Cassandra Sanders (BA 1963)

As a graduate from uWaterloo’s English department in its early days, Cassandra Sanders witnessed and was part of a lot of campus “firsts.” It was clear in 1960 that both English and the faculty of Arts were new to the University of Waterloo. Cassandra recalls that for the first two years of her studies, she, her classmates, and her professors didn’t even have their own buildings for lectures: “All our Arts classes had to be held in buildings named 'Physics', 'Chemistry', etc.  Only in my third year did we have a residence and an Arts building.”

Being members of a brand-new English department and a faculty in its infancy empowered students to define themselves and their collective position at uWaterloo. Fostering a sense of spirit was sometimes challenging in the shadow of a more deeply entrenched Engineering faculty. Nevertheless, Cassandra and other students rose to the occasion, and saw opportunity in the “vast sea of mud” that lay between buildings: “It was a stimulating challenge to have a blank canvas on which to create our arts world, to be the first to set things up instead of just following in decades-old footsteps.” Cassandra remembers organizing the first winter carnival on campus with other English students and students across the Arts faculty. She was also part of the small group of students, led by older student Sidney Black, who launched the University of Waterloo’s first student newspaper, The Coryphaeus.  She herself began Expressions, an annual magazine showcasing creative writing by co-students.  Cassandra remembers that professors offered a rallying sense of character and inspiration. Dr. Keith Thomas, head of English at the time and one of Cassandra’s favourite professors, walked the campus in a black robe with other professors from the faculty of Arts. Recalls Cassandra: “I was proud of them as they traipsed across the walkways, gowns flowing behind them, for they gave us a sense of identity.”

Brought up as lover of literature in a family of writers and editors, majoring in English was a natural choice for Cassandra, who still owns books from her time in university: The Complete ChaucerThe Complete Shakespeare, and The Literature of England – Volumes 1 and 2.  Since graduating, Cassandra has been putting her degree to work, writing, editing and managing production for staff news publications, annual reports, and promotional materials, on behalf of businesses in a number of industries: retail, oil, finance, and health, to name a few.  Today, Cassandra continues to work part-time for a national educational health association, producing informational/promotional materials for healthcare professionals.

Paul Beam (BA 1964)

Dr. Beam talking to a studentIn the case ofDr. Paul Beam the student did go on to become the teacher, and a well-loved and respected one at that. The KW native graduated from Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (KCI) just in time to enter the brand-new Arts faculty and English department in 1960. Joining the University of Waterloo as an undergraduate was the first in a series of steps that would lead Dr. Beam full-circle, back to UW as an English professor. “The Arts Faculty opened in exactly the year I needed it, just as it would supply me a job and career at exactly that time in our national academic development that I needed an institution to pay me well for over thirty-five years to engage in work I have loved and found vastly fulfilling.” The growth of the English department at large was perhaps a little less smooth, and Dr. Beam remembers some of the ups, downs, celebrations, and growing pains.

When Dr. Beam joined UW as an Arts student in September 1960, the faculty of Arts and the faculty of Science had a combined intake of sixty students. The campus had two buildings: a Physics building, and a Chemical Engineering Building. UW Arts offered courses in eight disciplines, one of them English. Professor W.K. Thomas taught an introductory English course for a class of about thirty students, one of whom was Dr. Beam. For Professor Beam, Dr. Thomas continued to be a favourite and an ongoing inspiration: “Professor Thomas...made language fly when he taught me how to analyze it in some of its most sophisticated forms – short passages, often poetry, but not always – text closely conceptualized and expressed. That remains my greatest satisfaction. Much of my best research never strayed far from that ability.”

Only in second year did students select an Honours subject, and Dr. Beam recalls that English was a popular choice. The English department got the largest share of Arts students, and upper-year classes had a whopping 8-12 student each. By his fourth year, glimmers of growth and markers of identity were showing up around campus. The bookstore was expanding, the cafeteria food was better, and Dr. Beam and two other fourth-year students had their own office in the recently-completed Modern Languages building. A new Arts library was almost ready for students, and Dr. Beam traces the source of a popular library rumour to the first campus newspaper (The Coryphaeus) and one of Waterloo’s first English students, classmate George Welsh. “George started the rumour through ‘his’ newspaper – at an engineering school – that from an architect’s error, the library could not withstand the weight of the books now starting to fill it.” Fifty years later, students across faculties and departments continue to spread the rumour that Dana Porter Library is sinking, because designers failed to account for the weight of the books when drafting building plans.

After completing an MA at McMaster University, while working on a PhD at the University of Toronto, Dr. Beam returned to the University of Waterloo to teach, beginning his career as a lecturer in 1968. That year, the department had about eight members. The number of instructors jumped to 12 the following year, and to 24 the year after, as students from the baby boom flocked to UW and all other Canadian campuses. Miscalculations in student enrollment resulted in over-hiring at universities across the province. Downsizing was the inevitable result, and over the next five or six years, junior faculty like Dr. Beam “hung at the edge of the cliff and fretted.” Professor Beam stayed with the English department through the uncertain times to witness a number of changes and over the years, including the evolution of English graduate studies. (An MA in literature was first introduced in 1967. Later, in 1987, an MA in Language and Professional Writing, now called Rhetoric and Communication Design, was introduced).  Other important milestones included the development of a Correspondence program (UW started offering English courses by correspondence in 1973), the start of co-op for English students (1976), and the inception of a “hard-fought” PhD program (1990). The success of the co-op program was marked by another milestone that Dr. Beam remembers well – the enrollment of the majority of Honours English students in co-op (over 75 per term) in the early 1980s.

Of course, the road to growth was sometimes a bumpy one. The undergraduate Rhetoric and Professional Writing program (launched in 1986) remains highly successful to this day, and encourages students to study, analyze and produce various types of professional communication. While co-op continues to offer students in English ways to apply writing and critical thinking skills in professional contexts, Dr. Beam recalls that another UW project with similar goals was not so long-lived. UW’s Centre for Professional Writing (CPW) was opened in 1988. The Centre provided a number of services, including usability testing, conferences and training courses in professional writing, and technical writing and research. Successful in conferences, major partnerships and publications, the Center fell victim to recessionary pressures and closed in the early 1990s.

Dr. Beam also remembers the struggle for women’s rights and equality in the earlier days of the department. Progress was slow and sometimes frustrating. Many women overcame negative parental attitudes towards higher education by taking correspondence courses. Dr. Beam remembers these determined women as some of his “best students.” Many of them managed to make it to campus for a term or two of study, find professional respect through co-op, and become English markers and tutors. Cuts in already low tutor pay and an attempt by the department to require a year of on-campus study for all Honours students threatened the efforts of some of these women to complete their studies. Dr. Beam recalls that it took years for the English department to set a formula, mandating a gradual transition to a 1:1 female-to-male faculty ratio over a ten-year period. Despite the roadblocks, Dr. Beam remembers the English department as being forward-thinking on feminist issues: “These were among the female issues fought in your sandbox, with English leading the way across the University in this matter.”

Dr. Beam’s research interests showcase the breadth of English studies. His PhD focused on literature, specifically the writings of Rudyard Kipling. Dr. Beam benefitted from UW’s early accomplishments in computer technology, and his interests in online learning environments and computer-based instruction got support from many departments and colleagues. Much of Dr. Beam’s work has linked communication theory with technical topics, and the University of Waterloo offered him no shortage of valuable research contacts. Dr. Beam’s work also attracted the attention of major corporations and industry professionals. Over the years, Dr. Beam has done research for the federal and provincial governments and companies like IBM, HP and Bell Canada. He has worked and offered lectures on information system development, preparation of instructional materials, the philosophies behind learning, and the development of documentation applications for online services.

Dr. Beam retired from the University of Waterloo in 2003. He currently lives on the Ottawa River, where he remembers his hometown and the University fondly: “As the chap on Saturday Night Live used to say about baseball, “Waterloo been bery, bery good to me!”

Norman Hodge (BA 1965, MPHIL 1968)

FoNorman Hodger Dr. Norman Hodge , peaceful days communing with nature at St. Jerome's prefaced a career that took him to one of the most violently divided nations on earth. But at the time, he had no inkling of that future. “At St Jerome's the Director of Residence was Father Zach Ralston, a legendary figure, and many times he would knock on doors and ask us to go "critter watching" in the woods, to find the owls and help raise young birds and creatures whose mother had been killed. Norman remembers “Herbie, the rough legged hawk,” who they had returned to the wild. Herbie “could never sort out windows and once smashed into the glass of Notre Dame, the women's residence, when one of the nuns was praying -- and she thought she had a visit from the Holy Spirit!” Norman also had a skunk named Petunia that he had a local vet de-scent. He presented her as a gift to a primary school teacher, and he last saw Petunia wearing a bright pink ribbon.

Later in his career, Norman accepted a post teaching at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived through the Soweto Uprising, a series of riots, between black youths and the South African authorities, protesting government policies in Soweto, South Africa on June 16, 1976. He then accepted the Chair position at the newly created University of Transkei, which is now Walter Sisulu University, located in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. In his time at the university, he worked as a Professor of English, a Dean of Arts, and a member of the University Council. He also published on South African black writing.

“Most of my students had no knowledge of their past, and I was able to slip by the censors a collection of stories by black South African writers titled To Kill A Man's Pride and Other Stories of Southern Africa. This collection is still in print after 25 years and has sold about a third of a million copies, introducing generations of African students to their cultural history.”

“I went to South Africa at the time of hardline apartheid, and left in 1991 when Nelson Mandela had just been released from Pollsmoor prison. Born a few kilometers away from Umtata where we lived, he visited our university soon after his release. I had the chance to meet him and to take part in filming his speech, a fitting conclusion to my leaving South Africa.”

“I was criticised, to my face and behind my back, for going to South Africa during apartheid; ironically, I was encouraged to go by the South African expatriates, and was indeed taught by a South African expatriate, Professor Walter Martin, at Waterloo. Many of my students and colleagues there are now part of the new South Africa, taking major roles in the country's development. I lived through an attempted coup and remember the sound of mortars and machine guns, and some of my students calling out “Hello, Prof!” as they rode by on army trucks to the fighting, days later appearing in class to talk about literature and language!”

Norman began his second year of studies in 1962, taking Old English, Middle English, Renaissance Literature, Literary Criticism, and Shakespeare: “In those years, all Honours English students took five English courses in each of second, third and fourth years.” Norman remembers his Old English class particularly well. Its instructor, Dr. Murray Macquarrie, was fluent in the language. To this day, Norman can recite the opening lines of Beowulf. Dr. James Carscallens taught a class in Renaissance Literature that focused on the detailed study of Spenser. The term "sweet reasonableness" still resonates with Norman because of this class. At the postgraduate level, he enjoyed the American Fiction seminar with Dr. Ken Ledbetter. “At the end of each seminar, which could become pretty heated, we all adjourned to the pub in Heidelberg for beer and sauerkraut and pork hocks and beer and beer until we all became paralytic.” This class was the reason he chose to study Hemingway as part of his American Studies doctorate program in England.

While at uWaterloo, Norman became a Senior Prefect in the St. Jerome's residence. “It was a great time because we were on campus. Homecoming was always fabulous, attending football and hockey games, (Jerry Lawless and I were undergrads together living in St Jerome's Residence, he became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, retired last year, but still supervises graduate students while living in Toronto), helping make snow sculptures, walking into town on Thursday nights to go to the pub, following the [train] tracks there and back (the return journey very much the worse for wear), the formal dances and the informal evenings playing cards or being just stupid, are just some of the memories. We were a small university then, with lots of open spaces and fields.”

Norman completed his Honours Degree in English in 1965, then taught at St. Jerome's College and returned as a student in 1968 to pursue an MPhil degree. Upon completing the MPhil, he accepted a post at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, where he established the communication studies program. In 1970, he went to the University of Nottingham in England, reading for a PhD in American Studies after receiving a Canada Council Fellowship. He completed the PhD in 1973.

As undergraduates, Norman and some of his peers “asked Prof Keith Thomas, Head of English, what his attitude was to us as students, and he replied "I think of you as butterflies, pinned to the bulletin board, struggling away, and eventually we will pull out the pin and you will fly away free!!"”

At uWaterloo, Norman learned “to be innovative, to find a speciality certainly, but also to be a generalist. I laugh at the thought that I hold a PhD in American Studies from a British University, an MPhil, and BA (Hons) in English from a Canadian university, that I published mostly in African literature, and then taught Australian History for the final years of my teaching career!” Norman and his second wife followed their grown children to Australia in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, they were asked to help at a local school. Norman substituted for teachers in English, History, English as a Second Language, and Workplace Skills. “It was a great time through to 2006; we loved our jobs, especially working with foreign students. However, retirement loomed and we relocated with the family to Melbourne which is now home.”

Gwen Nowak McGrenere (BA 1965)

"The importance of a humanities degree needs to be emphasized at this time when there seems to be excessive emphasis on science and business. The liberal arts provide an understanding of our human story that isn't included in other academic disciplines. There is wisdom there."

Gwen Nowak

From the time that she submitted her first piece of poetry to The Jabberwocky, a literary magazine published at St. Jerome’s University, Gwen Nowak McGrenere has known that she wanted to be a writer.

Gwen was born and grew up in Kitchener ON where she attended St. Anne’s primary school and St. Mary's High School. After graduating from Grade 12 at age 16 she was uncertain about attempting the rigors of the Grade 13 [OAC] curriculum. On the advice of her older sister Pat who thought Gwen should ultimately go to university Gwen decided to enroll in the Preliminary year at St. Jerome’s College. This gave her the option to focus almost exclusively on languages. During that year, Professor Lawrence Cummings, was her very "demanding and gifted" professor of English. Dr. Cummings "gave me a wakeup call to what is expected of a university student and what can be achieved." Gwen ultimately continued to pursue an undergraduate degree as a day student (a student who lived off campus) at St. Jerome's University, majoring in English.

One of Gwen's fond memories of uWaterloo is learning to play bridge during first year. One afternoon, Professor Cummings came into the St. Jerome's common room and interrupted the card game virtually begging the card players to take advantage of their very precious time at university for serious reading and study, time that would not be available to them after they graduated. Gwen eventually realized the value of this advice.


In second year, Gwen met her future husband Tom McGrenere, a law student from London, Ontario. Gwen and Tom were married in July of 1965, a few months after her graduation and Tom’s call to the bar. Gwen admits to taking a mischievous delight in telling people that both she and Tom spent a year in the seminary, hers in her ‘Prelim’ year at St. Jerome’s/Resurrection Seminary and he as a 'bona fide' - i.e. male -seminarian during his first year of university at St. Peter’s Seminary, London ON.

Following their marriage and move to Toronto, Gwen worked for several months as a librarian's assistant and subsequently as a supply teacher for the Toronto School Board. After the births of their three children, Gwen focused on raising a family. In 1978 she began doing freelance writing for the Catholic New Times newspaper including a seven part series on Physics and Theology. In 1983 she was the recipient of a Canadian Church Press award for her poem "Kingdom: An Interim Report." She also did further part time studies at U of T in biblical literature and other subjects, as well as contributing through writing and editing to various groups: Science for Peace at U of T, Women's Interfaith Dialogue B’nai Brith Canada, and Blessed Sacrament School’s quarterly children’s art, prose and poetry publication. "Throughout those years I researched, wrote and ultimately published a book titled Miriam of Nazareth: Who can find her? [Cortleigh House, 2000]. Following that I reviewed books for Books in Canada. As well, Tom and I collaborated in researching and writing a history of The Mary Centre Toronto." (Gwen’s website: www.miriamofnazareth.com)

Gwen now enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren. She also continues her personal research and writing, her primary focus being global gender issues and disarmament. At the invitation of Science for Peace she is currently preparing a brief paper for a July 2010 workshop on Global Governance and a World Without War.

Leslie (née Fujita) Straus (BA 1965)

Leslie StrausRetirement didn’t last long for Leslie (née Fujita) Straus , who recently began her post-retirement career as the President of SkyRiver, a start-up library technology company based in Emeryville, California that provides online cataloguing services to libraries. Leslie’s passion for librarianship grew from her student assistant jobs in the uWaterloo library, which led her to the (then) School of Library Science at the University of Toronto. Prior to retirement #1 she spent “many years in and around libraries, mostly on the outside as a service provider.” Before retiring, she was the Vice President of worldwide sales and marketing for Innovative Interfaces, a global library system provider.

“What critical sense I have is grounded in English courses I took and any writing skills I have are similarly grounded. Both have been key to helping me think strategically and communicate within the library marketplace,” Leslie says. “The survey courses in my first and second years [at Waterloo], given by Professor Keith Thomas, provided a perspective on and history of English language and literature to which I had never been exposed before.” She found the Victorian Literature course, taught by Professor C.F. MacRae, to be the most memorable.

LeslieStudying English at uWaterloo helped Leslie to foster the “feeling [that] I was really learning something of value and learning about how literature, history and philosophy are intertwined.”

Gordon Campbell (BA 1967)

Dr. Campbell is a recipient this year of an Arts in Academics Award, which will be presented to him during the kickoff on September 17.

    Dr. Gordon Campbell’s career as a professor has allowed him to visit and live in many different countries. After he graduated from uWaterloo and obtaining a Master’s degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, he moved to England to study at The University of York.

    At the beginning of his professional career, Dr. Campbell moved to Denmark, where he taught for a couple of years at Århus University. Subsequently he taught in Liverpool for five years, and for the past three decades he has held a faculty position at the University of Leicester. “[When] the job came up, [England] was an agreeable place. So here I am.” Dr. Campbell is a professor of Renaissance studies and an international relations advisor at the university. His central focus of his research is John Milton, but he also writes on subjects such as art and architecture. His extensive travels in the Islamic world have created an interest in those regions.

    The University of Waterloo was like a “different world” to Dr. Campbell when he first arrived on campus as a teenager. When he began his studies, the school system was based on the 3-year and 4-year Scottish models of the undergraduate degree. During this time, “a lot of American [professors] were coming north. [Many of] their sons were 17 and eligible for the draft. They didn’t want to fight in Vietnam.” The university was soon filled with “idealistic Americans” who brought “freshness” to the curricula and new ways of measuring academic performance, such as GPAs. Perhaps a backlash was inevitable, and “there was later a movement for Canadian jobs for Canadians,” says Dr. Campbell.

    Dr. Campbell recalls enjoying two of his English classes in particular: Sixteenth Century Literature taught by Dr. Jack Gray and a course in Literature in ideas taught by Dr. Jim Stone. Both of these courses are memorable because they were “Intellectually very stimulating.” Dr. Campbell became a 17th Century literature specialist; his first course on this subject was with Dr. Roman Dubinski, who introduced him to Milton.

    Though an expat for the past forty years, Dr. Campbell still “retain[s] great affection for Waterloo.” As an alumnus who had hasn’t been back for decades, he is excited to be returning to Waterloo for the 50th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration on September 17.

Read more about Dr. Campbell at http://www.le.ac.uk/ee/staff/campbell.html

Esther Etchells (BA 1967)

Esther Etchells chose to take her first year of UniversityEsther Ethchells at Goshen College in Indiana. One of her favourite professors there was the two-time award-winning novelist of the Governor General's Award, Rudy Wiebe. His literature course left her interested in pursuing a degree in English. After one year of study in the USA, she chose to complete her degree at uWaterloo while living at Conrad Grebel University College.

At uWaterloo, Dr. Walter Martin quickly became another favourite professor for Esther. His lectures demonstrated rich, fascinating detail and a passion for learning. She and some of the other students at Grebel had been teachers prior to their studies and could identify many of the traits of those who had teacher's training. She identified Dr. Martin as someone who probably had this training because he was thorough, clear, and compassionate in his lectures. Dr. Martin “made the courses come alive.”

In the Literary Critique course with Dr. Keith Thomas, Esther remembers being concerned about writing the first essay due to his high expectations. In this course, students wrote a 1500-word critique of a poem or short story every week. As the term went on, she became more comfortable and skilled at writing the critiques and grew to enjoy writing essays as a result of the weekly practice. Indeed, she has saved all the essays she wrote in her three years as a university student.

EsterAfter graduating from uWaterloo, Esther briefly considered becoming an airline stewardess because it seemed like an interesting career at the time. However, she decided to return to her teaching career because of the job stability and her love for the job. She retired from teaching eleven years ago and is now pursuing many other interests. Her love for teaching and music encouraged her to teach a volunteer music program to a local Grade 2 class for the past two years. Occasionally, she will serve as a substitute teacher for Kindergarten to Grade 6 classes. She also participates in volunteer work in a variety of settings including the church and the Perimeter Institute as well as the Elora Music Festival. Tai Chi, dance classes, and spin classes help to keep her fit and energized. This summer, Esther wrote about her life's journey as a short talk for a church event. Retirement has proven to be a 'smorgasbord' of activities and experiences.

Eric Friesen (BA 1967)

Life Lessons From an English Degree

University of Waterloo, October 24, 2008 (on the occasion of receiving uWaterloo’s Arts Faculty Alumni Achievement Award)

I want to reflect for a bit this afternoon on the value of the English Degree that I received here at the University of Waterloo. And on the terms in which I want to put this value: What is the relationship between my lifelong work as a broadcaster and my years here on this campus?

When I think back to those years in the mid 60’s – I wince to do the math; it’s 40 years ago now--when I think back to that time, I have very good memories of my classes, of many profs, my residence at Conrad Grebel College, at the many friends I made over the years here, and friends still- lifelong. My university experience was all I thought it would be – a liberation from a small prairie Mennonite town, new friends, endless nights debating the enduring questions, romance, sex, an unlimited sense of what was possible in life… I’m with Wordsworth on those years – Oh to be young then was very heaven.

But as I look back on it, I realize that both consciously and unconsciously I was seeking out a guide for my life while I was here. The first thing I have to say about coming here was that I never expected my English degree to help get me a job. I majored in English and minored in history because that was what most interested me. I knew I didn’t want to teach high school, and I decided pretty quickly I didn’t want to have an academic career, even though I could have had both. In a way I already had a career – I was already working in radio – commercial radio – from the age of 15, and while I might have felt the occasional seduction from another calling, I pretty much knew what I wanted to do. My romance with radio was my calling…

But I also knew – a little then, a lot now as I look back on it – that without the enrichment of a university degree and all that went with it, I would be… incomplete. And how right I was. My years here at uWaterloo shaped my worldview, my values, and ultimately my approach to broadcasting.

So, here are some of the life lessons I learned on my journey to finishing an English degree… in no particular order…

Life Lesson #1 - the value of performance, of manner as well as matter, of style as well as substance. I learned this first from my first-year history course, taught by that most dashing of Jesuit scholars, the late Hugh MacKinnon… It was a medieval history course, something that didn’t thrill me right off. But Hugh MacKinnon, in his Saville Row suits, flowing silver hair, rich baritone voice and brilliant wit and erudition, dazzled us. I think he could have done so by teaching us the intricacies of betting on horses… He surprised us, he shamed us, he made us laugh, he was always meticulously prepared, he rarely used notes, he engaged with all of us, hundreds of us, in History 101. For Hugh MacKinnon, every class was show-time. And it’s a lesson I never forgot, and have applied pretty much every day since. I credit much of my success as a radio host to the example of this singular man, the like of which I had never seen in my life up to that point.

Life Lesson #2 - a love of words, of their sound, of their power, of their beauty. I was what you might call a wordy kid. Mouthy. Loved to talk. Loved to hear myself talk. I was an avid reader from before I went to school. I was stimulated by words and their power and their beauty in high school and in my early days in radio. But it wasn’t until I got HERE, to UW, that I realized what a spell words could cast. My great mentor here was the English professor W.R. Martin – Walter Rintoul Martin – whose lovely South African accent and twinkly eyes and fragrant pipe, and whose wisdom and absolute passion for language, seduced me completely. Seduced in the academic sense. Later he would become a champion of Alice Munro, but in my day it was D. H. Lawrence with whom Dr. Martin gifted us. I remember in his literary criticism course, he lectured for a whole hour on one word in a line from Lawrence’s short story – “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter.”  The word was “swung” – in the sentence – the great draught horses SWUNG past…I remember that class as if I took it yesterday. Dr. Martin showed us how Lawrence conveys to us the feeling of awe that the three brothers and sister in the story felt, as the shire horses swung past for the last time in their lives. A noble image, about to disappear, just as the hamlets and yeomen of old England were disappearing. That kind of intelligent lingering on the power and beauty of a single word in a special sentence opened a gate of heaven for me – a heaven of language, lovingly and inspiringly crafted for its power, its beauty, its purpose.

In the interests of full disclosure here, I have to say that my youthful love of D H Lawrence, inspired by Dr. Martin, has not much survived. A couple of years ago I went back to Women in Love and frankly was embarrassed by all that blood power stuff. But what HAS survived is my recognition of his lyrical approach, and his unabashed celebration of human passion.

Which brings me to Life Lesson #3 – the life in the thing. Always to be searching for the life in the thing. This is a phrase of Thomas Merton’s that I read many years after leaving W’loo, but I know that my instinct for this, my recognition of the idea when I read the Seven Story Mountain, came from my studies here. Lawrence’s ideas were important, championed by Dr. Martin. And it’s deeply influenced my appreciation for everything, but particularly music.

When I evaluate say a new recording of a familiar work, or go to a concert, the first thing I listen for is that “life” in the performance. The least important aspect for me is perfection. Note perfection. We’re bedeviled with a quest for perfection in performance these days, which often results in sterile, copycat, lifeless music. Great artists are spontaneous, in-the-moment, connecting to their own life force of that particular moment, taking risks. The pianist Martha Argerich is one of the greatest living examples of this – she ALWAYS finds the life in Beethoven, Prokofief, Saint-Saens, Mozart… Nothing is ever the same twice, and nothing is ever mailed-in, ho-hum… You may not agree with it, but by God it’s ALIVE!

Lesson #4 - elitist is not a bad word… I don’t know that the subject ever came up as such, but I learned here at Waterloo, that there is such a thing as excellence, as quality, that there are hierarchies of quality, that some things are better than others. I was able in later years to put flesh on those bones… I could say with confidence that old J S Bach is better than Ditersdorf, Angela Hewitt better than Rosalyn Tureck, the King James Bible better than Good News for Modern Man, that Woodford Reserve bourbon is better that Jack Daniels, or if you want a Canadian example – Creemore lager is better than Labatt’s Blue…

This is not a fashionable view these days. Throughout my company, the CBC, there is sweeping, there has swept, the belief that all music is equally good. Bull%#$& I say, and I learned it here.

I hesitated to mention this – not knowing what fires I might start here or add gasoline too… I also want to make it clear that I’m not championing snobbishness. There’s quality and excellence in pop culture and country music and gospel music and jazz. I interviewed Lyle Lovett this spring, whose quirky songs which absorb so many popular music traditions I love, love, love. I’m a lifelong fan of Johnny Cash. Shirley Horn. Bill Evans.  Oscar Peterson - he and Art Tatum are the two greatest jazz pianists ever. Keith Jarrett.  Miles Davis.

This is not exactly an exhortation to elitism – but Dr. Martin used to urge us to have favorites. It’s good to have favorites he said. And I do…

I was interested to see in John Ralston Saul’s new book A Fair Country that he makes an unabashed assumption that it is important to acknowledge elites and the need for elites.  I’m sure he counts himself as one…

Anyway – no apologies for quality and excellence – I learned it here.

Lesson #5 - the importance of critical thinking. I will cite two important teachers here. Jan Narveson, with whom I took first year Philosophy, and Walter Klaassen, chaplain at Conrad Grebel College, and theology teacher. I cite them both because they were completely different, opposite really in their affirmations. Narveson was a true philosophical sceptic, a non-believer. Klaassen was just the finest kind of believer, one whose belief was always changing, always alive, challenged by doubts and reason and further learning, but which was strengthened in the process. But both men in their own way taught me the value of critical thinking, of always challenging my own assumptions, particularly the core ones, of being open to challenge. Jan Narveson could excoriate certainties, especially those which hadn’t been thought through, or reasoned. Walter Klaassen a little more gently led us from our own certainties into a world of thinking for ourselves, of reaching for an authentic system of belief.

Years later I was sitting in the congregation at Riverside Church in NYC… listening to the great William Sloane Coffin, who asserted about himself and his tradition at Riverside – “We,” he said, “are seekers of truth, not possessors of truth.” And I thought to myself – YES = he’s right, and it was a principle I learned here in W’loo… We are seekers of truth not possessors of truth. We embrace ambiguity, but never give up the search.

And along these lines I want to credit my study of Keats here – with Warren Ober I believe it was – who taught us the Keatsian concept of “negative capability” – of the artist’s necessity of embracing doubt, uncertainty, openmindedness… of seeing the other side of an issue…

This is absolutely critical in my business, where it’s so easy to be locked into creeds and fashion…

E.g. I’ll give you one example where I’ve grudgingly applied negative capability. Subject of original instruments, period instruments. The period instrument movement began in the 70’s – certainly came to prominence. And I instinctively disliked it. All those scratchy out-of-tune gut stringed instruments, the reduction in instrumental forces, the orthodoxy, the smugness that goes with the movement. So, I’ve always been out of step with that and said so. But over the years I’ve had to challenge myself – to admit that there ARE some very fine period instrument practioners: Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque are a good example (just a fabulous musician). Tafelmusik of Toronto, especially when they have a good conductor like the Austrian Bruno Weil. I’ve had to admit that the period insrument movement, the “let’s get back to the composer’s intentions” school has had a profound effect on classical music making – from the baroque to the classical and romantic periods – I still prefer hearing a Beethoven Symphony on modern instruments, but I especially like that now with faster tempos, greater transparency, lighter touch, more drama, more urgency, less reverence. So I’ve modified my views, shall we say, urged on by my own recognition that to hold on slavishly to a point of view, without regularly bashing it with challenges, fossilizes us.

Life Lesson #6 – trust your first instincts. This is a lesson I learned in my very first first-year English class, taught by Professor Fred MacRae. On the first day we met him, he was making a point about symbolism as I recall (it IS 43 years ago)… and he drew on the blackboard a three-sided figure with a triangle in the middle. What does that represent, he asked? Great puzzlement among the freshmen. Finally one student suggested – a shamrock, something Celic? Another suggested the trinity? No to both, said Prof. MacRae. There were a few other stabs. And then I knew what it was, or was pretty sure. But I thought it can’t be. But nobody else was coming up with it and I thought, what the hell. So I said (tentative voice) – looks to me like the logo for the Cities Service Gas Stations which I had often seen in the bordering states of North Dakota and Minnesota. Don’t exist anymore, but they were pretty popular when I was younger. I think the Citgo company is what Cities Service became. Anyway – I was right. Kind of obscure and derived from the world of advertising, which I wouldn’t have expected from the stern Calvinist aura of Prof MacRae. Ever since, I’ve gone with my gut – although the results haven’t always been 100%, that’s for sure…

Life Lesson #7 - Respect the Young. Honour the Young. This is a principle I saw in all my best teachers here. Men and women of greater age and experience and wisdom having a generous tolerance for the rawness of youth. When I look back, I’m amazed at how much time my professors had for me, for my ideas, my questions, my opinions. I must admit – when it came time for me to have my own kids and especially when they became teenagers, this was a great challenge for me – to respect the young, to let them make their own way, their own mistakes. I’ve really tried to reform in this respect, especially now as I work with men and women much younger than I am. But it’s so important – not to be dismissive of 18, 19, 20 year olds as they leave home and breath the free and heady air of a university environment. I’m profoundly grateful that many of my professors had that generosity, took me seriously, even when it must have really tested their patience…

Lesson #8 – An English Degree gives you Treasures for life! I left here in 1967 loaded with books that are still part of my library, but more importantly, with the guiding fingers of my teachers all over the books. Graham Green, in his fine spy novel, The Human Factor echoes this when he has his main character open a book. “Castle opened the book at random, or so he believed, but a book is like a sandy path which keeps the indent of footsteps.” My books from my days here are full of the footsteps of my reading and my guided reading. And it’s a treasury I keep drawing on. Most recently, as I was prepping for my last day of my daily program, “Studio Sparks,” my mind kept going back to my reading of T. S. Eliot in Dr. Martin’s class. I keep my Eliot in my office at the CBC, and so I got out my old battered copy of The Four Quartets and as part of my goodbye to my audience on that Friday afternoon, August 29th, I read these reassuring words: “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” And then I skipped ahead to…” And all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well / When the tongues of flame are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire and the fire and the rose are one.” A benediction I first heard here and have carried with me through times of change and upheavel in my life and read again and again.

And the treasures I took from here multiplied by a factor of hundreds… like the sourdough starter that you need to make a fine new loaf of bread, the treasures I got here gave me the renewed impetus to read as much as I can every day of my life since.

I’ve loved over the years to share this with my listeners. I will often quote lines of poetry or prose as part of an introduction to music. It’s led me to collect poetry and prose related to music. And I thought I would end this afternoon by sharing with you some treasure that I’ve gathered since I left here. One of my favorite poems about music by the reclusive Scottish poet, Alastair Reid. It summarizes in a simple and direct way everything I believe about music and performance…

A Lesson in Music

Play the tune again: but this time
with more regard for the movement at the source of it
and less attention to time. Time falls
curiously in the course of it.

Play the tune again: not watching
your fingering, but forgetting, letting flow
the sound till it surrounds you. Do not count
or even think. Let go.

Play the tune again: but try to be
nobody, nothing, as though the pace
of the sound were your heart beating, as though
the music were your face.

Play the tune again. It should be easier
to think less every time of the notes, of the measure.
It is all an arrangement of silence. Be silent, and then
play it for your pleasure.

Play the tune again; and this time, when it ends,
do not ask me what I think. Feel what is happening
strangely in the room as the sound glooms over
you, me, everything.

play the tune again…

Lois Claxton (BA 1968)

Since 1991, Lois Claxton has held the office, Secretary of the University at the University of Waterloo. “In that role I work closely with the President and with the Chair of the Board of Governors and have line responsibilities for governance and corporate services including: uWaterloo legal matters, Lois ClaxtonuWaterloo's internal audit and risk management, Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection compliance, Conflict Management & Human Rights, Police & Parking Services, Safety, Records Management, corporate governance and the University Secretariat.” Her education in English has proven useful in her present role: “Writing was an integral part of my undergraduate degree and writing has been integral in my current role. While most of my writing is administrative, I was delighted when Ken McLaughlin, uWaterloo's official historian, invited me to write the forewords to Waterloo: The Unconventional Founding of an Unconventional University (1997) and Out of the Shadow of Orthodoxy: Waterloo @ 50 (2007). Similarly, it was a privileged experience to edit inno'va-tion: Essays by Leading Canadian Researchers (2002) with James Downey.”

Professor Roman Dubinski taught Lois’s three favourite courses: two English criticism courses because they were analytical, and one on the works of Milton, in particular Paradise Lost. “I had great regard for Professor Dubinski as an instructor and personally. He encouraged my to take a master's degree, which I did, but not in English.”

Lois’s English degree from uWaterloo “provided the platform for my subsequent degrees and those degrees enabled me to start my career, a career which has been very different from teaching, as I had planned, and far more exciting and fulfilling than I could have imagined.” She furthered her studies at the University of Toronto, where she earned a BLS (Bachelor of Library Science) and MLS (Master's of Library Science).

During the 1970s, Lois worked as the Head Librarian for the Economics and Policy Library of Energy, Mines and Resources in Ottawa. In 1979, she was hired by uWaterloo as a librarian and was initially in charge of what was then the government publications department. Later, she had responsibility for public services at all of the campus libraries.

Last year, Lois was honoured when Bob Harding, Chair of the Board of Governors, established a scholarship in her name, “the Lois Claxton Award in Humanities and Social Sciences Research which will be used to enable uWaterloo to achieve its aspirations in social sciences and humanities research.”

Peter Grant (BA 1968)

 Peter GrantPeter Grant attended high school in the United States for four years before returning to his home in Toronto. He found the Grade 13 curriculum to be challenging, especially the maths and sciences, but knew he had an aptitude for English and History. He chose to attend the University of Waterloo to take the college prep program, which was only offered in three Ontario universities. Doing so allowed him to become a first year student in 1964. While attending uWaterloo, Peter studied history, political science and English. He chose to major in both English and History, which were later his teachable subjects in teacher's college.

Peter loved being exposed to great authors such as Dickens, Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley. During his time at uWaterloo, Peter's love of reading grew and widened in scope, a love he has been able to pass along to both his children and his grandchildren.

Peter fondly remembers a professor “The Poet.” He describes the professor as an “incredibly cool cigar smoker who turned the deadly theory of language into a class not to be skipped. He's the guy who walked in the first day smoking a little cigar, walked back and forth for minutes looking us over, sat on his desk and started speaking poetry. He never stopped. We wrote.” The Poet is Peter's greatest influence and inspired him as a teacher.

He has other, more eclectic recollections of university life as well. Peter remembers playing basketball with Paul Lavigne, a day student from Kitchener, on the SJC intermural team and on long Saturday nights at the St. Louis gym. He also recalls a memorable evening spent listening to Cohen's “Suzanne” album twice (an experience he found mind-altering). And he'll never forget the hated fried bologna nights at the SJC cafeteria.

After graduation Peter began his career teaching high school students at Eastwood and then taught at Port Colborne. In the early 1970s he, his wife and baby daughter moved to Prince Edward Island. He worked as a teacher, was a greenskeeper, and later a stay-at-home dad; he is now a grandfather.

Throughout his career, Peter taught all ages of people from toddlers to adults. One of his students that was up-grading his courses became a government minister. He has also had the opportunity to teach children with learning problems, children who remind him of himself.

Now, Peter is retired. He still lives on Prince Edward Island and spends his winters in Honduras and Grand Cayman.

Reverend Maurice Martin (BA 1968)

AtRev Maurice Martintending the University of Waterloo was a practical decision for Reverend Doctor Maurice Martin , as the university was close to home. In addition, Maurice wanted to get at least part of his education from Conrad Grebel College, though he did not reside at the college. Choosing to study English was as easy for him as choosing a university, for he has loved to read since the first grade and has been interested in literature ever since.

A class that Maurice remembers as a great learning experience was Dr. Walter Martin's first year class. Dr. Martin had a keen interest in the students and was concerned that all of the students pass the course. Maurice still recalls the first paper he wrote for Dr. Martin's class. The essay was really marked up and many of the students, including him, received a “D”. He was shocked to see the grade. He and the other students were given the opportunity to rewrite the paper, and his second attempt at the paper earned a “B.” This paper helped him to realize the difference between University-level and high-school-level English. Maurice has written quite a bit since then and has drawn upon this lesson a great deal.

Another of his professors, Walter Klassen, said that being a student involved asking questions, not just getting the answers. Maurice learned from Dr. Klassen that questions are a way to lead you on to learning. He wonders: “If Galileo had never said 'I doubt it', where would we be today?”

After completing his degree at uWaterloo Maurice went to teachers' college, where he fast-tracked his program by studying during the summers. That same year, he was married on August 27. He started his career as a secondary school teacher soon after and taught English for three years. He then attended the Goshen Biblical Seminary in Elkart, IN and became a pastor upon graduation. He was full time pastor in several congregations in Ontario between 1974 and 2001, and has had several part time interim pastoral assignments since then. In addition, he has held various positions in the denominational offices of Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada since 2001. In 2001 Maurice received his Doctor of Ministry from McMaster University.

As a pastor and Christian educator, Maurice sees the Bible as an important piece of literature. He believes that most people who do not make church a part of their lives miss out on some of the biblical language and biblical allusions in literature. During his time as a teacher, Maurice would take the Bible to class and read passages to the class in order to make connections between the passages and the literary text the class was studying that day. Thirty years later, he ran into a former student who thanked him for bringing these connections to his attention, as it inspired him to look at his faith more seriously. From this experience, Maurice realized that everything a teacher says has an impact on students. Maurice is grateful to have had an impact on the lives of others.

Having a degree in English has benefited Maurice throughout his career as he at various times wrote for the Mennonite Church, including artciles in several Mennonite periodicals, adult Christian education curriculum, and of course many sermons in which he from time to time makes literary allusions. In  each of these areas he has needed to learn different writing styles. Maurice also enjoys writing poetry on occasion.

Today, Maurice is one of two Regional Ministers of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. He works with 45 congregations and their pastors to provide program support to the churches and offers collegial support to pastors.

Bill Davey (BA 1969, MA 1972)

The University of Waterloo contributed greatly to the formation of Doctor Bill Davey’s career, providing him with not only the skills but also the support he needed to thrive in academia.

     Initially, he chose Waterloo for the major difference he saw between it and other universities.Because uWaterloo was a new university, its classes were smaller and more personal. Students and faculty mingled in an environment of cooperation, which is something most other universities could not provide at the time. Once he began pursuing a Master’s degree, Bill became interested in working with Dr. Laurence Cummings, who was first at St. Jerome’s and later with the School of Architecture. His work with Dr. Cummings allowed him to learn about editing, as this was a research interest of Dr. Cummings.  They worked on a sixteenth-century poetic miscellany as an MA thesis.

     Bill enjoyed all of his classes at uWaterloo, but he did have a few favourite professors. Dr. Hibbard, who taught Shakespeare and Jacobean drama, had an “amazing grasp” of the plays and poetry of the period; Dr. Gordon Slethaug, a professor of American literature, who was a great lecturer and gave his students a series of interactive exercises to complete in addition to the usual seminars and papers; Dr. Cummings, an inspiring teacher,who requiredhisstudents toengage with each other’s work (“student A was a responder to student B’s paper, and student B was a responder to student C’s paper, and so on”); Dr. Roman Dubinski, who specialized in seventeenth-century poetry and prose; and Dr. Neil Hultin, who taught a great course on heroic literature andBeowulf and encouraged students to write outside of their comfort zones. All of these professors helped develop Bill’s skill as a researcher and teacher, and he remembers them as being supportive and well qualified.

     He also remembers the camaraderie among the graduate students during his time here, recalling that all the MAs shared an office in which they could interact even if they did not have classes together. Later, Bill was lucky enough to be assigned an office that he shared with just one other student; this allowed him to work on his thesis in a relatively quiet place.

     After earning his MA, Bill completed a Ph.D. in medieval literature at the University of Ottawa. Academic positions were scarce at the time, but after a few years of part-time and sessional teaching, he received a tenure-track position at Cape Breton University, where he worked for twenty-three years before retiring in June of 2009. Although he taught a variety of courses, he most enjoyed teaching the medieval classes and the history of the English Language.

     Today, Bill and his wife Heather live in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he continues to work as a research associate at the university. Currently he is finishing a co-edited dictionary of Cape Breton English, similar to those published by the University of Toronto Press for Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island variants of the English language.