MURAnews Fall 2020

President's Corner

Helen Barton

Welcome back to the almost 600 retirees who receive MURAnews by postal mail. The spring and summer 2020 issues were published only electronically due to the unavailability of printing and mailing services during the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Annual General Meeting that was postponed from June due to COVID-19 will be held virtually using Zoom on Thursday, November 26. MURA members can participate either online or by phone. Please see the pre-registration instructions in the notice below. I hope many of you are able to attend. Dr. Lori Burrows, Associate Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, will give a talk before the business meeting begins.

This special Fall 2020 issue of MURAnews contains the full AGM event schedule and agenda, the nominating committee report, and financial statements for the year ended April 30, 2020.

Update regarding the holiday luncheon

I’m sorry to announce that the December MURA holiday luncheon will not be held this year. This annual occasion to meet and celebrate the season with retired colleagues will be sorely missed.

Thank you to the MURAnews team and Kathy Overholt for their work on this issue, and to Council for helping with the planning of MURA’s first virtual AGM.

Of special note in this issue:
  • The new MURA graduate student academic awards fund
  • A gift to McMaster that encourages us all to search for McMaster artifacts and donate them to the university

Please keep in mind that MURA’s website is an excellent source of online information for retirees and spousal survivors, including back issues of MURAnews.

My best wishes to you all for health and happiness in the months and the new year ahead.
-    Helen

Helen Barton
Phone: 905-518-5339

News from MURA

Notice of Annual General Membership Meeting

Date: Thursday, November 26, 2020
Time: 1:30 - 3:00 PM
Location:  ZOOM online
(Due to the restrictions of COVID-19)

MURA members may participate either online or by phone.

Registration is required by 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 25.

To participate online, send an email containing your name to You will be sent a link and password for the Zoom meeting.

Book jacket To participate by phone, leave a voice message for MURA at 905-525-9140, extension 23171. You will be contacted with a phone number and password for the Zoom meeting. Please note that the closest Zoom phone connection is a 647 (Toronto) area code, so you may incur long distance charges.

Please plan to attend. All participants will be entered into an attendance draw. First prize: a copy of Alvin Lee’s recently published memoir There Was a Farm in Eden. Second prize: a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or Chapters.

Annual General Meeting Agenda

McMaster University Retirees Association

November 26, 2020

(virtual Zoom meeting: See notice box above for registration requirements)

1:30 pm   Welcome

1:40 pm   What happens when antibiotics stop working?

Dr. Lori Burrows
Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and
Associate Director, Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research

 1.   Approval of the minutes of the 34th AGM, June 5, 2019
 2.   President’s Report (Helen Barton)
 3.   Treasurer’s Report – subject to Audit (Debbie Weisensee) – See report below.
 4.   Auditor’s Report (Nancy Gray)
 5.   Pensions - Salaried Pension Plan (Brian Beckberger)
                        - Hourly Pension Plan (Cliff Andrews)
 6.   Nominating Committee Report (Heather Grigg) - See report below.
 7.   Election of Executive and Council
 8.   Incoming President’s Comments
 9.   Other Business
10.  Adjournment

Special Presentation to the AGM
What happens when antibiotics stop working?

Dr. Lori Burrows photoThe guest speaker will be Dr. Lori Burrows, Associate Director (Partnerships and Outreach) of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences. Professor Burrows is a microbiologist, Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and international expert on the structure, function, and regulation of type IV pili (T4P). She has published over 120 peer reviewed papers, reviews, and book chapters. She also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Bacteriology (ASM), the Journal of Biochemistry (ASBMB), and ACS Infectious Diseases. Dr. Burrow’s presentation summary is below:

Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria. We rely on them to keep us safe from infection during elective surgeries, cancer treatments, premature births, dental procedures, and accidental injuries. They have allowed us to do medical procedures we would never otherwise dare to try, extended our lives, and even changed how we die. Sadly, we have taken these essential medicines for granted, and we are starting to lose them due to antibiotic resistance, where the organisms they are meant to treat evolve to escape their effects. Combined with the lack of new antibiotics in development and the pharmaceutical industry’s loss of interest in antibiotic discovery due to financial disincentives, we are reaching a point where some bacterial infections are becoming untreatable. The COVID-19 pandemic is a harsh lesson in what happens when we are confronted with a pathogen for which we have no therapies. McMaster is one of the world leaders in the area of antibiotic discovery and the study of antibiotic resistance, and is poised to enhance its capacity even further. I will talk about what we are trying to do about this global issue and discuss the ways forward.

2020 Nominating Committee Report
MURA Council 2020/2021

Honorary President*:  Alvin Lee
Past President (ex officio):  Heather Grigg
President (Nominated):  Helen Barton (until spring 2021 AGM)
Vice President (Nominated):  Hank Jacek (until Spring 2021 AGM)
Secretary*:  Nora Gaskin
Treasurer*:  Debbie Weisensee
Nominated for office until 2022:  Barb Carpio
Nominated for office until 2023:  John Horsman
Continuing in office until 2022:
Mary Gauld
Debbie Weisensee
Continuing in office until 2021:
Cliff Andrews
Nora Gaskin
Mahendra Joshi
Mary Law
Kathy Overholt
Auditor*:  Nancy Gray

In accordance with Article 8.01 Section 3 of the MURA Constitution: “Further nominations for the nominated positions will be received by the Secretary of the Association up to seven (7) days prior to the date set for the annual general meeting from nominators who are regular members of the Association together with the verbal or written acceptance of the nominee. Nominations will also be received from regular members at the annual general meeting.”

Nominating Committee:

Heather Grigg (Chair), Betty Ann Levy, Kathy Overholt

McMaster University Retirees Association Notes to Financial Statements for the Year Ended April 30, 2020

1.     Basis of Presentation

These financial statements present the assets, liabilities, members' equity, income and expenses of the McMaster University Retirees Association (MURA). Fixed assets, comprised of office equipment and furniture, were acquired through funds provided by the McMaster University Futures Fund and are not reflected in these financial statements. The financial statements do not reflect the value of office space provided by McMaster University.

2.     Funds Held for Fixed Assets

This amount represents the balance of funds allocated to MURA by the McMaster University Futures Fund and are held for additions to and replacements of fixed assets.

3.     Grants

In April, 2017 MURA entered into an agreement for the period January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020 with McMaster University, Unifor Local 5555, SEIU and McMaster University Faculty Association to receive annual grants from the grantors in relation to the proportion of MURA members originating with the related employee group, with McMaster University providing funding for The Management Group. Grants received for the 2020 calendar year have been recorded as income in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

4.     Contingency Reserve

MURA Council approved the creation of a Contingency Reserve of $22,000.00 for unforeseen expenses or loss of revenue in future years. The cash is being held in the savings account.

5.     Website

Web hosting services are contracted and paid on a biennial basis to take advantage of discounts.

6.     The amount ‘Due to McMaster University’

The amount ‘Due to McMaster University’ in the Balance Sheet represents outstanding invoices for University services such as catering and postage unpaid as of April 30, 2020. This is unusually large because of payment processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Graduate Student Academic Awards Fund

MURA has supported McMaster undergraduates studying society’s aging population since 1992 by providing scholarships and prizes. Thanks to generous donations by retirees and friends of MURA, an endowed fund now provides an annual $2,500 in-course scholarship and a $750 graduand prize.

MURA has now established a new fund to provide scholarships to graduate students researching technological advances related to seniors. The initial goal is to raise $25,000 as soon as possible, which will support an annual $1,000 award. The fund is already at $6,000, thanks to an allocation from MURA's undesignated funds and a couple of early gifts from fellow retirees.

Please help make this new fund grow to support graduate students who are working to help the aging population. More information and a pledge card will be arriving in your mailbox in early November. If you prefer, you can contact Lori Moulden by email at or by phone (905) 525-9140 x 24224, or you can make your gift today online at

Your donations are tax deductible, and will help McMaster graduate students for years to come.

2019 MURA Scholarship Winners

Julia McDermid Boue

 Julia McDermid Boue photoI am currently in my fourth and final year of an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Health & Society and Aging & Society. I started volunteering in a long-term care home in my first year at McMaster. I found this experience very rewarding and it inspired me to pursue this program. I have since volunteered and worked in other healthcare settings, which has reinforced my passion for the health and aging field. In my spare time, I enjoy doing yoga and I am involved with planning events for the McMaster Yoga Club.

I have really enjoyed the opportunities that my undergraduate degree has given me, especially the placement course. My placement on a palliative care unit was very meaningful to me and I learned a lot of important lessons from the patients I worked with. I also appreciate that this program is very interdisciplinary and has allowed me to gain knowledge from a variety of academic disciplines. I hope to pursue a Masters degree next year in Public Health or Health Policy, with the goal of working for the government or in administration in a health care facility such as a hospital or long-term care home.

I am very grateful to the McMaster University Retirees Association for your generosity and support, and I am honoured to be a recipient of the MURA scholarship.

Emily Smith

Emily Smith photoI am a fourth-year student in the combined honours Health and Society and Aging and Society program and I am also completing minors in French and Globalization studies.

Outside of my studies, I volunteer with researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Survivorship Centre where I am working on a review of competencies and training programs for peer leaders in order to develop a peer-based chronic disease prevention program. Over the past year, I have worked on other public health research projects. This summer I worked on a study assessing the effectiveness of a digital follow-up care system for individuals with stage 1 testicular cancer and in the 2020 winter term, I worked with Hamilton Public Health to create a vaping education campaign to be implemented in schools. Throughout my time at McMaster, I have also been volunteering at PACE (McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence) where I work with individuals with spinal cord injuries and MS to assist them in completing their physical activity programs.

From all of these experiences and my studies at McMaster, I have developed an interest in the social determinants of health and health promotion. After completing my undergraduate degree, I am hoping to pursue a master’s degree in public health and eventually working to create programs and conduct research to help improve the health outcomes of at-risk groups.

Return of Historical Artifacts

Claus Schonfeld photo

Claus Schonfeld worked as a technician in the Chemistry department at Mac from 1965 until his retirement in 1988. In 1979 he bought McMaster Chemistry department surplus items that were being auctioned. One was a Baird & Tatlock scientific balance, the other a Cooke microscope, both dating from the early 1900s [pictured below].

In September his wife, Christa, met with Gillian Goward (Chair, Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology) at Gillian’s home to give these pieces of McMaster’s history back. They are now on display in the department.

Claus died on October 3, 2020 at the age of 95.

It is the Schonfelds’ hope that their donation will encourage other retirees to search out and give back other McMaster artifacts, and will also support McMaster’s students through bursary and scholarship donations.

  Baird & Tatlock scientific balance photo
 Cooke microscope photo

                                                Baird & Tatlock scientific balance

        Cooke microscope


Contacting MURA

Mail:  Gilmour Hall B108, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8

Phone:  (905) 525-9140, ext. 23171 (voicemail is checked once a week)


What’s happening at Mac

by Helen Ayre

McMaster’s contributions to pandemic research

With no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has determined that winter 2021 classes will take place online. Residences will remain closed, but will continue to provide accommodation in exceptional circumstances and to support international students or others who need to quarantine. Currently, classes are taking place online, services and support for students are also being delivered via the internet, and most employees continue to work from home. The university is providing all faculty and staff with two extra days off work as a token of appreciation for their ongoing contributions and efforts in these unusual circumstances.

In the meantime, many McMaster researchers are doing their part to shed light on the current situation. Here are just a few examples of the work taking place:

More information on these and other COVID-19-related initiatives can be found in resource material from the Age-Friendly University Network.

Some positive McMaster news of late is McMaster’s 69th place ranking in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with an impressive 11th place ranking in the Clinical and Health category. McMaster has also received a $2-million gift from Canadian philanthropist and entrepreneur Stephen Jarislowsky to create a new research chair in pandemic research and prevention at McMaster. Two McMaster faculty have been recognized by the Royal College of Canada, while six have been identified as Canada Research Chairs.

Finally, for those wanting to explore their natural surroundings, McMaster has launched an expanded Nature @ McMaster website to help students, staff, faculty and the community in Hamilton discover the many outdoor spaces both on and close to campus.

University Technology Services for Retirees

University Technology Services (UTS) recently implemented a newly designed web site

Information on all UTS services available to retirees is available at This includes links to information about the following retiree services:
A complete guide to Mac retiree email, computing and connectivity is available on the MURA web site.

Volunteer Opportunities

Contributed by Ellen Ryan

McMaster Aging Field Experience course needs Senior Volunteers

Ellen Ryan is leading an initiative of Hamilton Aging in Community to match senior volunteers with third-year Mac undergraduates for an applied experience. Students will connect weekly via email/phone/Zoom with their senior partners to assist them in writing/recording their memoirs. Fifteen seniors are taking part in the fall term, and others are signed up for January. We are recruiting additional volunteers for the January-April term. For more information, contact Ellen Ryan,

Technical Support for Seniors

TechServeTO is a non-profit started by a McMaster graduate student to create connections for seniors (like his immigrant grandparents) so that they can contact family and friends and take part in learning/entertainment experiences. Volunteers are trained to provide tech help over the phone. The website offers lessons on how to use smart phones and Zoom, for example. They are expanding across Canada. Hamilton is an obvious priority.

Interested volunteers can sign up for training on the website. You might also know of young people keen for this type of training – they too can register here. For more information, contact Ellen Ryan at

Your Money/Your Health

If You Experience Issues with Sun Life Health & Dental Claims Coverage

By Mary Law

Statement from McMaster Human Resources Services
There may be times that you, as a retiree, experience issues with your Sun Life health and dental claims coverage. If you have a benefit claim that has been declined through Sun Life, please check with Sun Life 1-877-786-7227 first, to verify why the claim was declined. If the reason was not due to a benefit provision limitation (examples: you’ve reached the plan maximum for reimbursement; you must pay a deductible; the plan does not provide coverage for a specific service, etc.) it is wise to check with Human Resources.
Please call the Human Resources Service Centre at 905-525-9140 ext. 22247, and ask them to check your enrolment with Sun Life to ensure coverage is available.
If these steps do not resolve your issue, please let MURA know by email to or by leaving a phone message at 905-525-9140, ext. 23171.

Retirees should expect to continue to receive the same coverage and reimbursements as they have had since they retired (with the exception of the prescription drug benefit, which becomes a supplemental benefit at age 65 when the Ontario Drug Benefit, or other provincial drug benefit, becomes the primary payer), and should also experience no change to the process used to submit claims and receive reimbursements. Your benefits are outlined in your retiree benefit plan booklet, available from the Human Resources Services website. Alternately, request a copy of your benefit booklet by contacting the HR Service Centre at 905-525-9140, ext. 22247.

Free online course “Hacking Exercise for Health: The surprising new science of fitness” offered by McMaster exercise physiologists

By Nora Gaskin

Last year saw the launch of a new online course, “Hacking Exercise For Health: The surprising new science of fitness”, designed by McMaster researchers and exercise physiologists Martin Gibala and Stuart Phillips. The course presents tools and techniques that will help you get fit, strong and healthy in a lot less time than you would have thought possible. At the same time you’ll be exposed to the latest research on cardiorespiratory fitness and strength building in a fun, interactive learning environment.

Marty and Stu, as they are known in the well-produced course videos, do a great job of keeping course participants engaged and entertained while they learn. They use humour, music, graphics, action sequences and a lively, upbeat approach to the course material.

A major motivation they cite for creating the course is that although public health guidelines recommend that people of all ages should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise and do strength training two days a week, fewer than 15% of people meet that goal, and only 10% of people do any strength training at all. Getting in shape is often seen as an unattainable goal requiring many hours of strenuous effort, but Gibala and Phillips have focussed their research on discovering ways to achieve that goal in short periods of time and with what sometimes seem like unconventional approaches. By the end of the course participants will have gained a set of tools and techniques that will allow them to integrate an effective exercise program into their lives at any age, and no matter how busy they are.

The course is a MOOC (massive open online course, an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web) and is offered through Coursera, a major MOOC provider and host site. Course materials include short five to seven minute video tutorials, quizzes, exercises and assignments and online forums for questions, answers and discussions.

Topics include:
  • the benefits and importance of cardiorespiratory fitness and strength-training for mental and physical fitness and health, as well as healthy aging
  • techniques to build cardiorespiratory fitness with the most time-efficient methods
  • how to design your own resistance-training workouts that you can do at home (or anywhere), even if you’ve never lifted weights before, so that you can stave off frailty and the decline in strength that otherwise happens as we age
  • how to combine cardio and strength fitness into your own fun workout that can keep you exercising and healthy for life

Enrollment, cost and timing

Sign up for a free Coursera account, start the course at any time and take it at your own pace, although it is designed as a four-week course of study. You’ll notice when you first sign in, that the course is listed as starting on the current day, but you can pause or revisit course materials any time, as well as reset your course deadlines if you need to. You’ll also notice that after you create your account with Coursera, you will be invited to provide information about your job, interests, etc., but you can scroll to the bottom of that questionnaire and skip it if you wish. The course is free of charge, but learners have the option of accessing graded assignments and earning a certificate for a small fee, during or after their audit.

Details and further info

Hacking Exercise for Health: The surprising new science for fitness
Delivery: Online Anytime
Time: Approx. 23 hours to complete
Language: English, with video subtitles in English and Spanish
Transcripts: Full transcripts of all videos are provided in English, German and Spanish
Downloading: Lecture videos, subtitles, and lecture transcripts are all downloadable.
Participants to date: 34,000+ people already enrolled

4-week syllabus:
  1. The Basics of Fitness (3 hours to complete)
  2. Cardiorespiratory Fitness (4 hours to complete)
  3. Musculoskeletal Fitness (6 hours to complete)
  4. Combining Cardio and Strength Fitness (10 hours to complete)

Further reading:

New online course offers fun, simple hacks to help you get fitter and stronger, an article by Erica Balch featuring an interview with Martin Gibala and Stuart Phillips.

Biennial Pension Information Statements

In 2015, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation that requires that all retired and former members of Ontario registered pension plans be provided with biennial information statements every two years. Human Resources will be issuing the next statements for all former and retired members of the Salaried Original Plan, Salaried Plan 2000 and Hourly Pension Plan by the end of December 2020, which will reflect pension entitlements as at June 30, 2020.

If you do not receive a statement by the end of January, or if you have questions about your statement, you are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Service Centre at 905-525-9140 ext. 22247.

Notifying Human Resources of Address Changes

Please keep your postal address on file at McMaster University up to date to ensure you receive correspondence such as the biennial pension statements. The Human Resources Service Centre provides McMaster retirees with one point of contact to update their addresses. Upon receiving your address change, the HR Service Centre will update the following as applicable on your behalf:
  • Communicate updated address information to MURA
  • Update the Sun Life System (for benefit purposes)
  • Communicate address information to CIBC Mellon (for pension purposes)
  • Update the McMaster HR System

Address changes can be forwarded to the HR Service Centre using any of the following methods:

Please do not hesitate to contact your HR Advisor with any questions.

Email addresses: Remember also to let MURA know if you have a new email address. You can send this information to

Other News

Parking on Campus

Permit Expiry Renewal Reminder

Retiree parking permits are issued on a 12-month basis and must be renewed annually. Renew prior to your expiry date, by email. Your transponder number is on the front of your transponder. If you have questions or have not made a note of your expiry date, please contact McMaster Parking Services by email at or at 905-525-9140 ext. 24232.

Please Note

Parking Services continues to review parking patterns on all campus lots and to update its strategy for managing parking demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, a decision has been made to continue the summer access for retirees (detailed below) until December 31, 2020.
  • Access to lots B, C, D, H, I, K, M, N, P and Underground Stadium at all times.

A note to retirees without parking transponders

Free parking on campus is available to retirees. To take advantage of this perk, go to the McMaster Parking Services web page.

Recent passings

compiled by Kathy Overholt

David Carr, Biomedical Sciences, July 24/20
Vikki Cecchetto, Linguistics & Languages, Sept 3/20
Ihor Chorneyko, Mathematics & Statistics, July 27/20
Margaret Cody, University Library, Aug 18/20
Edward Harris, Physical Plant, Sept 19/20
Robert Hudspith, Mechanical Engineering, Sept 23/20
Herbert Jenkins, Psychology, Sept 5/20
Douglas Johnston, Facility Services, July 26/20
Ola Lunyk-Child, School of Nursing, Oct 6/20
Mildred McLaren, Faculty of Science, Oct. 11/20
Roy Nichol, Facility Services, Aug 13/20
Pauline Sartorio, Biochemistry, Sept 18/20
Claus Schonfeld, Chemistry, Oct 3/20
Patricia Wiebe, Faculty of Business, Aug 17/20

Welcome new members

compiled by Kathy Overholt

David Chettle, Physics & Astronomy
Richard Day, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour
Barry Diacon, Engineering Physics
Alan Dickin, Earth, Environment & Society
Lou DiDomenico, UTS
Andy Duft, Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy
Ross Gardiner, Regional Medical Associates
Rebecca Hamilton, Admissions
Peter Whyte, Pathology
Julie Willson, University Library

And a belated welcome to:
Nadine Graham, School of Rehabilitation Science

Diversions, Fall 2020

By Helen Ayre

COVID-19 Lockdown   And so it continues...

The Grimsby Authors Series is a fundraiser for the Grimsby Public Library that usually offers in-person author presentations in the fall and spring. This year, the series has gone online. There are always two authors per evening. The first in the fall series took place on September 14 and featured Emma Donoghue, discussing her new book The Pull of the Stars, and Helen Humphreys, on her most recent novel, Rabbit Foot Bill. Next up, on October 22, are Cathy Marie Buchanan (Daughter of Black Lake), and Karma Brown (Recipe for a Perfect Wife).

Hamilton Third Age Learning has moved its fall lecture series online. These lectures are offered via Zoom from 10:00 am – noon on Wednesday mornings, starting on October 7 for 5 weeks, and are always informative and thought-provoking.

HAALSA, the Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art, has also moved its free Saturday night public lecture series online via Zoom. The next lecture on Saturday, November 7, will be on The Mystery, Beauty, and Science of Light.

Pre-registration is required for each of the above series – see the respective websites for details.

Stack of books on the performing arts

Ongoing Live Streams and Concerts

Live From Home - Live Nation’s all-new virtual music hub where fans can discover the best live streams, artist content, new music and more from around the globe, all in one place. Available in over 30 countries, fans can stay connected to their favorite artists and search through hundreds of performances and other videos now. Daily live streams from around the world will help keep boredom at bay.

CBC Gem – This streaming service offers on-demand television programs, movies and at last count, 12 Stratford stage Shakespearean productions presented in high definition. The service is free (with ads) or a premium ad-free version can be purchased for $4.99 per month.

If you want to get into an in-depth exploration of a topic, you might try the Road Scholar Virtual Campus, which offers multi-session online courses on a variety of topics from WWII to London Theatre. While not inexpensive, they will certainly entertain and educate.

Check out the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal for a host of fall activities for older adults that boost well-being.

Grandparents can explore this link to the Toronto Zoo with their grandkids if they like - or even explore on their own!

Now that ‘soup season’ has arrived, check out the recipes for delicious small-batch soups on One Dish Kitchen.

MURAnews is produced by MURA members Denise Anderson (Production Editor), Helen Ayre (News Editor), Helen Barton, Phyllis DeRosa-Koetting, Marju Drynan, Nora Gaskin, John Horsman, and Mary Johnston. We welcome submissions from MURA members.

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