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Bigwigs at Rye

In Arts & Life /

As a school with super-specialized programs, Ryerson often invites respected professionals from certain industries to be guest lecturers. But as a student who likely isn’t in said program, you probably don’t know half of them. Here’s a short list of people in the public eye who you likely didn’t know taught here.

1. JACK LAYTON– The late politico taught in Ryerson’s politics department from 1974-1982, stepping down just before he was elected to Toronto city council. As a young buck, he was known for inspiring his students to get involved in political life. Layton’s former colleague in the department, Myer Siematycki, told The Eyeopener in 2011 he considered Layton’s teaching an “extraordinary performance.” During his tenure he also started Ryerson’s White Ribbon Campaign, an organization that aims to end men’s violence against women. The group is still active on campus.

2. STUART MCLEAN– The creator and host of CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe was called in to help start up the school’s new broadcast journalism program in 1983. He helped hire teachers and admit students to the program, The Eyeopener reported back in 2005. However, the charismatic, energetic speaker was known for being less dynamic in his lectures. He tended to whisper quietly at the front of the room with his eyes closed. But he had a reputation for mentoring his students, and was missed by Ryerson journalism faculty and students when he left in 2004 to focus on a book tour.

3. STEPHEN LEWIS– Back in 2010, the former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa joined the school’s faculty. He was appointed as a distinguished visiting professor for a three-year term to “teach, advise and mentor students in a variety of programs”, according to a Ryerson press release. Lewis’ salary is relatively low. The Eyeopener reported in 2010 that the school was paying him between $50,000 to $80,000 a year. Since 2010, he has given a few public lectures and co-taught a couple courses. This semester, he is co-teaching three sections of INT 555- Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies”. Two sections are still open, lucky students.

4. MIKE HARRIS– The former Ontario premier came to the Ted Rogers School of Business to speak last January as part of a special premier lecture series in Avner Levin’s Law in Canadian Business class. Several other former politicians were invited to speak, but none got Harris’ kind of reception. As he was speaking, a number of audience members stood up and began shouting profanities at Harris, a controversial figure in Canadian politics because of the sweeping cuts to social service programs he introduced during his term. The protesters were removed, but Harris shrugged the whole situation off. “Once in a while [it happens]. 19 times out of 20, everything is fine,” he told The Eyeopener.

5. GEORGE SMITHERMAN…. Never actually taught here, but made a big show of wanting to do so for awhile. After losing the mayor’s post to Rob Ford in 2010, Smitherman could be seen puttering around Toronto, joining John Tory’s radio show, helping Digital Media Zone entrepreneurs find industry connections, and generally looking for something to do. In an interview with the Eyeopener in 2011, he said he’d really like to talk to classes about his work in politics and public life. He didn’t get his wish, but he did get $158,833.32 in 2011 from Ryerson for his work as a “special advisor” to Sheldon Levy. We say that sounds like a better gig than being mayor.

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