Naturalist John Livingston influenced Canada’s environmentalists

A bear of a man with a gruff, nicotine-drenched voice, John Livingston was a naturalist, a broadcaster, an author and a teacher, wrote The Globe and Mail’s Sandra Martin in a Jan. 28 obituary of the retired 82-year-old York environmental studies professor. For years, he was the gravelly voice-over of the “Hinterland Who’s Who” series, a zoological equivalent of Historica’s Heritage Minutes that brought the sounds and descriptions of the common loon and other indigenous species to radio and television audiences in the 1960s.

Through the Nature Conservancy of Canada, “The Nature of Things” on television, books such as The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation and Rogue Primate (which won the Governor-General’s literary award in 1994), he delivered his stern, uncompromising view of human arrogance and culpability in the destruction of the natural environment. In the process, he influenced environmentalists such as Graeme Gibson, Monte Hummel, Farley Mowat and David Suzuki, and countless numbers of viewers, readers and students.

Livingston found the perfect perch for a man of his temperament, skills and passions: teaching in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at the fledgling York University in 1970. Although he had few of the paper credentials now deemed essential for an academic post, he had a storehouse of knowledge, a passion for his subject and the performance skills of a veteran broadcaster. The students loved him. One in particular, Ursula Moller Jolin (BA ’74, MES ’76) then a graduate student, found him fascinating. He was “interested in so many things,” and “he knew so many things” and “he had a memory like a mainframe computer.” Livingston and Jolin married in 1985. He retired in 1993 and was appointed an emeritus professor and given an honorary degree.

Schulich ranks 18th in world

York’s Schulich School of Business ranks No. 18 among the world’s leading business schools, having cracked the elite Top 20 in the closely watched Financial Times 2006 survey of MBA faculties, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 30. In rising from the No. 22 spot a year ago, Schulich edges ahead of the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto, which comes in tied for 24th spot, down from 21st a year ago. The Ivey School of Business at University of Western Ontario is tied for 31st, up from 34th, in the annual rankings, widely considered one of the most authoritative of the myriad business school surveys. Among North American schools, Schulich ranks 13th, and among non-US schools, it stands sixth.

The US schools continue to dominate the overall rankings, with the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania placing No. 1 overall for the third year in a row. It is followed by No. 2, Harvard Business School, and No. 3, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, followed by the Columbia Business School and London Business School, which is the top-ranked institution outside the United States.

‘Big Three’ automakers face tough times

The North American auto market has seen a surge in foreign car demand that has left the “big three” domestic companies – GM, Ford and Chrysler – struggling to catch up, reported on Jan. 29. “The question is: ‘Is it sufficient?  Is it enough?’ and ‘Will they ultimately be producing the kinds of vehicles that North Americans want?’,” Bernie Wolf, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, said about the domestic auto makers’ recent labour cuts and losses. “Both GM and Ford have been resting on their laurels,” he said. “They haven’t produced the kinds of vehicles people wanted.”

Soulpepper builds success on quality theatre

Soulpepper has made a bigger impact on Toronto in less time than any other arts organization in recent memory, stated the Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian in a story about the nine-year-old company as it opens Our Town in its new theatre at the Distillery. While our major classical festivals like Stratford and Shaw suffer from a disconcerting tendency to rely on Broadway musicals to balance their budgets, Soulpepper has adhered to its vision and presented nothing but plays of the highest calibre. This intellectual rigour has paid off. Phillip Silver, dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, commends Soulpepper for “having established a clear mission in respect to the classics and delivering those works with a standard of consistently high quality.”

Pumped for Parliament

Don’t be fooled by Omar Alghabra‘s diminutive size or boyish looks, stated the Toronto Star Jan. 30 in the first in an occasional series of articles on newly elected members of Parliament. Beneath the wide smile and wiry 5-foot, 8-inch frame beats the passionate heart of a man eager to make his mark on Canada’s Parliament. “Size doesn’t matter,” he said yesterday as he prepared to head to Ottawa to be sworn in tomorrow as the rookie MP for Mississauga-Erindale.”I have a small frame and some people think that I’m in my 20s,” the 36-year-old mechanical engineer said. “It’s a compliment on one hand, but it also projects that I have less experience than I actually do.” Born in Saudi Arabia to Syrian parents, Alghabra came to Toronto alone at the age of 19. He earned an engineering degree from Ryerson University and a master’s in business administration from York’s Schulich School of Business in 2000.

York Region chief puts his lessons to work

York Region police chief Armand La Barge told the region’s police services board this week that he plans to make guns and gangs a priority this year, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 28. He’s pushing this agenda even though York Region, where the population is closing in on one million, had just nine homicides in 2005. “The time to develop a strategy is not when you’re trying to deal with the effects [of gang violence],” said La Barge, a 33-year veteran of the force. “We’re trying to get ahead of the trend.”

His proactive approach to combating gangs typifies his style in stewarding York’s police service, and gives the public a clue about how he’ll handle both the second half of his six-year term and his emerging leadership role among the GTA’s police chiefs. In 1995, he was among the first group of graduates in York University’s Honours BA in Canadian Studies Program, where his curriculum emphasized multiculturalism. He applied those lessons to his job when he became chief, setting the goal of increasing the number of women and minorities on York’s police force.

Waiting game for private health

York political scientist Daniel Drache said Conservative leader Stephen Harper made reducing wait times a platform priority, reported Jan. 26 about changes the new prime minister will make to health care. “Whether he’s successful is something else entirely. He said he’ll increase resources. First, he’ll need resources. You can’t have quality health care without the beds and trained staff,” said Drache, a professor in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The Conservative health care strategy is “a broad brushstroke plan” that needs fine-tuning, Drache said. “Harper will walk a thin line. He’ll have little support from the NDP and the Bloc on the privatization issue,” he said. “The Liberals may also not be ready to lose credibility by supporting Harper’s plans.”

Walking on Familial Ground

Rafael Goldchain explores his genealogy in a witty exhibition of self-portraits at Fredericton’s Gallery Connexion, reported the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Jan. 28. He’s walking on Familial Ground. The walls of the two rooms of the gallery are lined with portraits of different characters but underneath the wigs, vintage clothes and fake moustaches, they’re all Goldchain. The series started as a graduate piece when he was doing a master’s degree in fine art in visual arts at York University. Since his graduation in 2000 the Toronto-based photographer’s shown in the United States, Cuba, Germany, Italy and Mexico, and has work in numerous public collections including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Art. He is also the recipient of the Duke and Duchess Award in photography from The Canada Council for the Arts.