Western News Newsmakers 2015


How will we remember 2015? Probably through one or more of these faces. Today, Western News presents its 6th annual Newsmakers issue, a celebration of those who contributed to our campus conversation in the last year. Join us in this spotlight, in brief words and striking images, of some of our favourites from the last year.

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David Bentley

The Scholar

English and Writing Studies professor David Bentley’s career at Western has spanned nearly four decades. His ideas on the power of the arts, more broadly, and on poetry, more specifically, are both historical and contemporary in nature. Bentley’s distinguished career as a researcher in the arts was recognized in April with a Killam Prize, presented by the Canadian Council of the Arts. He was among only five Canadian researchers, who received $100,000 each in recognition of their exceptional career achievements. Bentley, the Carl F. Klinck Professor of Canadian Literature, became only the fifth Killam Prize winner at Western, and the most recent winner since Economics professor John Whalley won in 2012. In November, Bentley also delivered the second address in the President’s Lecture Series.




Claire Halstead

The Historian

Claire Halstead, who recently defended her PhD thesis in History, compiled a comprehensive database of British child evacuees during the Second World War. The database is the first of its kind and it garnered much media attention, connecting her with evacuees and host families in the region. Roughly two million British children were displaced during the Second World War, shipped from London to Commonwealth countries where they would be safe from bombings. As part of Operation Pied Piper, the first wave of evacuations saw 660,000 children, mothers and hospital patients, as well as 100,000 teachers, moved in just three to four days. By the war’s end, the population of Greater London dropped from 8.7 million to 6.7 million. For many of the evacuees, there are no records, no stories, no narratives to assign following the evacuations. Halstead’s PhD thesis changed, or rather, unearthed, thousands of evacuees and their stories.




Emma Donoghue

The Writer

It was a big year for Emma Donoghue, DLitt’13, whose screenplay for the movie Room, based on her novel of the same name, received a nomination nod from the Golden Globes this month. The movie, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on Sept. 4. Since then, it received the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Widely recognized for her works of fiction, Donoghue’s work is known for its depth of historical and psychological research. She has written, and continues to write, works of fiction, drama and literary history and is well known for international bestseller Room (2010) and Slammerkin (2000). Her works have been translated into more than 40 languages and Donoghue has earned her living as a writer since the age of 23.




Tanya Harrison and Kayle Hansen

The Explorers

Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist and PhD candidate in Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Space Exploration, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, outlining why Earthlings continue to be fascinated by Mars. Earlier this year, Kayle Hansen, an undergraduate student who is a part of Harrison’s lab, worked with Livio Tornabene, an adjunct Science professor, using HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), a 700-megapixel camera to capture as many as 150 new Martian images. It was the first time HiRISE was used in Canada and Hansen had two of his photo suggestions approved, almost unheard of for an undergraduate student, as some experienced researchers had been denied.




The Syrian response

The human costs surrounding the Syrian conflict are staggering – an estimated quarter of a million people killed in the last four years; eight million people displaced within the country; and four million turned into international refugees. The situation has sparked a mass immigration crisis across the Middle East and Europe.

Refugees are finding solace in London, Ont., with Western stepping up to do its part this fall.

University Registrar Glen Tigert, left, established the Syrian Refugee Student Awards to cover tuition and living costs for up to 10 Syrian students admitted to Western as early as January. Fr. Michael Bechard, Director of Campus Ministry at King’s University College, middle, took the lead in Syrian refugee sponsorship by bringing a family to live on King’s campus in September, recently securing them employment and permanent housing. He has also raised significant funds to help other refugees from Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Victoria Esses, Director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations, the Refugee Sponsorship Fund, established by the Faculty of Social Science, in partnership with the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre, continues to raise funds for a G5 Private Sponsorship Application for a Syrian refugee family to settle in London. The initial goal of $30,000 to sponsor one family of five was surpassed in November.




Stephanie Ciccarelli

The Voice

Stephanie Ciccarelli, BMusA’06, Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Voices.com, has been an engaged member of the Western and London communities, as her success continues to echo in the start-up world. This past year, Voices.com was accepted as part of a group of innovative technology companies by a Canadian Technology Accelerator, CTA@NYC, in Manhattan, New York. In the spring, Voices.com sent a team to the Big Apple to access key resources to accelerate the company’s growth. It was one of five Canadian brands selected to participate. Voices.com employs more than 70 Londoners and is the most popular website to find professional voice-over talent.




Mina Gerges

The Web Celeb

Earlier this year, Mina Gerges, a third-year Media and Public Interest student, garnered Internet fame for his recreations of iconic images of female celebrities, including Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé, among others, on his Instagram account. This fall, Western Film students Jayne Clarke, Sam McGuinness, Travis Pulchinski, Brad Capstick and Angela Clemente took home the Best Short Documentary award at the Montreal Film Festival for Posted, a snapshot film of Gerges as an Instagram celebrity.




Presidential leave controversy

If lessons are learned, and opportunities seized, the biggest story of 2015 may shape how this university operates in 2016 – and beyond.

In March, Western figures showed the university president was paid nearly $1 million in 2014 as a result of invoking a clause about paid leave in his contract. That number sparked almost immediate outrage from the campus community, and culminated in the university Senate conducting an unprecedented pair of non-confidence votes on the leadership of both President Amit Chakma and Board of Governors Chair Chirag Shah on April 17.

Both men survived that vote. However, the echoes of that moment resonated throughout the year.

Rarely, if ever, has this university engaged so widely and deeply in a conversation about how it operates.

Perhaps most importantly, the campuswide controversy triggered soul searching among university governance, with no fewer than four separate task forces struck to examine everything from Senate and Board processes and practices to research funding and university budget models.

We will debate– and perhaps even act upon – those findings in the New Year.




Shelley Ambrose

The Innovator

In 2006, Shelley Ambrose, BA’83 (English), arrived at a Walrus in crisis. Today, under Ambrose’s leadership as executive director of the Walrus Foundation and co-publisher of The Walrus magazine, the organization has become an industry leader in creating “content-fueled conversations.” The Walrus magazine is available in print, tablet and phone; Walrus TV features original documentaries based on the magazine’s stories, and more, airing on the Smithsonian Channel; and the foundation has hosted 140 Walrus Talks speakers on various topics in 11 different cities. In March, she brought Walrus Talks to Western with The Walrus Talks Creativity event, in part to promote The Alice Munro Chair in Creativity. Ambrose also sits on the Advisory Council of Western’s School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities (SASAH).




Western Concussion Study Group

The Researchers

A $500,000 donation from the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) in August served as the foundation of a $3.125-million fund to enable a team of Western researchers develop new ways to treat concussions and arrest the short- and long-term consequences of the injury. With researchers across campus, and around the city, the Western Concussion Study Group includes Greg Dekaban, Director of Molecular Medicine at Robarts Research Institute; Jeff Holmes, Health Sciences professor; Doug Fraser, Children’s Health Research Institute; Lisa Fischer, Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic; Tim Doherty, Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; Robert Bartha, Medical Biophysics professor; and Arthur Brown, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor and Robarts investigator. Their work has led to the development of a program focused on three key areas: immunomodulation (treatment of injury-induced inflammation); neuro-restoration (maximizing the regenerative capacity of nerves after injury has occurred); and prevention of concussion-related dementia.




Jana Luker

The Connection

For Jana Luker, coming to Western as the first Associate Vice-President (Student Experience), a role she took up June 1, was kismet. If you tell her it would appear the position was tailor-made, just for her, she’d agree. In all her previous posts, she has continually been involved in student life. She came to Western by way of McGill University, where she served as Executive Director (Services for Students) since 2007. She’s held a number of student-focused leadership positions across Canada, including the University of Guelph, University of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. Luker has already spearheaded important initiatives surrounding mental health and the prevention of sexual violence at Western. In this new role, Luker also assumed responsibility for the Sports and Recreation Services Portfolio, which previously resided in the Faculty of Health Sciences.




Derrick Emsley and Kalen Emsley

The Entrepreneurs

For the Emsley brothers, money does grow on trees. But their business model is about much more than that. Derrick Emsley, HBA’12, and Kalen Emsley, HBA’11, along with business partner David Luba, founded tentree, an apparel brand that plants – just as its name would indicate – ten trees for every item purchased. The company took off roughly three years ago, even garnering support from CBC’s Dragons’ Den along the way. Today, the tentree brand is available in more than 350 retail locations across Canada and headed south for the first time this year, to more than 100 stores in the United States. Tentree has partnered with numerous environmental groups and non-governmental organizations in developing countries – including Madagascar, Cambodia and Senegal – planting some five million trees along the way.




Danielle Martin

The Advocate

Dr. Danielle Martin, a Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry graduate (MD’03), co-authored a study in January on financing pharmacare, showing universal drug coverage could reduce total spending on drugs in Canada by $7.3 billion. The study was yet another step into the spotlight for Martin, an emerging leader in the debate over the future of Canada’s health-care system.

Previously, Martin, Vice-President of Medical Affairs and Health Systems Solutions at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, spoke as part of an international panel presenting to the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. Her policy expertise and passion for equity clashed with Senators in a buzz-worthy clip shared millions of times worldwide.




Richard McLaren

The Investigator

Western Faculty of Law professor Richard McLaren was one of three World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) independent commissioners who authored a scathing report, released in November, accusing many of Russia’s top track and field athletes of participating in a systematic doping program. Along with the athletes, the report said coaches, trainers, doctors and even the Russian government were all part of the widespread cheating scandal.

McLaren has extensive experience as a commercial lawyer, labour and commercial arbitrator and mediator. A long-standing member of International Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world supreme court of sports disputes, McLaren joined former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell in the Major League Baseball inquiry into the use of steroids, which culminated in the famed Mitchell Report in 2007. McLaren also led the investigation for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) into alleged cover-ups by USA Track & Field following the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.




Kelly Campbell

The Goalie

Led by a 38-save performance from Mustangs goalie Kelly Campbell, Western earned its first-ever women’s hockey CIS championship with a 5-0 win over McGill University in March. Western became only the third OUA team to hoist the Golden Path trophy, and the first in 10 years since Laurier accomplished the feat in 2005.

Campbell stole the show by recording back-to-back shutouts and earning tournament MVP honours after only allowing one goal on 94 shots over three games. “There’s no way to describe this feeling,” Campbell said. “We’ve worked so hard as a team over the past year and we have the team behind me, I knew we had it the entire time and to get this win against McGill is incredible.”

With the majority of the Mustangs returning this season, many of the players look forward to defending their title. The Mustangs are 9-4 heading into January.




Lewis Kent

The Mile Man

You won’t read about Lewis Kent’s world record in any official university recruiting materials. But that fact doesn’t dim his global superstar status. Earlier this month, the fourth-year Kinesiology student set the current world record for the fastest ‘Beer Mile’ at 4:47 at the FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships in Texas. Around since the 1980s, the Beer Mile takes place on a standard 400-metre (or quarter-mile) track. Participants drink a beer, run a quarter mile, and then repeat the process three more times. A Mustangs cross-country and track-and-field varsity athlete, Kent has traveled to compete in Beer Miles in Texas and San Francisco, as well as faced a whirlwind of media appearances after his world record, including with Global TV, ESPN, TMZ, TSN, Sports Illustrated and an appearance on Ellen. Kent also recently signed a shoe deal with U.S.-based Brooks Sports, Inc.




Dan Wells

The Publisher

Consider it the little press that could. Dan Wells, who graduated from Western with an MA in History in 1997, founded Biblioasis one year later, an independent bookstore and publisher in Windsor’s Walkerville District. Biblioasis had two titles on the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist, shortlist – Arvida by Samuel Archibald and Martin John by Anakana Schofield. A third title – Confidence by Russell Smith – was included on the longlist and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize last month. “I’ve been very lucky. I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but I was able to work with a generation of important and experienced literary people who helped shape how the press developed. The bookstore was, very quickly, self sustaining. The publishing side is more fragile. One of the hardest things about publishing is maintaining a certain level of care in a world that doesn’t care,” Wells said.




Joseph Rotman and Jack Cowin

The Chancellors

This year, Western saw an unexpected changing of the guard in the Chancellor’s chair.

Following a successful career as an oil trader, merchant banker and investor, Joseph Rotman, BA’57, LLD’09, was named Western’s 21st chancellor in 2012. He passed away in January of this year at the age of 80, leaving a legacy in business, philanthropy and his love for Western.

In August, businessman and philanthropist Jack Cowin brought his international perspective to Western as the university’s 22nd Chancellor. As a 26-year-old, Cowin moved to Australia with his family to establish a business with the support of loans from 30 Canadians. He took the fast food industry by storm, beginning with Kentucky Fried Chicken, then his own burger chain, Hungry Jack’s, and next with Dominos Pizza. The business expanded into food processing and now exports to 29 countries and employs 16,000 staff throughout Australia.

He is a strong supporter of Western’s efforts to increase international student enrolment. Cowin and his wife Sharon, BA’64, established the Jack and Sharon Cowin Scholars Award, a partnership between Bond University and Western that facilitates academic exchanges between the two universities.