By Jake Kivanc
Wayne Petrozzi has learned a lot over six-and-a-half decades, but even with such knowledge, he hasn’t lost his modesty.
A member of faculty at Ryerson for almost 40 years, Petrozzi, 65, teaches comparative politics to a range of program years in his POL 106 and 208 classes.
Born in 1950 as child of a first-generation Italian immigrant and a native Quebecer, Petrozzi grew up in the border city of Windsor, ONT. with 10 other siblings.As a child, Petrozzi had a love for baseball and reading, a skill he used to help work around a debilitating speech impediment.
“I had a very bad stutter,” he said. “Kids would laugh, but I came to the realization that there was a way around this, just needed to find the right synonyms. Reading became a way to expand that vocabulary.”
In 1968, Petrozzi attended the University of Windsor as an English major but soon realized that it wasn’t for him before switching into political science. Petrozzi was mainly driven by the social and political shift of the sixties, with issues such as civil rights and the Vietnam War being hot topics.
“It was interesting times,” he said. “There was only one Canadian news network back then, but four or five American ones, so I often saw and took note of what was happening down there.”
In university, Petrozzi wasn’t involved with student politics in the traditional sense but instead was a notorious columnist for the campus paper where he wrote under the pseudonym of “Doug Camilli”, named after the former LA Dodgers backup catcher of the same name.
Petrozzi often wrote critical pieces to the “loathe and dismay” of student politicians, eventually convincing a number of students to run on a platform entitled “No More Bullshit”.
“Student politics always struck me as made up. It was kind of fun,” he said.
Petrozzi would go on to pursue a graduate education elsewhere and earn his doctorate degree at The Ukrainian Free University in Munich, following which he landed a job at Ryerson as a seasonal instructor in 1976. Since then, Petrozzi has developed a style of lecturing as a professor that he hopes students can “see is genuine”.
“I used to make it about me,” he said. “I think I started out believing that I could interest students in me to the point where they want to know what I think. That can be gratifying, but it was missing the point. It’s not about what I think, it’s about putting students in a position where they want to know what they think and why they think that way.”