Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Godfrey Sullivan (1863-1938)


Born at Bushnell’s Basin, New York on 11 January 1863, son of Thomas and Honora Sullivan, he was educated at Fairport High School and Cornell University, graduating from the latter in 1883 with a degree in civil engineering. His first job was with the Great Northern Railway at Minneapolis, Minnesota. He came to Canada in 1893 and worked for a year with the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. After working for other railways for six years, he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1900 and rose through the ranks, successively serving as Engineer, Assistant Chief Engineer of Western Lines, Chief Engineer for the Western Division, and finally Chief Engineer for Canada. He designed the Connaught Tunnel through the Canadian Rockies. From 1905 to 1907, he was Assistant Chief Engineer for construction of the Panama Canal.

Following his retirement from the CPR in 1918, he worked as a consulting engineer in partnership with Theodore Kipp and William G. Chace until 1928, during which time he served as Chair of the Sullivan Drainage Commission (1919-1921). He was a Winnipeg city alderman from 1920 to 1927. In recognition of noteworthy contributions to the field of engineering, he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba (1937), the first engineer to receive an honorary degree from the University, and was awarded the Sir John Kennedy Gold Medal by the Engineering Institute of Canada (1937).

He and wife Sarah Ann Sullivan (1866-1933) had four children: Paul L. Sullivan, Mary Sullivan (wife of K. L. Puestow), Dorothy Sullivan (wife of John R. Lindsay), and John T. Sullivan. He was a member of the Manitoba Club and the St. Charles Country Club.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 207 Harvard Avenue, on 7 August 1938 and was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.


Death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Engineering body confers honor on John G. Sullivan,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 February 1937, page 13.

“Former alderman is dead,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 August 1938, page 1.

“Sullivan estate is valued at $16,172.30,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 September 1938, page 22.

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba, 20 January 1949, page 4.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 6 June 2019

Memorable Manitobans

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