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Storytime with Jo-Anne Ray Transcript
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It Was a Long and Torturous Route


MS: So how did you end up at MPub?


JR: Oh god, it was a long and torturous route. I’m not gonna have it read like a statement of aims and objectives, “I’ve always loved reading!” I’ve always loved reading, I think we all have that in common right, but it’s not how I ended up here. I started working here at Harbour Center in 1989 when this campus was first established and it was a shadow of its current self. There was only the main floor, there wasn’t even a library, well there was a library but it didn’t have anything in it. So, there was just the main floor and all of those classrooms like if you go to the left from the– all of those classrooms didn’t exist it was just very few classrooms. It was more or less an evenings and weekends kind of place, so it was predominately a campus that was initially established as Continuing Studies and there were community groups that had offices here, so there was Public Television, for example and I started volunteering with them.

But I worked as the program assistant in Business and Professional Programs and…I didn’t like it too much, it was just really not my thing. I was working with a lot of lawyers and it was all around securities, regulations, and compliance and just not really where I saw myself. Though I met some interesting people– including my niece’s soon-to-be mother-in-law who was a guest speaker in our program and I kept thinking I’ve seen this woman somewhere before and then we recognised each other from like...I can remember when she was pregnant with my niece’s fiancé. It’s like crazy, what a small world.

So there were a whole bunch of Continuing Studies programs and one of the programs was the Writing and Publishing program. And the Writing and Publishing program was just a continuing education program at the time. So they offered weekend courses on editing, technical writing, that kind of thing, and then occasionally coordinated with Rowly Lorimer who is the inaugural director of the Master of Publishing who was a faculty member in the School of Communication at the time, to offer up conferences on publishing. And so, I worked closely but not with the people from the Writing and Publishing program and I thought y’know this is kind of a cool group and place to be and so I’d always thought about getting involved in the back of my mind, and I ended up interviewing for a job in Continuing Studies for another unit that I didn’t get. And a member of the, the Director of the Writing and Publishing program was actually part of the interview team, her name is Ann Cowan, and she and Rowly Lorimer actually started what grew into Publishing@SFU today. And she said to me, ‘Jo-Anne, um, how do you feel about working at the Burnaby campus, are you wedded to Harbour Center?’ And I said, ‘No, actually I live close to the Burnaby campus.’

She said ‘I have a colleague, Rowly Lorimer, who is putting together a plan for a credit program, in fact a graduate program in publishing and I think that you would be an ideal fit to work with him to do that.’ So that’s how it all got started.

So I left my job at Harbour Center, I spoke to Rowly about what he was doing, he hired me on, essentially as a research associate, and the two of us worked together through 1989-1990 to write up the proposal for a Master of Publishing program. Which we did. And it was put forward to the Faculty of Applied Sciences because initially it was put forward as kind of separate to a Masters in Communication but sort of part of the Communications program but a Master in Publishing. And it wasn’t approved, and that’s kind of where we stood. So I went off and did other things, and by other things I mean that I became the program assistant for Canadian Studies and so I did that, I worked at the Burnaby campus, and Rowly went off on sabbatical and then he had the really brilliant idea of well, if the program isn’t’ approved within the Faculty of Applied Sciences what’s stopping me from actually shopping this around and taking the program to the Dean of another faculty?

So, he had had experience with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – it was the Faculty of Arts back then – and he approached the Dean and there were meetings, and all of this was going on unbeknownst to me, I was just off in my own little Canadian Studies bubble. And then I get a call from Rowly out of the blue saying ‘Jo-Anne, we’ve been approved. The Master of Publishing program is a-go.’ So that’s how it started, and the logistics of where it would be offered and they thought the Downtown was the best, not Burnaby. And I still think Downtown is the best for a professional kind of program.

And so over about a year or two period the logistics were worked out with the university. They decided what structure they needed, how many faculty at the time... it was a very different, much smaller program than it is now, back in 1995. And we established our offices and we started accepting applications for the fall of ’95.

And he wanted me to come on board as, what was then Assistant to the Director, and I had a young child at the time and I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to come downtown, my priorities had kind of changed a little bit. But ultimately, I decided well y’know maybe I can do this, if they can work something out. So they made it initially, because the program was small, a part time position which was really great because I was able to have the best of both worlds – I could be active in my young son’s life by being at home for a certain period and at the same time I could be involved from the ground up with this program.


Let’s Just Say the Party Wasn’t Limited to Particular Hours


JR: I distinctly remember when we were getting around Harbour Center liquor laws and we weren’t official, we didn’t officially have bar service, we did it cheaper by me dragging a bunch of MPubbers down to the liquor store to like…load up. And then I’d forget where I put the booze and, I’m not kidding you, it would be two months later and I’d be looking for a power cord and open up a filing cabinet and, oh! There’d be twelve beers.

But to get away from, so we would have food served out there, and then we would have this table, this desk turned this way and we’d put a fancy-schmancy table cloth on it and we had all of our own wine glasses and I used a mail-room tub and loaded it up with ice and so we had beer on ice and then we had wine and throughout the course of what, let’s just say the party wasn’t limited to particular hours. So it would continue on and gradually everyone would sort of ­– like a kitchen party, a classic kitchen party – where everyone would migrate from that room and I would sometimes take food and bring it in here and come in here so there would always be a very enthusiastic, ‘raring-to-go’ group that would stay here. Until all hours, and I would stay here with them sometimes.


MS: Did you ever get caught out by the Harbour Center?


JR: Yeah. They would complain to me that ‘Y’know, Jo-Anne…’ They would suggest they wouldn’t tell. They would suggest that I do that, and I would say ‘Well I’ll take your suggestion under advisement.’ And then the next semester I’d be back down at the liquor store with my half-dozen MPubbers and a Safeway cart. And away we’d go.


MS: The MPub functions have always been as fun as they were.


JR: The MPub functions have always been really fun, and I know that Jen Croll’s group, I do recall some particularly fun times with them, And they used to have off-site parties too, that they’d invite us to. And I remember a couple of early cohorts that used to do that, so my son, who will be 29 years old on Sunday, grew up with the Master of Publishing program. So from the time that, literally, from the time he was just a real little kid and I would take him to parties with me sometimes. I have distinct recollections of transitioning him into his jammies at MPub parties and I remember one time kind of looking over and there were about four students and they were dancing and they had him hanging from his ankles and they were just kind of going like this and he was having the time of his life, he was like ‘Oh! This is so much fun!’ And they were like really making him the center of attention. And I didn’t care if he broke his neck or what– I was just looking at this…


The Octopus of the Giller Awards


JR: You know the World Cup of soccer where, I don’t know, they do this in Russia or whatever and they bring out an octopus that points to something and then, that’s supposed to indicate who’s going to win.


MS: The prediction.


MB: His name is Paul.


JR: Paul? Okay.


MB: He died.


MS: Oh…oh no.


JR: My niece thinks I am the octopus of the Giller Awards. That I always pick the Giller winner.


MB: Did that happen this year as well? Or last year, I guess.


JR: Yeah, it happened. It’s pretty much, I’ve started doing it for the last, it’s about six years running and I've always picked it.

MS:  Gold record?

MB: Impressive!

MS: (We’ll have to check in this year)

JR: Yeah, and I don’t know why, so let’s see what happens this year.


But I Wasn’t Wearing A Contrasting Element Up Top

JR: I just wanted to get everyone off those grotty chairs that were falling apart and they had stains on them and it was just really awful. Harbour Center wasn’t going to provide us with new chairs so I had to put in a budget request and then I talked with Operations about, you know we just need some decent chairs that are on rollers. So they suggested various options like the chairs that are downstairs in some of the classrooms. I thought that works if we can get a little color coordination going on. So I didn’t want everything to be all in red, I thought: mix it up a bit. So the designer got really funky on me and showed me some swatches with these stripes. And I thought well, you know the occasional chair to mix it up a bit, not all of them, but the occasional chair. When they arrived the colors looked completely different than what I had seen in the swatches and...I like to match. Notice my pink face mask?

MS: I did, I did notice the pink face mask.

MB: I noticed it from I think the first week because you always matched your pendant with your jacket.

JR: Yeah the different stuff, yeah. It’s the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder kind of thing I think. Makes me good at my job I think. It’s just, things have to be organized and ordered and I could never just fire on one blue sock and one green sock. There was one day that I didn’t have my glasses on and I had on these I think it was these brown pants, no, no I had on my black pants and then I was sitting on the SkyTrain and I looked and I noticed that I didn’t have the black socks on. Oh. My. Lord.

MS: Call in. ‘I’m gonna be late.’

JR: Oh my friggin lord. I came screeching out of Harbour Center, made a beeline for the dollar store. I thought there’s gotta be socks in here somewhere. And bought like you know these really cheap um... I was willing to let my feet sweat in the nylon because I could not handle going through the day. I felt that anyone who came into my office would see that I was wearing navy blue socks with black pants. Because I like my socks to match my pants. If I’d been wearing a blue, black, whatever striped shirt, which I also have, the navy blue would have been fine. But I wasn’t wearing a contrasting element up top. It was really bad.

And I look at my son who does not have my sense of color coordination and I would say ventures on scruffy on occasion. I think he does it just to bother me. Right I go, ‘Oh James...James…’ I have to stop myself. And he’s like, ‘I know mom, I know. I can read your mind but you can’t dress me anymore. I’m not a little boy.’


Anniversaries of the Pre-COVID Past

JR: We had might have been a 10 year anniversary celebration that we held here and Chad Brealey, Mr. Swing Dancer was the master of ceremonies. That was really great. When I think about the decor though, hmm, I dunno. A little too glitzy and Harbor Center teal sort of 1980s kind of vibe going on. I think perhaps one of the best times I’ve had recently with as many cohort members as possible had been when Rowly Lorimer retired. We held a retirement party for him at Steamworks. We invited Master of Publishing students to that and it was really well attended and it was so great to see not only industry guests but people from the different cohorts. We also organized an MPub gathering in 2013. So it was an alumni event, again one at Steamworks and one in Toronto and some people actually attended both. I know I did. It was great fun and we piggy-backed that off what was the Mags Canada event and that was a lot of fun. And that’s what we’re really hoping to do again, is that we want to hold a Master of Publishing event here in Vancouver and another one in Toronto. But the COVID know.

MS: It’s such a shame, it would have been such a riot I think.

JR: Yeah, but it will be a riot. I have every confidence that something’s going to be developed and we may not all get vaccines soon. But with the world harnessing all its resources to develop something I think that something’s gonna come, it’s just a matter of how long people have to wait to get it.


Jo-Anne Said We Could Stay As Long as We Put Our Beer Away!

I remember leaving one of the parties in here and going home and saying, ‘Okay now, you’ll put things away? The beer will be, you know, put in a filing cabinet somewhere. All right? Everything’s going to be okay, just clean up before you go.’

(slurring imitation) ‘Oh yeahhh...yeahhhhuh Jo-Anne.

And I come in on Monday morning and I get this... from Harbor Center Operations and there was this very uptight woman, who kind of reminded me of myself when I get going. And she had lots of binders too, with records. And she called me… (laughing) she had so many records, I cannot tell you. She said, ‘Jo-Anne we absolutely must have a discussion about the behavior of the Master of Publishing students.’ And I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Come into my office and just listen to this.’

And so she puts her phone on speakerphone and what it is is a security guard who is reporting back at regular intervals on what’s happening up here. So the first, it was kind of calm. ‘Hello, hello. Is there anyone in Operations? I’m trying to get some help, we have are you?’ And you can hear in the background, ‘We’re publishing students!’ ‘We’ve got some publishing students, that they’re..they’re partying up here! And there doesn’t seem to be anybody overseeing. Could you, could you please get back to me?’

And I said well that’s -- and she said, there’s more! And then it was successive telephone calls and they got progressively boozier right. And there was like, ‘They won’t leave. They’re telling me that Jo-Anne says that they can stay as long as they put their beer away. They’ve told me that Jo-Anne says they can stay as long as they clean up and put their beer away.’ And I can hear in the background, ‘Thaaaaat’s right! Come on! We’ve gone over this before! Jo-Anne said we could stay as long as we put our beer away!’ And I’m hearing this in the background and, and, ‘They’re not in that room anymore. They’re...they’re...’  So then there was video surveillance and they were wandering all over the campus. Like, ‘oh well I won’t take my drink with me to the women’s washroom but I think I’ll go downstairs and check things out.’  And so a few of them were spreading the fun around.


There Is A Man of Scruffy Appearance and Dubious Demeanor

JR: I guess the funniest involved me and it really wasn’t so much the Masters program, although you could not help but be involved. So, we were very cognizant of security when we were down on the upper mall level of Harbor Center. So that’s the level of Health Services so we were kind of behind there. And there were always very... interesting people shall we say... that would wander in and would have to be escorted out. Ralph Hancox, who at the time was the management instructor, and myself, we attended a Harbor Center sort of security primer. And I got very excited about my new security know-how.

And I saw this...So I had a office that was fairly close to the men’s washroom, which I didn’t realize was a men’s washroom for about a year I kept going in there. Someone said ‘Didn’t you notice the urinals Jo-Anne?’ And so like just...just ‘What’s Ralph going into the washroom for?’ And just like, ‘Oh! That’s a men’s washroom. I wonder where the women’s washroom is down here.’ Like, you know when you gotta go...whenever. I just thought it was a big handicap washroom.

So anyhow, I’m in my office and I glance and I see this really scruffy guy going into the men’s washroom. And being on high alert I went to Ralph Hancox the management instructor who had the same level of training that I did and I said Ralph, ‘There is a really scruffy, out of place looking guy that has just disappeared into the men’s washroom.’ Ralph says, ‘I’ll take care of this.’ He picks up the phone, he contacts security and he says...he had this way of speaking. He said we have a...we’d like you to be made aware that there is a man of - what he said - of scruffy appearance and dubious demeanor, he said, who has disappeared into the upper mall men’s washroom. Please assist.

So you know, there’s never, one mall cop is not good enough. You’ve gotta have about 3 or 4 of them. So they come down. And in the meantime I walked down toward the workroom. And I’m talking to this woman from Health Sciences and this other guy and we’re chatting away and I said, ‘Security’s here now just to let you know. They’re going to remove this scruffy guy that’s been holed up in the men’s washroom.’ So I can hear this commotion going on and the next thing I know, there’s the scruffy guy and there’s security on either side of him and they’re like, they’re actually manhandling him and they’re directing him like out of our office area. And he’s going, ‘But..But..But..’ And they said, ‘No buts! Out onto Cordova Street!’ So they whisked him by us and I turned to the people that I was talking to and I said, ‘You know, if that guy was in a suit and he actually was shaved, he kind of looks like Bill Lees. Bill Lees at the time was the Vice President of the university and then both of them said in unison, ‘That is Bill Lees!’

So it became the big joke that Jo-Anne had the Vice President of SFU physically removed from the premises. I was just like, oh my god, right. So I thought, this is my time to shine. I thought oh god. But I eventually went and spoke to him after it was all straightened out. I did say, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t recognize you.’ He said... he was very gracious about it. He said, ‘You know what, I just got off a plane. I’ve been spending the last three weeks at my cottage in the Laurentians. And I just got off a plane’ And he said, ‘You’re right, I do look scruffy.’ So he said no harm, no foul and he was really great about it and he was very gracious.

But then it circulated via email that Jo-Anne had done this. So I had an office where my door was kind of here and my desk was in the corner so my back was to whatever was going on outside and it was probably about a week later. I feel a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and it’s the President of SFU. And he said, ‘Just testing Jo-Anne.’ Just testing!

MS: Oh, it’s your old border security training.

JR: Yes. Yeah my old security training. Yeah, totally high alert.