Alum’s Frosh Week stunt at McMaster put him in a wheelchair

York alumnus Mark Woitzik (BA ‘97, LLB ‘98) remembers the frosh who walked away. It was Sept. 1991 and Welcome Week was in full swing at McMaster University. He had expected frosh week would be a wild party, but not a hazing, reported The Hamilton Spectator, Sept. 1. Amid the chaos he watched another frosh who was “brave enough” to get up and walk away. Woitzik didn’t follow. He was eager to fit in. To be accepted. Make friends. His residence’s final rite of passage came days later. Before a massive crowd, senior students taunted Woitzik and fellow frosh to throw themselves into a giant mud puddle. Woitzik jumped. He hit the ground with his chin, snapping his neck. “You know right away…all of a sudden you feel nothing,” says Woitzik. Walking away would never be an option again.

Woitzik spent 11 months in hospital recovering from the accident. The break left him a quadriplegic with limited movement in his arms. He enrolled at York two weeks after he was released and took summer classes to make up for lost time. He was willing to go back to McMaster but York was closer to home and more accessible. And, he jokes, Hamilton was too hilly. Woitzik was later accepted to York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Now 32 and married, he has his own law practice in Whitby. Woitzik filed an $11-million lawsuit against McMaster after his accident. It was settled out of court. Despite the suit, Woitzik says he holds no ill will toward McMaster or the students who egged him into the mud. “They were just doing what was done to them.” Part of his recovery was accepting his own responsibility, too, he explains. He could have walked away from that mud puddle. Still, he says, the university has a duty to ensure it is fostering an environment where its students, many now under 18, are safe.

The bride gets swept off her feet by a broom

York graduate student Mariko Tamaki, who is also a writer, playwright and performer, found the perfect place to announce her engagement – in a Sept. 1 column in The National Post based on her diary. “I’m sure my mother, my partner and I look an odd trio, sitting in a fancy sunroom, starring at a piece of paper with the Saturdays and Sundays of July and August scribbled on it in blue (blueberry smelly) marker. Charissa is in jeans, I am in tattoos and my mother’s pants are green with fancy bumblebees embroidered on them. The woman from the (wedding) venue, who has been helping us out for the last week, smiles expectantly. Finally, after several nervously exchanged glances, we settle on…a date. No wait! OK…OK, that’s fine. So, ladies and gentlemen, my partner and I are now officially…getting married. As a former secretary and a current student at York University, who is marrying a current production manager, I think our next step will be to get a binder, of some sort, so we can keep all our wedding details in something book-like and organized. The binder is also preferable because all the bridal books have pictures of brides and grooms on them. And our wedding will be groomless. Charissa and I, taking a note from my “best lady” Abi, are going to be brooms.”

Former York prof and Regina 5 artist exhibits in Peterborough

A member of Western Canada’s Regina 5 is mounting a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peterborough. The exhibit by Ron Bloore, a former professor in York’s Faculties of Arts and Fine Arts (1966-1990), continues until Oct. 2, with the opening reception on Sept. 9 at 7pm, reported The Peterborough Examiner Sept. 1. American critic Clement Greenberg, who was sent to western Canada in 1962 by Canadian Art magazine to report on painting and sculpture in the prairie provinces, found five “fired-up”, “big attack” artists: Bloore, Art McKay, Ted Godwin, Doug Morton and Kenneth Lochhead, known as the Regina Five. Greenberg recognized Bloore’s leadership role as a teacher, gallery director and artist. Born in Brampton, Bloore  studied art and archaeology receiving a BA from the University of Toronto in 1949 and received an MA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953. After several teaching posts in England, the US and Canada, he joined York’s Division of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and in the Department of Visual Studies in the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1966.

Grad student gets gas price blues in Woodstock

Gas prices topped $1.20 a litre, up 20 cents from the day before, making it the largest overnight increase in history, reported the Woodstock Sentinel-Review Sept. 1. York graduate student Jason Young of Niagara Falls was interviewed filling up his parents’ van in Woodstock on the way to London. “I’m in school and this is just another reason not to own a car and use public transportation,” said Young. “If I had a car, I’d be more upset. Our society is built so you need to have a car, and that’s part of the reason why I decided to study in Toronto.”

Accountant gives up own business for teaching

A story about professionals who have left lucrative jobs to give teaching a try in the Aug. 31 issue of the Brockville Recorder and Times featured York student Colin Wilkie. Some say they grew tired of chasing a fat paycheque and wanted more satisfying employment. Others say teaching is more compatible with family life. But most who will stand at chalkboards across the country this fall feel that helping students is something they were meant to do. Wilkie worked as an accountant before realizing he wanted to pursue a teaching career. As a father of two small children, it was a decision not without risk. But his wife supported the move and Wilkie sold his business to enrol in York’s Faculty of Education last year. When he started practice teaching – in a junior kindergarten class – the 35-year-old was convinced he’d made a terrible mistake. “I thought after the first day I would quit,” he said. “[The kids] were all crying. They didn’t want to be there. The mothers didn’t want to leave.” But his frustration was short-lived. “As it turned out, I loved it,” said Wilkie. In a few weeks, he’ll begin teaching fifth grade in Mississauga, making about $15,000 dollars less a year than he did as an accountant.