The Current

École Polytechnique massacre 'left a scar,' says first woman to have engineering school named after her

Gina Parvaneh Cody graduated from Concordia with her PhD in engineering the same year as the École Polytechnique massacre. She talks to Anna Maria Tremonti about how she donated $15 million to her alma mater to "make a future where women are allowed in engineering."

Gina Cody donated $15 million to Concordia to help women

After a $15 million donation from alumna Gina Cody, Concordia has renamed its engineering department after her. (Concordia University)

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Originally published on Dec. 6, 2018.

When a gunman killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Que. in 1989, Gina Parvaneh Cody learned the news in horror at nearby Concordia University.

"It left a scar," said Cody, an Iranian immigrant who moved to Canada in 1979 to pursue her dream of getting a PhD in engineering.

Cody graduated with her doctorate the same year as the Montreal Massacre.

She told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that after the attack — which many saw as a misogynistic act of violence — she wanted to "make a future where women are allowed in engineering."

According to a Stats Canada study, while young women represent the majority of recent university graduates they are still underrepresented in STEM fields.

Thirty years after graduating, Concordia has renamed a department in her honour: the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. It is the first time a Canadian engineering school has been named after a woman.

Cody inspecting a crane in the Toronto skyline. (Submitted by Gina Cody)

The accolade comes after Cody gifted $15 million to the university's engineering program. Her career progressed from being the only female crane inspector in Toronto, to becoming the former executive chair and principal shareholder of CCI Group, a large engineering firm in the city.

Cody says that while her mother married young and never finished high school, she often impressed upon her daughters how important it was to get an education.

"Her message to me and my sister — who became a dentist — was as a woman, to be independent, you have to pursue higher education."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Samira Mohyeddin.


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