Vote today for York professor in TVO’s Best Lecturer contest

There’s still time to vote for Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, the first of two York professors to give televised lectures for TVO’s Big Idea Best Lecturer competition. The “idol”-style series runs until Nov. 5, when the lecture by Rob Bowman, professor of ethnomusicology in the Music Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, will also be broadcast and voted on by viewers.

Rob Bowman

Paul Delaney

Delaney’s lecture, taped at York on Sept. 21 and featuring ideas in science fiction writing that have pointed the way to current reality, was broadcast over the weekend on the public television network. Voting is open until noon today at or by phone at 1-866-281-3536. To illustrate his point, Delaney used examples, such as “Star Trek” – Captain James T. Kirk’s communicator as a precursor to the flip phone. He also discussed how some apparently new discoveries were already science reality but the general public had not yet realized it.

Born in Australia, Delaney has worked as a nuclear physicist for Atomic Energy of Canada, a support astronomer at McGraw Hill Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, and, from 1986, as a faculty member in the Department of Physics & Astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. Apart from his lecturing duties, Delaney is the campus observatory coordinator, director of the Division of Natural Science, and Master of Bethune College.

Bowman, one of the longest-serving instructors at York, began teaching his courses on rock & roll and popular music 27 years ago at age 22, after doing his undergraduate work here. He said his success is partly due to his efforts at “treating a 300-seat lecture hall as if it was a 20-seat classroom” and the energy he transmits when he lectures.

Bowman is coordinator of the Music Department’s graduate program in ethnomusicology and is frequently in demand as a writer, commentator and broadcaster. He recently appeared in a feature film “mockumentary” about the music industry (see story in the Sept. 7 issue of YFile) in which he plays a character very much like himself. He also wrote the 112-page book that accompanies The Band: A Musical History, the recent release of recordings compiled by band member Robbie Robertson, who received an honorary doctorate from York in June (see the June 16 issue of YFile). “It was written by a Canadian [Bowman] and he did a great job,” Robertson said. “It is the most informed and accurate thing ever written on The Band.

TVO taped Bowman delivering a lecture titled “Where Meaning is Located in Music” on Sept. 26. The lecture, scheduled for broadcast at 1pm on both Nov. 5 & 6, includes a comparison of several different versions of the song Try a Little Tenderness and leads into a discussion of the need for changes to current copyright laws.

The lecture by another finalist in the competition, York alumnus Michael Higgins (MA ’71, PhD ’79), a professor of English and religious studies at Waterloo University, was broadcast Oct. 15.

The Best Lecturer Competition began with a student survey and 359 nominations from universities throughout Ontario, which netted 63 final nominees. A panel of judges, including columnist Robert Fulford, playwright Andrew Moodie, and Literary Review of Canada editor Bronwyn Drainie, shortlisted the nominees to 30 –including four from York (see story in the Aug. 2, 2005 issue of YFile) – before selecting 10 finalists. Judges looked for lecturers who could explain their thesis clearly, were passionate about their topic and conveyed their views with confidence and flair.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 12 and TD Meloche-Monnex, the sponsor of the competition, will award the winning university a $10,000 scholarship.