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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
Linda Schuyler
Current Industry: Education, Entertainment, Humanitarianism
Bachelor of Arts (BA) 1974, Innis College

When Schuyler was a teacher in the Toronto school system, she couldn’t find suitable audio-visual materials for her students. She finally realized that she might as well go ahead and produce them herself.

This led to her starting a production company called Playing With Time Inc. Here she  co-created the first chapter of the Degrassi franchise: The Kids of Degrassi Street, which premiered on CBC television in September of 1980. The series evolved into several other incarnations (Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, and Degrassi: The Next Generation) and has aired, off and on, for more than 30 years, most recently on MuchMusic.

In an interview with U of T Magazine, Schuyler says it was a series that could only have been made in Canada. Degrassi would have met with resistance in United States, she believes, because of its lower tolerance for controversial issues in the 1980s.

Degrassi Junior High included a story about a pregnant teenager in its first season. Two years ago, it introduced an FTM transgender character. The series has won Gemini Awards, International Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, two Prix Jeunesses, two Teen Choice Awards and the Critics’ Choice Award.

"Going to U of T was a real time of discovery for me. Taking courses from Kay Armatage gave me a lot of confidence to leave the security of my teaching job."

The Degrassi series has had a real impact on the lives of young people, who see their difficulties reflected in the shows. “Adolescents have a unique voice, during a unique stage of life,” Schuyler says.

Inspired by her University experience, Schulyer is giving back to Innis’ Cinema Studies Institute. She has volunteered as a senior fundraiser and also served as a guest speaker at convocation. The Linda Schuyler Cinema Studies Award, established in 2007, is awarded to an academically deserving undergraduate student enrolled in a specialist or major in Cinema Studies.

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