Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook McGill University

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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2001 > Winter 2001-2002 > Editor's notebook

As always, the winter issue of the McGill News is mailed worldwide -- this year to about 140,000 people -- so for more than half our readers, this will be the first appearance of the magazine in a year.

And what a year it's been. McGill has plans to grow, with new buildings slated for music, the study of the human genome, and information technology. Grants awarded to McGill under the Canada Foundation for Innovation program have been used to recruit more than 100 bright new faculty members from around the world. And there was excitement for us here at the News -- in June, the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education named the McGill News the country's top university magazine.

Then came September 11, and for a time, all else was eclipsed by the horrible proof that our world was a vulnerable and frightening place. Here on campus, students organized memorial services and discussion panels, Dean of Students Bruce Shore immediately arranged for counselling to be available for anyone who needed it and an interdenominational gathering of music and readings was held at Pollack Hall. Principal Bernard Shapiro wrote to all alumni in the United States to convey a message of sympathy and support on behalf of the McGill community. That small gesture brought a flood of grateful letters in response.

For this issue we talked to Bill Tibbo, BSW'85, MSW'87, who was on the phone within a couple of hours of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center to put together a team of health care professionals to take to New York. And we listened to Sally Armstrong, BEd'66, who spoke in Montreal just before leaving for Afghanistan as a special representative for UNICEF. Armstrong was editor of Homemaker's magazine when she went to Afghanistan several years ago to report on the plight of women under Taliban rule. The article she wrote generated a staggering 9,000 letters from readers. One of them was from Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who ended up personally delivering the letters to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In her talk, Armstrong urged the audience to reject the notion that human rights abuses, like those perpetrated against women in Afghanistan, are "part of the culture," and therefore can't be changed. She called for all of us to stop minding our own business and to have the moral courage to champion an unpopular cause. "The expression 'innocent bystander' is an oxymoron," she said.

At the McGill fall convocation in November, Canada's Governor General Adrienne Clarkson was an honorary degree recipient. She alluded to September 11 in her address, saying the significance of the events is "not that 'the world has changed forever,' but that it continued with as much difficulty as it always has.... We have always been vulnerable. The only thing that has changed has been our acknowledgement that we are vulnerable." Living our lives to the fullest keeps us from being prisoners of that vulnerability, said Clarkson.

She reminded graduates of the importance of their education in order to make a "moral difference" in the world: "Without literature, history and philosophy, the chances of gaining that knowledge -- the knowledge of how to live life -- become more limited."

And she echoed sentiments expressed by Sally Armstrong: that we should be concerned about society's emphasis on hell-bent, me-first individualism, the worst aspect of which "is its fundamental inability to understand that others feel things"; and that we should avoid the course of expediency by "taking risks, going down paths that are not approved. It means the possibility of loneliness and isolation. It means, in sum, all that is opposite to mediocrity."

There is no predicting what our world will look like in another year, but we do know that the campus will have a different air, as new buildings take shape and a new administration is ushered in. After eight years as principal, Bernard Shapiro will retire next summer. A search committee has been at work to find a successor but no announcement has been made yet.

Besides the magazine, the Alumni Association has other ways of keeping you up to date with news of your alma mater. Six months ago, we launched an electronic newsletter called @ McGill, and to be on the mailing list, all you have to do is let our Records department know your email address. @ McGill will then be sent to you automatically every few months. If you wish, you may add your name to McGill's email directory, created to allow graduates to contact long-lost friends. Read more at www.mcgill.ca/alumni-contact/.

Stay in touch.

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