By Laura Blenkinsop
Once the alleged fraud case of an entertainment industry icon has closed, Ryerson will know if it has an award named after a criminal.
Garth Drabinsky, co-founder of Toronto theater company Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada and Ryerson image arts award namesake, is on trial for allegedly participating in fraud and forgery to the tune of $500 million. Both Drabinsky and co-founder Myron Gottlieb pleaded not guilty when the trial began May 5.
In 1997, Drabinsky, who brought the first Cineplex Odeon to the Eaton Centre, gave a $15,000 endowment to Ryerson to fund the first award for the new media program.
“He was really interested in what the program was trying to do and he gave an award, named after him, supporting interesting interdisciplinary creative work in the new media program,” said Don Snyder, chair of the School of Image Arts.
“We thought great, here’s somebody who’s doing something as a cultural figure and who’s interested in what we’re trying to do with this new program.”
Because the award is invested, the money Drabinsky donated stays in the bank. The money given to award winners comes from the return on the investment. No matter the outcome of the trial, Ryerson will always have the money for the award.
In 2005, after David Radler, Conrad Black’s former colleague, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, Queen’s University decided to return the $1 million he had given the university.
“As a business school, we felt it was wrong to accept money from someone who had been convicted of business fraud,” said David Saunders, dean of Queen’s School of Business.
“It would be the same as a hospital accepting a donation from someone who has been convicted of malpractice.”
Ryerson has a similar policy when it comes to donations.
“No naming will be approved or continued if such a naming will call into question the integrity or reputation of the university,” said Adam Kahan, vice president university advancement.
But Ryerson won’t be taking action until the trial ends.
“People are assumed not guilty unless they’re found guilty,” said Snyder. “You just don’t make assumptions.”
In 1987, Drabinsky received a Fellowship from Ryerson. Snyder said he remembers when Drabinsky hired Ryerson students and would come and present the award himself.
This year, the $675 award was won by Eyeopener fun editor Leif Parker.
“He was obviously someone who positively affected his community for a while,” Parker said. “It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.”
Drabinsky will not be making any public comments until the case is over, said a statement from his lawyer, Edward Greenspan.