Welcome to your new job… we’ve had an earthquake

When Dawn Devoe [BA Hons. ’98, LLB ’01] took her job as general counsel at non-profit World Vision Canada, little did she know that 24 hours later a devastating earthquake in Haiti would thrust her to the forefront of a massive relief effort, wrote the National Post June 17.

"It was baptism by fire. It allowed me to see first hand what this organization is really about."

As general counsel, Devoe, who graduated from [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 2002, has wide-ranging duties. She is on call 24 hours a day to provide counsel and support in conflicts or natural disasters. Among her functions, she constructs and reviews complex international contracts.

Super-sized tunnelling machines ready to launch

The TTC is about to launch the first of four giant tunnel-boring machines that will dig the route for tracks and trains on the Spadina subway extension to York Region, wrote the Toronto Star June 16.

“What I’d like to do is just keep the borers, so when we finish on Spadina-York, we just keep on going. It’s a long time in coming, it’s so needed,” said TTC chair Karen Stintz, citing the 2,000 buses a day that serve York University and the city’s planned development of Downsview Park, which will also feed the subway.

The first of the machines has already been lowered into the ground at Sheppard West to begin the dig by the end of the month.

More people taking transit in 905

The 905’s love affair with the car may be waning, wrote 680News.com June 16. Transit systems across the GTA are reporting record year-over-year ridership numbers and while some of the credit – or blame – is on soaring gas prices, it’s not the only reason.

"We’ve really changed the perception of public transit. We’ve really marketed to the community that it’s not the loser cruiser. It’s the smart choice, it’s the better way and it’s a convenient way to travel," said Sue Connor, executive director of Brampton Transit. "Our travel times from Bramalea City Centre to York University [Keele campus] through the rush hour are 35 minutes on some of our trips that take the 407 part way. And that’s a trip I’m not likely able to do in my car any faster," Connor said.

Greece’s financial problems existed before crisis, says York prof

Leo Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and distinguished research professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, wrote Free Speech Radio News June 15. He told The Real News Network’s Paul Jay that the current crisis in Greece is direct result of draconian austerity measures implemented by the government to deal with the financial crisis that started in the United States.

“There is a problem in terms of Greece’s finances, but that problem existed before the crisis. It was aggravated considerably by the fact that Germany is the big exporter in Europe’s free trade zone; that’s what the European Union is – a free trade zone, and Greece got the money through transfers from the EU, from the European Commission for a while, but mostly from the borrowing from German banks to buy German goods.”

Panitch says Germany’s Deutsch Bank, which was heavily invested in the US mortgage market, was bailed out by the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve and is among a number of European banks concerned that Greece may not pay back its debts – something which may be unavoidable. European finance ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the crisis.

A government beyond reproach

Remember Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s May 2 victory speech? asked Alexandre Brassard, director of research at York’s Glendon College and coordinator of the Centre for Global Challenges, in a translation from his French-language blog published in TheMarkNews.com June 17. His face beaming, he declared: “We are intensely aware that we are and we must be the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us.”

Deferring to experienced political analysts, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that Harper’s new majority would soften his partisan edge, that he’d reveal a more conciliatory side. I proclaimed on-air that the Conservatives would work to bring the country together – not because of some new openness of spirit, but because it would help them win the support of centrist voters.

Sadly, recent events have proven me wrong. With the prime minister’s Senate appointments and his decision to cancel the traditional debate following the speech from the throne, I’m now eating my words faster that I can chew. It’s all too clear that this government will continue to make a mockery of our public institutions in its pursuit of partisan interests. The “new era of civility and respect” has been put on hold.

Geography grad turned investor is still positive on US opportunities

At a packed road show held recently in Toronto, [York grad] Larry Sarbit‘s enthusiasm for stock-buying opportunities in the United States was palpable, wrote the Toronto Star online June 17.  "We’re going to do something different for you and make you a lot of money," says Sarbit, "but it will take a while. In the next five years, I will be very happy with these stocks."

Sarbit [MA ’77] is the founder and chief investment officer of Sarbit Advisory Services, the Winnipeg-based sub-adviser of the $363-million IA Clarington Sarbit US Equity.

Sarbit, 59, draws on extensive experience in US equity investing. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and an MA from York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], in geography.

Sarbit acknowledges that the US economy is in rough shape. "It will take five to 10 years to recover," he says. Unfazed, he will go about his business of focusing on the strength of individual companies and pursuing opportunities where others fear to tread. "You get to buy bargains when people are scared, when things are gloomy. We’re taking advantage of this opportunity."

Dance grad is an active arts adviser in California

Dance Camera West founder and executive/artistic director Lynette Kessler is an accomplished dancer, choreographer and media artist with an MFA in dance from the University of Michigan and a BFA [Hons. ’78] in dance from York University in Toronto, wrote CinemaWithoutBorders.com June 17, in a story about the organization’s Dance Media Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Known for her innovative collaborations and dance work for the screen that have been shown in film festivals worldwide, Kessler has received numerous awards…[and] sits on the board of directors for the Buckminster Fuller Institute and the California Ear Unit.

She is an active member of the advocacy groups: Arts for LA, California Arts Advocates, and Americans for the Arts. And she’s also on the Media Arts Advisory Committee to guide the new Media Arts initiative creating a fifth arts discipline for Los Angeles Unified School District.

Mining lawyer strikes gold with win

Sharon Dowdall [LLB ’77] says the past 20 years she has spent working for mining giant Franco-Nevada Corp. and its predecessor companies – both as external counsel and in-house – has been the equivalent of earning an MBA, wrote the Financial Post June 17, in a story about the award-winning lawyer turned mining entrepreneur.

And what great teachers she’s had over the years, working with Canadian mining legends [York benefactor] Seymour Schulich and Pierre Lassonde, among others.

"The opportunity to have Seymour Schulich and Pierre Lassonde as mentors was like enjoying the benefits of a working MBA," she said.

It has paid off handsomely for Dowdall, who is this year’s recipient of the business achievement award, given to a lawyer who has successfully transitioned from a purely legal role to a business role.

Dowdall, who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 1979, said lawyers have a special talent that works well in the business world. "They often have a fair bit of listening skills. They help people keep the eye on the tasks."

Trish Stratus gets twisted into shape

Among her earliest memories, retired World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Trish Stratus [a former York kinesiology student] remembers doing yoga with her mom in the living room of the family home, wrote Canoe.ca June 16.

That journey – which included playing field hockey for York University’s nationally ranked varsity squad, a stint as a fitness model and her unlikely rise to superstardom in the zany world of pro rasslin’ – has since come full circle.

Now 35, the iconic "WWE diva" devotes much of her time to yoga and her Toronto-area yoga studio, Stratusphere. Her passion for the ancient practice was reignited in 2005, after she suffered a herniated disc…. That’s when she turned to yoga.

Her body responded almost immediately. Not only did she avoid surgery, but Stratus also finished out her wrestling career injury-free. "I equate it to the Gumby effect," she says of her newfound elasticity. "My body, instead of taking the hit, will sort of just go with it."

Run fights child poverty

In their cross-Canada run, the team of Bryce Dymond, Zaya Kuyena and Brittany Dickson hope to engage with 100,000 Canadians – and to raise a toonie per person for World Vision programs in Canada, wrote Northumberland Today June 17, in a story about the One Nation Run for charity.

The trio left St. John’s, Nfld., May 1 and, at an average of 71 km per day, hope to reach Vancouver Sept. 29. This week, they passed through Northumberland. Kuyena, who has just earned his political science degree from York University, is in the One Nation Run for the long haul.

York grad was a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights

Kathryn Dawn Robins [BAS Hons. ’88] passed away peacefully in her home in Phoenix, Ariz. June 10, with her sister Janet at her side, following a two-year battle with colorectal cancer, wrote The Sarnia Observer June 17, in a death notice.

Known to the family as Kathy, Robins was born in Watrous, Sask., on May 13, 1951, and celebrated her 60th birthday in fine style just 28 days before her death. A private family memorial was held June 12 in her backyard garden, her respite and place of solace.

Robins grew up on the family farm near Courtright, graduated high school from Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School, and later studied at the University of Guelph and York University.

She was a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights, with a long history of involvement with non-profit human services organizations. Her insights on running organizations that support persons with disabilities, her quiet courage in fighting cancer for many years of her life and her underlying decency and compassion impressed so many of her colleagues and friends. She lived a good life, and made a difference.

On air

  • Stephanie Ross, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about pending back-to-work legislation for postal workers and Air Canada employees, on CBC Radio June 16.