Engineering Building Cornerstone Speech

Engineering Building Cornerstone Speech

Presented to the Wasatch Academy 29 Sept 2019, Written and Delivered by Worshipful Chad Powell, Junior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of Utah.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
– Leonardo da Vinci (engineer, inventor, artist, mathematician)

That is what we are here to celebrate, the beginning of a building of application, doing, and action.

The cornerstone ceremony is for celebrating the “foundation stone or setting stone (which) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone this very stone we set today, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” 1

The first stone and its dedication is a representation of the future success and fruition which this edifice will impart on the community which enters here and surrounds it. As this is the first stone set to build an entire building on, so should this building be the first stone to help build the intellect and knowledge of the minds around it.

“Historically, this ceremony involved the placing of offerings of grain, wine, and oil on or under the stone. These were symbolic of the produce and the people of the land and the means of their subsistence. This action, in turn, derived from the practice in still more ancient times of making an animal… sacrifice that was laid in the foundations”. Luckily, this is not something y’all are planning on today, as far as I am aware. 1,2

Moving on from this dark note, one can find it transcribed on the internet that, historically, Freemasons sometimes performed the public cornerstone laying ceremony for notable buildings. Perhaps someone should explain to the Masons that the internet believes that what we are doing is, in fact, a historical action and therefore no longer practiced.

A few definitions of Engineering are:

Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings.

“Engineering, the application of science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to the uses of humankind. The field has been defined by the Engineers Council for Professional Development, in the United States, as the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.” 3

My definition, therefore, is engineering is used to build cool stuff and do it creative and fun ways—basically, we are laying a cornerstone for a mad scientist laboratory, which is pretty awesome when you stop to think about it!

I do believe it is mostly true that at some point as a child, we all wanted to be an inventor or create some fandangle contraption that would change the world. We at least wanted to make an elaborate alarm clock which involved fans, marbles, gears, and some duck that would bob up and down into a cup of water—a contraption large enough to make Rube Goldberg envious.

Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden said, “Engineering stimulates the mind. Kids get bored easily. They have got to get out and get their hands dirty; make things, dismantle things, fix things. When the schools can offer that, you’ll have an engineer for life.”

Let’s be clear, an engineer I am not. It is my wife who is closest to being the engineer in the family. She was the one who was found by her dad, hiding behind the couch in the living room tinkering. It turns out, she could take the family computer entirely apart, but she could not seem to get any of it back together. I guess it is debatable that there is no engineer in the family as of yet. However, all of us benefit from what engineers do for our communities in our daily lives. Our road systems on which we drive daily, our buildings which we shop in, learn in, and where we lay our heads, the machines that surround us, modern conveniences such as computers and even software all come to us from a field of engineering. One may find it somewhat impossible to find an aspect in your life that has not been improved by the work of an engineer.

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

“At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It’s a noble profession.” – Queen Elizabeth II

We are here celebrating the beginning of this noble building, for a noble profession, for people who make a difference in their community and each of our daily lives. We hope that this building acts as a source of inspiration, growth, and enlightenment to those who come to it.

As the “Dean of Science Fiction writers,” Robert A. Heinlein, wrote, “One man’s ‘magic’ is another man’s engineering.” May much mad science, the exact application of principles, learning, and magic occur here often.

Thank You


  1. Jarvis, William E. (2002), Time Capsules: A Cultural History, McFarland & Company, p. 105, ISBN 978-0-7864-1261-7
  2. Hastings, James; Selbie, John Alexander; Gray, Louis Herbert (1914), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. VI., New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, p. 863
  3. Engineers Council for Professional Development, in the United States

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