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Terry Fallis, B.Eng. '83

(Mechanical Engineering) | Big Ideas: Engineering as a Foundation for Anything

For Terry Fallis, engineering has never been a career. But it’s always been the lens through which he’s viewed the world.

That may sound odd, given that he’s spent the last 35 years as a political staffer, a public relations expert and an award-winning novelist. But combining creativity and inspiration with a structured process has paid off for the 1983 Mac engineering graduate.

“I have a very disciplined, methodological approach to problem solving -- the framework I learned studying engineering – and that has been with me in everything that I do,” Fallis says.

Truth is, all indications suggest Fallis was born an engineer. At 12, he and a buddy built and even attempted to fly three full-sized hang gliders. When none of them proved airworthy, he moved on to designing and building a hovercraft.

But when he arrived at McMaster in 1978, his love of flying machines was left behind in the face of student politics.

Thanks to immersion in the McMaster Student Union, which he eventually served as president – a job he describes as “a life-changing experience” – Fallis spent six years earning his four year engineering degree. And when he graduated, he opted for a career in the political realm.

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