Fiat gets a Marchionne makeover

Within a month of Sergio Marchionne‘s appointment as chief executive officer of Fiat S.p.A .in June 2004, wrote The Globe and Mail July 21, he thought it was finito, that nothing could be done to spare Italy’s top auto maker and biggest private employer from oblivion. "I said to myself, this thing is baked."

Marchionne (LLB ‘83), a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and a Canadian-Italian turnaround artist who had never shied away from daunting challenges, was not used to feelings of managerial impotence. But Fiat was a scrap yard candidate, then in far worse shape than Ford and General Motors, which owned 20 per cent of Fiat. Employees did not know whether the next wage payment would be their last.

Today Fiat is on a roll and the Fiat group’s 172,000 employees – 45,000 of whom work in the car division – are breathing easier. The company is profitable. It has been upgraded several times by the credit-rating agencies. Shares have doubled in a year and the dividend has been restored. Fiat’s Italian market share has climbed to 31.7 per cent while the European share is 8.4 per cent, up from 7.8 per cent a year earlier.

The remarkably quick turnaround has been watched by auto executives around the world. GM, Ford and Chrysler, all struggling and shedding employees, must be wondering if the Marchionne treatment might work for them. Has he been approached by the Big Three? "I’ll plead the Fifth on that," he says.

He has lived in Zug, Switzerland, for 14 years. He travels over the Alps to Turin in northeastern Italy by Ferrari or Maserati, which takes three to four hours, or by company helicopter if he’s pressed for time. His Italian-Canadian wife, Orie, whom he married in Toronto, and their two teenage sons live in Switzerland.

York student picked for Pan-Am Games team

Thirteen Mississauga athletes are among 470 members of the Canadian team that will compete at the XV Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from July 13 to 29, wrote the Mississauga News July 9. Shannon Condie will represent Canada in taekwondo. A member of the Young Choung Taekwondo Academy, Condie will compete in the featherweight division. Condie’s career highlights include gold medals at both the 2006 Commonwealth Taekwondo Championships and International Women’s Goodwill Olympics. The York University student, who is majoring in kinesiology, is a four-time Canadian senior champion and five-time Canadian junior champion.

First Nations York alumnus honoured by Royal Society

When Osgoode Hall Law School alumnus John Borrows (DJur ’94) was growing up on a First Nations reserve in northern Ontario, his grandparents would often tell him that getting a good education was the most important thing he could do to improve his life and make positive changes in the wider community.

He took that message to heart, eventually studying law at the University of Toronto and earning his doctorate at York University. He’s now a professor in the University of Victoria’s faculty of law, where he holds the Law Foundation Chair in Aboriginal Justice and teaches first-year criminal and constitutional law, as well as upper-level aboriginal law classes.

Borrows is widely respected throughout the country for his efforts to build bridges between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities and to encourage discussion about the ongoing challenges facing Canada’s First Nations.

Borrows’ work in law education and consulting has now been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC): Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. He will be inducted as a fellow of the society at a Nov. 17 ceremony in Edmonton, joining the ranks of approximately 1,700 scholars, scientists and researchers who have been similarly honoured since the organization was founded in 1882.

Grad student’s films on sex and disabled featured at fundraiser

Torontoist is a Web site about Toronto and everything that happens in it. It’s edited by Marc Lostracco and David Topping, and published by Gothamist.

Pity sex may have gotten some of us through university, but Loree Erickson, a York University PhD candidate and photographer/filmmaker, is determined that it’s not a phrase which should be associated with the disabled, wrote Torontoist Web site July 21. Concerned about the sexual stigmatization of people with disabilities, she’s put together an evening of film and live performance intended designed to open minds and shatter stereotypes about sex and disability.

Titled Reclaiming the Gaze, the evening will feature two short films by Erickson, as well as performances by AJ Withers, Julie Devaney (My Leaky Body) and Peggy Munson (Origami Striptease). The event is also a fundraiser for Acsexxable, being touted as Toronto’s first fully accessible sex party.

Spadina subway extension still on says Sorbara

Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, in calling the city to task yesterday for what he called ”politically motivated” moves to drastically cut TTC spending, emphasized the province’s proposed $17.5-billion GTA transit expansion and already funded extension of the Spadina subway line to York University are still very much on, wrote the Toronto Star July 21.

”Let us not think that this situation today, with suggestions of closing lines, suddenly threatens the grand plan for transit. That would be so counterproductive and such an inappropriate response to issues relating to the efficiency of public administration,” he said.

But the TTC may opt not to use the funds it’s been offered to extend the Spadina and Yonge subways and build its light-rail network. Commissioners have asked staff to report on the consequences if the city withdraws from the Spadina extension plan.

U-20 World Cup shows problems facing Canada as soccer nation

Watching the recent performances of our team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup (exiting the tournament after three straight losses and without a goal to its credit) and then reading the various critiques and interpretations of why we were so poor and how good we should be, it in many ways highlights how really immature and naive our soccer industry is in Canada, wrote Paul James, head soccer coach at York, in a column for Canadian Press July 21.

Unrealistic expectations, a misunderstanding of the level of play and an ignorance of the true purpose of national youth teams has unfortunately blinded people of the true realities.

As much as we get excited about our participation rates, our women’s program, our ability to host tournaments and even the invention of Toronto FC, it is clear when compared to our competitors on the world stage that we are still far behind – we simply do not have the soccer culture or system capable of regularly producing internationally competitive players.

Students find their niche

With a variety of job opportunities, including some the public might not associate with health care, the Pembroke Regional Hospital has opened its doors to 20 summer students, wrote the Pembroke Daily Observer July 21. After graduating from York University with a degree in psychology, Kaley Roosen (BSc ’07) of Petawawa has been working with the hospital’s Community Mental Health program run out of the Carefor Complex.

Since writing her thesis on eating disorders, she has also organized a seminar for staff. She will also facilitate a community seminar Aug. 23, which is open to family and friends of people who have eating disorders.

In the fall Roosen will return to York to begin her master’s degree in clinical psychology. The Petawawa native isn’t sure if she will return to the area once she is finished her masters, but she does appreciate getting out of the city during the summer.

‘One Joyous Riff Of Peace’

On Friday, Tim Evans will strum six non-existent strings with the hope of becoming Canada’s first national air guitar champion, wrote the National Post July 21. He’s got a pretty good shot at it, too. Evans, who goes by the name Glenn Airy Glen Rocks when he wields the invisible axe, has won two local air guitar competitions already: the Toronto open competition in March and the city finals in April. In the fall, Evans will start classes at York’s Faculty of Education.

Geography grad to head immigration and housing research

Kelowna, as well as the wider Okanagan Valley, needs to do more to keep its young people and attract immigrants, says a York alumnus who was recently appointed to head up a research team looking at housing and neighbourhoods, wrote BC’s Kelowna Capital News July 20. "We cannot afford to lose our youth from this valley," said Carlos Teixeira (PhD ’93), professor of geography at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

In May, Teixeira was appointed as the research domain leader for housing and neighbourhoods at the Vancouver Centre for Excellence in Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis (RIIM), which will be renamed the British Columbia Metropolis Centre in the fall.

Boomers need protection in the ‘retirement risk zone’

Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says many baby boomers need protection as they enter the "retirement risk zone," wrote The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) July 23. If there is a stock market downturn during the seven- to-12-year period before you start drawing on your retirement income "you can’t hold on for the long run and just wait it out."

Activist, teacher and counsellor was mainstay of the community

Ten years ago, when Helen Gough (BA ’74, BA Hons.’89, MA ’90) learned she had breast cancer – and when the doctor told her that the majority of women in her category of the disease survive – she grinned and said: "Well, for once I would like to be in the majority." It may have been the only time, wrote the Toronto Star July 23 in an obituary. She died June 1 of cancer.

A founder of First Nations House on Spadina Avenue and of Alexandra Park, Toronto’s first housing co-op, Gough was, variously, a young teacher on a remote reserve in Moose Lake, Man., (who learned Cree), an inner-city social worker and, in what she always considered her "best job", she was a legendary school community relations worker in the Beach and Riverdale.

During her career, she studied and got two university degrees, her first, a BA from York University at age 35. As a member of the Church of the Holy Trinity, she was one of a group that helped Margaret Frazer, a single, retired teacher, die in her north Toronto home. They formed a care team that kick-started a home hospice care movement, as described in Twelve Weeks in Spring, a bestseller by June Callwood that remains a primer for many palliative care teams today.