Volume 92, Issue 18

Friday, October 2, 1998

homing in


What to do with a Western degree

Many students – or perhaps their parents –might think a degree in political science probably wouldn't lead to a career in comedy writing or hosting major American talk shows. Well, guess what? It can. Although, maybe not in every case.

The individuals featured on this page are a few of the successful and best known students to emerge from Western, armed with a degree and making good use of it. These alumni were happy to recount their memories of when they were purple and proud.

– By Ciara Rickard

Stephen Brunt – BSc '81, MA '82

A political science graduate in 1981 and Masters of Journalism grad in '82, Stephen Brunt has gone on to success at The Globe and Mail as head Sports columnist.

Brunt lived at Saugeen in his first year in the subway, which is better known as the ground floor. "It was crazy," he explains. "The floors were still segregated – they alternated guys on one floor and girls on the other. It was an interesting place to grow up."

He also frequented usual hangouts such as The Elbow Room, The Spoke and the Ceeps. "The Ceeps is much nicer than it used to be. It used to be a typical London drinking house," Brunt says. "Also, the Grad Club [in Middlesex] was really nice to hang out in and occasionally sleep in during J-school."

During visits back to the school, the biggest changes Brunt has noticed are in the commercialization of the campus. Most students are accustomed to the big names such as Coke and Mr. Sub which can be found all over campus, but Brunt points out there was a time when that wasn't the case.

"It was a great experience," says Brunt of his time at Western. "I loved Western. It was a great part of my life and I loved London. It's the right size city and there's enough going on. Whenever I come down, it's still very comfortable and homey."

Kevin Newman – BA '81

Local kid makes good!

Kevin Newman has made Western proud as the charming co-host of the American show, Good Morning America. He graduated from Western in 1981 with a bachelor or arts in political science and soon after went to Toronto to start his career with Global Television.

Newman's interest in journalism began in high school, but it really started to take shape during his years at Western where he volunteered his writing skills at The Gazette. But his big project was as the first news director at Western's radio station, CHRW, which he and about seven others founded.

"It was only 50 watts back then, so you could sort of get it at Saugeen," recalls Newman. "That was a really great experience, we all had a good time."

As an undergrad, Newman lived at Saugeen-Maitland Hall during his first year, while working at McDonald's 16 hours a week. His favourite place to kill time while not in class was at The Spoke, but he also enjoyed The Elbow Room, the Ceeps and The Ox Box – a bar that was located at Oxford and Adelaide and was torn down this past summer.

"Going to Western was a terrific experience. It really was a turning point in my life," says Newman. "It was the single most important experience of my life."

After Newman took his career to the States, he was a relative unknown until the night of the Princess Diana crash, when he was called in to cover the story.

"I was called in because I was the only one around over the Labour Day weekend and I ended up staying on the air for five or six hours," says Newman. "Being from Canada, I knew a bit about the royal family so they thought I was some expert on the monarchy, because they don't get as much exposure to them as we do," he laughs.

That night was a turning point in Newman's career and this past May he debuted as the new co-host on his current show. Western can be proud that both a Canadian and a Mustang could be good enough to utter those sacred words – "Good morning America!"

Andrew Orenstein – BA '92

You'd have to be from another planet to not know of the hit television show 3rd Rock From the Sun.

The comedy about four bumbling aliens conducting research of Earthlings' behaviour on behalf of their home planet has been a number one show since its debut in 1995. And lo and behold, one of the co-producers on the show is a product of Western.

Andrew Orenstein graduated from university in 1992 with a BA in political science and four days later was in Los Angeles. He soon began writing for a sketch comedy show, which later led to his gig with 3rd Rock From the Sun. "In my first year we went on a trip to L.A.. I wandered through Universal Studios and I knew this was what I wanted to do," Orenstein says. "I love it. We have so much fun here."

While here at Western, Orenstein frequented the legendary Elbow Room, which used to be downstairs in UCC, known for its laid-back atmosphere and folk music. Some other favourite hangouts were The Spoke and, of course, the Ceeps on Thursday nights. His extra-curricular activities included "The Gazette – and drinking," he reminisces.

Orenstein has such a fondness for Western that he included his Alma Mater in an episode of 3rd Rock, which created much excitement at Western two years ago. The school didn't actually get a mention, but the football team in the episode was called the "Western Mustangs" and they wore purple jerseys similar to the ones worn here.

"We didn't say the University of Western Ontario, but in my mind, it was," Orenstein says.

For three years Orenstein enjoyed the downtown scene from the apartment he shared with two friends at Talbot and Oxford.

"It was great being at Western," Orenstein says. "I know it's a cliche but you know when people always say 'Oh, they are the best years of your life' and you say 'Uh huh, right.' But it really was the best time of my life."

Thalia Assuras – BSc '80, MA '81

Thalia Assuras is familiar to most Canadians as a former news anchor for Global TV. Now Americans know her as a current anchor on CBS News in New York.

She graduated from Western in 1980 with a bachelor of science in microbiology and in 1981 completed her masters of journalism at Western's graduate school of journalism. Assuras has gone on to a great career as a renowned and trusted journalist.

Born and raised in London, Assuras did not have the pleasure of inhabiting in one of Western's fine residences, but commuted from home like many other students before her.

"It was an incredible experience. Especially my last year in the journalism program," Assuras recalls. "It was a great way to combine a variety of interests. There were lots of interesting people from all walks of life and from all over Canada. We got into every aspect of journalism and every aspect of life," she says.

Assuras spent much of her Western time on campus – in the Natural Sciences Building as an undergraduate and Middlesex College during her time as journalism student.

Assuras' favourite hangout? The Nucleus – ah, a true science student.


Alan Thicke, BA '67.
Making his start in stand-up comedy, Thicke's resume extends far beyond his famous role on Growing Pains. While at Western, Thicke was a Gazette staffer and a member of Delta Upsilon.

Perrin Beatty, BA '71. Beatty began what became a very impressive career at age 22, with a seat in the House of Commons. He went on in politics and is now President and CEO of CBC.

Paul Schaeffer, Never. Contrary to the long-circulating rumour, Schaeffer, of The Late Show With David Letterman, DID NOT go to Western. Not even for a semester. He's probably never even been to London. But he is Canadian.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998