York student says she’s mystified by terror arrests

According to the Toronto Star, a darker side of Toronto’s diversity is emerging on school campuses in the aftermath of arrests in an alleged terrorist plot involving at least five suspects younger than 18. Most of the other 12 are in their late teens or early 20s, which raises the question, the paper said June 7, how could young people brought up in our own backyard, in a place that seemingly affords them every opportunity, be motivated to carry out a potentially horrific act of terrorism in Toronto? Among people the Star quoted was  Sumaira Khan, a second-year student in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, who said she was mystified by the news. The only motivation for young Muslims in Canada – a country she describes as generous to all its residents – to carry out acts of terror within its borders must come from afar, she said. “I can only think that these people, if they exist, must be upset about what is happening in other areas of the world such as Iraq.”

Gold medal-winning York PhD called ‘one smart cookie’

Barrie native Rebecca Anderson is set to receive the Governor General’s Gold Medal for her academic achievements, reported the Barrie Examiner June 7. The gold medal is awarded to the person with highest academic standing at the graduate level at different academic institutions across Canada. Anderson completed her PhD in chemistry at York in 2005 and was one of two students selected out of the entire school for the award. When she learned she’d won, Anderson said she was overwhelmed and excited. “When I was told by my former supervisor that I had been nominated, that was enough for me,” Anderson said. “It’s such a big honour just to be nominated for this award, and when I heard that I had won, it was a big shock.”

This is not the first Governor General’s medal for Anderson. She was the recipient of the bronze medal when she graduated from Innisdale Secondary School in 1994. Anderson believes her parents are the main reason she has been able to accomplish so much. “It’s an honour to get this award and it really is amazing, but this is really all for my parents,” she said. “I’m happy for my parents that I’ve won.”

Nancy Hornbrook, Anderson’s mom, said she always knew her daughter was “one smart cookie.” “We never had to push her. She was always very self-motivated,” Hornbrook said. “She always managed to get all her school work done even with working and piano lessons and all the other activities she did.”

Though she is unable to make it back to York for the formal award ceremony, Anderson will pick up her award later this month. Anderson is currently living in Colorado doing work in atmospheric chemistry for the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Peterborough honours Lions’ Reanne Holden

York Lions women’s basketball player Reanne Holden, a first-year student in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, was the recipient of the CHEX Award as Peterborough’s junior female athlete of the year, reported the Peterborough Examiner June 7. Holden, 18, has played many sports throughout high school in Peterborough including basketball, track and field, volleyball, softball and lacrosse. She has been recognized for various athletic awards throughout her school years. “This award is the biggest you can get,” she said. “I was proud to play on teams here. It’s a big achievement and means so much. It’s a great honour.”

Holden is currently playing for the York University women’s basketball team. The team qualified for the Canadian University Championship in Fredericton, NB in March. In June 2005, Holden was one of the recipients of the Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame Bursary Awards, awarded on the basis of a combination of athletics and academics. While dedicating her time to becoming an accomplished athlete, she has managed to maintain a high academic average. She received the Proficiency Award for each of her four years, as well as the Governor General’s Award for Academic Excellence in her final year of high school.

Osgoode/Schulich graduates know the art of the ‘big deal’

The National Post featured two York alumni in a series on deal makers June 7.

When you’re the general counsel of a company as aggressive as Brookfield Asset Management, which focuses on assets in real estate and power generation, you dip your hands into some very big deals, reported the National Post June 7. York alumnus Joe Freedman (MBA/LLB ‘94) is living proof. As Brookfield’s managing partner and general counsel, he oversaw acquisitions worth several billion dollars over the last 12 months. Not bad for a guy still under 40.

If you’re a deal junkie, Freedman’s 2005 might seem just about perfect. There was the $1.4-billion acquisition of Weyerhauser Coastal British Columbia. It wasn’t just big, it was complex. Freedman was also part of a small team that led the acquisitions of O&Y Properties and O&Y REIT by a Brookfield-led consortium. All in all, a good year. But in both deals, Freedman – who holds a joint MBA/LLB from the Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School – describes himself as the man in the middle, juggling all facets of the deal. “I work to make sure all the pieces work together.”

Geoff Belsher (LLB ‘82), who was nominated in this category for his work while co-head of investment and corporate banking at Harris Nesbitt Corp. in Chicago, is accustomed to being at the epicentre of big deals. As head of mergers and acquisitions at BMO and later Harris Nesbitt, a subsidiary of Bank of Montreal, for example, he helped Vincor International Inc. fend off a $1.1-billion hostile takeover by Constellation Brands Inc., and advised Molson Inc. in its $6.2-billion merger with Adolph Coors Co., one of the most highly publicized deals of 2005.

But his position at Harris presented Belsher with a completely different challenge: building a financial services company from the ground up. It’s a challenge many people would find daunting. Working to build a bank is a seismic shift from the legal world, says Belsher, who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and later practiced law at Blake Cassels & Graydon from 1982 to 1997. He evidently enjoys the challenge. Last week, he announced he was leaving Harris to set up shop for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in Toronto, building a full-service bank that offers debt, equity and M&A advice – this time in Canada.