Keeping in touch is ‘enlightened self-interest’, says alumni director

I never made much of an effort to keep in touch with my alma mater, York University’s Glendon College campus, though it is a fantastic place to learn and grow, and I look back on it very fondly, wrote Brian Towie (BA ’02) in an article about career networking in Toronto’s Metro July 8.

During my time at university, I persevered, got my degree, and ignored the invites to meet with my fellow grads. But in doing so, I might have missed out on some wonderful experiences and relationships with the people I kept as friends, say officials for various alumni organizations. Maintaining contact with your fellow grads can be both emotionally enriching and professionally lucrative, they claim, but here in Canada it’s not an attitude that’s fostered enough.

Factor in the notoriety your school gets through the work of its grads, says James Allan, director of York University’s Alumni Office. It works both ways: The more successful the alumnus, the higher profile the institution enjoys, along with those who have just completed terms there and are now seeking employment.

“There’s an element of enlightened self-interest to staying in touch with an alumni organization,” Allan said. “You’re part of the reputation of your school and what you do determines whether it rises or falls. The greater the reputation of the school, the more value your degree will have.”

York University Chair fitting for Jean’s scene

The Jean Augustine Chair in Education and the New Urban Environment was launched recently amid the swirl of costumes, music, and dance from GTA school groups – the Shoreham and Firgrove Steel Pans, Derrydown Drummers and Topcliff Dancers, wrote columnist Rita Shelton Deverell in The Toronto Sun July 8. .

Jean, at age 71, energetically gyrates to the music and sings “I am so happy.” She should be. York decided to launch the Chair now without having quite enough money. The University must believe there is some social/political/educational urgency. I agree.

Last-minute major donations added big time to the festive mood of the crowd. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario contributed $100,000. Denham Jolly, president and CEO of Milestone Radio, Flow 93.5 FM, threw in another $50,000.

Paul Axelrod , dean of York’s Faculty of Education, is happy about the Chair too: “There could not be a more appropriate time or initiative, or a more appropriate person to honour. Like Jean Augustine herself, this Chair is designed to make a difference. It will focus attention on the changing dynamics of urban and suburban life and deepen our understanding of the impact of these changes on children, youth and schooling. Everything from urban space to Myspace; from child rearing to daily diets; from poverty to peer relationships; from class and race to religion and culture.”

If that sounds pretty ivory tower, it’s not, observes York education Professor Carl James. His view is the Chair is given by the people and will give back to all our communities. “I teach teachers, and the Augustine Chair will directly influence the education of all marginalized students,” James says.

York is conveniently located right next door to one of Toronto’s most troubled and troubling neighbourhoods, Jane and Finch. The Augustine Chair is intelligently designed, I believe, to make a real difference where it counts and over time. I think it stands a good chance of actually working. It may just be the best fix, if not the quick fix, for a troubled educational system.

Steven Truscott’s $6.5 million won’t set a precedent

The Ontario government will pay Steven Truscott $6.5 million for suffering a “miscarriage of justice” and living 48 years with the stigma of being wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder he did not commit, wrote CBC News online July 8.

But Alan Young, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the government won’t be bound to follow the same guidelines, which some commentators called precedent setting, when dealing with other cases. “It may be that the Steven Truscott case had such notoriety that it felt that it had to make the payment because the whole world was watching,” he said. “I like the development, but I wouldn’t start celebrating a huge change in the approach, because it will still be a case-by-case determination.”

  • The case may give hope to those who have been wrongly convicted and can’t prove their innocence, but it does nothing to bind the government “to do the very same thing for Truscott No. 2,” said Young, reported The Canadian Press July 8.

Sister histories

Tania Willard’s aboriginal great-grandmother used to get fancied up for town parades in a traditional dress with fringe and beading, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press July 8. Willard’s manipulation of her mother’s dress adds layers or “generations” of meaning to an object that remains personal and powerful, says Winnipeg’s Jenny Western (MA ’07), a York alumna and curator of the exhibition Mother’s Mother’s Mother, which opens July 10 and runs through Aug. 16.

Western, who is in her late 20s, says the show is her most ambitious to date. A soft-spoken young woman with arresting blue eyes, she grew up in the West End, and earned a master’s degree in art history in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.