McLaughlin College celebrates its 40th anniversary

Named after the first president of General Motors Canada, Col. Samuel McLaughlin, York’s McLaughlin College is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a host of activities May 9-11 designed to engage four decades of alumni, professors, Fellows and staff in reminiscing and in building new memories.

The celebrations begins with a 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Dance on Friday, May 9, in the banquet hall of the Montecassino Hotel, 3710 Chesswood Dr. at Sheppard Ave. in Toronto. There will be TTC buses running about every few minutes between Downsview subway station and the Montecassino Hotel, which is some five minutes away. About 300 people are expected.

Right: Col. Samuel McLaughlin in 1966

York Professor David Bell, a McLaughlin Fellow and former Faculty of Environmental Studies and Faculty of Graduate Studies dean, will provide the musical entertainment for the evening, leading an 18-piece big band and dance orchestra, while McLaughlin Fellow Onnig Cavoukian, Canada’s premier portrait photographer, will unveil a portrait of Samuel McLaughlin from his archives. A philanthropist and a benefactor of York, McLaughlin, who died in 1972 at 101 years of age, received an honourary doctorate in the first convocation at which York conferred honourary degrees – June 1, 1966.

McLaughlin College Masters Michael Lanphier (1986-1991), David Shugarman (1991-2003) and the current master Ian Greene will attend the event, while McLaughlin’s founding master,George Tatham (1968-1978), who died in 1987, will be remembered. Video greetings will be presented from Masters George Doxey (1978-1986) and Marilyn Lambert-Drache (1997-1998).

On display at the gala event will be McLaughlin College memorabilia from 1968 to the present, along with a souvenir magazine for attendees with excerpts from York Professor Gerry Jordan’s History of McLaughlin College, expected to be published in 2009.

Greene is excited about the 40th celebrations saying, "It’s important because after 40 years the college has matured quite a bit and some of the older alums are interested in coming back and reminiscing. It’s also a way of rediscovering our history with the most interesting part being the founding of the college."

A lot has changed in 40 years, but it was Tatham, as founding master, who set the tone for the college. He was involved with the students in and out of the classroom and lived with his family in Tatham Hall. "He is one of the founding visionaries along with Murray Ross and several others. He embodied a vision of the college system and he dedicated his life to the students in many ways," says Greene. "Students were spellbound by his lectures and he really encouraged the development of the whole person."

Left: George Tatham

McLaughlin was the fourth college at York. Like Tatham, Greene is a proponent of the college system. "We live in a world where many people don’t realize the importance of community, so the idea is to get them involved and once they’re involved, whether they are students, faculty or Fellows, they love it."

Greene says he hopes to encourage more faculty and Fellows to interact with students at either college-run or student-run events. He would also like the anniversary celebrations to spark an annual alumni dinner.

The weekend events continue on Saturday, May 10, with homecoming reunion activities designed to provide opportunities for meeting old friends and making new ones. A golf tournament at Shawneeki Golf Club is planned, as well as campus tours from 4 to 7pm. In addition, there will be a special presentation by Fellows of the college on the history of McLaughlin at 5pm in the Senior Common Room, 140 McLaughlin College.

Saturday’s events will culminate in a 40th anniversary barbeque and pub night. The reunion barbecue will take place at 6pm in the Junior Common Room, 014 McLaughlin College, followed by live entertainment at the anniversary party – Bradstock to MACstock, featuring four groups at the Mac Pub in the Junior Common Room, beginning at 8pm.

The Kharma Gheezers will take the stage at 8pm with an eclectic mix of classic rock inspired songs. At 9pm, Jabulani, a Toronto-based South African group that plays the Zulu-style music from the streets of Johannesburg and led by Johannesburg-born Brian Litvin will perform. The GREATESCAPE will perform roots music at 10pm. The veteran Toronto song-writing duo of James Murphy and Paul White began GREATESCAPE as a showcase for their newly-minted collaborations. They meld the introspective storytelling style of the great southern troubadours with the free-form jazz rock of the psychedelic era. Caution Jam will close the evening with their mix of Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Miles Davis and Johnny Cash songs as well as their own original folksy, funky and melodic compositions at 11pm.

The celebration will wrap up on Sunday, May 11, with a pancake brunch with Greene doing some of the flipping at 11am in the Senior Common Room. It being Mother’s Day, mothers can attend at no charge.

For tickets to the 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Dance on Friday, contact Vicky at 416-736-5128 or by e-mail at For more information on the bands or to register for the 40th anniversary weekend, visit the McLaughlin College Web site.

There may still be some rooms available to rent for the weekend in Tatham Hall, Click here to register.