Return to Newsroom

35 years of engineering feats: Celebrating Doug Dean

For almost four decades, Doug Dean brought many of J.D. Irving, Limited’s largest projects to life.

The sheer breadth of these projects means it’s hard for Dean, who retired as Director of Project Engineering in March, to pick a favourite.

After all, he helmed the Halifax Shipyard Facility Modernization and played a leading role in bringing natural gas to Prince Edward Island.

“I couldn’t zero down to one. They were all fun,” said Dean. “I always enjoyed doing something new.”

Engineering came naturally to Dean, who'd always had a predilection for math and physics. He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of New Brunswick, later followed by an MBA from Queens, setting the stage for the leadership role he would take in significant projects to come.

Dean’s career at J.D. Irving, Limited started in 1981 with a summer job at Steel and Engine Products that later turned into full time employment.

In his early years, Dean was a project manager for the construction of the Juniper Tree Nursery. He then took on a 10-year stint at Canada Veneers in Pembroke, ON, culminating in the role of General Manager before moving back to New Brunswick. 

Among the multiple major projects Dean was involved in, a few stand out.

The 2022 Reversing Falls Railway Bridge restoration used a mechanically stabilized earth wall – a technology never before used by the company. Completed in just one summer, it required only five days of downtime for the railroad.

“No project is completed without difficulty,” Dean said. “I was very fortunate to have a team that came together and worked through these issues successfully.”

Dean had the unique task of figuring out how to bring natural gas to PEI in 2010 in a project marked the first time in Canada natural gas was delivered to a commercial business by truck.

His largest project by far was the Halifax Shipyard Modernization. Completed in 2015, it came with the challenge of an aggressive schedule.

“To conceptualize, design, price and construct in four years or less was phenomenal when you look at the size of the thing,” Dean said.

He reflects that while much has changed in project management, some things have stayed the same.

The tools are different – it’s much easier to visualize what a project will look like with 3D design renderings, for instance.

But the basics remain.

“We still need a team,” Dean said. “Over the last 35 years, I found that I really enjoyed mentoring up and coming managers and project engineers.  It gives me great satisfaction to see these folks prosper in J.D. Irving, Limited companies today.”