Peter Shepard

Peter Shepard

BASc ‘64
Chemical and Biological Engineering
UBC Engineering Advisory Council and a 35-year career with Imperial Oil and its parent company, ExxonMobil

Peter Shepard (BASc 1964 CHBE) spent most of his 35 year career with Imperial Oil and its parent company, ExxonMobil in England and the United States. He held senior jobs in refining, minerals, and corporate planning. For five years post retirement, he taught in the Industrial Engineering program at the University of Toronto; for the past five years he has been an active member of the UBC Engineering Advisory Council.

Peter and his classmates are returning to UBC in May for Alumni Weekend and their 50th class reunion. This won’t be the first time the class has been in touch: every year since graduation each member of the class has submitted a one-page summary of events which they compile into a newsletter. As a result, they have stayed in close touch over the years.

Peter also comes back to campus each year to award a book prize to a student who graduates with good academic standing, and who actively participated in the EUS. “Meeting the winner and awarding the prize, now several books due to excellent management of the endowment, is always an annual highlight for me,” he noted.

APSC Alumni would like to thank Peter for answering our ten questions for our February newsletter!

What was the best part of the work that you have done?
The best job I had in the oil industry was in refining. I enjoyed manufacturing a product and experiencing how engineering can be used safely and effectively through well designed units operated by an extremely talented work force.

If your work had a slogan, what would it be?
Keep improving. As a systems and engineering professional I looked for opportunities for change that would have a long lasting benefit to the organization. I always enjoyed pulling together the team and then completing the implementation.

What is a fact about your work that people might find surprising?
I worked for 36 years, 35 with Imperial Oil/Exxon. During the first 23 years I lived in 15 homes in 12 different cities in Canada, England and United States. I enjoyed the diversity a great deal.

Do you have a personal hero, either alive or deceased? If so, who are / were they?
Nelson Mandela is a personal hero. He exemplified so well how to forgive and overcome extreme difficulty. Once released from 27 years as a political prisoner, he did not let this experience divert the positive and peaceful steps he took to achieve his vision of equality for all.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in life so far (personal, professional, or both)?
Raising four great children, all with university degrees two from UBC.

What is one piece of technology that you couldn’t live without, and why?
A computer which provides me easy access to a vast array of useful information and enables me to connect with many friends, family and associates around the world.

What was your most memorable experience during your time at UBC, inside the classroom or outside?
By far it was outside the classroom participating in Engineering stunts, the most famous of which was the statue caper. One summer we proudly made statues and placed them about the campus to many admiring comments from the arts students. In the fall with classes back in full swing, we took great pleasure in smashing them since engineers, supposedly, did not appreciate this modern art. Our friends in the Buchanan Building were horrified.

What was your “light bulb moment” in engineering? In other words, what made you realize that engineering was your chosen profession?
I have always loved chemistry and math and wanted to do something useful in pursuing those subjects. Chemical Engineering was a natural fit as I did not see myself in pure science. There was no eureka moment as I seemed naturally drawn into Chemical Engineering.

What was your favourite thing to do on campus as a UBC student?
Most of my favourite moments are centred around being with fellow students at parties, in the unit ops lab, playing bridge or organizing student events. I was always amazed at how much we could do in so short a time and have so much fun doing it.

What are the top three things that you would recommend current engineering students do before they graduate?
Besides doing well in their engineering studies…

  • Learn to package and communicate ideas effectively. Lots of multi-media practice helps a great deal.
  • Participate in extra-curricular activities to the extent that you can. University offers many opportunities to develop long-lasting friendships, to broaden your experiences and to test your capabilities in many different fields. Go for as many as you can. Stretch your talent.
  • Broaden your knowledge in related fields like business, politics, socioeconomic issues and the environment. Successful engineers must be aware of the broader implications of their work and how to work with others from different backgrounds.