York launches its 50th anniversary with a new book

York University marks a half century of innovation in postsecondary education this year, with a series of concerts, symposia and special lectures running from February to December 2009. Events surrounding  the University’s 50th anniversary will officially get underway later today with the release of a new book that examines the history of Canada’s third-largest university. The launch of York University: The Way Must Be Tried (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009), written by York Professor Emeritus Michiel Horn, takes place on York’s Keele campus.

Right: Michiel Horn

Horn, who is also the York University historian, will be at the event to sign copies of the book and speak about his experience writing York University: The Way Must Be Tried. Copies will also be available for purchase at the book launch and in the York University Bookstore at a special book release discount of 20 per cent off the cover price.

York University: The Way Must Be Tried traces the University’s history, from its early beginnings in the Glendon campus housed in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, to becoming Canada’s third-largest university. Starting in 1955 when a group of Toronto professionals began discussions on expanding adult education in their city, Horn documents the emergence of York University, founded in 1959, and opened in 1960 with 76 students. 

Within its pages Horn recounts stories of the period from the 1963 faculty revolt to the troubled search for a successor to York founding president Murray Ross and the budgetary problems that led to the resignation of second president David Slater. Horn also delves into many of York’s innovations and triumphs – bilingualism at Glendon College, the arrival of Osgoode Hall Law School and the phenomenal growth of York’s Keele campus, including the Schulich School of Business. In addition, the philosophies that guide the Faculties and York’s groundbreaking research are explored in detail.

In York University: The Way Must be Tried, Horn weaves archival research and interviews into a compelling narrative, documenting the development of an institution committed to helping professors and students reach across disciplinary boundaries.

Today, there are over 50,000 students in 11 Faculties on two campuses, making York the third-largest university in Canada. Faculty and staff have grown from under 20 to nearly 8,000.

In the author’s preface, Horn writes: “A major problem in writing the history of an institution that grew within a dozen years from a tiny college into a large university is that a great deal happened very quickly. There is also an overabundance of information about it.

“I have selected topics that I consider to be significant or interesting, and not least important, that interested me. But I had to leave out many things that, given more time and space, I would have wanted to include,” writes Horn. “Although I am aware that this book falls well short of perfection, working on it has been a pleasure. The people I interviewed have been my teachers, and I have learned a lot from them. Moreover, my appreciation of York has grown. With all its flaws and disagreements, it has stayed true to its original interdisciplinary mission and has expanded it. In common with other Canadian universities, it offers a degree of personal and intellectual freedom that is rarely available in private business or the public sector.”

With the launch of York University: The Way Must Be Tried, York recognizes 50 years of innovation at the forefront of Canada’s postsecondary sector. Over the coming months, different constituents of the University will present concerts, lectures and other public events that mark important aspects of York’s past, present and future.

A U50 calendar showcases the best of York University

The University has launched a special U50 Web site that presents details of each of these events. Of note is the effort by the University’s 50th-anniversary organizing committee to find sponsors to support the costs for many of the events now on the calendar.

From special lectures, concerts and performances to art and archival exhibits, colloquia and symposia, the emphasis is on showcasing the learning, academic accomplishments and artistic endeavours housed in Canada’s interdisciplinary university.

Here are some highlights from the calendar:

  • York University has nine colleges and the college masters have designed a lecture series which will highlight for members of the University community, and the community at large, a sample of the diverse research in which faculty members at York University are involved. Each of York’s nine colleges will host one such talk. The speakers and talks have been selected for the excitement in doing research that each speaker exhibits, and the fact that the talks will be geared to a general audience, with no technical knowledge of the subject matter, or the topic, being presupposed. Full details of the series are available month by month on the U50 calendar.

March is a particularly busy month because York’s birthday falls on March 26.

  • From March 6 to 8, the 6th Annual Association of Graduate Students in Biological Sciences (AGSBS) Symposium celebrates not only York’s 50th anniversary, but also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species. The three-day symposium will showcase the outstanding research being conducted by York alumni (representing the past), faculty (representing the present) and students (representing the future). The symposium is open to senior high school students, York University students, faculty and alumni. For more information, visit the AGSBS Symposium Web site. Registration is available online.
  • On March 7, the 50th Anniversary Intramural Reunion, hosted by York Sport & Recreation, welcomes hundreds of York alumni back to the Keele campus as they compete for the love of the game. The intramural reunion gives alumni the chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere. Sporting competitions will take place all day with volleyball tournaments at the Tait McKenzie Centre and broomball tournaments at Canlan Ice Sports, two of the most popular sports in intramural play at York University. A special intramural reception at Canlan Ice Sports will follow the tournaments, allowing participants another opportunity to rekindle old memories and discuss future plans.

  • Social justice takes centre stage on March 19 with the University’s recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which features an evening of presentations on anti-racist activism. As part of this event, Professor Sara Ahmed, Visiting Chair in Women’s Studies at Rutgers University, will deliver a keynote lecture on “Happiness, Race and Empire”.

  • York celebrates 50 will take place March 26. The event honours York University Faculty who are companions, officers or members of the Order of Canada; fellows of the Royal Society of Canada; distinguished research professors; and/or University professors. York’s faculty holding any of these honours over the past 50 years, from March 26, 1959 to March 25, 2009, are being recognized at this special event for their contributions to the University.

  • York’s 50th Birthday Student Appreciation Day on March 26 is a one-day campus-wide event is designed to recognize and thank students for their efforts in making York the outstanding University that it is. The day is also about enhancing community among students and increasing the connectedness between them and the University itself. All current, full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students are invited to participate.

  • The 50+50 Symposium: An Interdisciplinary Discussion About Pretty Much Everything runs March 27 to 28. What have we learned in the last 50 years and how will it help us in the next 50? This is the question that will shape 50+50, the centrepiece of York University’s 50th anniversary. To answer that question the University has invited some of the world’s most distinguished thinkers – and achievers – to a public symposium. Confirmed speakers include Sheila Watt Cloutier, Nicholas Negroponte, Justice Rosie Abella, Edward O. Wilson and Lloyd Axworthy. This conference is open to all members of the York community and the general public.

  • The York in Concert – Black Tie Gala on March 28 marks the University’s 50th anniversary with a concert in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall on York’s Keele campus. Hosted by a series of guest emcees drawn from York’s accomplished alumni, the entertainment will be drawn from the pool of talented performers who "got their start" at York, including well-known vocalist Matt Dusk (BFA ’02) to an opera aria by Vania Chan (BFA ’08), to a humorous ballet by choreographer Susan Cash (BFA ’78, MA ’07). All of the participants, both onstage and backstage will be York alumni or current students, with the exception of the gala’s producer, Phillip Silver (former dean of Fine Arts).

The rest of the year continues at a quieter pace with events running through to December. Some highlights for the rest of the year include:

  • "Equity, Diversity, Community: A Colloquium in Honour of Patrick Solomon" takes place May 7 and profiles York’s Faculty of Education, its scholarly work and community outreach programs, as well as honours the outstanding contributions to the University and community by the Solomon, who died on Oct. 4, 2008. (See YFile, Oct. 8, 2008.) The featured keynote lecture will be delivered by Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and professor of curriculum & instruction and educational policy studies, University of Wisconsin- Madison. Her scholarly contributions to the fields of multicultural education, social studies, critical race theory and education and culturally relevant pedagogy are widely acknowledged. Following the keynote lecture, the colloquium will feature poster sessions, a panel discussion, video displays and short presentations of Faculty of Education programs and projects in community-based education.

  • On May 9, York presents the U50 Community Festival featuring a Science Rendezvous, Bridges Across Black Creek, a public astronomy viewing, a scale model of the solar system, a festival at the Glendon campus, an exhibit from the Clara Thomas Archives and the World Without Water exhibit.

  • On May 28, York presents the 50th Anniversary Sport Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This year, the ceremony will honour former student-athletes, administrators, builders, faculty members and coaches who have made a major impact on York during the University’s 50-year history.

  • In June, York celebrates the creation of the new Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies from two of York’s current Faculties – the Faculty of Arts and the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, with a new publication, The Legacy of Atkinson. The best of both Faculties will be brought together to provide current and future students the greatest opportunities for studying with an interdisciplinary view of the world. The Legacy of Atkinson celebrates the life of the Faculty and all those who have made it such a vital part of York’s history. All members of the York community will appreciate this view of Atkinson’s roots and its relevance to those people who studied, worked and taught here.
  • The International Vision Conference, June 23 to 27, examines the role of three-dimensional vision. It will feature invited talks from 24 internationally renowned vision scientists. There will be daily morning and afternoon sessions, each devoted to a particular contemporary issue on the topic. In addition there will be a poster session which will include approximately 80 contributed presentations.
  • From Aug. 6 to 9, York pays tribute to Joseph Haydn with the "Celebrating Haydn: His Times and Legacy" conference. Participants will reflect on Haydn’s legacy, influence and reception over the past 200 years. Aimed at the academic community as well as interested music lovers, this North American event will provide a forum for established and new scholars to share their research. Co-organized by York music Professor Dorothy De Val with noted Haydn scholar Professor Patricia Debly of Brock University, the conference will take place in York’s Accolade East Building, and include evening public concerts in the flagship Tribute Communities Recital Hall.
  • On Sept. 30, York presents Arts Meets Science consisting of keynote lectures by Richard Wingate and Martha Fleming, two internationally recognized speakers and York’s Professor Nell Tenhaaf. All will speak about the transformative potential of entanglements between artists and scientists. The lectures will be recorded for University Radio York and a video web broadcast. Richard Wingate is a scientist and lecturer at the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London. Martha Fleming is an artist, curator and associate professor at the Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen. York Professor Nell Tenhaaf is an interdisciplinary artist and theoretician with extensive publication, lecture and exhibition credits across Canada, the US and Europe.
  • Change Your World Conference on Oct. 15 connects Ontario high-school students and teachers attuned to environmental and social justice issues with alumni, students, faculty and staff from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), highlighting how FES is changing the world. Two conferences will be presented at the same time – one for high-school students and one for their teachers. Both conferences will kick off with a passionate keynote speaker and will feature dynamic workshops, an environmental trade show exhibition and a closing ceremony featuring local bands. High-school students will learn how they can extend their engagement with key issues through York’s undergraduate program in environmental studies – and play an even greater role in changing the world.
  • Contesting Urban Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a one-day symposium on Oct. 23. The event consists of a keynote address, three panels, audience participation and a reception bringing together York scholars and key actors in diverse sectors engaged in regional growth debates and policy making in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
  • On Nov. 5 & 6, the "Bodyworks Symposium: Intersections in Sport, Art and Culture" keeps with the little-known but longtime tradition of the cultural Olympiad, held in conjunction with the Olympic games and conceiving of Olympism as built on the integration of sport, art and culture. The Bodyworks Symposium seeks to establish beneficial dialogue among athletes, artists, researchers, cultural activists and the wider community. This symposium will feature an international contingent of participants who have been chosen from leaders in sport, art and culture sectors, including athletes and cultural activists Andrew Haley, Bruce Kidd, Russell Field, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Beckie Scott; artists Craig Le Blanc and Jane Roos; and writers Barry Callaghan, Michael Holmes, Priscila Uppal and more. In addition to lectures and panels, the symposium will feature the workshops "Poetry for Athletes" and "Storytelling for Athletes", a Sports Information Fair, a sport film screening, an exhibition of artworks by elite athletes, plus a book launch for The Exile Book of Canadian Sports Fiction.
  • From Dec. 3 to 5, the International Conference on Soccer/Football: History, Gender & Nation takes place at York. The conference will focus on critical analyses of soccer/football in a global context in advance of the 2010 World Cup, which is being held for the first time in Africa. It brings together scholars working in a range of interdisciplinary projects, who offer critical appraisal of how soccer shapes and has shaped social, political and economic relations, in Canada and globally. The conference is particularly interested in hearing from scholars who offer historical analyses of the game, who interrogate the gendered dynamics of it and who explore how soccer engages nation states and transnational flows of players and capital.

For a full listing of all U50 events, including the location of each event, visit the U50 Web site.