Making a personal connection


Above: (from left) Gregory Betts, masters candidate in English; Professor Emerita Clara Thomas, a founding York professor; John Lennox, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies; and Ginger Boulton, masters candidate, women’s studies

Often a York student receives a privately funded scholarship but has no way of personally thanking the donor. Or, a donor makes a gift of financial aid but rarely gets to meet the student who benefits from this generosity.

In an effort to change this, a luncheon was held recently to introduce donors to York’s student recipients of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology (OGSST). Organized by the York University Foundation, this event presented the opportunity for graduate students to meet and thank the donors, and for donors to get to know the students and find out about their studies and research.

“This is a great occasion for us to provide the important personal dimension to what donors’ contributions represent,” said John Lennox, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “Students meet and create a connection with their supporters, while each donor has the pleasure of getting to know the individual whose work and academic careers are substantially enhanced through the donor’s financial support. Both can benefit from knowing what the other is doing. It’s a wonderful occasion.”

Erica Barbuto, a masters candidate in psychology, was not looking forward to another year of waiting tables while completing her thesis. She expressed gratitude to the Canadian Italian Business Professional Association, represented at the luncheon by Stan Cappadocia and Marianne Corigliano, for funding her OGS. The backing allowed her to devote more time to her research.

Right: Erica Barbuto

“Receiving an OGS this year was a blessing,” said Barbuto. “Not only was I able to lighten my TA load, but I was also able to spend more time focusing on my research and the development of clinical skills. Not including my masters thesis, I will graduate this year with four publications, three of which I completed this year!”

Among York’s 5,000 graduate students, many must work to afford their education and basic living expenses. To recognize and support outstanding students, the Ontario government established the OGS and OGSST programs, which now provide 2:1 matching of donations. Each year, York University is awarded approximately 185 OGS’s and 11 OGSST’s. The province funds $10,000 per scholarship and York is required to provide the additional $5,000 for a total of $15,000, which is awarded to each recipient.

“These scholarships are very competitive and prestigious,” said Sheila Embleton, York vice-president academic, “Without the interest and support of our donors through their contributions of matching funds, these scholarships would not be possible. A sincere thank you to our donors for supporting graduate studies at York.”


Above: (from left) Joel Cheng, director of marketing, MDS SCIEX; Rod Robbie of architecture firm, Robbie, Young & Wright; Ross Baker, masters candidate in science; and Gillian Wu, dean of the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science

In attendance at the luncheon was a cross-section of donors including members of the corporate community, individuals, and former York administrators and alums. Geoff Hoy, senior VP, Ontario Region, from HSBC Canada, shared a table with York MBA student Joanne Fernandes. Joel Cheng, director of marketing for MDS SCIEX, sat with Ross Baker, a graduate student in science. Professor Emerita Clara Thomas, a founding York professor, sat with York graduate student in English Gregory Betts. Other donors in attendance included Greg Stack, vice-president of Kenaidan Construction, and York alumnus, Stephanie Ling and her husband Winston. Two members of the new Faculty of Graduate Studies’ advisory council, Allan Bonner, president of Allan Bonner Communications, and Rod Robbie of the architecture firm Robbie, Young & Wright, were also at the luncheon.

“Thank you for choosing to engage in smart philanthropy through the 2:1 government matching program, and for investing in some of York’s smartest students,” Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation, told donors.

Now considering a PhD in addiction research, Barbuto said that not having to seek employment in her final year expedited the completion of her master’s studies.

“And now that I have finished my degree, I am going to Europe,” Barbuto said, adding with a laugh, “but not with my OGS money!”

This story was submitted to YFile by Carrie Brodi, communications officer, York University Foundation.