Notable Ex Cadets: H3948 John Plant – OMM, CD, mde, PhD(MIT), FEIC, FIEEE, PEng, Principal Emeritus
Following his high school graduation he worked for two years as an accountant.
He eventually entered RMC in 1953. His element was Navy.
By the mid-1950s, the Navy was enticing people to go train in England at the end of his second year. There was a place called the Royal Naval Engineering College, as well as another college place for future executive officers. Everything was Navy, whereas there was really nothing navy at RMC.
John and five of his classmates took off for England.
After a year at sea with the Royal Navy, he went to the Royal Naval Engineering College, in Plymouth England.
Following a few years in the RCN he was offered his choice of three institutions: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The U.S Post Graduate Naval School in Monterey, or The Royal College in Greenwich England.
He chose MIT, mostly because he had never been to a civilian university before.
So, he went off to MIT, and it was a little bit complicated. Because he didn’t have a degree, he was a probationary student in the naval architecture department, which is virtually run by the American Navy. That’s how he more or less smuggled himself into MIT. They respected the Canadian Navy, so even without a degree, they let him in and he demonstrated that he was a good student.
To get into the doctoral program at MIT, they don’t care about your degrees, if you’re recommended by an academic department; you write competitive exams in order to get in. He wrote the exams, and won a place.
Once he had his thesis accepted the registrar’s office started asking him to come in and fix up their records, because their records couldn’t be right. After all he was completing a PhD and no record of an undergraduate degree OR a Masters Degree. (We believe to be very rare)
John had no notion in his head to be an academic, or to come to RMC to teach. He expected to be posted to Ottawa, to the Naval Design Directorate, and become involved in the ship design program. Along came this posting to RMC, on the faculty of Electrical Engineering Department.
He started off as a lecturer, a military officer in uniform lecturing. That was in 1965.
Well, interestingly enough, he was the only PhD in the department. Doctorates in engineering were rare in those days. Queen’s had yet to produce an PhD graduate in Electrical Engineering. Most Canadians went abroad for that level of studying.
In 1965, there were 450 cadets, 100% Anglophone, no women in the faculty or cadet wing, and no graduate students.
The principal at the time was famous in the college, Colonel Reg. Sawyer. He had been the first principal for post war RMC. He was the principal for 19 years.
In 1970 John was promoted to Commander, and the college asked him to be the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. There was a bit of a tug of war though, between the Navy and RMC for him, because his five years of obligated service was up after his graduate studies. He had to decide whether he should stay on as a civilian professor at RMC and be the Dean, or go back to the Navy at sea as a squadron technical officer, which was necessary and reasonable thing for him to do next in the Navy.
In the end, he decided to stay at RMC.
John Plant stayed on at RMC teaching, and eventually became the principal in ‘83/’84, until 1999. By that time he had 46 years of service.