You are now in the main content area

Anne McNeilly's Retirement

By: Sophie Chong
October 07, 2019

Associate Professor Anne McNeilly has decided to retire from the Ryerson School of Journalism after 13 years of teaching students.  

McNeilly became an educator at Ryerson after spending over 20 years as an established journalist, first as a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen and the Waterloo Region Record, and then an editor at the Globe and Mail for 18 years. She’s occupied roles such as national assistant editor and copy chief for the Globe, where she would also mentor interns from the RSJ.

During her 13-year tenure as a faculty member at the RSJ, McNeilly used her experience in the field to guide young journalists to utilize the power of words to effect change in the world. She taught journalistic principles such as using words fairly and accurately to portray and build context, in order to do justice to a story. She believed that there was always something new to learn from being a journalist.

Her appreciation for stories that were beautifully written translated into her teaching, where she saw potential in her students and always encouraged them to pursue their creative ideas.

“I think the teacher-student relationship is a very special one, it's also interesting to see students learn everything you have to give them or teach them, and then they go beyond that and they just flourish. It's just really rewarding,” she said.  

Long-time colleague and associate professor at the RSJ, April Lindgren, saw McNeilly as someone who took the time to help student journalists succeed.

“As a teacher, what struck me about Anne…was that she was so empathetic to people… she was always learning new ways of getting groups to work together, different styles of marking that would be more beneficial and help students be more innovative,” she said.

Lindgren said she was struck by [McNeilly’s] ability to empathize and go the extra mile for students to make sure that their journalism studies were a success.

Dan Berlin, a graduate and now also an instructor for the RSJ, remembers when McNeilly was his instructor nine years ago, during his first year at j-school as a mature student.

“Anne in many ways was a role model for me because of how open she was and inclusive to everybody in the class… she always took the time to listen,” he said. “It was as if she had always gone the extra mile to make sure I felt supported, and I really took to that. I think at the heart of her teaching was this idea that she cares and is so generous with her time.”

Prior to teaching at the RSJ, Berlin had spent time as a reporter and producer for Sportsnet, produced video content for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and was a radio host for the CBC and TSN.  

In his first year in j-school, Berlin wrote a story inspired by a beauty pageant for pigeons he witnessed in Toronto. He wrote how pigeons, who are commonly considered dirty birds that poop a lot, are actually beautiful and misunderstood creatures in the city.

The article earned McNeilly’s praise and support, who made it as an example for the class to use as a guideline to write a compelling story. Her eagerness to champion his piece gave Berlin validation for the work he produced.   

“I just remember how good I felt (...) I almost felt like I could do anything in Anne's class. She just brought out the best in me, even though my background is sport,” he said. “She's just opened my eyes to possibilities and was always such a champion of mine that she gave me the confidence to be me. And I think that story was representative of that.”

McNeilly cherishes teacher-student relationships. Over the years she has kept in touch with her former students, giving guidance on career decisions, and catching up on their personal lives.

“She holds a very special place in my heart,” said Berlin. “She made me feel so welcomed in this program and quickly she became a wonderful mentor and confidante for me as a student, and gave me the confidence I needed to succeed in the program... I consider her not only a colleague but a friend.”

McNeilly says she plans to work on a book during her retirement from teaching.