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From student to writer at U of G PLUS Olympic runners Saving the elms A career in the North




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contents the portico • summer 2012

3 — president’s page • BetterPlanet update — 8 • grad news — 28

in and a ro u n d the university


— 16 — cover story

FAMILY HISTORY INSPIRES POETRY AND FICTION Her English prof gave Alison Pick the tools she needed to pen a poignant novel.

of G welcomes theatre producer David Mirvish as its new chancellor and celebrates a student’s national fellowship. Across campus, researchers report new findings on how skeletons develop, why the next Green Revolution will come from below the ground and how to reduce children’s fear of receiving a needle.


From Canada’s top cross-country program, Gryphon coaches and athletes will cheer for their own at the 2012 London Olympics. Poet and novelist Alison Pick PHOTO BY KEVIN KELLY

More U of G news at

he University of Guelph Alumni Association honours alumni achievement, while U of G staff salute volunteer fundraisers and donors to the Better Planet campaign. Scholarship awards demonstrate the impact of campaign gifts, and CFRU radio reaches out to alumni through online and cable broadcasting.


— 19 — SAVING THE ELMS Scientists and philanthropists work together to preserve endangered trees and plants.

Portico online



on the cover

alumni matters

— 22 — ARCTIC CAREER Zoology grad finds his niche in the North, where he studies the population dynamics of seals and other marine mammals.

Gold medal magazine The Portico won the 2011 award for “best magazine” at a Canadian university from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education.

Alumni Weekend June 15 and 16 Greetings fellow grads! It is my pleasure to invite you to Alumni Weekend 2012. There are many wonderful events and activities planned, and I hope you will take this opportunity to head back to campus and reconnect with friends and classmates from your days at Guelph. It will be a great time for sharing memories of our alma mater and includes 150thanniversary celebrations for the Ontario Veterinary College. I look forward to seeing you on campus. Ted Valli, DVM ’62, Honorary Chair

Friday Evening ■ OVC 150th anniversary celebration dinner ■ Star Party in the physics observatory

Saturday Morning ■ OVC AA breakfast and annual general meeting ■ CBS AA breakfast and annual general meeting ■ Memories of Mac Hall with Judy Maddren, B.A.Sc. ’72 ■ Macdonald Institute tour ■ Mac-FACS-FRAN AA annual general meeting

Saturday Afternoon ■ President’s Lunch celebrating the Class of 1962 ■ Drop into the Brass Taps ■ UGAA annual general meeting ■ Campus bus tours ■ Walking tours: • Macdonald Institute • Johnston Hall • Bioproducts Development and Discovery Centre • Macdonald Stewart Art Centre sculpture garden • OVC main building

Saturday Evening ■ Milestone dinner ■ Alumni pub night at the Brass Taps

Register at 2 The Portico



Summer 2012 • Volume 44 Issue 2

Editor Mary Dickieson Assistant Vice-President Charles Cunningham Art Direction Peter Enneson Design Inc. Contributors Susan Bubak Lori Bona Hunt Wendy Jespersen Shiona Mackenzie Teresa Pitman Andrew Vowles, B.Sc. ’84 Advertising Inquiries Scott Anderson 519-827-9169 Direct all other correspondence to: Communications and Public Affairs University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1 E-mail The Portico magazine is published three times a year by Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Guelph. Its mission is to enhance the relationship between the University and its alumni and friends and promote pride and commitment within the University community. All material is copyright 2012. Ideas and opinions expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of the University or the editors. Publications Mail Agreement # 40064673 Printed in Canada — ISSN 1714-8731 To update your alumni record, contact: Alumni Affairs and Development Phone 519-824-4120, Ext. 56550 Fax 519-822-2670 E-mail



environment; and friends, public servants and donors who provide funding, goodwill and advocacy for Guelph’s teaching and research priorities. These are important legacies for the University.Yet I write this knowing that these supporters give their talents, their time and their money not for the sake of the institution itself but for the students it educates and the knowledge it creates. As with our chancellor emeritus, their legacies are defined by what is most important in their lives and reflect their hopes for the future. The University of Guelph has proven to be a valuable partner for those who want to better the world in which they live. This has never been more evident than during the first months of The BetterPlanet Project. U of G faculty, staff, students, alumni and volunteers have been recognized for their ongoing efforts to improve the lives of other people. Their teaching and scholarship, research and community service have been validated by donations from more than 53,000 individuals and organizations. Large gifts or small monthly pledges, each one enriches our shared legacy of education and service – a legacy strengthened over time by progressive leaders, talented scholars and thoughtful donors working together to advance the University’s long-term mission. Alastair Summerlee, President

the president’s page


h e U n i v e r s i ty o f G u e l p h community is always changing, as graduates leave and new students arrive; always renewing itself, as retirements lead to new faculty and staff; always moving forward through research and scholarship; always improving the educational experience through the infusion of new knowledge and technology.That has been true throughout 150 years of institutional history and will remain true as each new generation of University leaders carries forward the legacy of those who came before. I often find myself reflecting on the people who have made a difference to the University of Guelph and feel especially privileged to have witnessed the leadership style of chancellor emeritus Lincoln Alexander. A lawyer, politician and former lieutenant-governor of Ontario, he is known throughout Canada for his tremendous legacy of public service. He was U of G chancellor for more than 15 years and remains a role model and inspiration for everyone in the University community. A lifelong advocate for education, he used his position at Guelph to encourage every new graduate to apply their skills for the betterment of society. He pushed University administrators to increase diversity within the student body and helped us establish a chancellor’s scholarship that has for the last 10 years attracted top students who are aboriginal, persons with a disability or members of a visible minority. His name also adorns Alexander Hall, our new environmental teaching and learning hub, as well as two highlevel University awards: a medal for distinguished service that recognizes campus leaders who contribute to the quality of academic life at U of G, and a leadership award given by the University to Canadians whose accomplishments emphasize the values of learning, collaboration, advocacy and service.Values inherent in Linc’s own legacy. His 90th birthday party in January attracted many admirers who have themselves left important legacies at the University of Guelph. I think of former president Bill Winegard, who guided the campus through the early years of university status, and my immediate predecessor, Mordechai Rozanski, who led a modern University of Guelph through a time of significant growth in reputation, research funding and the involvement of students in university governance. Birthday guests included other men and women whose efforts are continuing to shape the University of Guelph: administrators, governors and chancellors who developed U of G into a world-class educational institution; faculty, staff and alumni who are advancing the University’s reputation; students who improve the campus

Summer 2012 3

in around &

Skin Bones Reveal How Dinosaurs Grew



Prof. Matt Vickaryous and leopard gecko

iomedical scientist Matt Vickaryous is interested in creatures that wear their bones both inside and outside their bodies: from leopard geckos to armadillos to prehistoric dinosaurs. He studies how skeletons develop, regenerate and evolve to find out more about the way body tissues develop in all animals. He’s collaborating with an international group of palentologists studying two sauropod dinosaurs — an adult and a juvenile — from Madagascar. These long-necked plant-eaters may have used hollow “skin bones” called osteoderms to store minerals needed to maintain their huge skeletons and to lay large egg clutches. Sediments around the fossils show that the dinosaurs’ environment was highly seasonal and semi-arid, with periodic droughts causing massive die-offs. “Our findings suggest that these osteoderms provided an internal source of calcium

and phosphorus when environmental and physiological conditions were stressful,” says Vickaryous, who helped to interpret the results of CT scans and fossilized tissue cores taken from the dinosaurs. Shaped like footballs sliced lengthwise and about the size of a gym bag in the adult, these bones are the largest osteoderms ever identified. The adult specimen’s bone was hollow, likely caused by extensive bone remodelling, he says.The juvenile specimen, however, was solid and showed little evidence of remodelling.That suggests that osteoderms became more important mineral stores as the animals grew. Osteoderms were common among armoured dinosaurs, but rare among sauropod dinosaurs and have appeared only in titanosaurs. These massive plant-eaters included the largest-ever land animals. “This is the only group of long-necked sauropods with osteoderms,” says Vickaryous.

HISTORY PROF DISCOVERS FARM LIFE WASN’T SO IDYLLIC uilting bees. Threshing bees. Barnraisings. These are rural traditions that we tend to look back on nostalgically. But there’s another side to these “bees,” says history professor Catharine Wilson. Sometimes, everything went wrong. “There were serious, sometimes fatal accidents and fights frequently broke out. Some turned into major brawls. I even found information about 16 cases of murder at the bees or right afterwards.” Wilson became interested in “bees” because she feels they provide windows into understanding how rural neighbourhoods functioned and how families worked together to accomplish things they couldn’t have done on their own. Most of the time it worked well, according to descriptions she’s found in farm diaries. But as Wilson points



4 The Portico

Prof. Catharine Wilson

out, managing any large group of people is never easy. Mix in heavy farm equipment, and perhaps some disasters are inevitable.

The public nature of the bees also made them a popular place for people to air grievances.When disagreements turned into full-fledged brawls, “they would just grab whatever weapons were handy – pitchforks, butchering knives, poles. “When there was an accident, the community rallied around to help and support the injured person,”Wilson says.When fights got out of hand, the others at the bee became “first responders” trying to end the fight and control the damage.“If the aggressor was really dangerous, they called in the authorities.” Wilson’s “bees-gone-wrong” anecdotes – and what they tell us about neighbourhoods – will be one chapter of a book she’s writing about work bees. Her project is funded by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council Grant.





David Mirvish

U of G Welcomes New Chancellor


ing a difference around the world,” says Mirvish. “I look forward to getting to know the students, faculty, staff and alumni, and to being an ambassador for Guelph’s people, ideas and innovations.” As a longtime arts patron, Mirvish is an internationally renowned collector of modern art and a supporter and developer of Canadian theatre productions and emerging visual artists. He owns and operates Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, Princess of Wales Theatre, Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly the Canon Theatre) and Panasonic Theatre. He also operated the renowned Old Vic theatre in London, England. Mirvish ran David Mirvish Gallery, which supported contemporary art and Canadian artists, and operated an art bookstore for 38 years. He has been named to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada, and has received honorary degrees from several universities. He has served as a trustee of the National Gallery of Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Jolène Labbé


avid M irvish, a Canadian theatre producer, art collector and lifelong supporter of the arts, will be installed as University of Guelph chancellor during the June 11 convocation ceremony. “David has been a dominant force in Canada’s artistic community for decades and possesses great vision, ingenuity, imagination and enthusiasm,” says U of G president Alastair Summerlee. “He is known nationally and internationally for his productions and artistic contributions. His experience, wealth of ideas and endless creativity will be an asset in these times of great challenges. He will also add lustre to our reputation as a place that inspires creativity and engaged inquiry.” As U of G’s eighth chancellor, Mirvish will preside at convocations, confer all University degrees and act as an ambassador. As the University’s senior volunteer, he will represent its interests to all government levels. “I am proud to become a member of a university community that is mak-

econd-year Guelph student Jolène Labbé is one of 10 inaugural recipients of a prestigious national fellowship designed to recognize leadership and engagement in the undergraduate learning experience. The award was created by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) and 3M Canada. Winners receive $5,000 and will participate in an educational retreat and a collaborative project related to post-secondary education. Labbé is studying international development, biology and economics at U of G. She considers the primary role of education to serve society and enhance social well-being. She has volunteered in a medical clinic in India and helped bring Vietnam War survivor Kim Phuc to campus to speak about the aftermath of the napalm bomb attack on Phuc’s village. Labbé also helped co-ordinate the Stop Hate, Promote Acceptance campaign at U of G, co-facilitated a first-year seminar course called “Confronting Cultural Dilemmas,” and is a Multi-Faith Team program facilitator, providing resources for students about religious groups on campus. The 3M fellowship recipients will be formally recognized in June during STLHE’s annual conference in Montreal.

Summer 2012 5

Prof. Manish Raizada

Growing plants in air makes roots easier to study

“Twill come from below the ground.”

h e n e xt G r e e n R e vo lu t i o n

So says plant agriculture professor Manish Raizada, whose recently published study suggests corn growers aiming to use fertilizer more efficiently look not just at the

plant’s ears or leaves but at its roots. He means “roots” both in the ground and in historical time. The study by Raizada and his Guelph colleagues shows for the first time that modern and ancient corn plants adjust their fine root structures under low nitrogen in different ways. That insight might allow canny breeders to marry old and new cultivars to yield strains that use this key fertilizer ingredient more efficiently. Raizada hopes his root studies will help save money and fertilizer for farmers in developed countries and, at the same time, point a way to assisting millions of poor growers in developing parts of the world. Needing to look closely at root structures, the Guelph team used aeroponics to grow their plants in a campus greenhouse. Greenhouse growers use this “air growing” method to spray water and nutrients over exposed plant roots. The system allowed the Guelph researchers to examine the plants’“feet” without having to dig them up and damage them in the process. And they found some cultivars adapt to varying nitrogen by growing more or fewer roots, or by lengthening or shortening those roots. Others alter the length or number of fine root hairs, where individual proteins move nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus into the plant. His team is now looking at genes coding for those proteins.


P McMurtry is developing a new tool to


s yc h o lo g y p r o f e s s o r Meghan

measure the level of fear children have when receiving a needle or other medical procedures. “Children undergo painful procedures frequently, but in many cases their pain and fear is still not measured and managed very well,” she says. Her Children’s Fear Scale (CFS) is adapted from the Faces Anxiety Scale for assessing anxiety in adults.The new CFS pairs one of five faces with a child’s emotional state. Children and parents are known to prefer “face scales” over numerical scales because they are easier for children to interpret. McMurtry and other researchers observed blood draws on 100 children at a

6 The Portico

Prof. Meghan McMurtry

pediatric health-care centre. The children and their parents completed several rating scales for fear and pain to help perfect the CFS. The scale is now available for others to test it through the researchers’ website:




in & around the university


anada’s mortgage finance system, especially insurance requirements for first-time buyers, needs a thorough review, according to a new briefing paper by Prof. Jane Londerville, Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies. The paper was released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent public policy think-tank in Ottawa. The submission to the federal government of $14 billion between 2001 and 2010 by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) may have come at the expense of buyers who have no choice but to pay the flat, upfront mortgage insurance fee, says Londerville, a mortgage finance and real estate expert. “I believe we need to take a close look at innovations in other jurisdictions to see if we can make mortgage insurance in Canada more affordable, while still preserving the security of our existing system.” She is also concerned about the policy of providing full government backing for mortgages insured through CMHC but only 90 per cent for mortgages insured through private mortgage insurers. “Considering the skyrocketing demand for mortgage insurance, the rationale for the government’s different treatment of private mortgage insurers and the CMHC is not clear,” she says. “We need to know if there is any real disparity in the types of loans insured by these two groups.” Londerville suggests looking at criteria used to lend to homeowners, oversight of CMHC, and the pricing structure of mortgage insurance.

Read U of G daily news at

Tiny Songbird Migrates from the Arctic to Africa


Northern wheatear



The researchers also analyzed winter-grown feathers from birds sampled in the Arctic. Chemical signatures in the feathers come from certain geographic locations, allowing scientists to learn where the birds spent the winter without directly tracking them. The study found that Alaskan wheatears fly over Siberia and across the Arabian Desert to reach Africa. Birds from the eastern Canadian Arctic cross about 3,500 kilometres of the North Atlantic, land in the United Kingdom, travel southward across Europe, and cross the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert.The birds fly up to 290 kilometres per day. “This is the only known terrestrial bird that physically links the two radically different ecosystems of the Old World and the Arctic regions of the New World,” says Norris. Prof. Ryan Norris PHOTO BY MARTIN SCHWALBE

very year , the northern wheatear songbird flies from the Arctic region of the Western Hemisphere all the way to sub-Saharan Africa and back, according to a new study involving integrative biology professor Ryan Norris. This Alaskan migratory songbird regularly travels some 29,000 kilometres across ocean and desert. Scaled for body size, this is one of the longest round-trip migratory journeys by any bird in the world. Norris completed the study with David Hussell from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and a team of German researchers led by Franz Bairlein at the Institute of Avian Research. Until recently, details about songbird migration remained unknown because geo-locators were too big or heavy to attach to such small birds. New smaller devices now allow scientists to track flights over several months and over long distances.The researchers attached 1.2gram geo-locators by leg-loop harness to 46 northern wheatears in Eagle Summit in Alaska and Baffin Island in Nunavut. The devices recorded natural light levels twice daily for 90 days in December, January and February.

• In February, the University of Guelph presented honorary degrees to renowned animal scientist, author and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin; philosopher, physicist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva; international business strategist Peter Senge; and veterinarian and poultry disease researcher Richard Witter. • A new bee species discovered in Brazil has been named Chilicola kevani in honour of U of G insect ecologist Peter Kevan, whose leadership in pollinator conservation has also won him election to the Royal Society of Canada and a gold medal from the Entomological Society of Canada. • Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe came to U of G in December from Ghent University in Belgium as the first holder of the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Endowed Chair in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition. Her position is devoted to the nutritional care of dogs and cats. • The first phase of a new livestock Research and Innovation Centre intended to model sustainable animal agriculture systems will be built at the Elora Research Station through a partnership with the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Future phases of the project may include research facilities for swine, poultry and beef. • U of G’s Hospitality Services received one of five Ontario Local Food Champions awards from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for its efforts to support the local economy by buying local food. U of G also received a grant from the foundation to build a small processing facility to preserve in-season fruits and vegetables for winter use.

Summer 2012 7

The Better


1964 CLASS BUILDS FOR THE FUTURE The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) class of 1964 likes to build a solid foundation. Several years ago, the class funded construction of a sitting wall around the conservatory gardens that also recognizes the many other alumni who contributed to the greenhouse reconstruction and themed gardens. Now OAC ’64 classmates are raising funds for a new postgraduate scholarship marking their 50th anniversary. Under the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program, the class gift will be matched two-to-one by the provincial government, creating a named scholarship endowment for graduate students in agriculture or the environment. The OAC ’64 anniversary gift will reach fruition in 2014 as U of G celebrates both its own 50th anniversary as a fullfledged university and the final year of The BetterPlanet Project campaign.

8 The Portico


Engineering Building Teaches Sustainable Design

Alumnus Wolf Haessler, centre, and professor emeritus Walter Bilanski, right, converse with Prof. Mohammad Biglarbegian, a specialist in mechatronics systems, during a tour of new teaching facilities in the School of Engineering.

r o m a g r e e n r o o f and rooftop wind turbine to a basement cistern collecting rainwater, a new four-storey addition to the Thornbrough Building has turned the School of Engineering facility into a teaching lab for students learning about sustainable design. A $1-million leadership gift from 1966 engineering grad Wolf Haessler supported the 50,000-square-foot addition as well as new undergraduate scholarships. “I want to help more qualified young people have a successful career in engineering and help the School of Engineering live up to and grow its reputation,” said Haessler, the founder of Skyjack Inc. and a member of the school’s advisory board. The School of Engineering is expanding in physical size and programming, with an emphasis on sustainability and innovation research. Enrolment has increased from just over 500 students in 2008 to more than 1,000 last fall. “This growth would not be possible


without the generosity of people like Wolf Haessler,” said director Hussein Abdullah. Anthony Vannelli, dean of the College of Physical and Engineering Science, said engineering students will gain a competitive edge by learning within a real-life context.They will have supervised access to the building’s penthouse mechanical systems, for example. Besides inspecting engineering and architectural designs, students can obtain data about use of steam, electricity, water and gas. They’ll visit the roof to compare energy production by wind turbine and solar panels, and will study plant species commonly used in green roof designs for moderating building temperatures and filtering rainwater. In Thornbrough, that water is collected and recycled for flushing toilets. Besides teaching space, the new addition houses sustainable energy labs, a robotics research institute and a lab run by the School of Computer Science.

Planet Project Weston Foundation Boosts Pollinator Research PHOTOS BY CHRIS EARLEY AND JON BRIERLEY

More than three-quarters of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization – primarily bees but also butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and birds.


those plants rely on pollinators to set seeds and fruit. Both the diversity and the numbers of insect pollinators are falling globally because of such factors as disease, pesticide exposure, malnutrition, habitat loss and climate change. In Canada, 28 species of butterflies and moths and two bee species are known to be at risk. The Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at U of G will develop a world-class research program, raise awareness of the importance and plight of pollinators, inform public policy, help train highly qualified conservationists and agriculturalists, and assist amateur beekeepers. “For three generations, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation has maintained a family tradition of helping charitable organizations to make a difference and enhance the quality of life for all Canadians,” said chairman W. Galen Weston. “We are excited to partner with the University of Guelph on this important initiative that goes beyond pure research to engaging all stakeholders in this critical effort.”


n anonymous gift from a local Guelph family highlights the value placed on U of G sports and sports facilities by the off-campus community. The $1.5-million donation will pay for a new synthetic turf field at Alumni Stadium and has kick-started renovations of the stadium track and lighting. It also inspired a grassroots campaign by the Guelph running community that raised an additional $1 million towards completion of the eight-lane track. “The renovations to Alumni Stadium, combined with the recent installation of the rugby field, soccer complex and new field house, mean that U of G now has one of the best outdoor and indoor field facilities in Canada,” says athletics director Tom Kendall. “Not only will it be a welcome addition to Gryphon athletics, but it also will benefit the community. The synthetic turf means that we can use the facilities more extensively for University and community events, regardless of weather.” The eightlane running track will allow the University and the city to host internationally accredited events. The stadium improvements will be com-


major contribution from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation will help ensure the world’s food supply through establishment of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College. A Canadian first, the endowed chair is supported by a $3-million gift in the name of Wendy Rebanks, daughter of Garfield Weston and director of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “The shortage of honeybees and other pollinators is a serious threat to plants and the food chain and to our economies,” says U of G president Alastair Summerlee. “This investment will support critical research and education that is a vital part of the University’s efforts to build a better planet. We thank the W. Garfield Weston Foundation for their vision and generosity.” Worldwide, about 300 cultivated crops are used for food, fodder and fibre production, worth an estimated $200 billion-plus a year. About 80 per cent of


pleted by September; the total estimated cost is $4.9 million. U of G’s athletics master plan also includes building and renovating a student fitness and recreation complex. The plan will be implemented in phases as funding permits.

Summer 2012 9

Where the Runners Are

Guelph running community has

Story by Andrew Vowles

10 The Portico

character, passion and Olympic dreams

It seems like a long distance from Cook’s Mill Road to the Olympic

Games in London this summer. But “distance” is a relative term for these elite members of the Speed River Track and Field Club centred around Scott-Thomas’s varsity program at U of G.The group includes two marathoners already qualified for London 2012 and several other Olympic prospects who were chasing their own qualifying times this spring. Reid Coolsaet, B.Comm. ’02, cracked the marathon qualifying time of 2:11:30 during the 2010 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon; last fall, he finished third at the same event with a personal best of 2:10:55. Last year’s race in Toronto also saw Speed River teammate Eric Gillis earn a spot by running one second under the mark.This will be the second Olympic appearance for Gillis, who ran the 10-kilometre race in Beijing in 2008. It’s been 12 years since a Canadian appeared in the Olympic marathon, and now two Guelph runners will line up in London this summer. Ten years ago, Gillis was training at St. Francis Xavier University in his home province of Nova Scotia. He and Coolsaet were Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) competitors then but already teammates at international events like the 2002 World Student Games held in Spain; both represented Canada that year, with ScottThomas as coach.


Cook’s Mill Road, southeast of Guelph. Backlit by a late afternoon sun, the runners lope over a hill, slender and long-legged as gazelles. They descend the gravel hill and pause where Dave ScottThomas, coach of the Gryphon cross-country and track and field team, is waiting. Running at a relaxed pace, the group has arrived here from the parking oval in front of the University’s athletics centre.That’s about five kilometres: far enough for the runners to have shaken out the cares of the day and loosened their limbs for their afternoon training session. For the next few minutes, the team goes through a series of what Scott-Thomas calls creatine-phosphate runs: short uphill bursts, first women, then men, as if the gazelles had spotted a predator and fled en masse to higher ground. At the top of the slope, the runners turn and amble back down, recovering. But then one of them spots that carnivore again at the bottom, gives a secret signal and leads the herd off once more. After several reps, they trot off at a more leisurely pace, this time to vanish down the road. They will spend the next 90 minutes or so logging today’s requisite mileage on the back roads that carve up this section of Puslinch Township.

Summer 2012 11

Eric Gillis, left, and Reid Coolsaet

Olympic marathon — 42 kilometres n 2008, Gryphon runner Reid Coolsaet had hoped to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in the five- or 10-kilometre event. An injury early that year ruined his plan. Four years later, he’s ready to line up among the 100-odd competitors from around the world — including Guelph teammate Eric Gillis — at the Olympic marathon in London this summer. Says Coolsaet: “It’s really exciting to be in that situation. There’s no other place you want to be in that moment.” He won his berth in London by qualifying during the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2010. Running at the same event last fall, he bettered his own time. He had hoped to set a Canadian record, but windy conditions played havoc with those plans. No matter: the race highlight came only a moment after his third-place finish. “I turned and saw Eric coming. That’s when I got excited. Once I saw (coach) Dave (ScottThomas), it was really emotional. We had planned for this for so long.”


12 The Portico

By March, Coolsaet was running an average 200 kilometres a week. He delayed his departure for Arizona team training to compete in the Around the Bay race in his hometown of Hamilton, Ont. It was his first showing in the oldest road race in North America. He fell short of a record bid for the 30-kilometre course but won the race. Not bad for a runner who had started at Guelph as a so-so prospect in 1998, only a year after Scott-Thomas had arrived to pick up a nearly non-existent varsity program. Coolsaet had racked up some success at high school but was hardly a star. The self-described late bloomer says: “I started running cross-country in middle school. I guess every kid dreams about the Olympics.” He had heard about this new coach at U of G but had been weighing a couple of options. “I applied to Guelph late. I had to drive my application in on the very last day.” Coolsaet toured a nearly deserted campus with Scott-Thomas.

During his first year, the runner watched other members of the team from the sidelines during CIS competition. Compare that with his last varsity meet at the World University Games in Turkey, where he won a silver medal. In 2011, he received an award from Athletics Canada. He credits Scott-Thomas and the U of G team for his success. “I owe my whole career to them,” says Coolsaet, who worked at a bank after graduating with a marketing degree but has trained full-time since 2005. “When I entered university, I wasn’t dreaming of the Olympics. How do you repay a career you never thought you’d have?” The regard is mutual. Scott-Thomas and his wife, Brenda, named their third daughter, now seven, after the runner. He’s Big Reid; she’s Little Reid. That tribute to Coolsaet has more to do with his performance as a human being than as an athlete, says the coach, citing the runner’s hard work, discipline and ethics. “He’s a good guy.”


Other Guelph prospects in middle and long distances were still aiming for Olympic qualifying times when The Portico went to print. By mid-April, Kyle Boorsma, B.Sc. ’11, was preparing for a five-kilometre race in Los Angeles near the end of the month. He needed to hit the Olympic standard there and finish in the top three at a national meet in Calgary in late June. Taylor Milne, a 1,500-metre specialist, was also looking for a qualifying time at meets beginning in late April. Now 30, Milne moved to Guelph after finishing school in North Carolina.This would be his second Olympics as well. Genevieve Lalonde placed sixth in the 3,000 metres at the world juniors in 2010 and is the second-fastest Canadian steeplechaser ever. A third-year U of G student in environmental sciences, she also needed to earn an Olympic berth by qualifying at meets beginning in late April. “I love running,” she says. “Getting to go to the Olympics is amazing.” Also in the 3,000-metre steeplechase is Alex Genest. A transfer from the University of Sherbrooke, he is in his fourth year of applied nutrition. “It’s an amazing group of people,” says Genest. “Everybody’s trying for the same goal: to get better.” By March, Genest had his requisite Olympic qualifying time and needed to hit B standards in a couple of races this spring. Middle-distance runner Hilary Stellingwerff was also looking for an Olympic ticket. Her 13th-place finish at the 2007 world championships set her up for London, but she also needed to compete in races this spring. Her husband and training adviser is Trent Stellingwerff, a 2006 Guelph PhD graduate in exercise physiology who was a two-time All-Canadian runner with the Gryphs and is a former assistant coach. By mid-March, several of those runners were away at meets or training; a week later, the elite team would leave Guelph for a month’s worth of high-altitude training in Arizona. But today at least, many members of what’s considered to be Canada’s best running club are doing what they’ve been doing for years — logging the requisite distance on and around Cook’s Mill Road. Says Scott-Thomas: “There’s nowhere else in the country where people of that talent are running up and down a dirty hill.”

Kyle Boorsma

Olympic track — 5,000 metres yle Boorsma finished his varsity career in 2011 as one of the most decorated athletes in Gryphon and CIS track and field history. He was Guelph’s first three-time Athlete of the Year. He says his highlights were racking up five straight team championships in cross-country and winning the individual title in 2010 (he had been runner-up in the two previous years). His specialty then was 1,500 metres. The 24-year-old hopes to run the five-kilometre event in the London Olympics. “I just love to compete,” says Boorsma, who began running in elementary school here in Guelph. He played hockey as well but decided to focus on his running while at Centennial CVI. For varsity, he looked at other schools, but having begun running with the Speed River club, he knew where he wanted to be. Guelph lacked facilities, but it had coach Dave Scott-Thomas. “The whole program is pretty much his vision,” says Boorsma. “He’s the one who drives success. He had the technical expertise as well as the passion to take me where I needed to go.” Since completing his undergraduate degree in human kinetics, he has begun a master’s degree in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. He plans to study natural performance-enhancing substances, notably beetroot juice supplements containing nitrates. Boorsma says lessons translate between the track and the classroom, including knowing how to handle pressure and unexpected situations. Whether it’s lining up on the track, writing an exam or attending a job interview, it’s important to find the right mental space, he says. “To run well, you can’t be so nervous that it holds you back from doing what you’ve trained to do. But you can’t be nonchalant either, because then you won’t put yourself out there. It’s a fine line. That’s probably the most important thing to learn.”


Summer 2012 13

14 The Portico


Above: Gryphon head coach Dave Scott-Thomas is also the founder and coach of Guelph’s Speed River Track and Field Club. Among the elite athletes training with him and vying for Olympic qualifying times are, clockwise from left: Taylor Milne, Genevieve Lalonde, Hilary Stellingwerff and Alex Genest. Below: Gryphon women endure creatine-phosphate runs on Cook’s Mill Road.

Talent? There’s no dispute. U of G claims the most successful cross-country program among Canadian universities, having captured the most CIS cross-country banners: 19 in all, 11 men’s titles and eight women’s. Last fall, the Gryphon women’s team won its seventh CIS title in a row, and the men’s team, its sixth. On the track, both the men’s and women’s teams won silver at the 2012 CIS championships. Those teams have medalled repeatedly since 2007/2008, when both men and women won the CIS championships. That was the first national track and field title for both Gryphon teams and the first time in CIS history that one institution swept both titles in the same year. If Gryphon runners are decorated, so is their coach. Since arriving at Guelph in 1997, Scott-Thomas has won 24 Coach of the Year awards from Ontario University Athletics and 21 from CIS. Besides turning around U of G’s running program in that time, he created the Speed River Track and Field Club for student and local runners; it’s now considered the most successful club in the country. Guelph is also home to one of three National Endurance Centres in Canada developing future Olympians. Assistant Gryphon coach Chris Moulton, B.Comm. ’05 and a former middle-distance Gryphon, says Scott-Thomas has a lot to do with all that success. “He’s built a really strong environment here. His understanding of people — that’s what he does better than anybody else.” There’s more at stake here than medals and Olympic glory.Yes, these are superbly conditioned athletes, says Moulton, but they’re part of a community of ordinary human beings. Adds Scott-Thomas: “The fact that, for us, it’s running is almost irrelevant. It’s about pursuing something to a higher level.” Medals and championships are great, he says, but that “something” is a running culture he measures in ways other than hardware and titles. Arriving from Victoria to his alma mater in 1997, Scott-Thomas took over a program with almost no resources or budget. Perhaps the most important thing he did was to look beyond the campus borders to launch the club program. He now works with a support staff of about 20 specialists in massage and physiotherapy, nutrition and mental skills.

“We went from a non-existent low-resource group to getting good to becoming one of the best ever.” Last fall, a story in the Globe and Mail ran beneath the headline: “Is Guelph Canada’s Fastest City?” Today the Speed River club boasts about 180 runners, including some 80 varsity members. Jeff Haller coaches the club’s 19and-unders, numbering about 40 athletes. He also coached with the Gryphons until 2007, when he decided to focus on the club juniors and his own school-teaching career in Cambridge, Ont. About half of those juniors live in Guelph; the rest come from Oakville, Milton, Georgetown, Cambridge and other places. Four of Haller’s own “graduates” are now U of G varsity athletes. “Dave’s group creates quite a buzz, which causes people to come from all over,” says Haller, a former cross-country and 1,500- and 3,000-metre track specialist with the University of Windsor. “Dave’s passion is something that you notice within the first couple of minutes of meeting him. He’s very assuring; his mannerisms allow you to believe.” Guelph is also now home to the Canadian Centre for Running Excellence, a notfor-profit group working to promote running in the city and area. Chair John Marsden credits Scott-Thomas with being the “connective tissue” among people and groups in the city: “He’s one of the best community builders Guelph has ever seen.” Marsden organizes the Guelph Victors recreational running club, whose more than 200 members are based at the track at St. James Catholic High School. They range in age from elementary schoolers to seniors. Members Christina Clark, B.Sc. ’99 and M.Sc. ’02, and David Brooks, M.Sc. ’98, have finished among the top 50 Canadian marathoners in recent years. The club is named for the late Victor Matthews, a longtime U of G classics professor and a former Gryphon coach who led the team to numerous championships. He was inducted into the Gryphon Club Hall of Fame in 1996. Marsden relied on Scott-Thomas’s connections and reputation in leading a grassroots fundraising drive this year for a new international-calibre track and field facility at U of G’s Alumni Stadium.That campaign sparked donations from elite athletes, com-

munity members, alumni, friends and businesses. It took just over a week to raise $1 million to build an eight-lane facility for certification by the International Association of Athletics Federations. That project will be part of a multimillion-dollar overhaul of Alumni Stadium. On a couple of days, the campaign received $100,000 without a major donor. On another day, Coolsaet pledged $10,000 of his winnings from the Scotiabank marathon in Toronto last year. Running groups and businesses have also donated, including Angus GeoSolutions Inc. in Georgetown, Ont., which gave $150,000. Scott-Thomas says it was “a crazy week,” one that actually began years ago. “It took me 15 years to get to one week. It was one week but a lifetime of connections; a lot of people contributed to believe in the program and the dream.” What does that dream look like? Simple, he says: a town that runs. “There’s something powerful in what the group does that resonates with the community. I can drive from my house to here and pass 50 runners. This is becoming a running town. We’ve had hundreds of different people coming together to support this; it really is a giant spectrum we’ve tapped into.” On its own, that new track on campus won’t produce the next Olympic runner; after all, Scott-Thomas has done just fine without it. But he says the new facility will help in attracting attention and recruits, as well as allowing the University to host internationally sanctioned meets. For all the local success, recruiting is still a scrap pitting varsity and club programs from across North America. “I work as hard as ever at that,” he says. One new recruit, Hamilton’s Anthony Romaniw, had started at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire but returned to Canada earlier this year. Weighing both U of G and the University of Victoria, he had emailed Scott-Thomas and received a prompt reply outlining Guelph’s approach and program and where an 800-metre specialist might fit. “He gave me the best email a coach could give in that situation,” says Romaniw. “We were on the same page. He has some sort of energy about him. There’s a good mix of laid-back and aggressive about him — it’s kind of hard to explain.” The human kinetics transfer will become

eligible to compete for Guelph next fall. Meanwhile, he’s joined that growing herd of gazelles at Cook’s Mill Road, rebuilding his program with his new coaches to run more efficiently and with more power. His goal is a shot at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. 

Racing in the water Guelph swimmer Andrew Ford will compete for Canada at the London Olympics in the 200metre individual medley. A member of the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club and the varsity Gryphons in 2010-2011, he is coached by U of G head coach Don Burton. Ford qualified April 1 at the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Montreal; his time was 2:01:18. With Olympic trials scheduled after The Portico press deadline, other Gryphon alumni may also win spots on the Canadian team. If you read one of their success stories, please send it to so U of G can recognize their achievement.

Summer 2012 15

Hidden identity… 16 The Portico

Poet and novelist Alison Pick finds herself in family history Story by Andrew Vowles Photo by Kevin Kelly That’s not all they left her. Decades after her great-grandparents lost their lives in the Nazi camps of the Second World War, Alison Pick found something else hidden inside her “own small life.” Two things, actually, both of which would become central parts of the Canadian author whose second novel, Far to Go, is having a far-reaching impact. One was her family’s buried Jewish identity, which surfaced a half-century after the Holocaust while Pick was growing up in Kitchener, Ont.The other began to unfold near the end of her studies at the University of Guelph. That was in early 1999, the last year of Pick’s psychology major. Having served as a counsellor in Raithby House that year, she had made plans to return to the peer counselling service in the fall. For that summer, she’d agreed to help paddle on a 4,000-kilometre trek across part of Canada to raise money for mental health. The canoe trip, involving a friend and Pick’s younger sister, Emily – a biology student at U of G – would unfold as planned. But before that, something else occurred in that last winter semester to change not just her counselling plans but her entire career. Pick signed up for a creative writing course with Prof. Janice Kulyk Keefer in the School of English and Theatre Studies. How much had she written before that? Nothing. Nothing? Seated in a coffee shop near her Toronto Annex home, Pick shakes her head. OK, there’d been a few bits – and there was that instructor’s comment written on an earlier assignment: “If you’re not an English student, you should be one.” But she hadn’t viewed herself as a writer. Kulyk Keefer, on the other hand, knew what she was looking at. By then, the Guelph professor had published nearly a

For Oskar Bauer 1880 20/1/1943 & Marianne Grünfeld Bauer 1894 20/1/1943 A passion for remembrance. Two names on a monument at the synagogue in Prague. The date they were deported to the death camp. Their twenty-year-old daughter who got out. Her son: my father. My own small life. The first light snow of winter, their ashes at my back.

…hidden talent

What They Left Me

dozen books of her own, including a story collection, The Paris-Napoli Express, and several novels, including The Green Library, Marrying the Sea, and Honey and Ashes. Remembering Pick, the now retired professor writes by email: “When Alison enrolled in my course, I could see that her writing showed great promise. She had a striking way of looking at things and of expressing her perceptions. But she also was eager to learn as much as she could about how to make her writing better than it already was, and to discover what mattered most to her in terms of subject matter.” Something in that elective course worked for her student. “Suddenly everything came alive for me,” says Pick. She began writing poems, including one that won a prize in a contest at the downtown Bookshelf. Life and death, happiness, sorrow: those were the subjects that Pick explored in a series published in 2003 in her first volume, Question & Answer. In that collection she also began probing roots and her sense of identity through several pieces about her father and his displaced family, including some that would foreshadow the themes of Far to Go. Says Kulyk Keefer: “I remember particularly the poems she started to write about her grandmother, poems which seemed to unlock a whole world of memories and questions about family history.” Other poems in that debut collection went in a different direction, drawing on Pick’s trekking experiences, including earlier canoe trips into northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories. Impressions from those travels also found their way into her first novel, The Sweet Edge, published in 2005. That novel traced the separate lives of a young couple one summer – a girl working in an urban art gallery and her boyfriend taking a solo canoe trip into the Arctic. The Sweet Edge was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year. Pick’s first poetry collection had garnered the 2002 Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award, and individual pieces won her the National Magazine Award and the CBC Literary Award. In 2008, she published her second poetry collection, The Dream World. By the time she settled in Toronto with her husband, Degan Davis, several years later, it was time to tackle another story that had long been forming in her mind.

Summer 2012 17

Pick was still a young teen when she began putting together things about her family that she’d overheard from her relatives. But it was only after her grandmother died in 2000 that she and her father felt they could begin exploring their mutual interest in the family story. After Hitler’s troops had occupied the Czech Sudetenland in 1938, her grandparents had fled Europe. By the time they arrived in Canada, they had left behind not just a country but their Jewish identity. Alison’s father, Thomas, and her uncle were raised as Christians, with no mention of the loss of her grandmother’s parents in Auschwitz. Speaking of her father, Alison says, “He grew up not knowing he was Jewish.” He had learned the story by the time Alison and Emily arrived, but the girls grew up in a secular household in Kitchener. Alison’s initial foray into the past yielded some of the poems in her first collection, including “What They Left Me.” But she wanted to explore something more on a larger canvas. Not a memoir, not yet. Instead, she decided she would write a novel based loosely on her ancestors’ story and the theme of family secrets. In Far to Go, the fictional Bauers flee the occupied Sudetenland after the 1938 Munich Agreement. Reaching the Czech capital, Prague, they work to save themselves and their six-year-old son, Pepik, who ends up on a Kindertransport out of the country. It took Pick three years to write the novel – an odyssey that, in some ways, involved not just one traveler but two. His discussions with Alison had inspired Thomas to take his own historical journey. In turn, his discoveries wound their way back into his daughter’s novel. He pieced together documents that traced his parents’ travels between 1938 and their landing in Quebec three years later. He also found unpublished memoirs by survivors from Czechoslovakia. He even connected Alison with a man named Tommy Berman, whose father had managed the textile factory begun by her grandfather in Europe before the war. Berman had left Czechoslovakia on a Kindertransport and arrived in Scotland as a preschooler (he was an elderly man by the time Pick met him); subsequent letters between the boy’s

18 The Portico

parents and his adoptive family helped her shape the youngster in Far to Go. Published in Canada by House of Anansi Press, the novel has also been published in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Brazil. The novel itself was shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and was a Top 10 of 2010 book at NOW Magazine and The Toronto Star. Both of Pick’s novels have been optioned for film. She says the awards and positive attention are gratifying, but she tries to keep them in perspective. “Your main task as a writer is to become your own best reader and editor and try not to give too much credence to outside reviewers,” she says. “You have to write what is pleasing to you.” She stresses that point when teaching in the Humber School for Writers’ Creative Writing by Correspondence program. Her own favourite writers include novelists Emma Donoghue, Jamie O’Neill and Susan Minot, and poets Jack Gilbert, Charles Wright and Jane Hirshfield. Referring to a “collaborative process” between writer and characters, Pick says she aims to let her characters grow onto the page. Easiest to come in Far to Go was Anneliese, Pepik’s mother, who shares many traits with Pick’s late grandmother. Anneliese’s husband, Pavel, stands for the importance of nationalism and Judaism: “I understood Pavel from the beginning.” More slow to develop was Marta, the family’s nanny, whose actions send their lives in unexpected directions. Pick says it was important to get Marta right, as her character grew into the viewpoint for wartime events in Czechoslovakia. In an interview about her novel with University of Chicago historian Lucy Pick that was published on her cousin’s blog (Lucy Pick Books), Alison says: “The idea of an unreliable narrator was appealing. I often turn to Jack Hodgins’ A Passion for Narrative – my novelists’ bible – and I think it was his suggestion to view the main characters, in my case Pavel and Anneliese, through outside eyes.” While writing the novel, she also turned to her historian cousin for comments about detail and accuracy. A number of readers have confessed to choking up over the portrayal of the Bauer

family’s plight in Far to Go, particularly Pepik’s journey. “I have to say that it is always very gratifying for me to know the book has struck an emotional chord,” says Pick. “The main thing I myself as a reader want out of a book is for it to make me feel something, so I’m especially glad to have been able to do the same for my readers.” Says U of G’s Kulyk Keefer: “You can’t teach anyone to become a writer; what you can do is to create a community of people who want to learn about the process of writing through intensive practice and ‘applied curiosity.’ This includes reading, as writers, the work of ‘the greats’ and of one’s peers; coming to understand writerly techniques and strategies; and learning to apply them in one’s own work.” Last spring, Far to Go won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction. That award was especially poignant for the author. In 2009, she and her husband converted to Judaism. Pick says she was thrilled to learn about the award. “I hope it will help the book get into the hands of the readers who will most enjoy and relate to it. Since Judaism goes far back in my family but is fairly new to me individually, I felt a certain level of acceptance on winning it.” Pick's three-year-old daughter, Ayla, can sometimes disrupt her writer mother’s schedule, but Pick says she still writes every day. “I go to bed at night and can’t wait to get to my desk the next morning.” She’s now working on a memoir of sorts, tentatively titled Between Gods, incorporating her father’s story and his own quest into the family’s heritage. Meanwhile, her father’s labours have also yielded his own book: an album of family photographs, a genealogy and his own writings copied for family members, including his daughters. Near the end of the album, their great-grandmother, Marianne Bauer, appears in a photo taken sometime in 1942; on the facing page is a copy of Alison’s elegiac poem “What They Left Me.” Glancing through her copy of the album, Alison identifies the faces in the black and white photos. She lingers over the pages, pointing out the family resemblance shared between her and several generations portrayed in her father’s album. “It’s meaningful to me that he took the time to put it together.” 

U of G researchers clone a century-old survivor New institute advances in vitro technology STORY BY LORI BONA HUNT


here is an American elm tree that has stood, majestic and formidable, on the University of Guelph campus for more than 100 years. The tree has witnessed a century

of change. It towers near Macdonald Hall, its branches and leaves creating a massive, cascading umbrella of green in the sky. The elm has managed to live, year after year, while nearly all of its kind has died, the

victims of Dutch elm disease. The imported fungal infection is so deadly that it has decimated the American elm population that had dominated the North American landscape for centuries.

Summer 2012 19

“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before Dutch elm disease took its toll in Canada, American elms were among the most popular and recognizable trees in Ontario, lining boulevards and adorning city centres. Now 95 per cent of them are gone, and most that remain are struggling to stay alive. Yet the tree near Macdonald Hall has endured. It possesses something the others did not, a natural edge that helps it stand up to the biggest killer of its species. First discovered in the United States in the 1930s and Canada in the 1950s, Dutch elm disease interferes with water transport and stops nutrients from circulating in the tree. Only about one in 100,000 American elms appear to be able to tolerate the pathogen naturally. U of G's elm specimen extends nearly 80 feet into the air. The secret of its success lies within: tangled in its roots, creeping through the branches to the buds of new leaves. “Any elm tree that has survived initial and subsequent Dutch elm epidemics has tolerance to the disease and is even potentially disease-resistant,” says U of G plant scientist Praveen Saxena. But it is this tree, the gentle giant at the north end of campus, that holds a key to developing conservation technologies for reviving the American elm across Canada and beyond.

saxena’s pursuit goes beyond bringing back the American elm. Perfecting cloning technologies may also help protect and conserve the Earth’s other endangered plants and trees. And there has never been a more critical time. “Up to 50 per cent of the world’s plant species face the danger of extinction within three decades due to disease, pollution, climate change and other human activities,” he says. Such rapid loss of plant diversity threatens the health and resilience of all ecosystems and the quality of human life. “The need to conserve endangered plant species is crucial and urgent. We owe it to future generations.” Saxena has moved closer to his goal with a groundbreaking discovery this spring and the launch of a brand-new research institute at U of G – both achieved with a little help from his friends. Those friends include the members of his plant cell technology lab and his co-investigator, plant agriculture professor Alan Sullivan; Kevin Hall, U of G’s vicepresident (research); and Philip and Susan Gosling of the Gosling Foundation, a nonprofit organization for ecological preservation and environmental education. Saxena is known internationally for his work protecting valuable plant species through in vitro multiplication and preser-


Profs. Praveen Saxena, left, and Alan Sullivan with cloned plantlets

Tissue samples from its buds are being grown into new plantlets that are genetic clones. If the old adage holds, these “chips off the old block” should indeed be like their parent — natural survivors, able to avoid or tolerate Dutch elm disease. Cell culture technology could then allow researchers to select germplasm with the desired traits, eventually developing a germplasm that is highly resistant to Dutch elm disease. This process may also broaden our understanding of the basis of plant resistance to pathogens, says Saxena. Finding ways to produce stronger, heartier elms to reintroduce in Canada has become his quest in recent years. “Despite the knowledge of tissue culture methods for decades, natural American elm trees have been extremely difficult to clone.”

20 The Portico

vation; he met the Goslings through Sullivan about three years ago. “It was a turning point in my career,” says Saxena.The couple share a fondness for trees and an understanding of the science needed to preserve and conserve them. In fact, the Goslings have supported other U of G efforts to save the American elm. The late Henry Kock, former interpretive horticulturist at the Arboretum, started the Elm Recovery Project in about 1998. He recruited volunteers to search for surviving elm trees in Ontario to create a seed orchard and cultivate disease-resistant trees. The Goslings supported Kock’s efforts as well as other research and education programs in the Arboretum. When Saxena met the couple,Susan Gosling, who has a master’s degree in plant genetics, was looking for a research project involving disease resistance; she hoped to help save her husband’s beloved elm trees. During their first meeting, Saxena recalls, Philip Gosling kept reminiscing about how elm trees were once abundant in Guelph. Several of the giants had grown in his garden, and a northern oriole used to build a nest in the same tree each year. That elm is gone now, and so is the oriole. “Philip is a very direct man,” Saxena says. “He listened to what we had to say and then asked, ‘If the propagation technology is as good as you say it is, then why isn’t anyone doing anything about my elm trees?’” saxena remembers explaining the complexity of the research to the Goslings and the challenge in finding private-sector support for expensive work whose only apparent beneficiary is the environment. Most funding candidates want a better return on their investment, says Saxena. “But Philip Gosling said that hearing the musical greeting call of the oriole each spring was a good enough return for him.” “It was with considerable despair that we saw these wonderful trees die,” says Gosling. “Just think about how a tree sits in the environment: it’s a home for insects, for birds, it produces oxygen, all these wonderful things

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein and to attract additional private- and publicsector partners,” says Hall. At the institute’s official opening, Philip Gosling said it’s time to get a “GRIPP” on the loss of biodiversity. “We can despair about this, we can regard it as inevitable, or we can say: ‘Let’s do something, let’s save what we can while we can.’ And I think we can do it. We can do research, we can start developing and cloning disease-resistant trees, we can understand how trees and plants develop resistance.” a couple of weeks after the GRIPP launch, Saxena, Sullivan and their research team made history, announcing they had successfully cloned American elm trees that had survived repeated epidemics of Dutch elm disease. The breakthrough was published March 29 in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, which is produced by the National Research Council of Canada. Starting with shoot tips and dormant buds from that Macdonald Hall elm on campus, the scientists produced genetic clones of the parent tree. It’s the first known use of in vitro culture technology to clone buds taken directly from a mature American elm. Their feat also highlighted what GRIPP can do to preserve and conserve plant species, Saxena says. In vitro conservation technology is efficient and better than seed banks for conserving many plant species. Hundreds of genotypes with known visible features can be conserved in a safe small space and can be easily propagated. Saxena, Sullivan and Susan Gosling worked on the project with Guelph postdoctoral researchers Mukund Shukla and Maxwell Jones, and with Chunzhao Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The researchers also announced that they had perfected a way to conserve germplasm over the long term. A germplasm repository now contains 17 accessions collected from surviving mature elms across Ontario, including the specimen on campus. The research team will now focus on identifying and developing a germplasm that is highly resistant to Dutch elm disease.


that we enjoy and take for granted.” Susan Gosling agrees. “When a tree has Dutch elm disease and needs to be cut down, there is a fair bit of sadness; that’s one of the main reasons why I thought to look at disease resistance. It seems very valuable, not only esthetically in terms of how an elm tree makes the landscape look but also its role in the environment.” The Gosling Foundation pledged $500,000 initially to support the Guelph researchers’ efforts to develop new cloning techniques for American elm trees. But Saxena knew it would take more, both dollar- and research-wise, to accomplish what he wanted to do. His break came two years later during a research trip to Jamaica when he met Kevin Hall. Hall had been newly appointed as U of G’s vice-president of research, but this was their first meeting. Saxena explained his dream of taking his elm tree research to the next level, applying the techniques to other species and involving researchers around the world. Hall recalls: “I told him that this was bigger than what he could do in his lab. It called for a full-fledged institute where we could build a team beyond Guelph. This is advanced science that can make a difference socially, culturally and scientifically. It has the potential to start a whole new vein of research at our university that would help better the planet and distinguish us from all other universities that do plant research.” Back at U of G, there followed numerous meetings involving the Goslings, Hall and Saxena. This March, the University announced the creation of the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP). Directed by Saxena, GRIPP is supported by a $1.5-million donation from the Goslings through the BetterPlanet Project, the University’s $200-million fundraising campaign. The institute’s scientists will work to help threatened plants around the world. They plan to develop international collaborations, and run education, outreach and service projects to teach people about the value of conservation, locally and globally. “Creating the institute opens the door for us to bring new research partners to the table

Philip and Susan Gosling

“While great progress has been made and continues to be made by U.S. breeders working to develop cultivars tolerant of Dutch elm disease, much more remains to be done,” Saxena says. “To our knowledge, no truly disease-resistant germplasm currently exists, perhaps due to our lack of knowledge of complex plant-pathogen interactions.” Developing a resistant germplasm would allow scientists to grow thousands of genetically identical plants with the same disease resistance, aiding in elm breeding and biotechnology programs around the world. Cloning the American elm tree will also serve as a model for propagating and preserving other plants at risk of extinction, Saxena says. He fears ash and maple trees may be next; numerous diseases and human activity are taking their toll. And so it started — but will not end — with the majestic elm that has made U of G its home for more than a century.This giant survivor has provided, figuratively and literally, the buds of something that will grow much larger. That’s the beauty of it, Susan Gosling says. “If we are able to do this with the elm, there are so many more species that need help. This can provide the motivation, the inspiration to carry on.We can be optimistic about the future.” 

Summer 2012 21


great guelph grad


t wa s t h e b e s t o f t i m e s ; it was the worst of times. Charles Dickens didn’t pen those words about the Canadian Arctic, but they’re a fitting description of what it’s like to be a Dickens-reading biologist studying seals in the Great White North. “I take lots of books,” says Mike Hammill, B.Sc. ’78, a research scientist for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). “You get into a situation where the best thing is just to sit and wait.You wait until the weather turns good or you wait until the animals show up. The best strategy is just to be patient. To cope with that, I take books. I remember when I first started; I went through a whole slew of Dickens books, anything that was 500 pages long. As long as I have a book to read, it doesn’t matter. I can sit and wait.” Currently based in Mont-Joli, Que., near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Hammill was an undergrad at U of G when he first heard the call of the wild. He started working at DFO’s Montreal office soon after completing his zoology degree and went on to pursue post-graduate studies on Arctic wildlife at McGill University. When he heard about a summer job opportunity with DFO, he boarded a plane to Montreal and never looked back. “I remember asking my dad if I could borrow $100 for the flight,” says Hammill. That loan was worth every penny. His first assignment was a six-month trip to the southeast corner of Baffin Island. It was a dream job for a starry-eyed recent grad, but it was also an exercise in survival and isolation from his family and friends. Laptop computers and cellphones didn’t exist, and neither did email and text messaging. Even regular mail was a luxury. “In the first six weeks, we had two or three air mail drops,” he says, but they had no means of sending mail. Their food was also air dropped. The work was physically demanding and the living conditions were harsh. “One of the first things you notice in the North is the wind,” he says. Their tents didn’t offer much protection from the elements. While mapping seal holes, they would set up their camp on the ice, starting with layers of caribou skins, foam mattresses and sleeping bags. They covered the tents with blankets to absorb any condensation, covered the blankets with tarps and built a wall of snow around the base of the tent to block the wind. Three men would sleep in the tent along with a couple of dogs.When a storm hit, there was nowhere to go. “You don’t do anything in a storm,” says Hammill. “This

22 The Portico

was before the Internet, so you’d read, and you’d read, and you’d read.” When the team moved further south, their research focus switched to biological sampling, which involved capturing seals in the water to collect specimens. Hammill faced different but equally challenging conditions at sea. He once awoke to the sound of their boat creaking under the pressure of ice that had surrounded the vessel overnight. While working off the southeast coast of Greenland, finding and capturing seals was a challenge. The team spent up to 14 hours a day tracking seals in a 28-foot fibreglass boat. No matter how much Hammill thought he knew about seals, there was always something new to learn. When harp seal pups feel threatened, they play possum, but Hammill thought the pups outgrew the behaviour in adulthood.When he tried to capture adult seals, he was puzzled when they froze like icicles. “We really thought there was something wrong with these seals. As it turns out, this is just a normal reflex that they have.” In addition to seals, Hammill has studied Arctic foxes and other wildlife. Two years ago, he studied the Inuit subsistence hunt of beluga whales in James Bay. “Our interest is determining a quota level that would enable them to meet what they need as far as their food requirements are concerned and, at the same time, protect the resource.” Although Hammill is still involved in beluga studies in northern Quebec, he now spends most of his time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he studies the population dynamics of harp, grey, hooded and harbour seals to ultimately balance the needs of fisheries and marine mammals. “Our research results often have a direct impact on the livelihood of Canadians,” says Hammill, who has collaborated with scientists in Greenland and Norway. Hammill has also supervised more than 35 M.Sc. and PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. “Working with students is fun,” he says. “I am able to provide them with an opportunity to study animals and meet people in areas where most people do not get to visit, as well as share some of my knowledge and experience. In return, they share their energy and enthusiasm, and I get to see how they develop as they move on. Some of them continue in science, and that is particularly rewarding.” Hammill also studies the potential impact of climate change on seals. He toured the Gulf of St. Lawrence by helicopter in March 2011 and January 2012 to monitor

mike hammill


Mike Hammill approaches a sedated male hooded seal in the Magdalen Islands; the seal weighs close to 350 kg.

harp seal numbers. Although the population is currently at its highest level since the 1950s, that could change if ice conditions continue to deteriorate. “Although they are quite abundant right now, harp seals need ice for reproduction,” he says. “If they don’t have it, mortality seems to be extremely high.” Although grey seals can reproduce on land, harp seals need ice to give birth and nurse their pups. Once the pups have been weaned, they need two to three weeks to mature before they can survive the frigid water. Pups

that don’t get enough time to nurse are smaller and weaker. If they constantly get swept into the water, they can become fatigued and drown. Since the life expectancy of a seal is 25 to 30 years, one or two years of poor ice conditions won’t have much of an impact, but several years could be detrimental. Hammill says seals may adapt by migrating north to Labrador or Greenland, adding that wherever they go, he will follow. BY SUSAN BUBAK

Summer 2012 23

u of guelph


Campus radio doesn’t miss a beat



e walked into the campus radio station in 1979 as a student named Nick Taylor and has been there ever since as Nicky Dread, host of CFRU’s The Crooked Beat. His reggae-themed program now occupies a Thursday evening slot, between Klangteppich (profiles of German classical composers) and the extreme metal thrashing of Forever Deaf. “What you’ll hear on CFRU you won’t hear anywhere else,” says Margie Taylor, M.Sc. ’09, a Guelph resident who spent decades in Canadian broadcasting, notably with the CBC. She discovered the campus station while creating a radio documentary for her master’s degree on rural communities. Since then, she has served on the CFRU board of directors and is now volunteering as interim community outreach co-ordinator. The two Taylors aren’t related, but both enjoy CFRU’s range of music programs, as well as documentarystyle and talk radio programs. Among its “Guelph-centric” programs are Beyond the Ballot Box on local politics, Campus/Community Lectures and even Cycology, a new show about bike culture. On a global scale, Migrant Matters covers crossborder issues. “Tune in to the radio station at any given time and it could be anything,” says station manager Peter Bradley, BA ’09, who co-hosts a morning show called Books for Breakfast. He started with the station as a student volunteer and stayed after completing a history degree. “This was one of my first stops on campus,” says

24 The Portico

From left, Peter Bradley, Nick Taylor and Margie Taylor

Bradley, who grew up near Ottawa. He’s among some 350 station volunteers; about half of them are on-air. Volunteers are split half-and-half between U of G students and community members. “When you tune in to CFRU, it’s a volunteer from Guelph representing what’s important to them,” says Bradley. Reggae-loving Nicky Dread works by day as systems database manager with the Wellington Catholic District School Board, but his broadcast career precedes that job and even CFRU’s FM licence. “Radio Gryphon was the calling name,” says Taylor, who grew up in

Guyana and attended school in England before arriving in Guelph. He launched The Crooked Beat in 1981, an eclectic mix of music that he often connects with current events; recently he discussed the Joseph Kony viral video, justice and freedoms. “I carry around 16 crates of vinyl and the same in CDs.” He hears from local listeners and some as far away as Argentina, Cyprus and Japan. CFRU airs across Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo at 93.3 FM and online at You can also listen around the clock on Rogers TV Digital Cable channel 948. BY ANDREW VOWLES


U of G benefits from dedicated volunteers


he University of Guelph enjoys a deep connection with alumni from across the decades. Four or more years of student involvement often blossoms into a passion for alumni volunteerism. Whether it is mentoring students, acting as a regional ambassador, assisting with convocation, joining an alumni association or speaking at a career night, alumni are giving back to their alma mater in ways that are meaningful and personal. The University is also benefitting from the committed volunteer leadership of The BetterPlanet Project campaign cabinet — a select, diverse group of alumni, business and community leaders, and donors who are committed to the University’s vision and mission. This is an impressive group of individuals who will help guide the University through its fundraising efforts for the duration of the BetterPlanet campaign. I would like to thank the 53,000 people who have already contributed to The BetterPlanet Project. With only 20 months left in the

University-wide awards celebrate philanthropy



tudent s, alumni, donors, faculty, staff and friends of the University came together in February for a celebration of philanthropy and academic excellence at the annual university-wide awards presentation. One of the awards highlighted was the newly established Kenneth W. Knox Leadership Travel Grant. Colleagues and friends of Knox established the endowed scholarship in his honour to benefit diploma, undergraduate and graduate students at the Ontario Agricultural College. The endowment was initiated by alumnus Bruce Archibald, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’79. Knox, who is a three-time Guelph graduate, was guest speaker at the awards event. In his remarks, he congratulated students and encouraged them to keep in touch with the University to communicate the achievements they make as a result of

their education and the support they have received from donors. Other new awards that were recognized included the CIBC Health and Science Scholarships, the Linamar Engineering Entrance Scholarships, the Truscott Family Scholarship in Justice Studies, and the Tony and Anne Arrell Scholarships.

Sociology professor Sally Humphries, right, congratulates award winner Aditi Datta, a master’s student in biostatistics.


Undergraduate students Jae Perez and Marie Park are the first recipients of the CIBC Health and Science Scholarships. The $5,000 awards allowed them to spend the summer working with a U of G research team studying biological aspects of cancer. From left: CIBC branch manager Terri Millar, U of G provost and vice-president (academic) Maureen Mancuso, Perez and Park, and CIBC branch manager Steve Hatzipantelis.

campaign, we need to call on all U of G alumni to help us reach our $200-million goal by making a donation or increasing an earlier gift. With your support, the University of Guelph will create transformative change in research, teaching and learning as our community provides answers to important challenges facing the world today. To make your donation, please visit Joanne Shoveller Vice-President, Advancement

Summer 2012 25

alumni matters Celebrating alumni excellence

Alumni Return to Campus




GAA had the pleasure of recognizing alumni achievements at the Celebration of Excellence held in March – a combined event featuring the annual UGAA Awards of Excellence and the 25th anniversary of the President’s Scholarship program. It was inspiring to hear about the accomplishments of proud U of G grads from across the decades. The UGAA award recipients are profiled on the next page; Margaret Dickenson, Tricia Bertram Gallant and Linda Hruska. It was wonderful to see their families in attendance, and they were all proud to acknowledge the support of their families as pivotal to their success.

Held in the brand-new atrium of the Thornbrough Building, the event was a global celebration, with new technology allowing past President’s Scholars to join via Skype from around the world. We heard from both recent scholarship recipients and alumni who have gone on to make a difference in the world. The UGAA award recipients and President’s Scholars represent broad and diverse talents, important contributions and a shared passion for the University of Guelph. You are invited to nominate an inspiring U of G grad for the next Awards of Excellence celebration. The deadline is Oct. 31. Learn more about the program and find nomination information at BRAD ROONEY, ADA ’93 AND B.SC.(AGR.) ’97 UGAA PRESIDENT

26 The Portico

Macdonald Hall opened its doors in January to 25 alumnae who used to call the residence home. Mac Hall student leaders and grads from across the decades shared stories about residence life, friendship and the occasional prank. They also took a trip down memory lane with a tour of the residence and a reception that included a look at Mac memorabilia.

The March 24 joint celebration of the UGAA Awards of Excellence and the 25th anniversary of the President’s Scholarship Program drew a wide-ranging group of alumni and friends, from seniors to young parents with strollers. Left: Soon-to-be U of G alumni ChrisBeth Cowie, left, Gavin Armstrong and Holly Clark, helped with a March 26 alumni networking event held in Rozanski Hall. Internationally acclaimed speaker Dave Howlett gave tips on how to connect with new people for business and personal success, while Alumni Affairs and Development staff organized a number of displays and conversation starters to help grads break the ice.

Find more U of G alumni news and events at

UGAA honours alumni achievement


ach year the UGAA honours three distinguished alumni through its Awards of Excellence program. Meet this year’s recipients:


Tricia Bertram Gallant, BA ’94 and M.Sc. ’99, is a leader in promoting academic integrity in higher education. After graduating from the University of Guelph, she attended the University of San Diego to pursue a PhD in philosophy. Gallant’s experience working in higher education began at U of G, where she worked in co-op education and career services. At the University of San Diego, she worked in the school of education with faculty and students. Since 2002, she has been a board member and council chair of the U.S.-based International Center for Academic Integrity. And in 2006, she became the academic integrity co-ordinator at the University of California, San Diego, where she has established a respected academic integrity office that serves as a model for other institutions.

Gallant has extensive experience in developing academic integrity policies and procedures, managing academic misconduct complaints, advising faculty on classroom management and teaching students about academic integrity. A highly regarded consultant, she is the author of Academic Integrity in the Twenty-First Century: A Teaching and Learning Imperative, and co-author of Cheating in School:What We Know and What We Can Do. She also serves on several institutional and professional committees and holds many professional affiliations.

ALUMNI VOLUNTEER Linda Hruska, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’85, is a passionate and committed University of Guelph alumna who has dedicated countless hours to her alma mater. Driven by a desire to give back, her volunteerism has spanned decades and departments within U of G. After completing her degree, Hruska worked in a variety of animal research positions with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. She returned to Guelph and joined the first class of the master’s in agribusiness management program, graduating in 1988. She began working as a teaching associate at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and later joined the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair as director of education. Hruska has been an active volunteer with the OAC Alumni Foundation for the past 13 years. She joined the board as an ex-officio member in 1999 and became a director in 2002, serving until 2008, when she became vice-chair. She is currently serving as president of the foundation. Hruska has also been involved with the OAC Alumni Association for more than 20 years, serving as secretary/treasurer and president. She was a member of the committee to review the UGAA honours and awards program, was later appointed chair of the UGAA Honours and Awards Committee, and served as UGAA president from 2008 to 2010.

Summer 2012 27


Margaret Dickenson completed a four-year food and nutrition degree in three years at Macdonald Institute. After marrying Larry Dickenson, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’68, she accompanied him on his diplomatic career, which took them to eight countries in 28 years. Margaret entertained tens of thousands of guests and established an international reputation for her unique recipes. Her 1998 cookbook, From the Ambassador’s Table: Blueprints for Creative Entertaining, was named best cookbook on entertaining at the World Cookbook Fair in Perigueux, France. It was the first Canadian cookbook to receive this prestigious award. Her second cookbook, Margaret’s Table – Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining, won four major international awards. In 2009, she was named Culinarian of the Year by the Cordon d’Or International Culinary Awards, and Ottawa Life Magazine named her among its “Top 50 People in the Capital” in 2010. She has created and hosted two cooking and lifestyle television shows – Margaret’s Sense of Occasion and Margaret’s Table – and writes for Diplomat and International Canada, Capital Style and Wedding Dreams magazines. She supports a variety of charities and volunteers for U of G’s Ottawa alumni chapter.


university of guelph


great guelph grad

Humanitarian work draws grad to Latin America

Elaine Hernandez directs a Canadian Red Cross project in rural Honduras that has benefited more than 10,000 children and the communities where they live.



n 2000, Elaine Hernandez, BA ’74, found herself sitting on a pyramid at a Mayan site in Guatemala, asking what she should do next in her life. The answer that came to her was “international humanitarian aid.” At the time, she says, ”I had no idea how to begin this new career track.” Twelve years later, Hernandez seems to have found her way. She’s currently managing a maternal-neonatal-child health project in Honduras for the Canadian Red Cross. “With the births of my first two grandchildren, the importance of safe births and early childhood development became personally more relevant,” she says.

1940 Donald C. Master, DVM ’40, is a well-known community leader in Charles Town,West Va., where he celebrated his 93rd birthday on Oct. 31. He grew

28 The Portico

Her deep affection for the people of Honduras is obvious in the stories she tells about memorable moments. “There was the mother who invited me into her simple home, bare of any furniture except for a single hammock hanging in the middle of the room. She offered me a couple of bananas, just picked from her tree. I had brought nothing for her or her four children, but she didn’t expect anything except a friendly conversation. I accepted her fruit with gratitude and humility.” Hernandez was born Elaine Dove in Brantford, Ont., and first discovered the magic of travel when she spent a year in Mexico after Grade 13 as an

up in Ontario, played football at Guelph and graduated as a veterinarian at age 21. He taught artificial insemination techniques to dairy farmers in the northeastern United States,

exchange student “learning Spanish and falling in love with the Latin American culture.” She came to U of G to study Spanish and was subsequently hired by the University’s Centre for International Programs. She left that position in 1976 and moved to Mexico, where she married Raul Hernandez, a dairy farmer from Aguascalientes whom she’d met at Guelph. For the next few years, Elaine and her husband operated a dairy farm in Mexico and added a vineyard of wine grapes for export. They had two children, and she started an elementary school for the 28 children who lived on the farm. She later received an

finally settling in West Virginia, where he ran a veterinary practice until retirement in 2004. He and his now-deceased wife, Grace, raised four children. Master built and flew his own air-

plane, was active in municipal affairs and served as mayor of Charles Town from 1978 to 1990. He still lives in the community with his second wife, Carolyn.

news achievement award from the U.S. organization Women in Government Relations, partly because of her work with this school. The Hernandez family returned to Canada in 1980 and had a third child. Elaine went back to school, completed a master’s degree in adult education and counselling with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and began a PhD program, but did not complete her dissertation. She and her family moved to Texas so she could take a one-year program to earn a Spanish-English teaching licence at the University of Texas. They stayed 22 years, and during that time Elaine expanded her credentials and taught in rural Texas schools near the Mexican

1970 David Barker, B.Sc. ’74, has been appointed vice-president of academic and student affairs and seminary dean at Heritage Baptist College and Theological 

border. She eventually became director of continuing education at South Texas Community College. In 2000, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Guatemala for six weeks. By then, her children were grown, her marriage had ended, and her college position was being amalgamated with another division. That’s when she found herself looking for a new direction. “At age 50, I enrolled in a new master’s program in public health at Texas A & M University,” Hernandez says. As a graduate student, she travelled to India with Rotary’s group study exchange program to study the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. After graduation, she was hired as director of border health with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. She oversaw the planning of a medical response system for four Texas border counties, directed the area’s health education centre and continued her work on tuberculosis. The American Red Cross offered her a position as a health delegate to Mexico in 2005, where she managed a tuberculosis pilot project. “This experience highlighted the effective role of Red Cross volunteers working with vulnerable populations,” Hernandez says. “It also introduced me to the most amazing international network of humanitarian workers. Red Cross strengthens the resilience of

Seminary in Cambridge, Ont. He has been teaching at Heritage since 1978 and also serves as an associate pastor at Benton Street Baptist Church in Kitchener.

communities.” Now in Honduras with the Canadian Red Cross, she works in isolated communities training community health volunteers to monitor the development and nutritional status of children under the age of two and ensure that pregnant women receive prenatal checkups through the local health clinic. Hernandez says much has been accomplished: “Our program in rural Honduras has benefited more than 10,000 children.” In addition to clinics for expectant mothers and babies, the project has helped communities develop food security programs with family gardens, build latrines and water systems, and train first-aid volunteers. “Another important component of our work is the promotion of gender equity and equality,” she adds. “More fathers are actively participating during the pregnancy, birth and post-birth activities, providing support for their spouses and children — a responsibility that once was only for women.” When she completes her contract later this year, Hernandez isn’t sure where she’ll go next, but she hasn’t forgotten the role U of G played in launching her career: In the 1970s, “the presence of many foreign students at the campus, the overseas research interests of the faculty, and the study abroad options brought the international world to the Guelph campus.”

 Carolyn Kennedy, BA ’75, received an education degree in 1978, a graduate diploma in education from the University of Calgary in 1985 and a master’s from the University of


British Columbia in 2002. She is happily married in Calgary with two grown boys.  Jim Sutherland, BA ’70, taught ESL in South Korea and China from 2000 to 2008. He

Summer 2012 29


great guelph grad

Social Networking is his Uniiverse


ust when you thought social networking sites are making face-to-face interaction obsolete, along comes, a site that puts the “social” back in social networking. It may sound like a radical concept – meeting online contacts in person – but co-founder Adam Meghji, B.Comp. ’04, says that’s what makes Uniiverse different from other sites. “Aspects of the platform allow people to safely offer and share their time, interests, skills, belongings and space with other people in real life.” Social networking sites don’t necessarily promote social interaction, he adds, pointing out sites where people amass hundreds of contacts or friends, many of whom they barely know. “The mission of Uniiverse is to bring people together in real life through our online networks,” says Meghji. “We can use Uniiverse to get together to lead a more collaborative lifestyle.” The postings include social activities, fitness groups, workshops and carpools. Users can also post items that they are willing to rent or loan.

30 The Portico

Meghji co-founded the site with company president Ben Raffi and chairman Craig Follett. Raffi and Follett were working as consultants at The Boston Consulting Group when they approached Meghji with their idea. “When they came to me with the concept, it instantly clicked,” says Meghji, who is the company’s chief technical officer. They were so confident that Uniiverse would be a success, they quit their jobs in June 2011 and started working for the site full-time.They launched in February and work from offices in Toronto and Boston. Meeting strangers online comes with safety concerns, but Meghji says Uniiverse is safer than other online marketplaces because users must provide verifiable information such as their real name and location to set up an account and earn a “trust score.” How do you know if the person offering a service is actually qualified? If the service requires certain skills, such as babysitting, the vendor can provide relevant credentials. If parents are looking for a babysitter who has experience working with children with disabilities, they can enter that search criteria to find the right person. “Everybody has something to offer and Uniiverse is a platform to share that,” says Meghji, adding that anyone can become an entrepreneur on the site. Students, for example, can earn extra money by offering tutoring or lessons. He uses the site himself to offer music lessons on beat-making and DJ-ing, a hobby that he started as an undergrad at Guelph where he was known as DJ Marmalade. He also offers free web and technology sessions where people can meet with him and receive entrepreneurship advice. Meghji describes himself as “a nerd who loves to build things that can change the world” and says his passions also include kung fu, photography and food-oriented globetrotting. His personal website is As a co-op student at Guelph, Meghji started his own business called, an urban music website that kick-started his career in social media. Meghji designed a system for registering members and an e-commerce functionality, but says: “It was more of an entrepreneurial work term as opposed to a traditional computer science co-op work term. I learned what's involved in taking an idea and materializing it, making it happen.” Soon after Meghji’s success, U of G’s Co-operative Education and Career Services launched a co-op business venture program to help students become entrepreneurs. The program provides access to resources both on and off campus, including business, legal and tax advice through the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre. BY SUSAN BUBAK

1980 Shelagh Cantley-Dodge, DVM ’87, became a partner in the Dartmouth & Eastern Shore Veterinary Hospitals in 2007, which recently amalgamated with five other practices around Halifax to form the PerFocus Veterinary Group. She and her husband of 22 years, Peter Dodge, have three teenage children (Alex, Jennifer and Rebecca) and two border terriers (Floss and Bella).

um grant to expand the program across Ontario, and Guelph was one of the first communities to participate. In a letter to the Guelph Mercury, he acknowledged the Guelph Storm and University of Guelph Gryphons for helping with the training program, which collected 12,000 pounds of food. Hedican was profiled in the winter 2010 issue of The Portico magazine (www., and was inducted this spring into the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame.

Ernest Rogers, BA and B.Sc. ’85, recently joined the New Jersey State SPCA Humane Police as the first forensic veterinarian on staff in the law enforcement division.Veterinary forensics is a new specialty in veterinary medicine, says Rogers, who credits the science grounding he received at U of G for helping him succeed in this area of crime investigation. Rogers completed his DVM at Tuskegee University in 1991 and a PhD in toxicology and pharmacology at Virginia Tech in 2004. He practices veterinary medicine at the Maplewood Animal Hospital in the town of Maplewood and has multiple years of experience in examining crime scenes related to animal cruelty, the examination of animal remains, police consultation, and providing expert witness reports.

 Tom Hedican, BA ’82, is a 2012 recipient of Ontario’s June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism. Named for the former journalist and activist, the award recognizes those whose volunteer work improves the quality of life in their communities and the province. Hedican is an international hockey goaltending coach and resident of North Bay, where he started the Coach4Food campaign in 2005; he coached local youth for free during his Christmas break in exchange for donations to the local food bank. In 2011, he received a Trilli-





Dinosaur named for fine arts grad PHOTO BY BERKLEY MACKENZIE-BIRD

is now working as an editor, proofreader and writer, with five books for sale on Amazon Kindle. One is a children’s book, one is about living in Korea, and the other three are about farm life in southern Ontario.

eing called a dinosaur isn’t such a bad thing, says Ian Morrison, BA ’86, a technician in the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) vertebrate paleontology lab. A newly identified dinosaur has been named for Morrison. The Gryphoceratops morrisoni is described along with a second leptoceratopsid (“horned face” dinosaur) in a paper by Canadian scientist Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and David Evans, the ROM’s associate curator of vertebrate paleontology. Evans said the smallbodied dinosaur fills a gap in the fossil record and helps scientists better understand dinosaur evolution. “I’m honoured to have my work for the Royal Ontario Museum acknowledged in such a unique way,” said Morrison. “Who knew that my artistic talent would lead me here? Every day I draw, paint, sculpt, mould and cast something new, but my subject matter is always prehistoric.” Lower right jaw fragments of an unnamed dinosaur were found in southern Alberta’s fossil beds in 1950 by Canadian dinosaur hunter Levi Sternberg while working for the ROM. Recently, Evans retrieved the fossil fragments from a collection drawer. After failing to fit them together, he gave them to Morrison, who completed the task within minutes. “I’ve always been good at solving puzzles and putting pieces together,” said Morrison. “That day the puzzle turned out to be just as important scientifically as it was interesting to solve.” Gryphoceratops morrisoni lived about 83 million years ago. Its genus name refers to the Gryphon of Greek mythology with an eagle’s head and a lion’s body. Researchers believe the adult stood less than half-a-metre tall, making it the smallest hornedface dinosaur in North America and one of the smallest plant-eating dinosaurs known. The new species is the earliest record of the herbivore in North America. Leptoceratopsids are believed to have migrated here from Asia.

Summer 2012 31


Sylvie Chartrand and Jake Regala, both B.Sc.(Env.) ’99, are enjoying life in Beamsville, Ont., with their daughter Josée, who is almost three.  Tania Ferus, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’98, and Michael Schumaker, Ph.D ’09, and married on Sept. 24, 2011, at the U of G Arboretum Centre. The homecoming football game was in full swing and they could hear the cheers during the ceremony.They are living in Sudbury where he is working on HALO and SNO+ experiments at SNOLAB and she is a GIS professional working for the municipal government.  Marion Gruner, BA ’96, is a documentary filmmaker. She recently produced a film for CBC’s The Nature of Things about new theories on autism. Her film features U of G professor Emma Allen-Vercoe, mol

May 27 • CBSAA Family Day at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ont. Alumni are encouraged to bring family and friends to this annual event; registration is at 11:30 a.m., followed by a complimentary lunch and self-guided tours of the gardens. Admission free for alumni and RBG members. June 4 • Statistics grads are invited to an alumni event at the Bullring in conjunction with the Statistical Society of Canada’s annual meeting. RSVP to Gary Umphrey at June 15 and 16 • Alumni Weekend. See page 2 for details. June 18 • Gryphon Golf Classic, proceeds to U of G athletics. Details at June 25 • HAFA/HTM AA Golf Tournament at the Royal Woodbine Golf Course, Toronto. Registration at 7 a.m., shotgun start 7:45 a.m. Proceeds to the HAFA/HTM Alumni Association. Contact: Jacqueline Watty, Ext. 54703 or August • Countdown to Guelph. Alumni are invited to welcome new U of G students at Ontario events in Pickering, Aug. 7; St. Catharines, Aug. 9; Mississauga, Aug. 12; London, Aug. 14; and Kitcnener-Waterloo, Aug. 21. See the alumni website for details. For details of these and other alumni events, visit www.alumni. or call 519-824-4120, Ext. 56934.


10 Years! Open House Sunday, Oct. 13 Join the Celebration Everyone Welcome 207 Humber College Blvd. Toronto, Ontario

32 The Portico

ecular and cellular biology, along with other researchers.  Sara (Fisher) Korytowski, BA ’97, married in 2011 and had a baby in February 2012.  Melanie Lewis Ivey, B.Sc. ’96, completed her PhD in plant pathology at Ohio State University. She was the first student in the department’s history to complete a PhD while working full-time as a research associate.  Brian Morcombe, BA ’96, saw his Everyone CD nominated for a Juno Award as Children’s Album of the Year.

2000  Lori Alexander, B.Sc. ’06 and M.Sc. ’07, completed her studies in nutritional science and worked at the Guelph Food and Technology Centre before joining PepsiCo Canada as manager of nutrition science and regulatory affairs.

Theodore S. Farley, B.A., LL.B. Andy Gazzola, B.A., LL.B. Marti E. Wilson, B.A., LL.B.

Practical, timely and cost-effective legal advice Real Estate, Business Law, Wills and Estates Special recognition for University of Guelph graduates, faculty, staff and students for wills and estate planning Suite 101, 848 Gordon Street Guelph, ON N1G 1Y7 Tel: 519-837-5454 Fax: 519-837-2655

Addison Aspilla, B.A.Sc. ’09, is a graduate of GuelphHumber’s family and community social services program. He recently earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Tyndale Seminary, got married and started his own company, Aspilla Consulting Group Inc. His website and blog are at  Alex Burlatschenko, B.Comm. ’07, joined RBC Royal Bank’s Toronto office as a commercial lender after graduation. He and his team specialize in professional and services firms, providing operating lines, term loans and equipment leases up to $25,000,000. In addition, Burlatschenko supports his clients with advice on the efficient setup of cash management and foreign exchange services and engaging external financing partners. 

 Eugene Chan, B.Comm. ’08, began his career as an assistant restaurant manager for Richtree Market Restaurants. Within two years, he was promoted to assistant general manager. In 2010, he became operations manager for the food and beverages department at Canada’s Wonderland, where he overs ees 23 main restaurants, nine licensed bars, catering facilities, warehousing and commissary.  Victoria Drost, BA ’08, graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with a master’s degree in June 2011 and was featured in the 2012 Catlin Guide, which profiles 40 of the United Kingdom’s most promising art graduates.  Kristin (James) Glowa, B.Sc. ’04, is a registered nurse with Alberta Health Services. After graduation, she completed a master’s degree in pharmacology

Gryphon hockey salutes OVC Students’ Challenge Cup


ony Calverley, DVM ’52, participated in the ceremonial puck drop at a Gryphon men’s hockey game held Jan. 20. The event paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Ontario Veterinary College and the 82nd year of the student hockey tournament. Calverley’s team won the tournament every year from 1949 to 1952. Hockey was part of OVC student life long before the college moved to Guelph in 1922; it became known as the Challenge Cup in the 1970s. This year’s tournament featured a new silver trophy made by Prof. Brad Hanna, DVM ’89. Pictured here are Calverley family members, from left: Peter; Tony; Beverley, also DVM ’52; and Jamie.


Cheoenr the ons! Gryph September 22 • 1 p.m. Alumni Stadium Reunion details:

Summer 2012 33

It was a capital event


ore than 60 U of G grads from the Ottawa area attended a reception at the Mill Street Brew Pub on Feb. 17. Pictured here are, from left: Bob Gowan, B.Sc. ’71, Brian Ure, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’68, Larry Dickenson, B. Sc. ’68, Margaret Dickenson, B.H.Sc. ’68, and Susan Gowan, BA ’74. Over the winter months, alumni also gathered for networking events in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as in Washington, D.C., for an all-Canada university event and in Florida for U of G’s annual Port Charlotte picnic and the North American Veterinary Conference held in Orlando.

at Oxford University and a bachelor of nursing at the University of Calgary. She is now married and expecting her first child.  Brad Lockey, BA’02, is a mortgage broker in Pickering, Ont.  Carley Robb-Jackson, MA ’09, was one of five young women honoured as a Global Changemaker by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation during International Development Week in February. She taught life skills and health classes to people living with HIV/AIDS in Morogoro,Tanzani, with Youth Challenge International in 2008. She now works with Canada’s International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, often travelling to Sierra Leone to work on research projects on women’s legal rights and the country’s gender acts.

Judith Samuels, MBA ’06, recently returned to the travel and tourism industry, taking on new challenges as director of marketing for The Fairmont Royal York with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.  David Schmidt, BA ’02, and Vanessa Cotterell-Schmidt, 


B.Sc.(Env.) ’00, announce the birth of their second child and second son, Xavier Robert Schmidt, on Oct. 26, 2011. The growing Schmidt family has

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34 The Portico

rooted in Guelph and is going strong well over a decade after U of G brought Dave and Vanessa to the city.


Jesse Stewart, PhD ’08, and BA ’97, won a 2012 Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year with his band the Stretch Orchestra. An accomplished jazz percussionist, composer and artist, Stewart also has two master’s degrees from York University and

is now a professor in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University. At U of G, he was the first recipient of the Brock Doctoral Scholarship; his research looked for common ground among musical genres, particularly forms of jazz. He was also a sessional instructor in Guelph’s School of Fine Arts and Music, led an ensemble of musical improvisation, served as assistant artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival and has been a mainstay performer at the annual festival. Stewart was previously named Outstanding Young Canadian Jazz Musician by the International Association of Jazz Educators and Young Musician of the Year by Jazz Report.

2010  Sarah Brown, BLA ’12, leaves a musical mark on U of G as the


winner of a campus song competition held to highlight Sustainability Week 2012. She wrote music and lyrics and produced a video adaptation of a song called “Are You Sure?� Brown says sustainability concepts were an integral part of her Guelph studies: “Everything we do has consequences, and we need to think of that before we start altering the world around us.�  Anastasia Richardson, B.Sc. ’11, is working with four

other U of G alumni as a program assistant in residence life at McMaster University.  Jason Smith, B.Comm. ’12, is working at the Martin Brower Company and says he bought himself an H2 Hummer as a U of G graduation present.  Raymond Tam, B.Comm. ’10, says he was inspired by the operation management course offered at U of G by business professor Thomas Manning.Tam went on to graduate school at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and earned a master’s degree in industrial logistics systems. He is now a management trainee with Kerry Logistics Network Limited.  Caroline Themer, B.Comm. ’05, works for Adecco in Barrie, Ont., as an occupational health and safety co-ordinator and is engaged to be married in September.

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Summer 2012 35

PASSAGES Sylvia Ahermae, B.Sc. ’78, March 11, 2010 Mabel (Clute) Bailey, DHE ’35, Jan. 26, 2012 Barry Belchamber, BA ’76, Nov. 19, 2011 Allan Beveridge, M.Sc. ’70, March 6, 2012 James Biggark, BSA ’51, Jan. 30, 2012 Ross Bronson, BSA ’54, Oct. 7, 2011 Katharine (Cole) Browne, DHE ’41, Dec. 2, 2011 Dermot Campbell, DVM ’59, March 13, 2012 Clifton Carss, BSA ’50, Oct. 23, 2011 Harmon Chapman, DVM ’37, Oct. 5, 2011 John Clancy, ADA ’69, March 17, 2010 Michael Colterjohn, DVM ’85, March 28, 2011 Kathleen (Overs) Constandy, B.H.Sc. ’58, Dec. 1, 2011 Daniel Couch, B.Sc. ’10, Dec. 19, 2011 Colin Crichton, M.Sc. ’78, May 9, 2010 William Darlington, ADA ’61, Sept. 16, 2011 Peter T. Donaldson, BA ’75, Jan. 8, 2011 Cyprian Edweani, M.Sc. ’73, March 22, 2012 Robert Eliason, DVM ’35, Nov. 26, 2011 Laura (Jakowec) Facca, B.A.Sc. ’87, Dec. 11 2011 Betty (Tarzwell) Ferguson, DHE ’39, Dec. 23, 2011 Nora (McGrath) Freeman, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’78, May 16, 2010 Leonard Gerbrandt, BA ’70, Oct. 23, 2010 Bernard Goodwin-Wilson, BSA ’50, Jan. 18, 2012 Blake Graham, DVM ’51, March 5, 2012 Christopher Graham, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’74, Jan. 14, 2012 Paul Haley, BA ’80, Aug. 22, 2011 Robert Henderson, BA ’74, March 6, 2011 Jeremiah Hergott, DVM ’49, Feb. 22, 2012

36 The Portico

Leslie Hill, ADA ’50, April 19, 2010 Bruce Holliday, DVM ’57, March 21, 2010 Kent Israel, B.Sc. ’77, Nov. 24, 2011 Frederick Johnston, ADA ’70, Oct. 1, 2010 Ross Kennedy, ADA ’63, April 30, 2011 Erin (Stewart) Leis, DVM ’07, Feb. 28, 2012 Frederick Linley, ADA ’54, June 28, 2011 Martha Mallon, BA ’75, in 2012 Alice Jean Maxim, BA ’74, March 2, 2012 Robert McConney, BSA ’48, March 11, 2011 David McGuigan, ADA ’47, June 24, 2010 Douglas McKelvie, DVM ’47, Jan. 14, 2012 Lionel McKeown, ADA ’52, Aug. 2, 2011 Douglas McLaren, BSA ’50, Feb. 12, 2011 Don McLaughlin, BSA ’56, Nov. 9, 2011 Gordon McNern, BSA ’51, Jan. 27, 2012 Gerritje (Roelofsen) Mitchell, BA ’71, December 2011 Barbara (Kitras) Murray, BA ’74, Sept. 3, 2011 Patricia M. Murray, ODH ’85, April 1, 2011 Curtis Myers, ADA ’57, March 29, 2010 Helen (Carlyle) Neill, DHE ’38, Oct. 6, 2011 Brian Nichol, B.Sc.(Eng.) ’82, Dec. 9, 2010 Catherine Noseworthy, DVM ’78, Feb. 2, 2011 Sandra O’Connor, B.Sc. ’84, Oct. 27, 2011 Michael Paine, PHD ’85, July 1, 2011 Robert Jack Parker, MSA ’62, Oct. 30, 2010 Robert Jackson Parker, BSA ’59, Jan. 17, 2010 John Pearce, B.Sc. ’66, March 11, 2010 Eric Pedersen, BLA ’83, March 15, 2012

Jessie Pelton, DHE ’33, March 8, 2010 James Raab, DVM ’66, December 2009 Allen Rawlings, BSA ’44, Sept. 10, 2011 C. Gordon Reid, BSA ’47, Feb. 16, 2008 Eric Rose, BSA ’58, Feb. 9, 2012 Joanne (Rowden) Schmidt, B.Sc. ’74, Oct. 10, 2010 Robert Silk, DVM ’64, Feb. 14, 2012 Vernon Skeoch, ADA ’65, Oct. 7, 2010 Leslie Somerville, B.Sc.(Agr.) ’73, Jan. 23, 2012 Jonathan Stanfel, B.Sc. ’84, Dec. 10, 2010 Donald F. Stewart, ADA ’55, Dec. 31, 2011 Nancy (Taylor) Stiles, DHE ’32, Feb. 21, 2012 William Szenasi, ADA ’66, March 20, 2012 Edward Teeter, B.Sc. ’70, July 14, 2011 Patrick Tooley, B.Sc. ’75, Nov. 17, 2010 David Unrau, BSA ’62, Dec. 31, 2011 Randy Upper, MA ’74, Feb. 24, 2012 David Van Laeken, ADA ’77, Aug. 1, 2010 Frederick Vincent, DVM ’49, Nov. 9, 2011 Carl Walker, B.Sc.(Eng.) ’82, Feb. 1, 2010 Alan Kin Yuen Wan, BA ’80, Aug. 3, 2011 Philip Watson, BLA ’72, Sept. 11, 2011 Nicholas Weesjes, ODH ’71, Nov. 4, 2011 Robert C. M. Williams, DVM ’48, March 10, 2012 William Wolfe, ADA’57, March 27, 2010 Michael Yurkowski, PhD ’68, June 3, 2011 FACULTY Stuart Dixon, MSA ’51, Feb. 2, 2012, retired, Environmental Science John P. Walker, BSA ’43, Nov. 12, 2011, retired, Animal and Poultry Science To honour alumni who have passed away, the University of Guelph Alumni Association makes an annual donation to the Alumni Legacy Scholarship.

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Guelph The Portico Magazine, Summer 2012  

University of Guelph The Portico Magazine, Summer 2012

Guelph The Portico Magazine, Summer 2012  

University of Guelph The Portico Magazine, Summer 2012