Wait a minute ... that isn't the real editor, is it? ... hmm, perhaps she hasn't been well lately ...

You're right. This is not the face you are used to seeing in this spot. Janice Paskey, editor of the McGill News since 1990, is at home looking after newly-arrived son Matthew Saku (middle-named for the Montreal Canadiens' Saku Koivu, dubbed the Flying Finn by local hockey reporters). Matthew arrived in late April right on schedule -- his mom has never been one to miss a deadline -- and Janice and partner Marc are adjusting well to first-time parenthood.

I know she's learned a great deal since looking after a friend's baby a few years ago. With some trepidation, Janice had offered to babysit. The next day, she told me of the important discovery she had made halfway through the evening. "Babies are like pancakes. You just keep flipping them over!"

Because of little Matthew, I was offered the opportunity to look after McGill News.

For the last eight years, I have been editor of the McGill Reporter, the campus newspaper for faculty and staff. And although students claim never to read it, the Reporter has been taken to task by student publications frequently enough this year for us

to conclude that they were actually reading it pretty carefully.

The editorship of McGill News is a daunting job to take on, what with a circulation about six times greater than the Reporter's and with the magazine having earned a slew of awards under Janice's tenure. In fact, Assistant Editor Andrew Mullins has just learned that he won a silver medal in the annual publications contest run by the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education for the article "A Poet's Life" (Winter' 97), which he co-wrote with his predecessor at the News, Patrick McDonagh. As we went to press, decisions were pending on a couple of other entries, including a submission in the category for Best Magazine.

But what kept me awake nights was the prospect of making editorial decisions on behalf a group as large and diverse as McGill's alumni. I had a sense of the campus community for whom we published the Reporter. After all, I am member of that community, and I work and talk with scores of others in the course of a week. In the last few years we've won a few publication awards ourselves. But to decide what to put together for you -- who span eight decades, who live in more than 100 countries and whose interests range from geology to feminism and from agriculture to art history -- seemed an impossibly difficult task.

Because I was concentrating on the differences among alumni, I forgot about the bonds we all share -- whether we are on campus every day or haven't been back since graduation. Those common bonds are a profound pride in McGill and the desire to see it continue to flourish. And flourish it does -- despite budget cuts.

As you will learn from this issue, McGill is offering an innovative new program in environmental studies which could well serve as a model for other universities. Our French article highlights the research by psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky into the causes of increasing addiction to video gambling among students, mostly boys. His research indicates that an early fascination with electronic games can lead to problems with lottery machines, because young people don't recognize the difference between games of skill and games of chance. Derevensky also runs a free counselling service for gamblers aged 14 to 21, many of whom confess to stealing from family and friends to support their gambling habit. McGill's Symphony Orchestra is featured in a remarkable documentary about history and music as conductor Timothy Vernon prepares his charges to perform Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Read the article, then watch your local television listings.

Our cover story on the Division of Rare Books and Special Collections exemplifies a few other things that are right with McGill. The treasures described are unique -- some even priceless -- yet the staff want to share them with as many people as possible, whether they're researchers, students or members of the public. And the story emphasizes the importance to McGill of donors, in this case people who augment the marvellous collections, knowing that whatever they entrust to the University will be well looked after.

I hope you will enjoy the magazine. I already am.