Kenneth Franklin Tupper

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Kenneth Franklin Tupper

Kenneth Franklin Tupper
Portrait of KF Tupper

In office

Preceded by
Succeeded by

Born 1905
Lynn, Massachusetts
Died 1994
Vancouver, British Columbia(?)
Nationality American, Canadian
Discipline Mechanical Engineering
Fields Aeronautics Engineering
Digital Electronics
Nuclear Engineering
Education B.A.Sc., 1929
S.M., 1937
Alma mater University of Toronto
University of Michigan
Known for Aeronautics research (jet engines); Atomic energy research

Kenneth Franklin Tupper (1905-1994) was an aeronautical engineer known for his work on jet engines and atomic energy at the National Research Council of Canada, and was the fifth Dean of Engineering at the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. He served as Dean from 1949 to 1954, leaving the Faculty to pursue private practice and later returning to the NRC as Vice-President (Scientific).

Early Life and Education[edit | edit source]

K.F. Tupper upon graduation in 1929

Kenneth Franklin Tupper was born in Lynn, Massacusetts in 1905.[1] He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering in 1929, and joined the National Research Council division of Physics and Engineering Physics.

In 1925, he met Kathleen "Kaye" Campbell in Calgary. They were married in 1930.[2]

In 1937, he completed a Masters of Science (S.M.) degree from the University of Michigan.[3] During World War II, Tupper was a member of a small team of researchers who secretly traveled to Britain to investigate the development of jet engines, and was subsequently appointed as chief engineer of Turbo Research, a Crown corporation formed to conduct jet engine research for Canada (later acquired by A.V. Roe, the developer of the Avro Arrow).[4] After the war, he was appointed as the Director of the Engineering division at the Chalk River Atomic Energy Project. During this time, he oversaw the start-up and operation of Canad'as first nuclear reactor, the "NRX".[4]. It was from his position at Chalk River that he was appointed Dean of Engineering.[3]

Dean of Engineering[edit | edit source]

Recognized for his administrative skill and experience in research, Tupper was one of the first "outsiders" to the Faculty to be appointed Dean.[4] His appointment came after a chance meeting with Sidney Smith, the President of the University, in an Ottawa-Toronto parlour car.[4] Tupper's expertise on atomic energy and focus on research was likely a factor in his selection as Dean during the post-war era. Indeed, Tupper's inaugural address upon appointment was on the topic of atomic energy.[5]

Tupper was mainly concerned with the quality of admissions at the Faculty. Entry requirements were raised to include a minimum of third-class honours in all Grade 13 subjects for high school applicants,[3] and began to permit transfer students from McMaster, Western, and Lakehead Universities who had taken pre-engineering courses.[4]

Tupper (in 1972) commented on his focus on admissions during his short period in office:

It was never an ambition of mine to increase the size of SPS. On the contrary, I feared that the place would grow to an unwieldy size. Even in 1949, the average student could not become acquainted with all the members of his own class, much less with students in other disciplines, and hence he completely failed to get the benefits which a university can offer. He was attending a vocational school.

I did a lot to permit entrance at the second and third year level for students who had taken pre-engineering courses at McMaster, Western and Lakehead, with the hope of reducing the Toronto enrolment ... [and] I encouraged the establishment of engineering facilities in other Ontario universities. What about quality? It soon became a belief of mine that a university could not add a cubit to any man's stature; the men who graduated were the same you had admitted some years earlier. Contemplating MIT and Caltech and their excellent performance, I noted their astonishingly low failure rates. It was obvious that they admitted only the cream of the crop, while Toronto admitted whole milk. To turn out our cream we had to turn out a second stream of skim milk. Yet in my opinion the second stream differed in kind rather than in quality or social value; they were not so bookish, or they were not really motivated towards engineering. The two-stream process is unavoidable in a university supplied by public funds. There is nothing one can do beyond demanding higher and higher Grade XIII marks within the public support restriction.

Again, the alumni records I examined showed poor correlation with academic transcripts. The then presidents of Babcock-Wilcox, Imperial Oil, Alcan, and the general manager (later chairman) of Ontario Hydro, all graduates of the Faculty and all known to me, numbered among them only one good student - and one of them had taken five years to get his degree! Also, I noted that three of my contemporaries (one, Willson Woodside, had been my room-mate) had distinguished themselves in non-engineering fields. I talked to many such graduates who had taken up non-engineering work with success. None regretted having studied engineering, though generally they admitted that other courses would have served them as well. It seemed to me that we had not done badly for our less-than-brilliant students, and that, regarded as pure education, our operation was fair.

I never did solve the problem of academic goal, and I am no nearer to it in 1972 than I was in 1952.[4]

Despite his observations, Tupper never achieved much of his goals at the Faculty. The size of the Faculty and the amount of research conducted remained relatively constant throughout his term, nor were any fundamental changes made at the Faculty during this time.[3]

Tupper evidently found deanship at the university and its attendant bureaucracy unsatisfying. He told President Sidney Smith in 1954 that he was "frustrated ... listening to a lot of chatter without much decision." He could only "push the canoe up the stream just a short distance."[5] Failing to be satisfied by the job, and failing to engage with his fellow Faculty members, he resigned after only five years as Dean.

Later Life[edit | edit source]

After resigning from the Faculty, Tupper ran his own engineering consulting firm in Toronto. He returned to the National Research Council as Vice-President, Scientific in 1964.[6] He retired from the NRC in 1971.[4]

Tupper died in 1994 at the age of 89. He was survived by his wife Kathleen, two sons (William and Jim), and a daughter (Deanne).

Honours and Awards[edit | edit source]

  • President, Engineering Institute of Canada (1958)
  • Honourary Doctor of Science, Université de Sherbrooke (1966)[1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Richard White, The Skule Story, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Robin S. Harris & Ian Montagnes, eds., Cold Iron and Lady Godiva: Engineering Education at Toronto 1920-1972, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Martin L. Friedland, The University of Toronto: A History, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).
  6. The Ottawa Journal (January 9, 1964), Page 34