Three from York make The Globe’s Top 40 Under 40

Three York talents were named among the Top 40 Under 40 by The Globe and Mail, which featured biographies of each winner in its online edition May 2.

It was on a family trip back to her parents’ homeland during summer holidays that Poonam Puri, law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discovered her calling in law. She’d asked a favourite professor whether she could bring him anything from India. “You know, a book, or some kind of food he liked,” she recalls. “And he said, ‘Yeah, sure, bring me back a couple of murder cases from the turn of the century, involving not only law but politics, the British, and I’ll see if I can put together a book.'” Puri, already a high achieving second-year student, went to work in the Indian Law Institute and the Supreme Court Library in Delhi. By getting involved in a research project, she says, “I was able to see how you can take an important public policy issue, or legal issue, work it through the process of research and come to recommendations that are useful and meaningful, taken up by policy-makers and regulators, and moved forward.”

After joining Osgoode Hall Law School at age 25, she is now not only a star professor but also a meticulous researcher into issues of securities regulation and public capital markets governance. Puri admits that she “takes on a lot,” including articles, books and committee work such as helping organize Toronto’s annual Brazilian Ball. But she finds it hard to say no when a particular project resonates with her. “The projects I’m working on right now are extremely significant, not in a narrow sense to issuers and investors, but in the broader sense,” she says. “I feel these issues are extremely important in the context of our entire Canadian society, in fact.”

It was while toiling in the legal and business affairs department of Sony Music Canada that York graduate Roma Khanna (MBA ‘01) got caught up in the revolution. German engineering had created a way to compress enormous amounts of audio data into readily transferable computer files. That might have made MP3 sound like a police technology, but young people had other things in mind. And so did Khanna. The Toronto-raised daughter of parents who came from India in 1965, Khanna brought a daunting level of drive to the table, with law degrees in Canada and the US to complement her MBA from York’s Schulich School of Business. Fret about having to watch Stanley Kubrick films on a cellphone and she gets impatient. “The content needs to adapt for the media,” says Khanna, named last year by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top female executives to watch in the entertainment industry. “You make content mobile [if] there’s something about it that’s better mobile.”

Jordan Banks (LLB ‘94) abandoned his dream job as legal counsel to the National Hockey League Players’ Association to join eBay Canada as employee No. 2. Now, as managing director of the Canadian operation, Banks has overall responsibility for the ongoing development of, the popular Internet shopping site. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Banks practised corporate finance law at Goodman, Phillips & Vineberg before he was lured away to the NHLPA to head up its licensing and international business operations.

Seymour Schulich Building combines grandness and sophistication

The Cirque du Soleil studios in Montreal and York University’s Seymour Schulich Building have earned their designers the Governor General’s Award for Architecture, reported CBC News Online May 2. The Canada Council for the Arts announced12 winners of the award, given to honour outstanding achievement on recent architectural projects, on Monday.

Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects, worked with Robbie/Young + Wright Architects to design the Seymour Schulich Building. The jury described it as “a combination of grandness and sophistication that is appropriate for a school of business.” In its report on the awards May 2, The Globe and Mail said judges called the Seymour Schulich Building “an elegant, stone-clad complex that gives weight and grace to the suburban campus of York University.”

  • In a story about the Pugly Awards for the best and worst architecture added to the City of Toronto in 2005, The Toronto Sun reported May 2 that while there are many fantastic buildings, such as the Ontario College of Art and Design and the Seymour Schulich Building at York University, there are many that leave a lot to be desired.

People with disabilities are vulnerable, says Rioux

Referring to accusations of a possible sexual assault on a TTC Wheel-Trans vehicle, a York disability-rights expert said people with a disability are vulnerable because they are not able to exercise their rights like others, reported the National Post May 2. “If this [crime] is occurring, this will have a major impact on the community because it means that public transit for people with a disability is not safe for them,” said Marcia Rioux, a York University professor who is conducting a nationwide study on human rights violations suffered by people with a disability. She noted a public transportation system such as Wheel-Trans is isolating because there aren’t many pairs of eyes on the bus to ensure the safety of its riders. The TTC is looking into installing cameras in Wheel-Trans buses in an effort to better protect the passenger and its drivers.

York science graduate teaches in Jane-Finch after-school program

York alumna Jasmin Romero (BSc ‘78) stands before the students of the San Romanoway after-school program and announces a surprise spelling test, reported The Globe and Mail May 2 in “The Neighbourhood”, its ongoing series about the Jane-Finch community. Yelps of excitement bounce around the low-ceilinged room as two dozen five- to 12-year-olds prepare for the orthographical ordeal. Two boys bow their heads and cross pencils in mock solemnity. “Remember, spelling counts,” Romero says. “Some teachers tell you spelling doesn’t matter. That you should just write. Well, they’re wrong.”

Romero, 52, has the difficult task of teaching the schoolhouse at the San Romanoway centre, in the heart of Jane-Finch. Over a coffee at the Jane-Finch mall, Romero explained that she decided to get into teaching 20 years ago to keep an eye on her three daughters. She had been a nurse, had earned a science degree from York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, and had worked for a bank in Edmonton. But her marriage broke up after the family moved back to Toronto. It was the early 1980s, when Jane and Finch’s reputation for poverty and violence burgeoned. “Everybody said, ‘Live anywhere, but not Jane and Finch,’ ” she remembers. But rent was reasonable there, so she ignored the advice.

Foley’s gridiron networking earns shot at NFL

The selection of former York Lions’ star Ricky Foley by the BC Lions in the recent Canadian Football League draft may have turned some heads, but his detractors will have to follow his progress in the National Football League, reported The Province in Vancouver May 2. The second of the CFL club’s three opening-round picks will attend the first mini-camp of the Baltimore Ravens next weekend in the hopes of becoming the second Canadian Interuniversity Sport player to sign an NFL free-agent contract.

Lions director of Canadian scouting Mike Benevides had Foley rated significantly higher than some CFL teams, owing to the player’s inexperience prior to enrolling at York University. Foley played five different positions in college and is projected by the Lions as an outside linebacker because of his speed. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds at the CFL’s evaluation camp, third-fastest of all players in attendance. But the Ravens also didn’t forget the 23-year-old from Courtice, Ont. As a junior, Foley attended a workout for seniors in Baltimore at his own expense last year. “I was trying to get my name out there,” said Foley. “It worked.”

On air

  • Ajay Sirsi, professor of marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business, talked about why a majority of new businesses fail within the first five years, on CP24-TV’s “Money Morning” May 1.