Members of the York community and architects, builders and contractors from outside the University came together on a cold and snowy Jan. 26 to celebrate the career of Peter Struk, assistant vice-president (facilities, planning & construction). Struk, who is retiring from York after an 18-year career, was lauded for his many accomplishments and feted by his colleagues in an emotional tribute.
Above: Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration (left), York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden and Peter Struk prepare to cut a strawberry shortcake
York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden began the tribute to Struk. “In addition to all his responsibilities inside the University, Peter Struk has served in a variety of governing modes. He has been involved on the land use committee for many years. He has been an important ambassador on behalf of York University with the community, with the people in construction, design, landscaping and planning with the City, and in many other very important relationships the University has developed and treasures.”
The celebration became a “Peter by numbers” story as the astonishing career of this York icon was laid out for all in attendance. Since coming to York in 1985, the retiring assistant vice-president has managed the intensive expansion of York. Over 600 acres of grounds located on York’s two campuses, the management of the day and evening operation of over 80 buildings and a staff of 500 were part of the portfolio managed by Struk. He was described by his colleagues as a true professional who always supported the needs of faculty and staff.
“From the day he arrived, Peter has been guided and focused on supporting the academic objectives of the University, principally teaching and research,” said Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration. “I am not sure he always had the resources he would have wanted, but I do recall hearing on many occasions, Peter try to frame his decisions and actions in the context of what was best for the academic areas of the university.”
During Struk’s time at York, the University underwent a building boom that saw a total of 20 projects started or completed. Among them were such notable buildings as the new Seymour Schulich Building, Vari Hall and the new TEL Building. The total capital value of the projects overseen by Struk amounted to over $600 million and represented 3.4 million square feet of space (including the upcoming Accolade project). “These projects are impressive indeed and represent a tremendous career accomplishment,” said Brewer.
To commemorate Struk’s contribution to York, he was presented with two Muskoka chairs and the University created the “Peter Struck Award in Engineering” to celebrate and honour his contribution to the growth and development of a world-class institution. Brewer said: “One of the key things about Peter is his keen interest in students and he liked to feel he could find ways to help them. To honour your contributions to York, we have established the Peter Struk Award in Engineering and in that way you will be remembered for years to come.”
“I am overwhelmed to say the least,” said an emotional Struk. “My years at York have been exciting and fun. The best part of the job for me was motivating, helping and representing people who had a sincere interest in helping students at York. The team around me deserves credit and I enjoyed working with the people in facilities and plant operations.
“For me personally, it was always the people who made all the difference. When I first came to York, I never thought I would survive because of the depth and breadth of people I worked with. People who think in three or more dimensions. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it in this school of higher learning but everyone made it easy for me. My job was to get whatever they needed to support their success. It has been a great run, I have really enjoyed it. Thank you York. It has been great.”