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Bob McEwen: Eggs in different baskets
|PHOTO: CLIFF SKARSTEDT|
Before every one of his events for the Mingo-McEwen Fund, Bob McEwen puts his fundraising goal, known only to him, into a sealed envelope. After the event, be it a hockey game or a golf tournament, someone else opens it. In the four years since he began the foundation, McEwen has yet to be disappointed.
"We've been over every amount I've set," says the burly ex-hockey player over the phone from his office at the Macdonald Campus, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. "We're full, by the way," he says, referring to this year's Golf Tourney.
By day, McEwen is one of two technicians in the Poultry Unit, looking after as many as 10,000 chickens, grading the thousands of eggs produced daily and helping the students with their assignments related to poultry management.
In the early morning, evening, and during many a late night, McEwen tends to his other jobs: as a town councillor in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, a hockey coach and, especially, a patron saint of children with neurological problems.
Four years ago, McEwen set up a foundation to help kids experiencing illnesses or ailments that targeted their brains.
The Mingo half of the fund's name belongs to Brent Mingo, a 16-year-old who suffers from brain seizures and is partially disabled on his right side. The fateful meeting between McEwen and Mingo happened four years ago when McEwen found himself in the neuroscience ward of the Montreal Children's Hospital with his son, Tim, who had suffered a neck injury. McEwen senior got to know the Mingo family and learned of Brent's dream of playing with a big league hockey team.
McEwen, then the coach of the John Abbott College Islanders, invited the youngster to come to practices and, later, to games. Then he got the idea that he could go further than making one child's life a little more exciting. McEwen saw an opportunity to do something he'd wanted to do for a long time: work for a cause.
With his son having had a close brush with permanent injury, McEwen realized there is often a thin line between being able to walk out of a hospital ward and leaving in a wheelchair. He decided to do something for the children who weren't as lucky as his son, the ones with long-term neurological disabilities and their parents.
"I said to my wife, 'We can play around with this.'"
Play is what he had his hockey players do. Starting small with a hockey game in 1997, the Brent Mingo Fund, as it was initially known, raised $5,000, which was given to the neuroscience ward to buy things to make the children's stay in the hospital more enjoyable. "The doctors and nurses put together a wish list and we raised the money," recounts McEwen, sitting at the picnic table outside the Poultry Unit. Money has been used to do such things as decorate rooms, buy VCRs, games and art supplies, and to purchase a sofa-bed for a couple whose daughter was dying.
Brent was the fund's initial spokesperson for children with chronic neurological problems and soon two others joined him. "Three kids have been adopted by our family," says McEwen. "These are special needs children with great parents."
When John Abbott lost its hockey team two years ago, McEwen turned to golf as a fundraiser and the sport appears to be even more lucrative than hockey. Last year, the tourney raised $10,000, bringing to $45,000 the total raised by the foundation to date.
McEwen says that without his situation at the Macdonald Campus, he could never run his foundation nor be as close to his children as he is. "I love working here because it enables me to do things outside my work."
Working in the Poultry Unit, which is 30 seconds from the campus cottage he has rented for the past 20 years, allowed McEwen to spend lots of time with his children, Kelly and Tim, now 21 and 19, as they were growing up. The proximity of home also gave him extra time to spend on the fund, coaching hockey and as a town councillor.
One of the reasons he ran for council two years ago -- aside from enjoying meeting new people -- was so that the University would be represented, something it has never been in the past.
Bill Ellyet, director of athletics on the campus, first knew McEwen when he was in Brittain Hall residence, studying police technology and playing hockey at John Abbott. Neither policing nor a career as a professional hockey player panned out due to bad knees, but McEwen remained involved in hockey as a coach and teacher, sometimes teaching hockey schools for Ellyet.
"He's been a pretty valuable player on campus," says his long-time friend. "He gets involved, participates and says what he doesn't agree with, and he can take it when he's wrong. He's always looking for a better way."
Let's face it, people have their magnifying glasses out because it's a monopoly and [Air Canada] said 'We can handle it' and any time there's a small blip on the radar screen people go wild.
In praise of Hamlet
Mike Harris must be shaking his head.
The Ontario premier's government recently injected $1.4 billion into its budget for higher education -- almost all of it directed toward technology and science. Not surprisingly, social scientists and humanities scholars, who received very little new funding, have been howling with outrage.
Harris probably assumed that hi-tech companies would be on board with his government's efforts. But a recent joint statement issued by a group of CEOs in charge of some of the country's top hi-tech firms is implicitly critical of Ontario's move.
While it doesn't target the Ontario government directly, the statement does call "for a balanced approach" in funding both technology programs and the liberal arts.
The CEOs say they welcome the move to educate more technologists. But they also say liberal arts programs "nurture skills and talents increasingly valued by modern corporations.
"Our companies function in a state of constant flux. To prosper we need creative thinkers at all levels of the enterprise who are comfortable dealing with decisions in the bigger context.
"They must be able to communicate -- to reason, create, write and speak -- for shared purposes: For hiring, training, managing, marketing, and policy-making. In short, they provide leadership."
The CEOs, including BCE president Jean Monty, Motorola Canada president Micheline Bouchard, Xerox Canada president Kevin Francis and IBM Canada president John Wetmore, add, "Many of our technology workers began their higher education in the humanities, and they are clearly the stronger for it. This was time well spent, not squandered."
Sometimes, I had to call a 'time out' and explain to the filmmakers, 'You really shouldn't do that.' My bottom line is, if you're not going to listen to what I say, you're going to have to leave. I'll rip your contract in half.
As McGill itself discovered recently, the topic of honorary degrees and convocation can draw strong opinions. As everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Jean Chrétien to the person who plays Big Bird earned honorary degrees from universities in recent weeks, some institutions' selections drew criticisms from members of their student bodies.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright found herself at odds with the University of California, Berkeley's top student at a recent commencement ceremony.
Albright was tapped by Berkeley to make the convocation address. As she presented her speech, several protestors jeered her and 59 demonstrators were ejected over the course of the event.
Fadia Rafeedie, recipient of Berkeley's top honor for graduating seniors, spoke after Albright. "This woman is doing terrible things," said Rafeedie.
In particular, Rafeedie and the other protesters blame Albright for her role in organizing the US-led sanctions against Iraq. "It's another genocide, another Holocaust," Rafeedie declared.
Young Yun, one of Rafeedie's fellow graduates, credited her with "guts" but added that her denunciation of Albright made for a "depressing" convocation.
Meanwhile, students at Old Dominion University had mixed feelings when it was announced that Fred Rogers, the star, writer, chief puppeteer and executive producer of the long-running children's show, Mister Roger's Neighbourhood, was going to earn an honorary degree.
Rogers has earned two Emmys and two Peabody Awards for the series, but some students still thought he was an inappropriate choice. They began a petition to have Rogers removed from the convocation day celebrations.
"It's like having Barney or Teletubbies," grumbled Willie Tillerson. But some students who grew up watching Rogers thought well of his selection.
"I hope he takes his graduation robe off and puts his sweater on," said Kevin Bolduc. "That would be great."
Sources: The Daily Californian, newswires