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The arrival of warm weather sees Montreal move into full-on festival mode. Hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists take to the streets in celebration of everything from beer brewing to fireworks, gardening, Formula One, chamber music, comedy, fashion, aboriginal culture and, of course, jazz. Montreal's 11-day Festival International de Jazz , which just wrapped up, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest on the planet.
As demonstrated by the exuberant law grad on the cover, McGill does its own share of celebrating at this time of year, as close to 6,000 new alumni are welcomed into the fold. It's a time both tearful and joyous, with the wrench of parting from friends and familiar haunts tempered by the excitement of the opportunities that lie ahead and the button-busting pride of family members.
All of us at McGill feel pride in these young people, who may one day hatch innovative ideas like that of Architecture professor Vikram Bhatt, MArch'75. He spoke last month to a packed house at a world forum on sustainable cities as he shared his concept of "the edible landscape," where agricultural space is incorporated into plans for cities. While rural areas traditionally produce food and bring it to urban centres, Bhatt's idea is to transform cities into areas of production as well as consumption. Eventually, urban agriculture would be a permanent feature of housing design. Models are being tested in three cities – Kampala (Uganda), Rosario (Argentina) and Colombo (Sri Lanka), where a large percentage of the populations live in poverty. Results so far seem to be very promising.
Among the recipients of honorary degrees this year is actor Christopher Plummer, who says he abandoned the McGill entrance exam years ago because "it was looking very inviting outside and spring was in the air." By then the young man's fancy had already turned to acting, thanks to a part as Mr. Darcy in a Montreal High School production of Pride and Prejudice.
Although Plummer never attended McGill, he does have a number of historical connections to the University. A maternal great-grandfather, John Bethune, was McGill Principal from 1835 to 1846. Another great-grandfather, John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, earned a McGill law degree in 1854, and was Dean of Law for 25 years. He later served in the cabinet of John A. Macdonald and succeeded him as Canada's Prime Minister. His great-aunt, Maude Abbott, BA'1890, was one of Canada's first women graduates in medicine, although she was not allowed to study at McGill. She became an international authority on congenital heart disease and herself received an honorary degree from McGill in 1910. She was made an assistant professor in 1925. Finally, Plummer's mother Isabella, was secretary to the dean of science in the 1930s.
The actor told the Montreal Gazette he wasn't sure he deserved his honorary degree. "But I'm happy, because it means more to me than anything to have received it in my own hometown." To read about all of this year's distinguished honorees, see www.mcgill.ca/newswire/?ItemID=20073.
Also in this issue is a story about graduate students and their importance to McGill and the research carried out in so many disciplines. One example is the work of doctoral student Linda Lévesque, working in collaboration with Dr. James Brophy and fellow doctoral candidate Bin Zhang. Lévesque is principal author on a paper they recently produced showing that one-quarter of patients who suffered a heart attack while on Vioxx did so within the first two weeks of taking the drug – much earlier than previously believed. Vioxx was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2004, in part based on the team's earlier findings of increased cardiovascular risk.
Wishing you all a festive summer.