Theatre grad stars as young Hagar in The Stone Angel

Being chosen to play a younger version of Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn would be a daunting assignment for any actor. For Christine Horne (BFA ’04) – an Aurora, Ont., native who had never set foot on a movie set, let alone acted in a feature film before – the prospect of holding a mirror up to the veteran stage and film star in the screen adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s classic novel The Stone Angel was nothing short of terrifying, reported The Globe and Mail May 8.

“I had done a couple of short films that were shot over two days with a crew of eight,” quips the 26-year-old Horne, an exquisite, fine-boned blonde, sporting a pixie cut. “And I believe I had played a secretary with one line in [the TV show] ‘Missing’. So for all intents and purposes, that was the extent of my film career,” she says. “That they cast me in this role was nothing short of miraculous.”

In the upcoming $8.5-million film (opening in Canadian theatres May 9 and in the United States on July 11), Horne plays the youthful equivalent of Laurence’s spirited matriarch Hagar Shipley, who is forced over the course of the book to examine the painful intricacies of her life and death.

York set to bestow honorary degrees

Veteran politician Preston Manning, who founded both the federal Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance, will be one of 10 honorary degree recipients at York University‘s convocation ceremonies in June, reported the North York Mirror May 7. York is awarding the honorary degrees to notable leaders in fields as diverse as politics, education, media, environmental conservation and community service.

Former student remembers a gifted teacher

Prof. David Spencer (MA ’83) of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., remembered Donald C. MacDonald, who died in April, in The Globe and Mail May 8:

In many ways, it just seems like yesterday when, as an ambitious undergraduate in political history, I walked into a classroom at York University’s Glendon College to take a course in the government and politics of Ontario. Little did I know at the time that this event would prove to be a significant turning point in my life and eventually in my career.  

While looking for a seat as far away from the instructor as possible, I was given a cheerful hello and welcome by the person at the other end of the table, journalist and well-known political figure Donald C. MacDonald. That year proved to be one of the most exciting learning experiences a student could have. We traded laughs and insights with Frank Miller, a wonderful individual from up Muskoka way who was known for his colourful jackets. Then it was on to playing 20 questions with Robert Nixon, then leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.  

It wasn’t too long after finishing the course that I got a phone call from Mr. MacDonald. He was revising his textbook, The Government and Politics of Ontario, and he wanted me to write the chapter on the workings of the legislature. By this time, I was actively exploring a career in academic life and to have gained the confidence of someone I really liked and respected was humbling, to say the least. There are really good teachers in this world and they are priceless. Donald C. MacDonald was not only a carrying member of the provincial legislature, he was a gifted instructor.

Empowered mothers change the world

Giving women more options – at the core of the women’s movement – has meant changing attitudes and sometimes laws so that women could have children as well as a job, or not have children, or not be penalized for choosing to take care of children, wrote the Times & Transcript (Moncton) May 8.

Today’s new mothers were raised to believe that equality is a right. York University’s Association for Research on Mothering seems to be populated by such mothers. They publish an academic journal with titles like “Mothering, Law, Politics and Public Policy”, “Mothering and Work/Mothering as Work” and “Mothers and Sons”. It has also spawned a Mother Outlaw group, complete with black T-shirts, of mothers who meet over potluck to discuss motherhood issues from a feminist perspective and the links between their mothering practices and social change.

Empowering mothers to be effective advocates for the world’s children is an action very likely to improve conditions for children – and women. And it is a return to the original intention of the North American version of Mothers’ Day.

Film students take widescreen approach to music

To anyone who listens to even a few tracks from Mercury In Retrograde, the debut album by Key Witness, it’s not a surprise to learn the band got together while most members were studying film at York University, wrote the Waterloo Region Record May 8. The Toronto-based roots sextet’s sound evokes sweeping desolate landscapes, filled in by dreamy lyrics, that all add up to a powerful emotional experience.

Although Key Witness has only been together for about two years, Toronto critics have unabashedly been comparing them to an earthier version of Arcade Fire and Sonic Youth since the release of Mercury In Retrograde last fall. The band’s principal front man, J.M. McNab (BFA ’06), is hoping such praise will serve them well as they begin venturing outside the city in earnest for the first time.

"We really kind of bonded originally over a love of songwriting," McNab says. "Those of us in film school were in our last year when the band got together, and we didn’t really see a border between the two things. It all seemed part of the same way of storytelling, and we got a great response pretty soon after we started playing gigs.”

Radio DJ, writer and teacher earned a York BA at 72

Phil Stone (BA ’87) was born in Glasgow and raised in Liverpool, two tough towns, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, began an obituary written by his son Jay in the Ottawa Citizen May 8 following his death May 1 at the age of 94. 

He came to Toronto in 1927 when he was 14 years old with his widowed mother and his younger sister. He was a good student but he had to quit school to support the family at a series of odd jobs. He went to night school, and every week he went to the public library and took out five books so he could educate himself. He wanted to be a writer. He began selling freelance articles to magazines and newspapers. He wrote a column for the Toronto Daily Star called Poems and Thoughts, a collection of light verse and everyday ironies.

In the Second World War, Stone served in the public relations section of the Canadian army, where he learned how to be a newspaperman. He came out with contacts in the city room of the Toronto papers and began selling articles to them and to magazines, including Saturday Evening Post. He started his own magazine, Canadian Sports Digest, which went bankrupt, but it provided his entree into sports. Later he would do sportscasts on radio, announce stock car races, and host a weekly bowling show, live from O’Connor Bowl in Toronto, on CBC television.

He was hired by CHUM Radio to do public relations work and one day, when the sports announcer didn’t show up, he was recruited to go on the air. On May 27, 1957, Stone – by then a disc jockey – played the first rock record ever heard on Canadian radio. It was Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets. In 1959 he became vice-president of CHUM, becoming the station’s public face and voice.

He left CHUM to become a teacher at Humber College, where he founded a radio course and taught it for eight years. He also lectured at York University and Conestoga College, even though he never finished public school. He eventually went back and got his BA from York when he was 72.

On air

  • Expanding the TTC subway line into Vaughan – with one of six stops at York University – will increase property values in the area, reported AM640 (CFMJ-AM) and 680 News (CFTR-AM) in May 7 newscasts.