Mature student returns to add Honours to his BA

Leonard Lyn
Monday, May 15, 2017 - 10:55am
Elaine Smith

Leonard Lyn enjoys entering the Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre at U of T Mississauga and walking up the stairs past all of the shiny, modern exercise equipment and into the Meeting Place.

“It’s a place where I always pause, because I’m basically looking at the Erindale College of the 1970s in the Meeting Place, but I can turn around and look at the future of UTM from the same spot,” Lyn says.

Pausing there to reflect is quite appropriate for Lyn, because his tenure as a UTM undergraduate spans decades. The Mississauga resident earned his BA there in 1986 and returned in 2012 to add the honours designation to his degree.

“I’m not sure why I’m doing this,” says Lyn, who graduates again this spring. “Perhaps it’s my mid-life crisis, instead of getting a Corvette. I have been out of school for a number of years and it seemed like a good time to refresh my knowledge. I don’t want to wait until I’m a senior.”

Lyn first entered UTM in 1979, but left school after a year, discouraged that his plans for a computer science career didn’t seem feasible. He worked for a few years before returning to study both philosophy and crime and deviance, with a minor in sociology. One of his philosophy professors, the late Jackie Brunning, urged him to consider law school and he took her advice, earning an LLB at Osgoode Hall.

“I was the only person in my family who had ever gone to university, so a second degree seemed kind of like overdoing it,” Lyn says with a smile in his voice. “I’m not sure if I should thank her or curse her.”

Today, in addition to being a student, Lyn is a practicing real estate lawyer and dedicated community volunteer. He has been an auxiliary Toronto police officer since 1985; he has risen to the rank of inspector and oversees post-graduation training for all incoming auxiliary officers. Among his other volunteer roles, he chairs the City of Mississauga’s Election Campaign Finance Committee and the Mississauga Appeal Tribunal.

His campus experience has been a bit different this time around. Lyn originally worked his way through Erindale; jobs as a security guard and with the government paid his tuition and fees. Extracurricular activities had little place in his schedule back then. Today, finances aren’t an issue, and he managed to find the time to serve on the UTM Campus Council and a number of its committees.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to help shape the future of the university,” Lyn says.

Seeing the North Building, site of his earlier classes, torn down was “bittersweet,” but Lyn admits that in its physical dimensions, “UTM is a completely different place than it was then.” However, he thrived in the classes, even though he was the oldest student by decades. In fact, his 20-year-old daughter, Justine, was taking undergraduate courses simultaneously and would occasionally meet Lyn on campus for lunch or coffee.

“Earning the honours degree has brought me personal satisfaction and confirmed that I can still hold my own in a classroom,” he says. “I’ve also met so many bright and articulate young people; it gives me faith in the future.”

As Lyn again prepares to leave his undergraduate studies behind, he has some parting wisdom to share with his fellow students.

“If I could give one piece of advice to the students of today and tomorrow,” he says,“it would be to celebrate diversity of thought with the same enthusiasm as other diversities are celebrated on campus.”