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Q2, 2019

Welcome to the last issue of the Academy Quarterly Review for the 2018-19 Academy year, and welcome especially to new members who may be reading the AQR for the first time.

In this issue we celebrate the remarkable achievements of our long time members, Eileen and Ralph Garber and of Judith Schurek, to whom U of T’s gratitude is Boundless.

After enjoying another successful roster of Spring Talks and bi-weekly Forums, we were moved to wonder how the Talks Committee goes about planning and executing this programme in such a seemingly effortless way. Incoming Chair, Clare Mian, reveals some of the real pitfalls they face.

In a summary of her speech to the AGM, outgoing President Sharon Harris sums up the highs and lows of her eventful year in office.

Finally we offer some useful strategies from the Baycrest Foundation on communicating with those with hearing loss and minimizing our own memory problems, beyond those ‘senior moments’ we all experience occasionally.

Please get into the habit of checking the website regularly. The walks schedule below will be kept updated so that you can keep in touch with your Academy friends on the weekly walks and lunches.  Any other important news updates will be sent to you via the Next Week at the Academy emails.

The Communications Committee wishes you a very enjoyable summer and looks forward to seeing you all again in September.

Events Calendar

July 1 - Spots held for new members are released
mid-July - Option for 4th workshop registration becomes available
September 9 - Week 1 workshops begin
September 17 - Week 2 workshops begin

Sitting on a lounge in my cool, shaded backyard, I now have the opportunity to reflect upon the past year at the Academy.  At our recent AGM, I referred to Brian Gaston’s speech the previous year in which he mentioned Dickens’ opening to “A Tale of Two Cities”.  Like Brian’s experience, this past year at the Academy certainly was the “best of times” and “the worst of times”.

I have briefly outlined the highlights and low points of last year below.

The Best:

  • Handbook revisions are now complete, and it can easily be updated.
  • Most new members find out about the Academy through our website, so the Outreach Committee has been disbanded.
  • Our participation in the Third Age Network is strong and we congratulate Cathy Spark as the new president of TAN.
  • The Past Presidents’ Advisory Council has been established to meet occasionally and assist the Board if desired.
  • The Academy’s archive has been fully digitized, and our paper records will be destroyed.
  • We have strengthened our relationship with the School of Continuing Studies at U of T.

The Worst:

  • There were two complaints of violations to our existing Code of Conduct. Insufficient detailed procedures were in place to deal with these situations. Resolving each incident took a long time and was extremely difficult
  • Doug Wilson established a committee consisting of Deborah Del Duca, Virginia Clark and Thea Herman, who worked long and hard to develop a fair process to resolve any similar situations.
  • Our new Code of Conduct was approved at the AGM.
  • After 17 years of happy residency at Knox, we were informed that we would have to leave by that April 30th, a few weeks after receiving the emailed notice. We were shocked!!!
  • Our meeting with the administrator of Knox did not improve the situation.
  • At the meeting Doug Wilson and I had with John Vissers, Knox’s principal, our tenure was extended to April 30, 2020.
  • Brian Gaston has led a relocation committee that has searched for many possible new homes. Many thanks for all their effort. The Board’s decision will be announced once our plans are firm.
  • Thanks to all Board members, volunteers, members of the hard-working committees, our webmaster, our photographers, our archivist, the volunteer co-ordinator, and our “walks” organizers. The Academy needs and relies on people like you to help out. And thank-you especially to Doug Wilson and Brian Gaston whose wisdom and support I have relied on frequently this year.

As you can see from this list, in general our past year has been very positive and we hope that all future activities will only be listed under the “Best Things” column. I thank you for the honour of leading the Academy this past year, and I am confident the Academy is in excellent hands with Doug Wilson, the current president, and the new Board leading us.

Best wishes for a relaxing, delightful summer and I look forward to seeing all of you early in September.


Ralph and Eileen Garber

They were married in Montreal on June 5th, 1949 – before some of our younger members were born! Recently I was privileged to talk with them as they shared some memories of their early life together.

Both were born into the Jewish community in Montreal, but their families did not know each other at that time. Ralph’s forebears came from Lithuania and England, and Eileen’s from Byelorussia.  Ralph interrupted his undergraduate studies at Queen’s University to serve for two years in the Canadian Navy during World War II. He returned to complete his BA there after the war ended. Eileen was a featured ballet dancer with a troop show called the Thumbs up Review which travelled around military training camps in Quebec and Ontario. By war’s end, she had given more than 327 performances to entertain the troops.  She then enrolled at McGill University to do her BA.

Ralph and Eileen finally met at McGill as graduate students in the School of Social Work.  Both were members of the first class to specialize in social group work. Ralph remembers that they used to share text books, each buying a different one.  To this day they share books, ideas and friends.  They married as soon as they graduated and then both worked for the YM-YWHA in Montreal.

In 1954 they moved with two small children from Montreal to the USA where Ralph began PhD studies at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania.  Over the next 23 years he was recruited for increasingly senior university appointments, including as Dean of Social Work at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri and then at Rutgers. Both were active in the civil liberties movement in the States.  During those years Eileen gave birth to five more children and still found time to teach dance and music to young children in schools and community centres.

The University of Toronto enticed them to return to Canada in 1977, offering Ralph the position of Dean of the Faculty of Social Work, a post he held until he retired.  From 1988 – 96 he was President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and was instrumental in keeping the organization going when funds ran out. This involved much travel for them both to countries such as Hong Kong, China, Russia, Israel and both sides of a divided Germany.  A sabbatical year was spent teaching in Japan and Sri Lanka. Eileen continued to be active in community social work as Supervisor of Adult Programmes and Special Projects at St Christopher House, now known as West Toronto Community Centre.  As such, she was Supervisor of Field Work for the Faculty of Social Work at U of T and other neighbouring universities.  She was also Chair of the Canadian Association of Neighbourhood Centres.

More than 40 years ago, they met Gene and Elaine Vayda and together they were founder members of a play reading group (which has only recently disbanded).  This led them all eventually to our Academy where they have played a vital and active role for many years.  Ralph has served as President and, at the urging of Grace Scheel, began facilitating the Non Fiction workshop. His sense of humour is legendary at the Academy.

Eileen initiated and co-facilitated Memoirs: Reading and Writing as well as serving on the Curriculum and Special Events Committees.  She regards herself as an unofficial outreach worker for the Academy since almost all her friends have now become members. She never misses an opportunity to praise and promote our Academy.

Family is all-important to Ralph and Eileen. They are very proud of the accomplishments of their seven children, thirteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren.  They remain a very close-knit family although only the three youngest children live in Toronto. Until very recently Ralph and Eileen hosted the Shabbat dinner. Their youngest daughter is now following this tradition almost every Friday night.

Since this is a very special year, a very special Passover was planned for the Garber clan.  Almost the entire family travelled to son #3’s home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the Seder, and this year to honour Ralph and Eileen’s remarkable partnership.

On behalf of the Academy, we offer our very best wishes for many more years together.

submitted by Gillian Long


The Talks Committee is on the look out for interesting speakers and interesting topics all year round.

Our antennae are always out:  lecture series at the library, at other academic and cultural organizations, on radio, television, podcasts, blogs.  Our meetings and email exchanges are invariably lively, and all suggestions go on to a master list, our repository of good and potential ideas. Ideas are always percolating.

For every set of Fall or Winter Forums or Spring Talks, we try to have a balance of subjects – current political and social issues (a perennial favourite among Academy members), innovations in science and technology, trends in the arts –the new, the quirky, the funny in all fields of learning.  We have found that there are very few areas of knowledge – past, present or future – that do not interest Academy members.

We also try to balance more serious and more light-hearted topics, along with a gender balance among speakers.

Putting together a Spring Talk program is one of our biggest challenges as it is an end-of-year showcase event, and, through it, we hope to attract new members to the Academy.

Getting “big names” on current hot issues is a competitive business. There is an increasing number of lecture series in the city, and excellent speakers are in great demand.

Once we have set up the tentative roster for a set of Forums or Talks, the practical side kicks in!  Is the speaker available for the dates we have?  Does he or she respond in good time?  Then the dreaded fear – what if he or she cancels at the last minute? What’s the back-up plan?

Once all our speakers have confirmed, and have provided us with their topic and biographical details, the schedule goes out in posters and on the website.

We are then at the mercy of the unpredictable trio of circumstances:  weather, room availability and technology.

As many of you may remember, the unusually harsh winter of 2018-19 severely affected attendance at two Winter Forums, and forced the cancellation of one.

Knox’s inability to allocate us the spacious Room 4 in good time has resulted in many of you being shoe-horned into Room 5, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your patience in this regard.

Finally, without our Tech Team, we would not be able to cope with the series of delights that come from presenters bringing their own equipment or arriving with a new model very-limited compatibility USB key - despite clear instructions on our technical capabilities.

As in all Academy activities, teamwork is key, and, besides the Tech Team, the Talks program could not take place without the terrific creativity and hard work of the Communications Committee on posters and brochures, and without the expertise of our Webmaster.

As you read this, the Talks Committee is finalizing the Fall Forum program (a summary is already on the website), with good progress being made on the Winter Forums and Spring Talks.  The usual cycle of extending invitations, waiting and juggling is in full swing.

We look forward to offering you a varied and stimulating Talks program in 2019-2020.

Many thanks to the 2018-19 Talks Committee, ably led by Thea Herman: Bob Accinelli, Ian Darragh, Liz Guccione, Sharon Harris, Jill Humphries, Kennedy Marshall, Charlotte Snider and Linda Tu.

Welcome to new 2019-2020 members:  Priscilla Platt, Adele Robertson, Alan Silverman and Doug Wilson.

Have an idea for a speaker or a topic? Send it along to the Talks Committee using our online form.

submitted by Clare Mian


The Academy wrapped up its 2018/19 year with yet another successful Spring Talks Series. Many thanks to the Talks Committee for a series of fascinating, topical and engaging speakers.

Academy Walks - Spring 2019


Her Extraordinary Journey

Judith Schurek fled the Hungarian Revolution and studied at U of T. Now she supports scholarships for international students.

Judith Schurek was one year away from earning her mechanical engineering degree when she and her fiancé fled the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. They took refuge in Vienna, where Schurek (BASc 1958) heard about Canadian scholarships that could cover her final year – but that she would have to come to Canada to apply. This clinched their decision about where to go next, and in the winter of 1957 the newlyweds arrived in Toronto. Schurek became one of the first women to earn a mechanical engineering degree at U of T and went on to a successful career as an engineer and entrepreneur. Last year, Schurek, 85, gave more than $1 million to establish two Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships – one named for her, and one named in memory of her husband, Robert – which each cover four years of study for exceptional international students.

Click here to read the entire article as it appears in the April 23, 2019 issue of the University of Toronto Magazine

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Academy Quarterly Review

Gillian Long