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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Spring 2002 > Letters


Reason to be Proud

As a recent graduate of McGill's BSc Psychology program, I read your "Brain Power" cover story with fondness and extreme pride. The Montreal Neurological Institute, that hospital on the hill, is a hive of research and patient care that often gets passed by (both literally and figuratively) by the very people who should be most proud of it -- the McGill community!

I was especially thrilled to see one of my former professors, Michael Petrides, mentioned in the article. His class, "Human Cognition and the Brain," falls under the Department of Psychology -- a unit that is often misunderstood. I cannot tell you how many times I have attempted to explain to others that psychology is not simply a "warm and fuzzy" area of study, but a field that has made extremely important contributions to the understanding of how it is that we operate as humans.

This article, highlighting some of these contributions and contributors, only affirms that the study of the brain is as legitimate as any other research. Thank you for recognizing Dr. Penfield's legacy.

Jackie Bryant, BSc'01
Halifax, N.S.

Calling Dr. Baxter


As an alumna of McGill, my wife Maureen (Hardie) Hunt, DipPTh'47, receives the McGill News on a regular basis and draws my attention to any article that she thinks might interest me. I was particularly pleased to read the article "Brain Power" in the Winter 2001/02 edition. In it, the MNI's Interim Director, Dr. Donald Baxter, MSc'53, is frequently quoted as the history of this prestigious institute is revealed. Dr. Baxter and I graduated together from Queen's University Meds'51, after which he began working on his Master's degree at the MNI while I started my internship at the Royal Victoria Hospital. It soon became evident to me that Dr. Baxter was being groomed for a very prominent role in the future of the MNI and this has certainly been borne out in subsequent years.

I therefore think that he should have received more recognition for the role he has played in this regard -- especially when he was enticed back into service from his retirement as an effort to hold things together until a full-time director could be found. I realize that Dr. Baxter is a "low key kind of guy," but a photograph of him included in the gallery you displayed in the article would have been appreciated.

Morris E. Hunt
Huntsville, Ont.

Ed. note: We're happy to show Dr. Baxter, whose photo was not available in time for the last issue, and to let Dr. Hunt know that his hard-working classmate and friend will soon be able to resume his retirement. The announce-ment of the appointment of a new director for the MNI is expected to be made shortly.

They Were First, First

I am writing to you following your Winter edition for a couple of reasons.

First, the article about the Montreal Neurological Institute was excellent and informative. But I was saddened that the late Dr. Herbert Jasper, MDCM'43, DSc'71, was not mentioned as one of the pioneers. He came to the MNI very early and was already known as "Mr. EEG" for his work developing electroencephalogra-phy. He was a world renowned figure in neuroscience throughout his long life, receiving more honours than anyone I have known.

The second reason is that on page 27 it states that Drs. Ken and Eileen Cambon, both MDCM'51, "became the first husband-and-wife team to graduate together from McGill Medicine." My husband, John Ellis Gilbert, and I were married in January 1943, one week after our final exams in Medicine (we were speeded up during the war). We actually graduated together in May 1943.

Barbara Brooks Gilbert, MDCM'43A
Hanover, N.H.

Ed. note: Dr. Jasper's 70-year career was indeed an illustrious one. Before coming to McGill, he developed an EEG lab at Brown University in Rhode Island. It was there that Wilder Penfield first encountered him while attending a seminar. Jasper told him that he could record electrical waves from the head and that the location of an epileptic seizure could be shown by the disturbance in brain rhythms. In a paper he wrote on "The Early Development of Neuroscience in Canada," Jasper recalled Penfield's skepticism. "He said he would believe it if he could expose the cortex and find the focus where the EEG had indicated it should be." Jasper brought two of his patients and a portable EEG machine to Montreal and Penfield performed the surgery that gave him the proof he needed. For the next year, Jasper commuted between Brown and the MNI, "driving at night in all kinds of weather in order to fulfill my teaching, research and clinical obligations in Providence while beginning collaboration with Dr. Penfield and colleagues in Montreal." In 1938, he moved to Montreal permanently and continued the work that would earn him worldwide recognition.

Bader's Brigadoon

Professor Vernon Brooks's story of his "Brigadoon" (Winter 2001/02) happened due to an accident of history that brought him to Canada during World War II.

It is a heartening tale of young boys' internment in a camp for refugees which he describes as "a splendid private boys' school" and he offers thanks to McGill for its generosity.

Are you aware that Dr. Alfred Bader had a similar wartime story? He was also a refugee who was sent to a detainment camp in Canada, and in his case he was able to attend Queen's University.

As noted in your Newsbites section, Dr. Bader and his wife, Isabel, donated Herstmonceux Castle to Queen's for students wishing to study abroad.

Mary Himsl, BSc(HEc)'53
via email

Ed. note: An item on the Queen's website says that Dr. Bader read about the castle for sale in a newspaper while he and Mrs. Bader were travelling by train near their home in Sussex, England. "He asked his wife Isabel if she would like it. She declined, indicating that while it was a lovely thought, there would be far too many rooms to clean."

Accommodating Smokers


It's always a pleasure to receive the McGill News and learn about the McGill community. Although McGill is in so many ways "the top of its class," unfortunately, in some ways it is decades behind. I am referring to the fact that McGill residences allow smoking in the rooms. If any readers can do anything to stop this absurd and obviously unhealthy situation, please do so. Professors are assured of smoke-free environments; shouldn't all students have the same rights? It may take a little work from McGill graduates to change this sorry situation, but smoke-free living for all first-year students (the main population of McGill residences) is worth the effort.

Honey Halpern, BA'65, MEd'76
via email

Ed. note: We consulted with Flo Tracy, Director of Residences, who gave us the following information: "While there is a policy of no smoking in common areas in residences, both the RÈgie du Logement and the McGill Legal Office have given us off the record opinions that we do not have the right to say what a student may or may not do in his/her own room. When students are sent an offer of accommodation, they are asked to complete a questionnaire which includes questions about smoking habits and preferences. However, the information given is not always reliable. For example, the Douglas Hall floor fellows reported that only three students indicated that they were smokers, but once the students arrived and settled in, approximately 30% turned out to be regular or occasional smokers. When rooms are assigned, self-identified smokers are separated from non-smokers. There is very little we can do if we are not aware that a student smokes or if he/she begins smoking during the year."

Tracy added that student leaders and residence directors oppose a total ban on smoking, and that at the November 27, 2001, meeting of the University Residence Council, a motion to implement a no-smoking policy was defeated with no votes in favour. Nonetheless, it was agreed that some smaller residence buildings (where enforcement is easier) will be designated non-smoking and more education on the dangers of smoking will be provided.

It Just So Happens

I found the report in the McGill News about the work of Sally Armstrong most interesting, but also most horrifying (Newsbites, Winter 2001/02). We know that the number of Afghanis that are suffering must be large, but the North American media, on the whole, seem to be making every attempt to not discuss this aspect of the "war." I would be most pleased if you could give me a source for obtaining more information on the vital work she is doing.

Dick Beames, PhD'65
via email

Ed. note: Please see our story on Sally Armstrong on page 24 of this issue. For further information on the UNICEF mission in Afghanistan, look at the website www.unicef.org/noteworthy/afghanistan/.

Righting Rugby Wrongs

Photo PHOTO: Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Thank you for the profile of McGill women loving their rugby. For the sake of the game, I offer your writer a couple of small corrections. "... 30 women ... pound down the field in pursuit of the ball." I hope not -- no more than 12 players flash down the rink in pursuit of the puck. Positional play is important, and the coaches would decry the resemblance to six-year-olds on a soccer pitch.

Someone throws the ball, "runs like the wind to catch it again and touches it down in the end zone." Seems impossible, since the ball cannot legally be thrown forward. So either the player threw the ball back in the direction of her own line and raced back to pick it up and turn round, or she kicked forward and gathered, a common move and a good one.

Scrums: three rows on each side (not two), and the ball is not, strictly speaking, thrown between the legs but into a tunnel in front of the first row of opposing players.

As for rugby at the Olympics? No, thanks. There is already a highly successful quadrennial Rugby World Cup, for men and for women.

Wade Richardson, BA'67
Department of History

Overlooked Alumni


The Winter 2001/02 McGill News had excellent "Homecoming Highlights" -- a four-page spread -- but we looked in vain for mention of our 40th! We had a great party for the graduates of Arts, Science and Commerce '61. We had alumni come from England and Vancouver.

Martlet House was most helpful in organizing the events, but although we sent in our photographs and names, the class of 1961 did not make it. How many of us will be around in 2011 for our 50th?

Anne Drummond, BA'61
Gael Eakin, BA'61
Montreal, Que.

Ed. note: Our apologies for overlooking those celebrating their 40th anniversary. We always have to make choices from among several hundred photographs following Homecoming. Above are a few representatives of the Class of '61, all of whom look hale and hearty and are sure to be around to celebrate 50 years. From left: Susan (Webster) Riddell, BCom'61, Mary Jane (Whiting) Macdonald, BScN'61, Marian (MacDougall) MacFarlane, BCom'61, Gael Eakin, BA'61.

Broken Telephone

Congratulations on a great issue!

Maybe I hadn't noticed it before but I love the new layout and look. However, the prime reason for the email was that

I thought your editors did a terrific job clarifying the misconceptions and erroneous perceptions in a few of the letters sent to your attention. In particular, the self righteous tones I detected in the letters from Jeremy Brown and Jennifer Wade were handled with professionalism and courtesy, while efficiently correcting their notions, and in my own mind, putting them in their place. I clipped this page for future reference as I thought they were great examples of how, over time, and likely unintentioned, people get their information wrong and in turn pass on this wrong information to others who will continue to distort. (Like the old game of broken telephone!)

Well done!

Byron J. Garby, BCom'80
Mississaugua, Ont.

Getting Around Gridlock

Clearly, Mathieu Leduc's vision of the city of tomorrow in his "Transforming Transportation: Solving the Traffic Jam" (Epilogue, Winter 2001/02) highlights the quandary surrounding debates over urban planning policies. He is right in saying that building more lanes will not circumvent gridlock on our city's highways. Montreal's urbanity was nearly lost in the 1960s thanks to highway engineering decisions to dissect entire neighbourhoods with high-speed expressways and citizens are being penalized by outrageously high maintenance costs. Leduc's proposal to introduce user fees may be the only short-term viable solution. However, must the public be bound to this sort of economic solution to an engineering problem?

Montrealers need better planning, not just a more convenient way to commute by car. We must collectively look the devil in the eye: Decarie, Metropolitan and Ville-Marie expressways should never have been built. Their costs will never be recovered and the resulting environmental damage is a burden that plagues us all. Cars should only be used as a last resort when population density is too scant to support a decent transit system. Trucks, especially those big lorries, should never be seen or heard where people live and play. Instead, they should move along designated roads where industry and agriculture can happily co-exist. Those who wish to travel by car will find that their petrol bills and idle time behind the wheel can be greatly reduced if they choose to move their families closer to work, or better yet, move their work closer to home.

Let the people decide on their own; Montreal is not Singapore.

Stefan Reyburn
Montreal, Que.

Urban Angst


I am extremely distressed by Mathieu Leduc's notion of further encouraging the use of suburban industrial parks by clean industry; this would force further migration into the suburbs, increase urban sprawl, and extend rush-hour congestion and car pollution over larger areas. We should instead be seeking solutions that discourage the use of private cars while increasing public access to the life of the city core -- especially in the case of cities like Montreal, which are blessed with a healthy and vibrant city centre.

I think a better solution is straightforward and obvious. While encouraging clean businesses to situate themselves in the urban core (higher density is the best way of achieving synergy in a rapidly changing world), we should require those institutions that choose to operate in high-density areas to provide transit passes to their staff (in the case of educational institutions, students), to be charged at a rate dependent on their hours of operation.

Private vehicles can then be progressively eliminated from the city, starting with the high-density areas, and ultimately extending (in the case of Montreal) to at least the whole island. Those businesses that insist on holding to the traditional 9-to-5 model can probably be made to bear almost the entire cost of a rational and effective transportation infrastructure while still seeing a reduction in their real overheads.

Best of all, we can achieve a human and humane urban living environment, one in which we need never again be cold, hungry or afraid because it is the middle of the night, everything is closed, and there's nowhere to go and no way to get home: a phenomenon that in the present regime is all too common in both the core and the 'burbs, and one that is selectively worse for children and the poor.

Stephen P. Spackman
McGill Instructional Communications Centre

Duel of the Dictionaries

Correspondence in the Winter News regarding the misuse of the winged, twin-snaked caduceus to represent the medical profession impels me to complain again about the misuse of the word "crest" to signify McGill's own symbol, its shield of arms. Once again, repeat after me: "McGill has no crest . . . McGill has no crest . . . McGill has no crest."

Just incidentally, I am mystified as to why anyone would wish to display arms, crest or any other device on a dressing gown -- but that's another matter.

Nigel Richardson, BA'51, MA'54
via email

Ed. note: In heraldry, "crest" referred to a device, such as a plume of feathers, worn on top of a knight's helmet to identify him. The crest formed part of his coat of arms. While the Oxford English Dictionary rather huffily supports the argument of Nigel Richardson ("It is a vulgar error to speak of the arms or shields of such corporate bodies as colleges or cities as crests"), the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, word guide of choice for the News, has no such qualms, giving one definition of the word as "a shield or coat of arms (our school crest)."

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