Thirty years of community involvement 

School of Community and Public Affairs celebrates milestone

By Karen Herland

SCPA alums John Moore and Desirée McGraw celebrate at the School’s 30th anniversary. Moore took on hosting duties for the evening. Magnifying glass

SCPA alums John Moore and Desirée McGraw celebrate at the School’s 30th anniversary. Moore took on hosting duties for the evening.

When Perry Calce entered the School of Community and Public Affairs as a member in its second year of operations, he couldn’t have imagined that one day he’d be the School’s Coordinator of Academic Programs and Curriculum Development, nor that he’d be organizing their 30th anniversary party.

After Calce graduated, his suggestion to Hubert Guindon to start an alumni program for grads led to a position as internship coordinator – the School’s program combines community internships with coursework.

“It was the early 80s, a really terrible recession,” recalls Calce. I couldn’t even find myself a job, and I was tasked with finding 30 for our students.” He succeeded and has been a staff person at the school ever since. He’s been organizing reunions every five years for the last 20 to get grads together and in contact with current students.

This year’s dinner at the Lion D’Or, hosted by 1988 alum John Moore, was no exception. About 80 grads dined, caught up and celebrated with a special presentation to Political Science Professor Daniel Salée who was principal of the School from 1997 to 2007.

Current Principal Eric Shragge also addressed the group, as did Margie Mendell, a long-time professor at the school, along with other organizers of the evening.

“They all shared anecdotes about their time here,” said Calce of the speakers.

Calce recalls how Vince Sirois, an executive member of Imperial Oil and former member of the School’s Board of Advisors once said to him, “our report card will be what our grads do down the line.” It’s a piece of advice he’s never forgotten as he’s watched students go on to impressive achievements year after year. Among the school’s grads are Canadian politician Glen Murray, who as Mayor of Winnipeg in 1998 was North America’s first out gay mayor. Politicans Desirée McGraw, Maria Calderone and Mario Dumont also attended the school. Author Dorothy Williams (who also spoke at the dinner) was a student during the school’s first year and VP Services Michael Di Grappa graduated from the school (full disclosure — this writer is proud to have the school on her transcript).

“I’m really impressed with what our grads have done in the community and in public life,” said Calce. “I don’t know if the school produces successful people, or if this is a reflection of the kind of people attracted to the school.”

The program itself has grown over the last three decades; initially students who attended were ‘members’. Now students can earn a major in Community and Public Affairs and Policy Development. The school also runs a fully bilingual graduate program in Community Economic Development (alternately offered in French or English each year) and, starting in fall of 2010, a new program in First People’s Studies will be launched.

Calce laughs at how graduate Ilona Dougherty, one of the founders of Apathy is Boring, a digital democracy project aimed at encouraging young adults to engage in civil society, dragged the school into the new millennium by encouraging the creation of a Facebook page.

Calce is pleased at the ability of the tool to keep grads in contact, no matter how far they have travelled, and to let them know about panels, activities and milestones happening at their old digs.


Concordia University