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Two survey engineering alumni inducted into Wall of Fame

Author: Kelly Anderson

Posted on Nov 27, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , UNB Saint John

Alex Miller

Two alumni from UNB’s illustrious survey engineering program (now Geodesy and Geomatics) have been awarded the Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award and inducted into the UNB Engineering Wall of Fame.

Olayinka Adekoya (BScSE’69, MScSE’73) graduated from UNB in 1969, returning in 1971 to complete a master’s degree specializing in photogrammetry. On return to her home in Nigeria in 1973, she joined Federal Surveys, Nigeria, and rose quickly to the top position of Surveyor-General of Nigeria, which she held until her untimely death in 1995.

Olayinka Adekoya

Mrs. Adekoya displayed tremendous leadership during a time of difficult economic and political circumstances in her country. As the only woman to hold the position of Surveyor-General in Nigeria and Africa, and the first in the Commonwealth, she worked tirelessly to inspire women across the industry and her country.

Alex Miller (BScSE ’79) is president and founder of Esri Canada, the leading geographic information system (GIS) company in Canada, founded in 1984. He is a pioneer in transforming geography and mapping into a 21st-century digital tool used by millions around the world. His work has helped people see location as a unifying lens through which land and resources are understood.

An advocate for strengthening communities, Mr. Miller initiated The Community Map of Canada, and his support in mapping the longest trail in the world, Trans Canada Trail, helps preserve Canadian heritage and makes the Great Trail more accessible to everyone.

Surveying has been taught at UNB since 1840 when William Brydone Jack, Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at what was then King's College, gave lectures in surveying as part of the mathematics curriculum. It was in 1960 when the surveying engineering program began as a distinct entity, just as computerized mapping and other technologies were emerging and changing the profession.

UNB President Emeritus John McLaughlin (BScSE’69, MScSE’71), a classmate of Mrs. Adekoya, says that both Adekoya and Miller were products of the two themes that made the UNB program the one to watch around the globe.

“First, the department in the 1960’s was one of the first to develop very strong international relationships and become a true global centre. There was a big wave of international students coming to the undergraduate and graduate programs. We had students from 20-25 countries together in classrooms throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. Olayinka, “Yinka” as we all called her, was in my class of 1969. The majority of our class was from Nigeria, sent right out of high school on government scholarships. Yinka was truly outstanding. She stood out intellectually, but more than that, she was a natural leader and star. When she went back to Nigeria she rose quickly and was recognized internationally. She made a huge impact.”

McLauglin became a mentor to Alex Miller in the 1970’s. “Alex came out of the second theme of the program: mapping using the most sophisticated new technology. It was one of the reasons why UNB became a world-class research centre. We were one of the first places in the world to use computers to create and update maps, and then to pull geographic information together with computers and analyze it. Alex was a genuine pioneer in this realm of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He had both a strong vision and business sense that transcended traditional engineering to use the tools and information for much broader purposes. He’s still doing amazing work in that field today, which is incredibly important as we face new, unprecedented challenges.”

Alex was on campus at UNB Fredericton on November 24 to give a public seminar for students, alumni and colleagues on “The evolution of engineering for a sustainable 21st century society.” He accepted his award from the dean of engineering, Josh Leon, prior to the lecture. Both Miller and Adekoya are now permanently honoured on the Wall of Fame in Head Hall.

Read more about Alex Miller’s work and career.