Alumnus comic is still on a high after success in NBC reality show

Toronto comic and York graduate Gerry Dee (BA ’92) is reaping the benefits of his third-place finish on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, the reality show that pits comics in an American Idol-style competition, wrote the Ottawa Citizen April 16.

Dee, whose real name is Gerard Donoghue, finished third behind winner Jon Reep, a comedian from North Carolina, but it was the highest ranking for any Canadian comic on last year’s fifth season of the network show, and that’s something Dee is grateful about.

Dee said it led to embarking on a 45-city tour, playing in front of bigger audiences and piquing the interest of TV producers for a possible sitcom deal. The 39-year-old former schoolteacher specializes in storytelling humour.

“The whole experience was life-changing,” said Dee on the telephone from his Toronto home, about the show that wrapped up filming last September. “I didn’t realize the magnitude of it (the show) until it was all done. And now, wherever I go, probably more so in the United States, people know your name. And that never happened before.”

Born in Scarborough, Dee studied in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. He became a phys. ed. teacher and hockey coach and jumped to comedy later in life. He was an avid hockey player and golfer at university.

York pushes for medical school

On his first day on the job, Tuesday, as a special adviser to York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Dr. Peter Walker didn’t have a chance to field calls about his role spearheading the University’s campaign for a new medical school, wrote April 15. Walker was too busy performing surgery and doing rounds. But Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, was eager to discuss the University’s efforts to convince the provincial government to approve the facility.

"It is one of the top priorities for the University. Of course, something of this nature needs a viable proposal that can be bought into," Bilyk said, adding York first outlined its hope for a medical school about four years ago when it drafted its academic plan for 2005 to 2010. "We’ve had preliminary plans. This (hiring Walker) is to flesh it out. We’re encouraged with the support we’ve had in the community."

  • Dr. Walker also spoke about the proposal for a new medical school at York on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” and "Here & Now" programs April 15.

Prosecutors face balancing act in security case

Experts on terrorism and international law said yesterday it was difficult to tell whether the case of the Toronto 18 terrorism conspiracy was unravelling or simply being streamlined as the passage of time brings the case into sharper focus, wrote the National Post April 16. With charges being stayed against seven of the original 18 suspects, only 11 are now before the courts.

James Stribopoulos, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said it seemed to him the threat was not as strong as it was initially made out to be, especially in light of strong pronouncements of law enforcement at the time of the arrests in June 2006.

He said the latest developments indicated a weakness in the evidence that was alarming for both public confidence and individual rights, considering many of the suspects had been in prison for almost two years.

"At the outset, they erred on the side of caution and against civil liberties by sweeping them up in the dragnet and with the passage of time…they’ve realized that they can’t make their case and they’ve had to abandon those cases," he said. "Clearly someone has dropped the ball here."

  • Alan Young, criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, told Global TV, April 15, there are many different reasons why the Crown may ask for a stay but the most likely one is no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Law society should still teach ethics, say critics

A discussion on a proposed retreat by the Law Society of Upper Canada from ethics teaching in the Bar Admissions program took place at a recent Toronto conference, reported the April 18 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.The Licensing and Accreditation Task Force cited a different reason for its proposal than saving money: that law school skills programs already cover most of the content that makes up its own program. Professor Allan Hutchinson of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, however, warned that current law school programs are not taking up the LSUC’s slack: “The fact that we don’t teach legal ethics is a way of teaching it. We send out a silent message to our students that says, ‘it’s really not that important’.”

Canadian universities developing ways to alert students in emergencies

A year after the Virginia Tech massacre, Canadian universities are developing text-messaging systems to quickly alert students and staff in the event of a shooting, fire or other emergency, wrote The Canadian Press April 15. And some are going beyond a mass, one-size-fits-all alert. They’re developing systems that allow different text messages to be sent to people in different buildings, providing specific advice on how to get to safety.

York University is starting to look at a similar system. Some 80 per cent of York students carry cellphones, according to a request for proposals issued last week, and text messaging could allow the school to reach up to 60,000 people within 15 minutes. For schools across Canada, the potential time saving is huge.

Changing opinions about dyslexia

North York’s Lisa Allen (BA ’98, MES ’02) has English and environmental studies degrees from York University, wrote April 15. She has a master’s degree in environmental education studies and says a PhD is "always beckoning". Allen is also vice-president of Get Axxess Inc., a Concord, Ont.-based company. But she can’t read. Allen was diagnosed with dyslexia, a type of learning disability, when she was in her last year of high school. The 35-year-old, whose mother was a teacher turned stay-at-home mom, and her father, the head of a department that diagnosed people with learning disabilities, struggled throughout school. Her teachers called her a joy to teach because she was bright and articulate and asked great questions, but needed to focus and work on her spelling.

York campus gets boost

A provincial grant of more than $18.5 million will help ensure York University’s facilities are better equipped for cutting-edge research and today’s teaching needs, wrote the North York Mirror April 15.

"This funding is vital to York’s future as we work with the government on a long-term plan for renewal that addresses both projected enrolment growth as well as critical teaching and research needs," said Mamdouh Shoukri, York president & vice-chancellor. "The Ontario government’s support of campus renewal projects will benefit York students with more modern classrooms, labs and other learning spaces."

York dramatist helps adjudicate drama festivals

Assisting Michael O’Brien with the adjudication of the Kirdland Lake district events of the Sears Drama Festival was Spy Denomme-Welch, a playwright/director, who is currently working on his PhD at York University, wrote the Kirkland Lake Northern News April 16.