Jack Layton’s Legacy at Ryerson University

profile Jack Layton

Before Jack Layton entered politics, going on to make history as the first New Democratic Party (NDP) leader of the Official Opposition, he taught for 10 years in Ryerson’s Department of Politics and Public Administration. His Ryerson career, begun in 1974, continued until 1982 when he took a leave of absence to enter municipal politics in Toronto. In 1992 he returned to teach for one semester after an unsuccessful mayoral bid. Jack kept in touch with Ryerson throughout his political career, returning again in October 2007 on the 45th anniversary of the Public Administration program to participate in a panel discussion on the program’s past and future.

That day, he noted "I'm thrilled to see 45 years of history. I experienced such joy being here. Teaching at Ryerson is among the happiest times of my life. The Program's combination of teaching and hard work is a great fit here. I'm a big believer in Ryerson."

Shortly after Jack’s passing in 2011 his wife, Olivia Chow, and his family donated a collection of Jack’s books and artefacts to Ryerson in honour of this legacy. Approximately 500 volumes from Jack’s library will be available for circulation at the Ryerson Library. The remainder of the 1400-plus donated books, along with textual records and various items in other formats, will be housed at the Ryerson Archives. Jack’s personal book stamp encouraged readers to freely share his books. This donation celebrates Jack’s generous impulse to “pass it on” while recognizing his contribution to Ryerson’s history.

The Jack Layton Collection

The Layton collection donated to Ryerson University includes books, artefects (including framed items, ephemera, and textiles), textual records and audio visual items in a variety of formats. Of the books, 491 are annotated in some fashion, typically with notes and underlining by Jack, his signature and inscription. The collection includes an assortment of hardcover and paperback volumes, magazines, pamphlets and books on tape. The textual records comprise approximately one linear metre of draft research materials, speech notes, correspondence, NDP pamphlets and ephemera, press clipping, marked up academic papers and other miscellany.

Some of these items will be displayed in a special exhibit in the Ryerson Library Archives (350 Victoria Street, 3rd floor) starting September 20th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For regular Archives hours please go to http://library.ryerson.ca/asc/hours/

The Jack Layton Chair at Ryerson University

Jack Layton began his political career as a Ryerson professor of Politics and Public Administration. Through his political trajectory from City of Toronto alderman, Metropolitan Toronto Councillor, Member of Parliament and ultimately leader of the federal NDP and Official Opposition, Jack inspired Canadians to pursue progressive political change. Justice, fairness, inclusion and hope were his guiding principles for building a better city and a stronger nation. By creating the Jack Layton Chair, Ryerson University will advance his legacy of political and humanitarian leadership.

The Jack Layton Chair will engage in a variety of activities in keeping with his wide-ranging interests and commitments. Throughout his career, Jack was a passionate advocate for a number of social issues, proposing new solutions for environmental sustainability, liveable cities, homelessness, violence against women, homophobia, labour rights, youth engagement, public health, and inclusive democracy. The mandate of the Jack Layton Chair will be to broaden understanding and political capacity in order to effect progressive social change. The Chair will also organize an annual Jack Layton lecture. Noted philosopher Charles Taylor is the inaugural speaker on September 20 2012 on the subject of Reimagining, Restoring and Reclaiming Democracy.

Jack’s family and Ryerson University invite you to support his legacy at Ryerson. You can make a tax-deductible donation that will support the teaching and research activities of the Jack Layton Chair at:


For enquiries and comments related to this website please contact us at rememberingjack@ryerson.ca