Where are they now?

From Michael Ondaatje to Karla Homolka, Queen’s graduates are an eclectic bunch

You’ve read their books, bought their CDs and heard about them on the news.

But did you know that some of Canada’s most fascinating and well-known personalities call Queen’s their alma mater?

The Journal has complied a list of the Queen’s sons and daughters who have made a mark upon Canadian culture. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be next… 

The Literati

Robertson Davies

It’s difficult to believe that this celebrated Canadian writer and dramatist was denied entrance into a degree program at Queen’s.

Davies was unable to pass the mathematics portion of the exam required for University admission in 1932, and as a result, he was enrolled at Queen’s as a special student not working towards a degree.

After his three years at Queen’s, he was admitted to Balliol College at Oxford and graduated with a BLit in 1938.

Throughout his lifetime, Davies became a literary and cultural powerhouse. He purchased several media outlets—including the Kingston Whig-Standard—and was the Editor in Chief of the Peterborough Examiner from 1942 to 1955.

In 1963 he became the founding Master of Massey College at U of T, and instigated the tradition of telling ghost stories at the college’s Christmas celebration.

Before his death in 2002, Davies wrote 27 works of fiction and criticism, 11 plays and two operatic libretti.

Michael Ondaatje

Before Michael Ondaatje won the Booker Prize, Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis and the Governor General’s Award, he was just another overworked, stressed-out Queen’s master’s student.

Born in Sri Lanka in 1943, he immigrated to England in 1952 before settling in Canada in 1962. After completing his BA at the University of Toronto, Ondaatje came to Queen’s to study Scottish poet Edwin Muir. He was awarded his MA in 1967 and began his prolific career as a poet, author and filmmaker.

Ondaatje’s most famous works include poetic anthologies The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do, and the novels In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient, Anil’s Ghost and Coming Through Slaughter.

In 1996, The English Patient was made into a film which garnered nine Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.

Stephen Heighton

Stephen Heighton, ArtSci ’85 and MA ’86, can sum up his university experience in two words: “Amazing days.” Heighton told the Journal that coming to Queen’s allowed him to leave the stifling stereotypes of high school behind. “In high school it was uncool to be an outsider—an esthete, in fact—so I put a lot of energy into disguising myself as an athlete, which I wasn’t. 

Coming to university was a jailbreak and a revelation. Here I could be myself along with others who were also being themselves for the first time.” Since graduating from Queen’s, Heighton has published two novels, The Shadow Boxer and Afterlands.

He’s the recipient of the Lampert Award, The Petra Kenney Prize, the Air Canada Award, and gold medals for fiction and for poetry in the National Magazine Awards.

He has also held writer-in-residence positions at Concordia University and U of T’s Massey College.

The Media Moguls

Shelagh Rogers

Any fan of CBC Radio has heard Rogers’ calm, dignified voice on Sounds like Canada, Morningside or Mostly Music.

Rogers’ love of broadcasting took root while she was studying Art History at Queen’s, when she began hosting a Country & Western show at CKWS Radio.

In 1980, she began her 21-year career at CBC radio, where she has worked alongside such media greats as Peter Gzowski and Michael Enright. She currently hosts the program Sounds like Canada from Vancouver, BC.

John Stackhouse

Although Stackhouse, Comm ’85, is now the editor of The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, he had some trouble getting up for his early classes at Queen’s.

“I don’t think I stayed awake during a single class the whole year,” he told the Journal in 2005.

However, Stackhouse’s early-morning drowsiness hasn’t prevented him from achieving journalistic success.

The 1984-85 Journal editor in chief was hired as the Globe’s first development issues correspondent in 1992 and spent seven years reporting in India. Throughout his impressive career, Stackhouse has won five National Newspaper Awards, a National Magazine Award and an Amnesty International prize for foreign reporting.

He’s also the authour of two books, Out of Poverty and Timbit Nation, which document his travels in Canada and abroad.

The Aristocrat

His Imperial Highness
Prince Takamado

Known to his subjects as the “Canadian Prince,” Prince Takamado is the first and only Queen’s student to share the blue-blooded status of our University’s namesake.

Born in Japan in 1954, the Prince received his Law Degree from Gakushuin University, Tokyo, in 1978. He then traveled to Canada and began his three-year stint at Queen’s, where he perfected his English skills. Upon his return to Japan, Prince Takamado dedicated himself to the promotion of Japanese language and culture throughout the world.

Unfortunately, Prince Takamado died in 2002 at the age of 47. When he was posthumously awarded an honourary degree from the University of Alberta, his wife told the assembled crowd that “For my late husband, Canada was really a special country. I have always believed that the basis of his way of life—you might call it his philosophy—owed much to his education in Canada.”

The Musical Megastars

Gord Downie, Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker from The Tragically Hip

Canadian rock royalty The Tragically Hip was formed in 1983 when its members were still attending Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute.

These native Kingstonians continued to make music while three members, Downie, Sinclair and Baker, attended Queen’s in the ’80s.

Downie studied film at Queen’s, and Sinclair studied history.

Baker graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 1986 and has since produced much of the band’s T-shirt designs and album art. He remains prominent in the Kingston community, and can be seen lobbying for the new entertainment centre, acting in community plays and enjoying weekend brunch with his family at the local restaurant Windmills.

Sarah Harmer

It’s no secret that Canada’s folk darling loves Kingston and has strong ties with Queen’s. Not only can she be occasionally spotted at The Grad Club on Barrie street, but Harmer, ArtSci ’93, previously told the Journal, “I love Kingston because I’m an old-fashioned girl and Kingston has that old-fashioned feel to it.” This Burlington native’s relationship with Kingston began long before she became a Queen’s student. Her big sisters Lily, Comm ’81, Barbara, Arts ’84, and Mary, Arts ’86, all attended Queen’s, and the teenaged Harmer made many trips to campus before she began her own studies.

While pursuing her degree, Harmer commuted to Toronto on the weekends to sing with her first band, The Saddletramps, but left the group to concentrate on her education.

In 1994, Harmer founded the band Weeping Tile before releasing her first solo album, Songs for Clem, in 1999. Since then, Harmer has released three more albums—You Were Here, All of Our Names, and I’m a Mountain—and co-founded the activist group PERL, or Protecting Escarpment Rural Land.

The Infamous

Karla Homolka

The Queen’s brochures won’t tell you that Homolka, one of Canada’s most well-known criminals, spent the majority of a 12-year prison term in the now-decommissioned Prison for Women.

While serving time in Kingston, Homolka enrolled in Queen’s correspondence courses and completed her Bachelor’s Degree, reportedly achieving very high grades. Her major? Psychology.

The Up-and-Comers

Bedouin Soundclash

It wasn’t long ago that guitarist Jay Malinowski, bassist Eon Sinclair and drummer Pat Pengelly, all ArtSci ’05, were plastering the Ghetto with posters advertising their band’s latest gig at Clark Hall Pub. However, in the past year, this Juno-winning group has rocketed their way to Can-Rock stardom.

Their single “When the Night Hears my Song” reached #1 on the Canadian charts, thanks in part to a Zellers commercial that featured their single.

Bedouin is currently on tour and scheduled to play the Molson Amphitheatre, the Leeds Festival in England and the Redding Festival.

Elena Juatco

Although Juatco is still a year away from being classified as a bona fide alumna, this songstress has already made her mark in Canadian pop culture.

As the sixth-place contestant on Season 2 of Canadian Idol, Juatco’s voice was pumped into living rooms across Canada every week in 2004.

Most recently, Juatco, ArtSci ’07, performed the title role in Ross Petty’s production of Snow White and the Group of Seven, and was hired as Idol’s Roving Reporter.

Even though she is well on her way to pop stardom, Juatco plans to graduate in 2007 before pursuing a musical career. As she told the Journal in January, “I don’t want to rush it ... I love Queen’s to death.”

Source: The Queen’s Alumni Review and wikipedia.org

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