On Friday, April 24, Ronnie Morris, a PhD candidate in History, suffered two major strokes, in his cerebellum and brain stem, as well as a double vertebral artery dissection. Ronnie had actually suffered an initial stroke a week earlier but had not displayed the usual symptoms; he thought he had the flu. After the double dissection and a second stroke, Ronnie collapsed while on the phone. After two life-saving surgeries and almost a month in intensive care, Ronnie is finally stable and has very recently returned home to Brampton.
It is no exaggeration to say that as a student, Ronnie is York through and through. Entering the university initially in 1999, he completed an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2004, specializing in Visual Arts. He then went on to complete an Honours Bachelor of Arts here, majoring in History, and graduating in 2007. After completing a Master’s in History at the University of Guelph in 2009, Ronnie returned to York to pursue his doctorate. Ronnie’s achievements were more than academic, however. He is also an accomplished musician, playing bass guitar and touring with well-known Toronto-area groups such as controller.controller, Lioness and Flowers of Hell.
At York, Ronnie’s skills as a teaching assistant were quickly recognized in courses on the social and labour histories of modern Europe and Britain. Having completed coursework and comprehensive exams, Ronnie crafted a dissertation topic on the phenomenon of child welfare and ideas about juvenile delinquency in eighteenth-century England. Focused especially on London during a period when the health of young people and the regulation of their behavior became a subject of increasing public concern, Ronnie’s research seeks to illuminate the lives of the children of the poor.
At the time of his setback, Ronnie was in the sixth year of the PhD program. He had built an impressive series of databases on poor families and children and drafted most of his dissertation chapters. He had received a graduate paper prize from the Western Conference of British Studies in 2012 and published two book reviews in academic journals. Ronnie served as co-president of the Graduate History Students’ Association in 2011-2012, was an active member of CUPE 3903, and was in 2014 the recipient of an award from the St. George’s Society of Toronto for his research. Having made several visits to UK archives over the years, the PhD finish line was in sight.
Ronnie now faces an extended and expensive road to recovery. His brain injuries caused paralysis on his right side and have affected his ability to speak. The full extent of the damage to other areas of his brain still needs to be examined, but family and friends remain optimistic he can make a full recovery. For stroke victims like Ronnie, who are between the ages of 20 and 64, neither OHIP nor CUPE 3903 coverage covers rehabilitation equipment, physiotherapy, and medication once he leaves the hospital, which can cost between $50,000 and $200,000.
Ronnie’s friends have launched a funding site to assist with the post-hospital care he will require. In addition, a benefit concert and auction are in the works and are expected to happen later in the summer.
Submitted by the Graduate Program in History