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Q4, 2018

Welcome to our 2018/19 Spring Term!

Welcome to the Q4 issue of Academy Quarterly Review (AQR).  This completes a full year of our new format; one that marries the benefits of a digital version (for those that prefer that) with easy  access to a printable version for those who  prefer to enjoy the news that way.  AQR gives us a summary of activities from the past quarter, a peek into what's coming up,  along with a nice mix of original material.

It is important that our AQR be a reflection of the Academy membership so that it gives us the information and enjoyment that we are looking for. This is where you come in.

Do you have thoughts about the new format? Do you have topics that you would like us to cover? Or, perhaps you would like to write a piece yourself?  We encourage you to contact us at

Enjoy the Q4 issue!

Events Calendar

January 30 - Winter Forum #1 - 2:15 pm - 4 pm
February 13 - Winter Forum #2 - 2:15 pm - 4 pm
February 27 - Winter Forum #3 - 2:15 pm - 4 pm
March 13 - Winter Forum #4 - 2:15 - 4 pm
March 27 - Winter Forum #5 - 2:15 - 4 pm
March 29 - Winter term ends
April 2 - Registration begins
April 4 - Spring Luncheon
April 10 - Spring Talk #1
April 15 - Facilitators' Forum and Volunteer Luncheon
April 17 - Spring Talk #2
April 24 - Spring Talk #3
April 30 - Randomization process

On Monday December 3rd the beautifully refurbished Wedgwood Room at the Faculty Club was the location of the popular annual luncheon that celebrates the midpoint in the Academy’s year, the festive season and the end of the calendar year.

President Sharon Harris welcomed a sold-out crowd of elegantly attired members and invited guests from Knox College and the School of Continuing Studies and wished everyone a happy holiday season.
Afterwards a scrumptious buffet feast (no calories!) and lively conversation was enjoyed by all. A delightful bonus this year was a short concert by Cadence, the Toronto-based, Juno-nominated, a cappella male voice quartet. The audience responded enthusiastically to the group’s talented renditions of seasonal melodies and original compositions.

Many thanks to the Special Events and Membership Committees whose hard work made the event a great success.


By Gillian Long

Father and Daughter Co-facilitate

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ross Linton and his daughter, Sandra, to learn more about their unique perspective on facilitating at the Academy. More than 25 years ago, Ross attended the Academy’s initial organizational meeting and then answered the call for facilitators.

Since then, he has volunteered to lead a workshop every year, except one, and today he and Sandra are the Academy’s only father-daughter facilitating team. In those early years, Ross was working full-time as a Master of the Supreme Court of Ontario, so came to the Academy during his lunch hour. At first, he and Don Freeman co-facilitated a philosophy class. Ross was inspired by Professor Marcus Long at University College and Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy, which led him to facilitate workshops on philosophy.

In subsequent years, his eclectic choice of workshops has reflected not only his legal background and his now lifetime memberships in the Canadian Rose Society and the Churchill Society (which seeks to preserve parliamentary democracy) but also his many other interests, including Keeping Up Appearances and Words that Changed the World. By reason of his having four daughters, he is particularly interested in women’s rights and their place in history.

Women of Interest in History, which was offered in 2009, was the first workshop that Sandra attended. They remarked on the scarcity of men in that class, which surprised them. Since then, they have worked together as co-facilitators for a number of courses. Our increasing familiarity with computers has revolutionised presentations but some of the talks they still remember best did not use PowerPoint! A workshop which they both enjoyed and was quite popular was Scams and Scammers, which they may facilitate again in the future. At one memorable presentation, the class was asked by the presenter to pretend that they were going through airport security.
Ross and Sandra believe in giving members free rein to choose their own topics, provided that they fit in with the main theme of the workshop. This approach means that the workshop is full of surprises and they learn something new in every presentation. As a fellow facilitator, I commented that this lack of structure was brave, but perhaps risky. However they assure me that Academy members have not let them down.
This year, they are facilitating the Science of Happiness and are enjoying the presentations and different perspectives of the members.

Thank you, Ross and Sandra.

A Thought-Provoking Autumn...

This year's Talks Committee presented us with a stellar lineup of Fall Forums with something for everyone:

Forum #1 - Presenting the Presenters

An overflow audience of new and continuing members crowded into Room 5 for the first Fall Forum of 2018 - the ever-popular Presenting our Presenters. President Sharon Harris welcomed everyone and urged us to be inspired, but not intimidated, by the excellent presentations we were about to experience. Indeed, all three were outstanding, in very different ways.

Susan Murphy led off with an inspiring talk entitled Not Just Cartoons: Poetry in the New Yorker, which discussed the later poetry of Australian-born TV personality and prolific author, Clive James. She read aloud two poems, reflecting upon the end of life, that appeared in the New Yorker: “Japanese Maple” from his work Sentenced to Life, published in 2015 after a diagnosis of terminal leukemia, and then “Season to Season” from Injury Time, written in 2017 when, to everyone’s surprise, he was still alive. Susan pointed out that the structure of this poem paid homage to Chaucer and found a parallel in the seven line stanzas to Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man.

David Kister followed with a presentation entitled Old Toronto in Pictures, from the works of F.W.Micklethwaite, 1849-1925, a prolific photographer of Toronto and the Muskoka area. David showed us some fascinating photos, often of fine buildings that were torn down in the name of ‘progress’ and such curiosities as a communal drinking fountain for people, horses and dogs. He pointed out ghostly figures that just happened to pass through the setting of some photos, during the exposure time. Since this was originally an interactive workshop, David kindly supplied his email address and offered to send an annotated version of the presentation on request.

Finally, Jeff Biteen gave us an eloquent (but very low-tech, using only blackboard and chalk!) talk about the Father of Modern information Technology, George Boole, the self-taught English genius who won the first gold medal awarded by the Journal of the Cambridge Mathematical Society for proving that the one invariable is the speed of light. He later developed what came to be known as Boolean algebra or Boolean logic and is used in switching systems. The search engine Google uses Boolean logic. Jeff vividly demonstrated this theory using the example of a block of Neapolitan ice-cream.

Everyone present was then invited to join the Board in welcoming new members at a reception in the Rotunda. Members feasted on a delicious array of sweet pastries and cold beverages.

Thanks are due to both Talks and Special Events Committees for a most enjoyable afternoon!


Forum #2 - Sing Me A Song Of Canada

Thea Herman opened our second fall forum meeting of 2018, ‘Sing Me a Song of Canada’, presented by Robin Elliott, Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. Professor Elliott was introduced by Jill Humphries and thanked by Bob Accinelli. Unfortunately, the technological sources were incompatible resulting in no visuals during the talk; however, Professor Elliott’s enthusiasm, clarity, knowledge of his subject and melodious singing voice kept the audience totally absorbed. He even managed to encourage some of the braver souls to sing the Canadian songs along with him.

Toronto has been known as the choral capital of North America; it has been said that the Scottish Presbyterian immigrants invented Canada. In the 1800’s the Scottish Caledonia Society celebrated the patron Saint Andrew with an annual feast and music. ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ is a patriotic song composed by Alexander Muir in 1867, the year of confederation. The song celebrates English Canada’s identity, there is no mention of the French or any other immigrant identities.

Music may have been the midwife at the Confederation Conference in 1867 with Sir John A. Macdonald, bringing all regional participants together for evening festivities with music, dance and song after a day of serious, boisterous debates.

‘O Canada’, music by Calixa Lavallee, French lyrics by Adolphe-Basile Routhier remained a French only anthem for some 20 years. It was not performed in English Canada until 1901. English lyrics were written by Robert Stanley Weir but the piece was first heard in french one evening on the campus of Laval University in Quebec City in 1880. Saint Jean Baptiste Day is a holiday celebrated on June 24th by Quebecois and French Canadians across Canada, Jean Baptiste is a saint in Quebec.

‘Gens du pays’ has been called the unofficial anthem of Quebec. Written by poet, songwriter Gilles Vigneault, avowed Quebec nationalist and Gaston Rochon, it was first performed on Mount Royal on June 1975 at the Fete nationale du Quebec ceremony. Rene Leveque, leader of Parti Quebecois, called it, ‘the most beautiful Quebecois song in the minds of all Quebecers’. He attempted, through a referendum, to negotiate the political independence of Quebec.

In 1914/1915, WWI patriotic music was needed, and marching songs were in abundance. A few of these songs were, ‘Good Luck to the Boys of the Allies’, with words and music by Morris Manley and sung by his daughter, Little Miss Mildred Morris, in a family vaudeville act. Another popular song, Onward Christian Soldiers, was written by Arthur Sullivan of the famous operatic duo, Gilbert and Sullivan.

In 2009, ‘Oh…….Canada’, - words and music by rapper ‘Classified’/Luke Boyd, sampling of ‘O Canada’. He sings about hockey sticks, beavers-ironically poking fun at classical Canadian symbols. In his video he has fun with Canuck stereotypes and hockey, showing 90 percent of the players are white as fist pumping and stick wielding devotees look on.

Keyann Cabdi Warsame / K’naan, a Somalian refugee to Canada and gifted musician, raised over $1,000,000 in 2010 with his song, ‘Wavin’ Flag’, for earthquake victims in Haiti. There were more than 25 million views online. This same song was the anthem of the World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2010 and represents what Canada is and can be in future.

Music is played at political events- the recent legalization of marijuana, sporting events. It also celebrates our diversity, a sense of community and nationalism. Recently, there has been a strong upsurge of Indigenous musical repertoire reflecting our country’s complicated tensions around traditions. We are a country of regions both geographically and musically. A Metis fiddler performed at Vimy Ridge to represent the deep roots of fiddle music in both large and small communities across Canada…..perhaps a reflection of the future of Canadian music.

Thanks to the Talks Committee for a patriotic and musical forum.


Forum #3 - A Fascinating Tour Of The Universe

The Forum on October 31 treated us to a visual extravaganza of pictures from space, thanks to Tom Vassos, University of Toronto and Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Tom, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter, says he is inspired by Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Carl Sagan, among others, and quotes Sagan who said:

”Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Tom took us on a voyage on the International Space Station, showing us what astronauts see in space. His pictures of black holes, the Andromeda and Milky Way Galaxies, solar systems with two and three suns, shooting stars, and much more were incredible, and as one Academy member suggested, it seemed as though we were watching a fantastic art show.

Tom showered us with huge numbers: he talked about the billions of possibilities for life in space, and described distances in terms of billions of light years, a light year being a speed of 300 000 km per second.

Of special interest were recent developments in astronomy: the Japanese asteroid-sampling probe (JAXA Hayabusa 2), probes on Saturn’s moon Titan which show flowing liquid (a necessity for life), and the Parker Solar Probe which will, after a seven-year journey, do a fly-by of the sun.

Tom’s interaction with the audience made the presentation especially entertaining.


Forum #4 - Rapid Transit and City Planning in Toronto - The Missing Link

Our speaker, George Davies has been involved in transportation for many years, several as Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Transportation in the 1990s.

First he disabused us of the idea (held by many) that politicians have no business in the planning of transportation, by pointing out that without financing, political will and public acceptance, nothing would get planned or built. He also pointed out (citing the building of Hwy 407) that projects managed by private business have a much better record of delivering on time and without cost overruns than do quasi-government bodies such as the TTC.

The pressure for vastly improving transit across the greater Toronto and Hamilton region is enormous. The area receives 110,000 new people per year and congestion costs us $10 billion per year.

The purpose of transit is to move more people and goods as quickly as possible so as to grow the economy and with respect for the environment. There is no question rapid transit is more efficient than cars, and there is no room for more highways.

A managed approach is needed to aim for more compact urban form. Transit hubs encourage concentration of development around them. That is not happening around the Spadina / Yorkdale line to the extent it has around the Yonge and Bloor lines, because it is sequestered in the middle of the Allen. He viewed this as a mistake in planning.

Transit planning should be integrated with land-use planning. He feels Metrolinx’ Big Move plan is going in the right direction – it plans for 1200 km of new rapid transit coordinating with Go Rural Express Rail for the entire Toronto-Hamilton-Oshawa-Barrie region.

He demonstrated how the now-certain Relief Line will relieve congestion on the central Yonge / University line, allowing it to cope with new development along the corridor.

His recommendations:
1. Toronto’s official plan and the Province’s Places to Grow should be integrated
2. Intensify development around all subway system
3. Downsview Federal lands should be released to Provincial control to get more development (housing and jobs)
4. Extend the Sheppard Line from the Humber River to Scarborough Town Centre.
5. Extend the Relief line to both Sheppard and Liberty Village.
6. System improvements needed – subway bypasses, electronic control, platform doors, improve the dangerous Bloor station.


Forum #5 - Academy Debate - Resolved that the 21st Century Belongs to China

There is nothing like a debate on a thought-provoking topic to get brains buzzing, ideas sprouting and an audience completely engaged. That was the scene at Knox for our last Fall Forum as we gathered for the Academy debate – Be it resolved that the 21st Century Belongs to China.

Providing the insight and information were four very able Academy members – On the Pro side – Pat MacDonald and Linda Tu; on the Con side – Brian O’Leary and Beth Davey. The discussion was expertly managed by practiced moderator Ernie Fallen.

We started the debate with 33 for, 12 opposed, and 10 undecided, but all attendees were eager to hear a spirited discussion that might sway their opinions.

Arguments, both for and against, focused on elements such as economic and technological development, innovation, population, education, military might, infrastructure development, political might, ideologies and culture. While the debate was not intended to be a direct China vs. the United States scenario, it was inevitable that comparisons would be drawn with our neighbor to the south that seems to be looking inward and drawing away while China increases investment globally and evolves to accept elements of the west – like learning English. On the flip side, the U.S. maintains its entrepreneurial culture and provides a direct foil to the corrupt, restrictive and environmentally toxic situation in China.

Spirited contributions from the floor swung the pendulum over to Pro and then back to Con as the debate progressed. And then a very thought-provoking idea emerged from the audience – what about a scenario where war and pollution and famine causes everything to crumble in the 21st Century, where, perhaps, we return to the clan system? The introduction of this third option really made me think about what was possible and changed my own vote.

A final tally was as follows – 21 pro; 26 con; undecided 8 – considerably different from when we started.
You know that a debate is successful when the audience leaves the room with the air still humming with discussion, and that was certainly the case in this instance. Much appreciation to debaters Pat, Linda, Brian and Beth and to moderator Ernie for giving us so much to think about.

Coming Next....


Like many other proud Academy members, I frequently find myself singing the organization's praises to individuals that I think might be interested in becoming a member. Of course, word of mouth is the most important way we add new members to our happy band.

I find it straightforward to detail all of our strengths - our peer learning model, our thought-provoking workshops, and our events and social gatherings. What is harder to capture is the sense of family, the friendliness, and the support. For that I decided to showcase some of the many photos in our collection - photos are worth a thousand words. Enjoy!

My two sons are millennials , and, as a result, we have some interesting discussions about "the good old days". Frequently we come across, or reference, some item that I take as standard that they have never seen or used. Rather than making me feel aged, it makes me think about how quickly things change. Items that were part of our daily  routine even a decade or so ago no longer exist or are rare. I thought that it would be fun to take a look at some of these items. How many can you remember?


About Our "Fossograms"

For many years,  members have relied on Academy emails ('fondly' called "Fossograms") as a way to stay up-to-date on everything that is going on or coming up. They have served a valuable role in keeping everyone 'in  the know'.

With the amount of information we now have to share, and with the first anniversary of our website, it is time to update how we "talk" to you'.

Beginning in February, you will begin receiving a weekly email called This Week at the Academy. The email will give you all of the information about the upcoming Academy week - in particular, information about walks, forums, talks, special events, key dates, etc. Barring unforeseen circumstances, you will receive the weekly update on the same day each week so you will know exactly when to expect it. This means that you will be less likely to miss anything.

When we have something urgent to communicate to you - a weather closure at Knox, disruption from a movie filming, something that needs immediate attention - you will receive a separate email giving you just what you need to know.

We will give you more information as we get closer to the change; we know that this approach will make it easier for you to get the information you need when you need it.


In the past three months we have said goodbye to some of our members

  1. A password is needed to access the member-only items on our website. Not sure what the password is? email

  2. It continues to be important that we respect Knox's request that we are quiet in the halls between workshops and in the break. Please move on swiftly and keep voices low.


Watch the website's News page in March to view the advance listing of the 2019 / 2020 workshops


Save the Date for Our 2019 Registration!

April 2nd, 2019

Details to follow


Save the Date for the First Coats Optional (sort of) Walk
An Uptown - Queen's Park Magical Mystery Tour

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Details to follow on the website

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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.


Academy Quarterly Review

Cathy Spark

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