my ideas and some of my accumulated knowledge through the medium
of fiction, by creating stories about people we might be able to recognize as
family or friends or neighbours – people who have been directly or indirectly affected by all the tragic tendencies that come with human nature.
And so I started writing fiction that is mostly true.
Historian at the Canadian War Museum and author
as the son of two professors, both with PhDs in history, I of
course set off for my undergraduate degree at Trent University aching to do anything except history. My first two years in Peterborough saw
me majoring in varsity rugby, but in my third year I was fortunate to encounter Stuart Robson (now professor emeritus). His class on the Second
World War awakened in me an excitement in unraveling the complexities
of nations and individuals at war. Compassionate, intelligent and funny,
Stuart spoke from his well-crafted set-piece lectures, offered twice a week
at 8: 30 a.m. The classes were usually full.
Stuart believed in the importance of tutorials. He structured his
course so that in addition to giving lectures, he met with his considerable
number of students once every three weeks to read a paper and receive
commentary. No other professor did this at Trent, as far as I know, for it
required the professor to hold tutorials from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to
Friday. During these 90-minute meetings, I read and discussed my paper,
was challenged over interpretations and learned to speak intelligently
about sources. One did not come unprepared.
Researcher of inherited diseases, professor of pediatrics, University of
Ottawa, and senior scientist, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
i first encountered the late J. Gordin Kaplan teaching his third-year molecular biology course at the University of Ottawa in 1973.
An indifferent student meandering indifferently through the undergraduate curriculum with no particular destination in mind, I came late to his
second class (having missed the first) to encounter Dr. Gordin beautifully
outlining Jacob and Monod’s then fairly recent work on the bacterial lactose operon – work that established many of the key principles of gene
An elegant man, Dr. Gordin had the delivery of a Shakespearean actor,
albeit one with a distinctly New York accent, a fierce gaze and a wonderful
sense of timing. A lover of all things Gallic and frequently bedecked in a
cravat and beret, he gave lectures that were performances. I remember
him pausing to stare at the floor mid-sentence for emphasis before delivering the intellectual coup de grace concerning a particular aspect of the
operon theory, describing how the genes that make up all forms of life
are controlled. Through his eloquent mastery, the elegance and simplicity
of the then-nascent world of molecular biology shone forth. He had me
from negative repressor.
I did an honours project with Dr. Gordin the following year, then ship-ped off under his guidance to his friend Lou Siminovitch in the University
of Toronto medical genetic department where, after a brief detour into
medical school, I completed a doctorate under Jeremy Carver. To this day,
I have been, more or less, tilling the same DNA furrow that Dr. Gordin laid
out so beautifully on that September afternoon more than 40 years ago.
Editor-in-chief and publisher of L’actualité
Carman Cumming taught print journalism at Carleton University
when I began studying for a bachelor of journalism in 1979. I still
quote him profusely. In many ways, he inspired and shaped the journalist I have become. Misspelling a name or getting a number wrong was a
capital offence in Professor Cumming’s book – and in my book, too. We
had to get the story, get it fast and get it right! I treasured his classes, even
though I failed them at first.
When I entered Carleton, I was a young French-speaking Montrealer who was determined to become a journalist but had never studied in
English before. In French, I was an A student who loved writing and was
pretty good at it. In English, my first assignments earned me E’s. I was
desperate. And Professor Cumming was kind. He told me I had an eye for
detail and an ear for a quote, but I did not hear the music of the English
language. He suggested I study the Globe and Mail every night. I did, and
my marks began to improve.
Professor Cumming had humour and class, and he demanded the best
of us. Years later, when I edit copy and coach young writers, I can hear
myself say the French version of some of the advice he gave us. I hope I
am as clear, as inspiring and as kind as he was.
Comedian and writer
raised in halifax, Nova Scotia, a city rich in three centuries of military tradition, not to mention uncles and relatives who’d served in the
During high school, I consistently failed at math but was at the top of my
class in history, so I chose that as my major at Acadia University.
As a wide-eyed freshman in 1975, I was unaware of how much a professor’s passion for their subject could make or break a course. Where one
academic could turn an hour-long class into an exercise of coma-inducing
boredom, another could elevate the subject clear off the page. In my sophomore year, I discovered the latter: Professor [James L.] Stokesbury (1934
– 1995). His consummate intellectual embrace of those tectonic conflicts
of the 20th century, coupled with a “common man’s” touch, allowed him
to articulate the myriad complexities of the world wars with such passion
and verve that his was the most sought-after history class in the BA program. Professor Stokesbury made what some regard as the pedantic study
of dead guys come alive.