Shoukri laid ground for research expansion at McMaster

Research pays off. It’s a fact few in this city understand better than Mo Elbestawi, the man who just took over McMaster University’s entire research portfolio, reported the Hamilton Spectator July 25. It’s already a huge enterprise worth $345 million a year – equivalent to about one-third the City of Hamilton’s entire operating budget – but Elbestawi has plans to make it much bigger than that.

His success as the university’s new vice-president of research and international affairs will have significant bearing on the fate of the city itself as Hamilton tries to point its ship away from manufacturing and toward the richer, cleaner shores of the knowledge economy. Elbestawi sees research creating the "university of the future" and hopes McMaster will lead the country in such areas as new fuels, renewable energy, medicine, water resources, software and nanotechnology.

Elbestawi, a genial 56-year-old engineer, lover of the arts and proud "hockey nut", officially took over the job on Canada Day, filling the seat previously occupied by Mamdouh Shoukri, who left McMaster to become president of York University. Shoukri’s departure had raised concerns over what would happen to the energy he had sparked by launching the McMaster Innovation Park – the university’s spinoff venture on the sprawling property previously occupied by the Camco plant on Longwood Road South. But Elbestawi – like Shoukri, a former dean of engineering – is confident McMaster will not only maintain the momentum but actually crank it up.

"Dr. Shoukri certainly should be credited for creating a very solid foundation for the research portfolio," he said. "I come in with an agenda of growth. I come in with an agenda of economic development. I come in with an agenda of developing partnerships, creating new opportunities."

Adjunct prof to head Sports Lawyers Association

Toronto sports and entertainment lawyer Gord Kirke (LLB ’69, LLM ’77) has been elected for a two-year term as president of the Sports Lawyers Association, reported CanWest News Service July 25. Kirke is the first Canadian to hold the top job in the history of the association, which is headquartered in Reston, Va. The 1,300-member association was formed in 1976 and includes practising lawyers, law educators, law students, and other professionals with an interest in law relating to professional and amateur sports. Kirke has been a sports lawyer for more than 30 years, and an adjunct professor of sports law at the University of Toronto since 1985 and at his alma mater, York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, since 1987. Kirke drafted the original documents to create the Toronto Blue Jays in 1976 and has represented them in contract matters ever since.  

Police must enforce NB’s bike helmet law

A new study suggests children are a whole lot brighter than adults – at least, children who ride bicycles seem to be smarter than their adult counterparts, begins an opinion piece July 25 in Fredericton’s Daily Gleaner. The study, by a York University researcher [kinesiology Prof. Alison Macpherson], actually measures bike helmet use and the rate of cycling-related head injuries. But given that wearing a helmet is such flat-out common sense, we believe the study must reflect IQ. The researcher found that in provinces with mandatory bike helmet legislation, children cyclists’ head injuries have dropped a whopping 45 per cent. Even in provinces without mandatory helmet legislation, the head injury rate of children cyclists dropped 27 per cent.

Retired dance prof vows to enliven arts in Sutton

After 27 years as an important centre of the visual arts in the region, Arts Sutton has no intention of resting on successes of the past, reported Quebec’s Brome County News July 25. "We are working on many fronts at the moment, with many new projects in the works that we plan to announce this fall," says re-elected board chairman Yves Cousineau. The retired York dance professor and former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada moved to Sutton, Que., half a dozen years ago. "Arts Sutton was started by a group of very courageous people. We owe it to them to keep the mandate alive and growing, to do more than retaining the status quo."

Active volunteer earns top scholarship

While many youths his age are obsessed with the number of friends they have on Facebook, Florind Polo is preoccupied with the number of African youths he can help, reported The Toronto Sun July 25. As regional coordinator for West Africa of Amnesty International’s youth program, the 18-year-old invests four to five hours a week updating volunteers across Canada about opportunities to fight for the human rights of children in 14 African countries, including child soldiers, refugees and prisoners of war. His extensive involvement in Amnesty has also included organizing a national youth committee in Eastern Europe to advocate for the human rights and proper treatment of children in schools. "I guess it’s like the old saying goes, You make a living out of what you get, but you make a life out of what you give," says the young Torontonian. "My major goal is to raise awareness about what needs to be done."

Recently, Polo’s tireless volunteer work raised a different kind of awareness – among the folks at TD Bank Financial Group, which awarded him its TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership. Upon his graduation from Weston Collegiate Institute and enrolment in post-secondary school this fall, the scholarship will pay for all of his tuition and $5,000 a year toward his living expenses, as well as offer summer employment at the bank for up to four years, for a total value of $60,000. In the fall, Polo plans to attend York’s Schulich School of Business and ultimately wants to pursue a career in commerce and international law.

Student entrepreneur wrapped in summer success

Starting a small business while still in school is possible, reported The Toronto Sun July 25. "I will be attending Osgoode Hall Law School in September, but my business is now up and running," entrepreneur Sunira Chaudhri (BSc ’06) says. Chaudhri wrote a business plan and was awarded some start-up money through the Summer Company Program offered by the Ontario Ministry of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Her company, Sunira & Company (, sells cashmere shawls in a variety of seasonal colours. "I leapt at this program opportunity because it is designed to help full-time returning students to start and run summertime businesses," she said. "It’s a great way to get business experience and earn money for school."

On air

  • Human resources management Prof. Monica Belcourt, of Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies at York, discussed last week’s Ontario public servant’s e-mail blunder, on CBC Radio’s "All Points West" in Victoria July 23. 
  • York PhD student Sharanpal Ruprai discussed her summer reading choices, Story-wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers and Bowgrip by Ivan E. Coyote, on CBC Radio’s "Calgary Eye Opener" July 24.
  • The Doo Wops, a comedy duo that got its start at York, make their way back to Toronto this weekend at the Winter Garden Theatre as part of the Just for Laughs tour, reported SUN TV’s "Canoe Live" July 24.
  • York law Prof. Alan Young answered questions about Canada’s justice system on CBC TV’s "News at Six" in Toronto July 24.