Goodbye to All That
When I first arrived at York it was – technically – 1973, the result of some English award or other in Grade 13 (when that existed). There wasn’t much here on campus then. The Ross and Fine Arts Building. The various colleges in “complex one” and “complex two.” There were a lot of fields and grass, and as you took the bus in along Steeles Avenue from Finch Station, you could see farms and sheep and cows and an amazing octagonal wooden barn at the intersection of Dufferin Street. To get downtown by transit took two hours.
York was a concrete oasis of higher ed awash in a sea of abandoned farmlands. Our day-long poetry seminar of 1973 took place in a kind of a sunken living room right outside the dean of fine arts’s office. It was completely carpeted in purple shag and known locally as the “purple passion pit.” The pit still exists, but the shag is long gone.
I remember meeting a young woman there. I asked her, “Oh, are you a poet?”
“I am a poetess,” she replied, with an emphasis on the “ess.” That was my first introduction to higher learning.
Later, under the tutelage of bona fide writers like Irving Layton and Miriam Waddington at York, I found that one indeed could become a poet if one had the will and the talent and the devotion. Other equally amazing English professors followed from 1974 until 1978, when I graduated and headed for U of T.
Cut to 1985. Much to my amazement, I found myself abandoning a job in the book publishing world for writing, when I landed a position in York’s communications department. I had replied to an ad for an “Editor 1” in the Globe and Mail (starting salary: $21K). More than 250 people besides me also did, my then boss told me (we were still feeling the results of a recession). Later, I became editor of York’s Alumni News, the distant precursor to what you’re reading now.
It wasn’t too long before we managed to turn Alumni News, which was newsprint, into more of a magazine, with features, departments, class notes etc. Then, in the early 1990s, we went glossy. The magazine was redesigned and renamed Profiles.
Profiles flourished for a while, but with a regime change we ceased publication and instead put out Universe (a newsprint broadsheet) once a month for a year, on-campus only. By the next year it was decided we needed an external magazine (again!), and so YorkU was born. After a decade of YorkU, we re-imagined it into its present form as The York University Magazine. We now publish three times per year: two web-only issues and one in print and web. The Fall 2017 issue marks the debut of our new digital magazine. And my last as editor.
I’ve met and worked with dozens of interesting people over the years in the process of putting the magazine together, but now it’s time to bid the journalistic world goodbye and make room for other passions. None of which involve purple shag.