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Q2, 2018

Welcome to issue two of the Academy Quarterly Review - fondly referred to as AQR!

Our website brings you Academy information and news on a regular basis. Information on Walks, Forums, Talks, Member Spotlights, accomplishments and opportunities can now be seen "as they happen," as it were.

But we know that you don't always have time to check the website, or may be travelling and away from your device when news is posted. To ensure that you don't miss a thing, we have produced the Academy Quarterly Review, which brings together in one handy tool all the items that have been posted in the previous three months.

See something in the AQR that you would like to print or save for later? If you open the links you will see - in the top right corner, the option to either PDF or print as you wish.

The Communications Committee hopes that you enjoy this issue of Academy Quarterly Review, and we look forward to bringing you new issues every quarter.

Events Calendar

July 4 - Board meeting

September 11 - Fall Semester begins

September 12 - Board meeting


Dr. Aileen Burford-Mason
Left to Right - Don Nicol, Janet Broadley, Melanie Reeve, Esme McMonagle, Margrit Eichler, Matthew Segal, Michael Cole, Ron James, 
Ellen Lewkowicz, Ian Darragh, Priscilla Plat, Ernie Fallen

This spring, Academy members were treated to a fascinating slate of speakers on a range of timely and thought-provoking topics. Thanks and congratulations to the Talks Committee for all of their efforts to bring us such a series of interesting sessions.


Belly Laughs, Smiles and Chuckles at the First Spring Talk - Laughing is the Best Medicine - Ron James and the Academy Comedy Workshop
The first of the 2018 Academy Spring Talks had a full-house as we explored the idea that “laughing is the best medicine”. The highlight of the morning was Michael Cole’s Stand-Up Comedy workshop members who presented their original jokes on the topic of aging. .  READ MORE

The Healthy Brain: How Diet and Supplements Can Help Optimize Brain Power at Any Age
In an interesting, at times even surprising, talk on Wednesday morning, April 18, Dr. Burford-Mason spoke to a rivetted Academy audience about how important the right foods are to the brain, which uses nutrients at 10 times the rate of any other tissues in the body – and is the first organ to suffer if we are deprived of essential nutrients. READ MORE

Being Bold and Pushing Boundaries: Thoughts on the Future of University Education
Dr. Michael Benarroch, Provost and Vice President, Academic at Ryerson University since July 2017, delivered the Third Spring Talk on Wednesday April 25th 2018. A bold child of immigrants from Tangiers (to chilly Winnipeg!), Dr. Benarroch was the first member of his family to push boundaries by graduating from university. A large, engaged audience listened closely to his thoughts on the future of university education and later asked many pertinent questions.  READ MORE

The Surprising Effects of Music as Vibration
Dr Lee Bartel, PhD, Professor Emeritus and former Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, addressed an attentive audience 0f Academy members and guests on Wednesday, bringing us up to speed with his work on Music and the Brain. Dr Bartel has become passionate about music neuroscience, specifically, music as medicine, discovering the surprising effects of sound vibration on brain activity.  READ MORE

Whodunits at Innis
On Wednesday, May 9th, a gloriously sunny day, a large number of people were to be seen heading for Innis College, their goal being the fifth in the series of Academy Spring Talks. The speaker Erin Pietrowski, is very well qualified to talk on the subject of the day, Murder They Wrote – The Origins of Detective Fiction, and has lectured, researched and written on Victorian literature and culture with a special interest in detective fiction. READ MORE

Canada and Our Southern Neighbour: Could Trump Happen Here?
Since that surprising night in November 2016 when Donald Trump became president, there has been much discussion, debate, and water cooler talk about a myriad of topics that elicit strong emotions and opinions. What made the address from Michael Adams particularly meaningful, however, was the fact that it was based on statistics rather than on opinion, . READ MORE

Do you have an idea for a topic or speaker for future forums/talks? Send them along to

All of the Academy committees provide essential services and support to the members; the committee members - all volunteers - give hours of time and effort to make our programs a success. Over the next few AQR issues we will be focusing on the contributions of our committees to focus on their valuable contributions.


By the time that randomization takes place on May 1st, most of us have - after careful consideration and planning - picked the workshops that intrigue us, and will have registered and paid. While we can then relax and sit back to anticipate the start of term in September, we should also give a nod of appreciations to all of the Membership Committee members who work so hard behind the scenes to make sure that the many details are handled promptly and accurately. They ensure our fee payments have gone through without a glitch and that we are signed up for the workshops we select. They handle randomization to ensure spaces in popular workshops are assigned fairly, and register new members - making them feel welcome and confident with the approach. They troubleshoot. They even go on the road to Spring Talks to help with registration directly. In short, it is due to their hard work in a short period of time that everything goes so smoothly.

Many High Fives and kudos to the Membership Committee!.

Randomization Underway 2018
The process seems to be going well!
The Whole Membership Committee Pitches In


Hart House was an agreeable venue on Tuesday April 17th for the Facilitators’ Forum and Volunteer Lunch. Despite poor road conditions in the aftermath of the weekend ice storm, there was a large turnout for both events. Joan McCordic and her Curriculum Committee are to be congratulated on their expert planning and organization of the Forum during which experienced and rookie facilitators networked and discussed best practices for leading stimulating workshops – the raison d’être of our Academy.

The facilitators were later joined at a delicious buffet lunch by the many other invaluable volunteers who served on the Board and Committees or have helped in some other way. President Brian Gaston thanked everyone for their contribution to a successful Academy year. Ernie Fallen entertained the group after lunch with a brief stand-up schtick on aging, recorded to complete a promotional video being prepared by the Stand-up Comedy for Seniors group. Thanks are due to Mirren Hinchley and her Committee for another outstanding Special Event and to Sue Gaston and the Membership team for help with registration. A good time was had by all!


Our Curriculum Chair wears many hats - or should I say nametags!?
2017 / 2018 Board members
Tea and a chat
The incoming President
Allto AGM 2018 010
The incoming Board gets right to work
Allto AGM 2018 007


Next Academy year promises to be a fascinating one for our workshops. With topics ranging from architecture to surviving in the digital age, and discussion groups on things like the Economist and the New Yorker, there is something for every taste and interest. By now you will know which workshops you will be participating in, and may have already begun work researching your chosen topics. The Curriculum Committee is preparing some new documents to help facilitators, presenters, and participants. These will be posted on the website soon, and will be a great source of answers for any questions you may have. Remember, too, to check the website for any information that your Facilitator may have posted regarding your workshop(s).

Click here to view the Two-Weeks-At-A-Glance document - Two Weeks at a Glance June 2018



Our 2018-19 membership campaign has reached 402 active members, and we have registered 38 new members to date.  Registration will continue throughout the summer to the end of September.  The exciting depth and breadth of workshops for the upcoming Academy year is no doubt contributing to the record number of 356 continuing members.

At present, many of our forty workshops are full, and we are holding spaces for new members only in an additional six workshops.  The hold on new member seats will be lifted in early July and wait-listed members for these workshops will be contacted to ascertain their interest by their wait list ranking.

If you have a question about registration please email the Membership Committee at

Click here to see the latest workshop availability information - Workshop Space Availability



Our newest Lifetime Members

Two of the Academy’s long-term volunteers were honoured at the AGM on June 5th.

Margaret Robertson and Josie Szczasiuk have joined the incomparable Jean Iverson in the élite roster of Life Members. Both Margaret and Josie have been actively involved in Academy life for more than twenty years – Margaret was president in 1998-9 and Josie in 2000-01, and they have both served tirelessly on numerous committees, notably Membership and Communications.

Margaret was instrumental in setting up and maintaining our first website, much of which has been preserved in archival form in the new version, and she has a well-deserved reputation as a reliable fount of knowledge of all things Academy.  “Ask Margaret, she will know!”

Josie has been the long-time designer of newsletters and calendars, both print and on-line, editor and compiler of Academy history, Chair of our 25th Anniversary committee, and popular facilitator of many thought-provoking workshops.

Many congratulations to Margaret and Josie, and our heartfelt thanks for all they have done for our Academy. We look forward to enjoying their stimulating company for many more years.

Click here to see Margaret's note of thanks 

Click here to see Josie's note of thanks


Feedback Sought

We have had our new website up and running for 6 months now, but work on it has not stopped. We want to ensure that we keep it current, relevant, and fit for purpose.

Are you a website user? Either regulary or periodically? Do you have feedback about things that work for you and / or things that don’t? Do you have a wishlist of things you would like to see?

Or do you rarely look at the site unless you need to do so to handle registration? Are there some aspects to the site that make it less appealing or difficult to use?

The Website team is keen to ensure that our site is one that we can be proud of. To do that, we need your help.

Please send any thoughts or questions you have to at any time.

All feedback is not only welcomed, it is encouraged and valued. Without it we cannot know what needs to be addressed, discussed, or changed.

Thanks in advance!


Using the Website's Search Feature

Did you know that you can use the search feature on the website to quickly and easily find information? Here is how you do it:

Click the little magnifying glass at the top right of the landing page.

A text box will appear when you do so. Type your search term in the box and hit return to see your search results.

Note that, while effective, our search feature does not allow for complex searching or Boolean logic searches. It will simply look for the word that you have entered.

Rain or shine, from May to October, the Academy’s trusty band of walk leaders lead groups of members and guests as they venture forth to explore Toronto’s ravines, cemeteries, markets, urban art, historic buildings, and green spaces. Walk participants share what they know about the city’s neighbourhoods, learn from the walk leaders, and “debrief” over a well-earned lunch. Polish up your walking boots and limber up those legs for the Academy walks.

Click here to see the Walks schedule

Check the web's News page to see reports on past walks.

The June 19th walkers
"Short walkers" from the June 13th Academy Walk
Academy dawdle May 7 012

Phyrne Parker Receives Prestigious Leadership Award From Toastmasters

Congratulations to fellow Academy member, Phyrne Parker, who was recently recognized by District 60 Toastmasters with the  prestigious George Keenan leadership award. The award, presented at a special luncheon, recognized Phyrne's many years of leadership and mentoring to the Toastmaster organization.

A firm believer in the benefits of the organization, Phyrne immediately became involved when she joined in 2003, holding positions from Vice-President Education of Inspiring Voices to District Governor in 2011/2012. From 2013 to 2017 she was Pathways Chief Ambassador.

In addition to her leadership roles, Phyrne provided valuable mentorship to a number of Toastmaster clubs across the Region.

Our congratulations, Phyrne, on the receipt of this well-deserved recognition!

Academy member Phyrne Parker receives the George Keenan Award from District 60 Toastmasters - 2018

Laughter, The Secret To Dealing With The Challenges of Aging


Is there anything more frightening than standing on a bare stage trying to make 200 people packed into an auditorium laugh?

This was the challenge taken up by me and nine fellow Academy members who enrolled in the first ever stand-up comedy workshop for seniors at the Academy for Lifelong Learning in September 2017.

At our first class, facilitator Michael Cole handed out a list of 60 topics related to aging, including: hearing and memory loss; fear of loneliness and dying; bladder leakage; loss of identity after retirement; sexual problems; technology and computer challenges; downsizing; money issues; and loss of a spouse or partner.

Our collective challenge was to take these scary (and depressing!) topics and turn them into funny one-liners. READ MORE

Michael Cole's Humour Plate


As we move towards the 2018/19 Academy year, it is fitting that we should give a nod to the Academy year just finished. And what better way to do that than with a note from Past President Brian Gaston. We thank Brian for his leadership and guidance over the past year.


President’s Message


It’s hard to believe that Margrit Eichler approached me almost two and a half years ago to stand as the Vice President of the Academy for Lifelong Learning. I was surprised and humbled.


Many of the events that unfolded were as I expected. There were Board meetings to chair, business to conduct and other organizations with which to network. None of this was surprising and, with the assistance of an excellent Board, I think we navigated my year as President reasonably well. I learned from my predecessors, Brian O’Leary and Karen Melville, that if you let the Committee Chairs and Board Officers do their job, and stay out of their way, they will do an excellent job.  And they did.


What did surprize me was the amount of change that would happen during my tenure.


At my very first meeting, the issue of the privacy of members became an emotional topic. Some Board members were very concerned about their personal privacy and identify theft while others felt strongly about sharing personal information.  It took two years, but I think we now have a policy that works for both parties.


As an ex officio member of both the Membership and Communications committees, I heard from those running the website that it was time to change how the site was managed and bring in some new blood. After surveying the Board and meeting with a member stakeholder group, we decided to re-design our website to operate on a modern platform that would present the Academy in the best possible light and stand the test of time. I am proud of the new website that is now up and running.


We have also embarked on determining how to use technology to best support our mandate, and have struck a group called the Video Conferencing Work Group to help us with that.


One of the nice problems we have going forward is that we need to find a way to accommodate an ever-growing membership. We keep growing every year, and are now bursting at the seams.


I like to think that this year’s Board has left the Academy in great shape. However, we have left things for the new Board to tackle. I wish them the best of luck and I know you are in good hands.


Thanks to everyone that served on the Board this year and made this a personally rewarding experience.


Brian Gaston
Academy President
2017 - 2018

With sadness, we bid farewell to some current and past members of the Academy:

Jean Long - Jean, with her husband, Stephen, was an active Academy member since 2002.

Margaret Quin - Margaret was an enthusiastic member of the New Yorker Readers workshop for many years.

Liz Feltes - A member since 2005, Liz contributed to the Academy as a Facilitator and Board member

Jean Long at the 2002 New Member Reception
Margaret Quin
Liz Feltes

In the September issue we will be welcoming members to the new Academy year with a note from our new President, an introduction to the new Board members and information on new guides prepared by the Curriculum Committee to help participants, presenters, and facilitators.

Enjoy your summer! Remember to check the website through July and August for news and Members' Corner items and events.

Write for us

Would you like to write an item for our Academy Quarterly Review? Or do you have an idea for something you’d like to have included? If so, just send an email to The AQR is the voice of our Academy, and your input is welcomed.

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Academy Quarterly Review

Cathy Spark

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