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McMaster Engineering alumnus pays it forward and shares award with student

Just before the holidays, second-year McMaster chemical engineering student Lindsay Kuyltjes received an unexpected gift. She was selected for the Joseph K. Perkins Award, donated by Garnet Bremner ’93.

The morning before her last exam in December, Lindsay Kuyltjes woke up and checked her phone. There was an email saying she had received an award she had never heard of.

“I was so happy and a little surprised,” says the second-year chemical engineering student. Happy, because the money will go straight to her tuition – and surprised, since she had no idea that she would be receiving an award.

She learned it had been created through a donation from Garnet Bremner, a McMaster chemical engineering alumnus.

Garnet Bremner

Last fall, Bremner had received his own welcome surprise. He had been selected for the Joseph K. Perkins Award for leadership and lifetime service from the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI). Named after a pulp and paper innovator, the honour comes with US$1,000 – to be given to the institution of his choice.

For Bremner, it was a no-brainer. “McMaster was a door I stepped through, and all good things happened after that.” Although he graduated almost 25 years ago, he’s never forgotten the impact that McMaster had on his life and career.

In particular, he credits Phil Wood, longtime professor and former dean of students. “He had faith in me, and I’ve never forgotten his influence on my character and work ethic. I try to pay it forward every chance I get,” says Bremner.

A recipient of the prestigious 3M Teaching Fellowship, Phil Wood helped launch the Student Wellness Centre, the Student Success Centre and the Les Prince Residence, among many other accomplishments. In June 2018, he will officially retire after 40 years of teaching

Carlos Filipe, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, acknowledges Bremner’s support. “I am truly touched that Garnet thought of the Department and our students. And I’m not surprised that Phil Wood left such a strong impression on him. Phil has had a tremendously positive impact on so many students, staff, and faculty members at McMaster.”

Lindsay Kuyltjes had the opportunity to attend Wood’s last lecture. It was a meaningful experience for her. “McMaster has always been a home away from home for me, and much of that is because of Dr. Phil Wood,” she says. “He did so much and cared so much for students.”

Last summer, Kuyltjes interned with a biotech consulting firm in North Carolina. After graduation, she plans to work in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors, engineering ways to help prevent diseases from happening in the first place.

“I want to become the kind of engineer who cares about others, rather than just doing the job and getting a paycheque.”

Thanks to Bremner’s generosity, she’s one step closer to that goal. “I want to say a really big thank-you,” Kuyltjes says. “I’m very grateful.”

For his part, Bremner was very moved when he received Kuyltjes’s thank-you letter – and impressed by her focus and ambition. “I know she’s going to do really well.”

For now, though, it’s back to class for Kuyltjes. First up: fluid mechanics and calculus IV.