grondin (PhD Civil ’91) was hired in 1995.

The tradition of maximizing the use of funds continues. When Dr. Kulak retired and Dr. Cheng took over the Carry Chair position, Dr. Robert Driver (Civil ’83, MSc Civil ’87, PhD Civil ’97) was hired. The hiring of junior faculty has left more funds available to support undergraduate and graduate scholarships and prizes for design projects.

“This is an important area because it allows us to attract high-quality students,” explains Dr. Kulak. “Because of the Carry Chair, we can make competitive offers to graduate students. This is absolutely essential to maintaining our reputation in steel structures research.”

“It all comes down to excellence,” says Dr. Cheng. “You don’t have excellence without stability. The Carry Chair ensures the viability of our steel structures group. It benefits industry by supplying skilled graduates and providing new knowledge from research. This is the legacy of the Carry Chair.”
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