Mike Ircha   2007 President's Medal Recipient

That the Mike Ircha we know and admire is a civil engineer should come as no surprise to anyone.  For Mike has been building bridges nearly all of his career—not the kind of bridges like the ones that span the St. John River (though he could probably do that, too) but the kind of bridges that foster understanding, encourage collaboration and strengthen relationships.

The word “civil” is derived from the Latin word “civilus” meaning “citizen”.  And that suits Mike, too. For the 28 years he has worked at UNB and lived in Fredericton, he has been a model citizen—of the University, of the City, of Canada.

Born in Scotland and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Mike attended Queen’s University under the ROTP program and became a project engineer with the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968.  He returned to school on three subsequent occasions—twice at Queen’s and once at the University of Wales in Cardiff—earning a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, a Master of Public Administration and ultimately a PhD. 

In between much of this study, he worked in various capacities for the Town of Amherst, Nova Scotia, and the City of Vanier, Ontario.  Just before joining UNB Fredericton in 1979, he was acting Chief Administrative Officer for Vanier.

Who better to build bridges between town and gown? 

At UNB, Mike rose quickly through the professorial ranks and became a member of our highly respected Transportation Group, developing a specialization in ports and shipping. 

There is almost nothing in the world of academe that Mike hasn’t done, and done well.  He’s been an effective teacher, a prolific researcher, a supervisor of graduate students, a mentor to younger faculty, a conference organizer, an administrator and an extraordinarily active volunteer.  He is in great demand as a speaker and resident expert. Requests for his services have taken him from Tasmania to England and many points in between.

His impact has been felt by a great many people.  Just this morning, for example, I received a tribute to Mike from his long-time colleague, Barry Bisson, who is now President of the Shad Valley Program in Waterloo, Ontario.  Barry wrote, and I quote:

“I recently read a book by Robin Sharma entitled The Greatness Guide in which he says that everyone should try to be a ‘rock star’ every day.

“Sharma states, ‘Walk onto the stage of this day and play your heart out.  Give the performance of your life.  Wow your audience and get them cheering for you’.

“I believe this quote describes so well the person you have been since I’ve known you, both in your professional life and your personal life.  I have so many fond memories of my time at UNB and Fredericton and you helped shape many of them.  I am deeply grateful to have had you as a friend and colleague since 1983.

“Mike, I doubt that anyone has ever called you a “rock star” before, but, in my opinion you really are one!”

Mike has also been formally honoured for his accomplishments, having been elected a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, among other distinctions. 

In 2004 he received the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration from the Institute of Public Administration in Canada and in 2006, New Brunswick presented him with a Merit Award for Community Leadership.

Which brings me to the reason for our celebration here at City Hall tonight.

As Brad mentioned, the presentation of a President’s Medal is normally a campus event.  It is an award that recognizes a career of distinction, a career that is usually all about the University.  In Mike’s case, however, his career has spanned two worlds: one up the hill and the other right here at City Hall.

Drawing on his experience as a city planner, director of public works and acting CAO, coupled with his extensive education in planning, Mike embarked on a 25-year stint of community service that began with the Killarney Lake Advisory Board in 1982 and continues to this day with the Greater Fredericton Airport Authority, of which he is a director, and the Planning Advisory Committee, of which he was chair from1996 to 2006.  He’s looked at west end development, participated in the Mayor’s Roundtable on the Economy, served on the Delta Airlines Travel Bank Task Force, traveled on two partnership missions to Thailand, and been part of the municipal plan review process, to name but a few. 

Throughout, Mike has adeptly melded and seamlessly integrated his role in the community with his role at the University.  He’s brought us together, mended fences, refereed disputes, interpreted messages, practiced diplomacy and identified synergies for us both.  Without Mike’s thoughtful, calm and even-handed interventions, his constant attention to how each organization works and his deep respect for the staff of both City Hall and UNB Fredericton, our community would be much the poorer.

We are here this evening, then, to pay tribute to an individual who has kept us mindful that a community is greater than the sum of its parts. 

In recognition of his many contributions, I am therefore pleased and proud to present my friend and colleague Mike Ircha with the President’s Medal.


John McLaughlin


April 23, 2007