Linda Hasenfratz speaks at the 26th annual Lynda Shaw Memorial Distinguished Lecture

Image of Lynda Shaw's family with Linda Hasenfratz
Linda Hasenfratz (far right) and the family of Lynda Shaw surround a photo of the third year Engineering student who died in 1990.

Western Engineering News | March 9, 2017

On the day after International Women’s Day, Western Engineering remembered the life of Lynda Shaw and the stolen promise of her future contributions.  An entire generation may not remember the Lynda Shaw story which unfolded in the spring of 1990. Western Engineering is proud to keep her memory alive with an annual award for a deserving Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student and an annual Memorial Lecture Series.  It is the Faculty of Engineering’s hope that these lectures and the award will inspire and motivate excellence in the engineering and scientific community.  This year Western Engineering was pleased to welcome Linda Hasenfratz, BSc’89 (Chemistry), EMBA’97, the Chief Executive Officer of Linamar Corporation, a six billion dollar international corporation.

“Although I didn’t know Lynda Shaw, I feel like we had a lot in common,” said Hasenfratz to the crowd of faculty, students, staff and community members. “We both attended Western at the same time; we were both women in scientific areas of study when the incidence of that was not very common.”

After working her way up from the ground floor, Hasenfratz became CEO of Linamar in 2002.  As a Western alumna, she continues to support her alma mater by serving on the advisory board for Ivey Business School.  She has won countless awards including the National Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the International Distinguished Entrepreneur award, and in 2016 was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.   

Hasenfratz spoke of the ability of Linamar Corporation, a diverse manufacturing company, to prosper amid fluctuating economic times.  “Our prosperity is based on three things,” she explained. “Competitiveness, our ability to capture opportunity, and the culture we have created and nurtured.”
The idea of capturing opportunity, and the notion of innovation, rang true in a room full of future entrepreneurs and engineers. “Innovation shows up in a lot of places in companies,” she said. “In the products we design, in the processes we develop to make those products, and in the development of new materials to enhance those product designs or processes.”

She explained that many companies do not achieve success because they don’t continue to innovate or because of missed opportunities: “We can’t predict the future, but we can educate ourselves and be deeply knowledgeable,” she said. “[We can] develop strategies that don’t bet on one future but instead will create success in a variety of scenarios.”

The future was most likely on the mind of the students in the room who gave Hasenfratz their undivided attention. She was quick to congratulate them for choosing Western Engineering and point out the importance of work integrated learning.  “All universities should be incorporating work integrated learning,” she explained. “Co-ops and internships are a necessary part of education.”

Hasenfratz affirmed that this is an exciting time to be in technology and particularly, in this part of the country.  She cited the incredible ecosystem of technology that exists right here in southern Ontario.  “We are the second largest technology cluster,” she said. “We have the second highest density of tech startups in the world.”

As she neared the end of her presentation, and prepared to take questions from the audience, she reminded the future engineers in the crowd that they made a good career choice: “The world of tomorrow will be shaped by the technology students of today.”

For more information on Linda Hasenfratz and Linamar Corporation click here.

To learn more about Lynda Shaw and the Lynda Shaw Memorial Distinguished Lecture Series click here.