The outstanding career of Joseph C. Paradi

Prof. Joseph C. Paradi and former student and mentee Linda Li (EngSci 0T6). Photo taken by Zifu (Frank) Wang.

On Friday, September 7, more than 150 colleagues, and current and former students gathered at the new Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship to celebrate the remarkable career of Professor Emeritus Joseph C. Paradi (ChemE, MIE).

“Prof. Paradi is known for his ability to translate vision into reality. As a colleague, I have witnessed him grow not just his own ventures but those of others. He is a true leader in the Department and beyond,” says D. Grant Allen, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry (ChemE).

Prof. Paradi began his career in industry as a senior information technology expert. In 1968, he founded Dataline Inc., a computer-services company that started with $2.7 million dollars and quickly grew to a $25 million-dollar operation. Dataline’s services were spread widely across Canada and in most other major financial centres around the globe. The international network supported over 5,500 real time terminals, and delivered sub-second response to stock traders, bankers, investment managers and others who needed instant information. Prof. Paradi sold the company to a U.S. firm in late 1987 and left in January 1989 after 20 years leading the company to join the University of Toronto (U of T) as a Professor.

However, leaving Dataline behind didn’t stop his entrepreneurial spirit. Prof. Paradi went on to create Parcorp Ltd., a company devoted to investing in, nurturing and facilitating the growth of small Canadian high-tech companies. He has also started several other organizations, including a specialized technology consulting firm, two firms based on intellectual properties developed at U of T (DesignCo Inc. and Translucent Technologies Inc.), and a joint venture in Hungary just to name a few.

Prof. Paradi’s career has been both dynamic and inspiring. In 1991, his passion for business and consulting led him to create the Centre for the Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship (CMTE) housed in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. Today, CMTE collaborates with financial institutions such as BMO Financial Group, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Scotia bank and TD Canada Trust to conduct research into next-generation financial technology. Its innovations enable businesses to stand out among competitors and ensure ongoing productivity improvements as well as customer satisfaction and loyalty. CMTE also delivers several entrepreneurship courses for U of T Engineering students, including six undergraduate and five graduate courses at the Faculty level. The impact of his work with CMTE is no better demonstrated than in the ongoing success of his former students. “Prof. Paradi worked tireless to teach us the most essential skills for our success, not only in academia but more importantly in life,” claims one of Professor Paradi’s many mentees, Shabnam Sorkhi (ChemE PhD 1T5). “I owe a great deal of where I am today to his devotion to passing along his knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to his students.” The courses at CMTE continue to inspire students to pursue their own entrepreneurial goals and to become the innovative thinkers needed to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

Before retiring in 2006, Prof. Paradi supervised a total of 254 undergraduate students in their Theses and Capstone Design projects and 80 graduate students. The vast majority of these students are still in contact with him and continue to attend events such as his annual Holiday Party, which celebrates their individual accomplishments, as well as the bonds formed during their Skule™ experience. “Prof. Paradi has had such a positive impact on my life and made my graduate experience truly exceptional,” says former student Alex LaPlante (ChemE MASc 1T2, PhD 1T5). “I consider myself very lucky to have such a devoted mentor, Toronto father and caring friend.” Mike Serbinis (MIE MASc 0T1) goes on to add “Every student who has had the pleasure to work with Prof. Paradi loves him. It goes without saying that he has had a profound impact on all of us.”

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