Foundation dinner celebrates York friends


Above: Group of York Foundation, Board of Governors and administration representatives, from left: First row: Avie Bennett, Lorna R. Marsden, Tim Price, Marshall Cohen and Paul Marcus; Second row: Jacline Nyman, J. Lyndsay Gordon, Judith Cohen, H. Barry Gales, Cathy Yanosik, John Hunkin and Bob Martin; Third row: Karim Lakhani, Steve Mirkopoulos, Henry Wu, Joseph Sorbara – and York Lions mascots

It was a night to celebrate for the 200-plus York donors, volunteers, alumni, faculty members and staff who gathered at the Metropolitan Hotel for the York University Foundation’s premier Celebration Dinner.

Right, from left: Tim Price; Joseph Sorbara, foundation board member; Susan Crocker, spouse of John Hunkin; John Hunkin, foundation board member

“This is an evening of firsts,” said Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation, “our first Report to Donors, our first year as a foundation, and the first annual Celebration Dinner. Thank you for making our success this past year possible.”


Left, from left: Lorna R. Marsden, Marshall Cohen and Howard Sokolowski, CEO of Tribute Communities, whose housing development has begun near York

Both a “coming out” party for the foundation and an occasion to thank York’s donors, the event brought together new and old friends, and included speeches by York Chancellor Avie Bennett, York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, Chair of the York University Board of Governors Marshall Cohen, and Chair of the York University Foundation Board of Directors Tim Price.

Beneath a York-red screen that read, “You make it possible,” York graduate (BA ’95) and CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi opened the evening, speaking emotionally about his radical days as president of the York Federation of Students.

Right: Jian Ghomeshi

“I never thought I would be standing here hosting an event like this after all of the trouble I caused for the University administration,” he joked.

Ghomeshi told a story about a public debate he had with then-York President Harry Arthurs, who afterwards quietly told him, “You did good, kid.”

“What I loved about York administration,” he said, “was that they made me think that I was causing trouble, yet they were encouraging that type of thought. Even in that moment, York taught me to define success on my own terms.”

Ghomeshi also said that it was not until he got to York that he learned to take pride in his Iranian heritage.

“York gave me a home as a first-generation Iranian and taught me that it was OK to be Iranian, to be brown and to be different,” he said.

Left, from left: Avie Bennett and Helen Vari, honorary governor on York University Board of Governors

“York is a very different, very special University where diversity and difference can flourish,” said Marshall Cohen. “Proof of this is Jian – Jian is York. When you think about the difference you can make through the York Foundation, think about York’s ability to produce students like Jian.”

The York Foundation was launched last year as an independent fundraising organization dedicated to supporting York’s growth.

“The vision for the foundation began with Marshall Cohen,” said Tim Price. “It was Marshall’s dream to launch an innovative approach to raising funds and building leadership at York and so far it’s been a tremendous success. This year we have increased funds to the University by 38 per cent, and attracted a stellar, 18-member board of directors and one special advisor.”

Lorna R. Marsden thanked donors for their support and encouraged those in attendance to stay involved with the University in the future, as leaders or through financial support.

“A world-class institution such as York is only as vital as the people behind it,” she said.

Uncommon approaches taken to achieve extraordinary results was the most talked about theme of the evening. In his keynote address, York graduate (BA ’80) and CNN anchor and host Jonathan Mann addressed York’s unsung excellence in international research and diplomacy, and thanked York for providing him with the launch-pad for his successful 20-year career in print and television journalism.

“It was because of York that I became journalist,” Mann said, adding that he began his career, “spelling badly”, as a member of York’s student newspaper, excalibur.

“York has reason to be proud,” he said. “I am amazed at all of the fascinating research being conducted in York’s 21 research centres including York’s Centre for International & Security Studies and the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. As supporters of the University, you are all playing a small role in increasing Canada’s international profile.”

Right: Jonathan Mann and Henry Wu, foundation board member

Guests enjoyed a four-course meal made possible by foundation board member Henry Wu and the Metropolitan Hotels, the presenting sponsor.

Coinciding with the dinner was the release of the foundation’s Report to Donors, a fundraising year-in-review which recognizes all gifts to the University in 2002-2003. For further information, see today’s More News section.

This story was submitted by Carrie Brodi, communications officer with the York University Foundation.