Glendon Campus
York University
2275 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4N 3M6
Senior Executive Cites Liberal Arts Education for Success


“What can I do with a bilingual liberal arts education?” That’s the most frequently asked question by prospective students when researching Glendon as their future university. And the most eloquent response is in demonstrating the achievements of our many highly successful graduates.

A case in point: the appointment of Glendon graduate Ronald Holgerson (left) as vice president of marketing, communications, alumni and development at Mohawk College (in Hamilton, Ontario) in 2006. Holgerson received his Glendon honours B.A. in 1972, focusing on English and French Studies. Throughout his undergraduate years, his special interest was in the dramatic arts, and Glendon offered him many opportunities to pursue his passion and hone his performance skills as an actor. “I have such fond memories of many nights rehearsing with the drama team and appearing in Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Country Wife with other students such as Jack Wetherall, Kate Nelligan, Charles Northcote, Rita Davies and John Innes, many of whom went on to professional acting”, said Holgerson.

As a high school student, Holgerson attended a Glendon forum in 1968, when René Lévesque was the guest speaker, and was so impressed with his visit that he registered as a student for the following September. “I was an 'A' student in high school wishing to study in a place of excellence”, explained Holgerson. “The leadership and vision of Glendon's first principal, former high commissioner to India, Escott Reid made a very positive impression on me.” Holgerson concluded that Glendon was the right place for him.

“A liberal arts education, particularly in English - where one learns to hone one’s writing skills - has served me very well,” added Holgerson. “Over the course of my government career, and today in the Ontario college system, my strength in preparing memoranda to cabinet, legislation, and many, many official documents within and to government, is directly linked to the logic courses I took in philosophy.” After Glendon, Holgerson continued his education, completing an M.A. at the University of Alberta, and doing some work towards a PhD in English with an emphasis on drama. Over the years, he has expanded his knowledge base through numerous courses in marketing, fundraising, human resources management, leadership, mediation, and middle and senior management orientation with the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan.

His résumé just blows you away. He has worked as dancer, choreographer, actor, marketing and communications executive director, university instructor, policy analyst, government director, top executive at two community colleges, the list goes on....

Says Holgerson, “I had a promising career in modern dance, as a soloist with the Alberta Contemporary Dance Theatre, and a choreographer with that company and the Alberta Ballet. I also did some acting for the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, as well as some dancing in Montreal and Ottawa. And I had acted in a YTV segment of "Incredible Story Productions" in 1997, which was a lot of fun and was broadcast several times in Ontario. But when the knee and back gave out, I knew that it was time to focus my attention on my other skills."

After a 5-year stint at Canada Council in marketing and communications from 1983 to 1988, Holgerson worked for the Department of Canadian Heritage for 6 years, then as director of arts, cultural industries and multiculturalism for the Province of Saskatchewan for 3 years in Regina. In 1997, he accepted the position of executive director, marketing and communications at Sheridan College (Toronto) and then at Mohawk College in 2004 in almost the same position, where he was promoted in March of 2006 to vice president, marketing, communications, alumni & development. Holgerson, who is fluently bilingual (English and French), has worked in both languages at various times in his career. He had acquired a thorough foundation of French during his years at Glendon. Since then, he has also studied Mandarin, Japanese and Italian. He is a living example of the modern worker – a lifelong learner moving from position to position 5-6 times (or more) during his working life.

“I am eager to fulfill my new fundraising role at Mohawk College to my best abilities”, explained Holgerson. “I have changed jobs many times over the past thirty years, and changed firms every five or six years, and I think there's still one more career left in me after this one, perhaps at a university, or an international opportunity. God is in charge”, he quipped.

As for memories of Glendon, the voice grows mellow: “my professors were fabulous, and I have such fond memories of Michael Gregory, Richard Handscombe, Tony and Beth Hopkins, Cynthia Zimmerman, and Penelope Doob, who taught both Chaucer and mythology, and was the epitome of a medieval princess. Many of my classmates were scions of Ottawa bureaucrats, and I was at Glendon during the 1970s crisis, which made it a very exciting time. Eventually, I found myself working in government, and I think some of my sensibilities were developed among the many friends I remember from Glendon.”

This article was submitted by Glendon’s communications officer, Marika Kemeny

Published on December 7, 2006