As good as it gets

There was pomp, a brass band, and the pageantry of medieval garb as the official party entered Alumni Hall that was packed with more than 2,000 graduates, friends and family members at The University of Western Ontario yesterday. And there I was, wearing a black gown and floppy purple hat with gold tassel, among the faculty in their colorful robes from Canadian universities and such far-off institutions as Oxford. The occasion was most memorable; I received an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws. To be exact, Doctorem in Legibus (honoris causa), according to the Latin parchment I was given along with...

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No house calls

Next Monday will be one of those lifetime days. I’m being honored by my alma mater, The University of Western Ontario, with an honorary degree. First word came in March with a phone call from Paul Davenport, president of Western, to tell me that the selection committee had picked me to receive an LL.D, doctor of laws (honoris causa). I have to admit I was astounded. Honorary degrees always seem to be given to famous people or philanthropists who donate large amounts of money. I was neither of those. I even get to deliver a speech at the 10 a.m....

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The Argus Grab

Yesterday’s testimony at the Conrad Black trial by his long-time secretary, Joan Maida, brought back memories of my dealings with a previous office-holder. It was 1978, and I had just joined Maclean’s as business editor. Conrad, then 33, had recently bought Argus Corp. but no one had interviewed him on the topic. I phoned his secretary, lodged my request and got nowhere so I used one of the oldest techniques in the journalism handbook, the campout. At 2 p.m., I showed up at his borrowed digs at Dominion Securities and asked his secretary if I could see him. She said,...

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Coming Home

Publicizing a book can be hard work. When you’re on a national tour, you get up at 5 a.m., do two-or-three pre-breakfast broadcast interviews, then another half-dozen during the day, before heading on to the next city for an overnight in another hotel and then a repeat of the previous day. Those who conduct the interviews are usually flying blind. Just before you go on air the host invariably drops his or her voice and says, “I’m sorry, I haven’t read your book. We get so many, you know.” I always nod and smile sympathetically as if this is the...

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Don’t ask, don’t tell

The toughest part about being a newly published author is the lure of the bookstore, the irresistible desire to go in and see your latest book on display. Of course, that’s a big mistake. When my first book, “The Moneyspinners,” about the CEOs who ran Canada’s Big Five banks, came out in 1983, my publisher Doug Gibson gave me some wonderful advice that – for the most part – I have carefully followed. First, he said, don’t ever go into a bookstore looking for your book. Second, if you break rule number one, and then can’t find your book, walk...

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Feste permanente

More than forty friends joined Sandy and I for our book launch last night at the Nicholas Hoare bookstore on Front Street East in downtown Toronto. One of the guests, Jim Cullen, told us about the good fortune that smiles upon visitors to Rome who are greeted by thunder and lighting. It was a reassuring tale to hear, given what was going on outside. Some of food was the same as at the farewell reception described in the book when we said thank you to our many Florentine friends: platters of Genoa salami, Prosciutto di Parma, veggies and dip. The...

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Go with the flow

The CBC has suffered through numerous budget cuts, but it still takes a lot of people to get something on air. My appearance early this morning on The Current, Radio One’s national public affairs show, began yesterday afternoon with a call from the “chaser” who tracks down possible participants, checks their availability and picks their brains a bit. We spoke three times over a one-hour period. Today I talked to three more people before finally chatting with host Jane Hawton, sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti. The topic was boards of directors, how the world of corporate governance has changed,...

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The now or never plan

Our new life in Florence had its beginnings after the death of Sandy’s mother in 2000. Sandy had been her mother’s major caregiver for many months so she knew she would need something to fill the void and help her deal with her grief. Art had always tugged at the hem of her life but there never seemed to be enough time available to nourish her talent. Sandy had taken some lessons from watercolorist Pat Fairhead who praised her natural ability and urged her to enroll at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in order to improve her...

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