Three to be named University Professors

Three York faculty members – in law, education and arts – will be appointed University Professors at York’s spring convocation.

They are Mary Jane Mossman, a trail-blazing feminist legal scholar, Ron Owston, a pioneer in learning technologies, and Ross Rudolph, an expert on the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes with an outstanding record of service to the University. (A fourth, computer scientist George Tourlakis, will receive the honour at York’s fall convocation.) 

The honorary title recognizes long-serving tenured faculty members who have made an extraordinary contribution to the University as a colleague, teacher and scholar. Candidates are chosen by York’s Senate subcommittee on honorary degrees and ceremonials.

Mary Jane Mossman

Over the past 30 years at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Mary Jane Mossman (left) has distinguished herself as a trail-blazing feminist legal scholar and award-winning teacher.

At Osgoode, she has served as associate and assistant dean, and Chair of Faculty Council, and is now director of the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies. Mossman’s research interests – in gender and the legal profession, feminist analysis of law, family and property law, and access to justice – have resulted in numerous scholarly articles, government reports and books. Her most recent book, The First Women Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Gender, Law and the Legal Professions, is about the women who first challenged male exclusivity in the legal professions in the late19th and early 20th centuries. Her research interests have also led to notable community service: Mossman was the first clinic funding manager of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, from 1979 to 1982, and is Chair of the administrative committee of the Canadian Auto Workers legal services plan.

Mossman has won many awards for her scholarship, teaching and community activism. She has received from, the Law Society of Upper Canada, an honorary doctorate and the Law Society Medal; an award of excellence from the Canadian Association of Law Teachers; a Canadian Bar Association (Ontario) distinguished service award; and the annual award of the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped. In 1995, she held the Gordon F. Henderson Chair in Human Rights at the University of Ottawa, and she was awarded the Walter L. Gordon Fellowship at York in 2004.

In his letter of nomination, Osgoode law Professor Allan Hutchinson said: "It is rare for leadership skills, political astuteness and concern for the development of one’s students and colleagues to be combined with academic distinction and consistently high productivity; but Mary Jane Mossman is indeed such a rare individual. She is highly regarded within the Canadian university system and continues to have an influential force on the law school. Mossman is a leading scholar, a strategic thinker, as well as an architect of academic and policy institutions."

Ron Owston

In 1984, York hired Ron Owston (right) to oversee a three-year, $1.5-million cooperative project with IBM to set up the University’s first computer teaching lab and first computer demonstration classroom. Since then, the education professor has become known as one of the world’s top scholars in technology and teaching, according to his nominator, psychology Prof. Suzanne MacDonald. As part of the IBM project, Owston also introduced the first centralized e-mail system for York administrators and the Faculty of Education. In 1987, building upon the momentum of the IBM project, he founded and directed the Centre for the Study of Computers in Education, the first research centre in Canada focusing on education technology research. Thirteen years later, by broadening the scope of the centre to include all York’s Faculties, it became a University-based research unit and was renamed the Institute for Research on Learning Technologies. Under his continuing and inspired leadership, the institute is considered Canada’s leading research centre on learning technologies and has an international reputation.

An early advocate of teaching with technology, Owston offered the first graduate course in the Faculty of Education focused on education technology and the first with an online component. He pioneered the Faculty’s use of online conferencing and video conferencing to teach undergraduate courses.

Owston has served on a wide variety of committees, usually, but not always, concerned with technology and teaching. He wrote the first draft of a proposal that led to the doctoral program in education at York. He helped develop the early design specifications of the Technology Enhanced Learning Building and is a founding co-director of the York-Seneca TEL Institute.

He is highly regarded by students and colleagues for his teaching and his workshops. Owston’s research on improving teaching and learning with technology from kindergarten to university has won him recognition among scholars and practitioners and has "had an obvious impact on teaching in the classroom, at all levels of education, both nationally and internationally," says MacDonald, in her nomination letter. 

Ross Rudolph

Ross Rudolph (left) joined York’s Department of Political Science in 1971. Since then he has distinguished himself as a world authority on the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and devoted himself to teaching and serving York in a variety of administrative posts.

Through his "impressive record of service" which began early in his career, Rudolph "has made a significant contribution to the life and development of the University," says his nominator, fellow political scientist Stephen Newman. He has served as director of his department’s graduate program, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts, and associate vice-president (faculties) serving three academic VPs. He has chaired the York Senate committee on teaching and learning, the Faculty of Arts Council, and is currently Chair of Senate. He also served on York’s Board of Governors. Outside York, he was undergraduate program review auditor for the Council of Ontario Universities for six years. 

Rudolph "has been friend and mentor to multiple generations of faculty," says Newman. His teaching has been recognized with an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association Award. Through his teaching and long-term commitment to improving the quality of the first-year experience for entering students and an ongoing concern with realizing the department’s credo, "Education for democracy", he has had a sustained impact over time on the University’s teaching mission, notes Newman.

"Finally, as an internationally recognized authority on the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and its place in 17th-century English political thought, he has achieved a degree of scholarly eminence that embellishes York’s reputation as a centre of scholarly excellence," says Newman.