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As college students trickled back to class yesterday after a bitter three-week strike by faculty, members of the Centennial College community held a memorial for a teacher who died after a picket-line incident last week.

About 200 people stood shoulder to shoulder in a large lecture hall at Centennial College to hear friends and colleagues reminisce about accounting teacher John Stammers.

"The sheer number of you seated in this room clearly shows how much John will be missed," said Dennis Dowker, dean of Centennial's school of business.

Mr. Stammers, 62, was critically injured last Monday in an incident at the main campus entrance at 941 Progress Ave. in Scarborough. He died at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Science Centre on Saturday, hours after college faculty agreed with administrators to end the strike that began March 7, affecting more than 150,000 students.

"He was very well liked," said Reggie Plateo, an accounting teacher who worked with Mr. Stammers since he started at Centennial seven years ago.

"He just had a way about him that students, I think, could really appreciate and identify with."

A strong undercurrent of frustration and anger also pervaded the memorial; some questioned the police decision not to charge the driver of a car involved in the incident.

"I just don't understand it," said Joan Davis, an accounting teacher who was at the picket line when the incident occurred.

Traffic services Staff Sergeant Scott Baptist said that after reviewing Centennial's surveillance tapes, the investigation is now closed.

"We . . . determined that no charges should be laid," he said.

Eileen Burrows, president of Local 558 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said her organization is not satisfied with the investigation and is in the process of obtaining the tapes to see whether they can spot anything that could lead to a charge.

"We've had a lot of calls from angry citizens all over the province that simply can't believe that the driver is getting away with this," Ms. Burrows said.

Meanwhile, only two of the 24 colleges affected by the strike reopened yesterday. About a third of the students registered at Durham College and St. Clair College in Windsor attended classes, said Don Sinclair, executive director of the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario.

The head of the union bargaining committee, Ted Montgomery, said he is happy to see students and faculty back in the classroom but can't figure out why classes for every college were not operational yesterday. "We've got everyone in place, I don't understand what the holdup is all about."

Mr. Sinclair said delaying the start of classes for an extra day was meant to ensure teachers, who've been out of the classroom for three weeks, could "prepare and debrief before classes resume."

"They need the time to go over the curriculum and see what can be compressed," he said.

Faculty have been instructed to continue teaching until April 28 and to do away with the week-long study break before final exams, Mr. Montgomery said.

At Centennial, which reopens today, a scholarship fund has been created in honour of Mr. Stammers, said Rosanna Cavallaro, the college's director of marketing and communications.

A funeral service will be held for Mr. Stammers tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Turner & Porter Yorke Chapel, 2357 Bloor St. W.

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