By Rebecca Burton
Before Jack Layton entered Toronto city politics, he spent nearly 10 years influencing and inspiring Ryerson students as a tenured professor in the politics department.
“To have once been taught by Jack is to be forever touched,” said Myer Siemiatycki, a Ryerson politics professor and long-time friend of Layton.
On Monday, Aug. 22, Layton, 61, passed away from cancer at 4:45 a.m. in his home, surrounded by family and friends. Layton led the party to official opposition status in May, the NDP’s greatest success since he took over as leader in 2003.
Mourners gathered at city hall to remember Layton. Story continues below photos.
Layton began teaching at Ryerson in 1974, specializing in municipal and national politics. Siemiatycki described Layton’s teaching as an “extraordinary performance.” He not only conveyed to students the scale and scope of political life but also empowered them to make a change, Siemiatycki said.
“Jack’s teaching was a revelation —ahead of the curve,” said Siemiatycki.
Layton also founded the White Ribbon Campaign after the Montreal Massacre in December 1989. Current co-chairperson Jeff Perera said, “knowing [Jack] was a part of the [White Ribbon Campaign] meant something.”
Layton’s time at Ryerson ended just before he was elected into City Council in 1982 but, in a speech in October 2007 commemorating the 45th anniversary of the public administration program, he said that “teaching at Ryerson is among the happiest times of my life.”
“There is a whole generation of Ryerson students that Jack motivated and inspired,” said Siemiatycki.