By Aleysha Haniff
Associate News Editor
Garth Drabinsky can officially be called a crook, but Ryerson may keep the award named after him.
On March 25, Drabinsky and his business partner, Myron Gottlieb, were convicted of three counts of fraud and forgery to the sum of $500 million. The two ran Toronto live-theatre company Livent Inc, known for presenting musicals like The Phantom of the Opera.
In 1997, Ryerson distributed its first Garth H. Drabinsky scholarship. A second- year new media student receives the award each year, winning roughly $700. The prize comes from the interest made off of the initial donation.
Though the award was named for Drabinsky, the money came from Cineplex Odeon, said Pamela Shanks, executive director of development for university advancement. The $25,000 was a corporate gift in honour of Drabinsky, who was president of Cineplex at the time — meaning the money didn’t come from Livent’s crooked coffers.
“They were honouring him because he was young and successful,” she said.
But now that Drabinsky’s been deemed guilty, the university’s looking into changing the name of the award, Shanks said.
“As soon as somebody’s name is in the news in a negative way… we have to assess if it’s a problem,” she said.
Adam Kahan, VP university advancement, is looking at the history of the executives who donated the award.
“We want to check out the original donors, who they were,” he said.
He’s also taking a look at the precedent set at other universities.
“Every year it’s helped out a new media student,” said Don Snyder, Chair of Image Arts.
“It was the first endowment for the new media program,” he said, noting that the program appreciated Drabinsky’s gift because he was a big name in the entertainment industry.
As an administrator, Snyder said he supports and respects the university’s stance, whatever it may be.
“Speaking as a teacher, I always want to see students get as much financial support as they can,” he said.
Ryerson’s history with Drabinsky dates back long before the endowment to Ryerson. In 1987, he received a fellowship, a prize that translates to an honorary doctorate now that Ryerson has received full university status.