Ernie Lightman retired on December 31, 2011, after 37 fun-filled years at the University of Toronto.
Ernie began his career as an economist with an Honours BA in economics and political science from U of T (1967) and an MA and PhD in economics from the University of California, Berkeley (1972). His first full-time teaching position was in the department of economics at the London School of Economics (1972-74), followed by two years in the economics department at U of T (1974-76). In 1976, he joined the faculty of social work, where he remained for the rest of his active career. During this time he held visiting professorships in the UK (Bristol, London School of Economics) and Israel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
Ernie’s research interests have ranged widely over the years, though the common underlying theme has been the need to address poverty, precarious employment and inequality, typically viewed through a lens of class.
In 1991-92, he was on leave from the university, serving as a one-man commission for the Government of Ontario investigating unregulated residential accommodation (retirement homes/assisted living/boarding homes) for vulnerable adults in the province. The Commission’s report, which Ernie authored himself, contained some 150 recommendations, with the key ones ultimately finding their way into provincial legislation.
His scholarly research includes a large number of refereed academic publications in a wide range of journals as well as the textbook, Social Policy in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004). Recent years have been primarily focused on SSHRC-funded research, looking at precarious work, its health outcomes, and welfare-to-work programs. He held five big SSHRC grants as Principal Investigator and several more as Co-Investigator.
Ernie’s teaching has been focused mainly in the social policy arena, though he has also taught research methodology (both quantitative and qualitative) and community development. He has supervised many PhD students, both inside and outside the department.
Through the years he has commented regularly for the media and written numerous op-ed pieces on topics such as welfare policy, tax policy and health policy/medicare. Much of this has linked to his extensive and continuing involvement with community-based anti-poverty agencies in Toronto and beyond.
Since formal retirement, Ernie has been an invited guest lecturer at two universities in Taiwan and at the University of Mainz in Germany. He continues with his research, albeit at a lower level of intensity, leaving ample time to enjoy the many benefits of retirement.
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