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Jin Lee

The untold story of the Iron Ring (until now)March 15, 2019

What started as a Kipling prank 18 years ago is now an iconic piece of campus.

Canadian students in the graduating year of their engineering program gather annually for the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, or Kipling Ceremony. Students take an oath to uphold the social responsibilities that accompany becoming an engineer, and receive an iron ring to mark the occasion.

Inspired by the collapse of a bridge being built over the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City in 1907, the ritual involves an “obligation,” or statement of professional ethics that was written by none other than Rudyard Kipling.

This year, the Kipling ceremony takes place on March 29. This is the story of McMaster’s own (giant) iron ring — a sculpture that now sits outside the front doors of the John Hodgins Engineering Building.

Like many great ideas, it started as a prank and involved a pickup truck.

Eighteen years ago, Anton Osfolk (Engineering and Management '01) dreamed of doing something unforgettable for Kipling, so he sought inspiration from his own backyard. His father, the founder of Alumco Inc., started the aluminium foundry there, eventually moving to his own facility.

"I wanted to do something that was more personal to me as a tribute," says Osfolk, who now works as the vice president of sales and marketing at Alumco Inc. "I guess this is infamous too, but something that would be lasting on the campus that everybody could appreciate... I used the resources I had. I had the pattern, made locally here in Hamilton. We used that pattern to make a mould and shop and just mounted it to a pedestal."

The statue was so heavy that Osfolk had to use his pickup truck to transport it onto campus.

"It originally had a concrete base to it," says Osfolk. The new base was donated as a gift by the Class of '17. "We put it up on Kipling night and measured aesthetic fit to the patio stones out and just kind of formed it in. And that was it."

The faculty loved it.

He says no one stopped the instalment because no one appeared to be suspicious of him or his co-conspirators — one of which is now his wife.

"How we met is actually kind of a funny story," says Osfolk. "It was a Mechanical Engineering class with robotics or something. We were forced into a group together."

The class they were in was taught by Gary M. Bone, who has worked as a professor in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster since 1994.

"He assigned groups," says Osfolk. "Everybody was kind of upset because we wanted to be with our friends. We kind of hit it off from there, and obviously, I told her what I wanted to do for the Kipling prank... She was there helping me install it."

Iron Ring.

McMaster runs through Osfolk's blood. His brother, sister-in-law and parents are all McMaster graduates. He says that working for a Hamilton-based family business is something he's dreamed of doing ever since spending summers in between university working for his father.

"I love the city," says Osfolk. "I think Hamilton is great; I always have. I love living here, that close to everything I grew up with and the university. I still come to the university and bring my kids to play squash at the squash courts."

He credits McMaster Engineering for getting him out of his comfort zone and allowing him to become a part of a welcoming community.

"In high school, I was very intrinsic; I kind of kept to myself," says Osfolk. "Getting involved with the Engineering Society, I remember the students were very embracing. They strongly encouraged me to get involved. You really felt a part of a family. We took care of each other. It wasn't just that I hung out with people in my own year; I hung out with people in all years and disciplines. Getting involved like that really helped for me to meet so many people in Engineering. It makes me very proud to say I went to McMaster."