Stong roots run deep

Vernon Stong, a descendant of the Stong family who inhabited the farm land on which York’s Keele campus now stands, has made a $150,000 gift to the York University Foundation for the creation of The Oliver, Verona and Vernon Stong Scholarship. The scholarship, named after Stong and his parents, will benefit graduate students focused on African economic and political development.

“The 20th century benefits that many of us enjoy, such as good health care and a stable, responsible government, are not available to many people in Africa,” said Stong. “Hopefully, this scholarship will help bring attention and focus to the conflicts and strife in Africa today, most of which we hear little about.”

Once fully endowed in 2007, Stong’s gift will generate enough income per year to provide up to two scholarships to students concentrating on African development.


Above: Standing (from left), Joe Konadu, Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Thomas Asamoah; seated, Vernon Stong

When applicable, the income generated from the endowment will be matched two to one by the provincial government to fund Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS) of $15,000 each, for exceptional students focusing specifically on this area.

Members of the York University community including President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, John Lennox, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and Paul Marcus, president & CEO of the York University Foundation, thanked Stong for his visionary support of York University students.

“We honour you for thinking about humanity from a global perspective,” said Lennox, “and for the many contributions you and your family have made to York University.”

The event also celebrated the Stong family’s historical roots at York. Vernon Stong is a seventh generation member of a Canadian pioneer family and can trace his ancestry to the Palatine region of Germany that existed in 1667. Stong was born in 1937 in the historic, Georgian-style red brick house located at the northeast corner of the Keele campus. Several generations of the Stong family occupied the land that is now the Keele campus, beginning with Daniel Stong (1791-1868) and Elizabeth Fisher Stong (1798-1885) as the first settlers in 1816. Daniel and Elizabeth left the legacy of the five original buildings that form the nucleus of Black Creek Pioneer Village.


Above: Seated (from left), Eric Fredua-Kwarteng, Vernon Stong and John Lennox. Standing (from left), Paul Marcus, Peter Paolucci, Joe Konadu, Thomas Asamoah and Lorna R. Marsden

Two of the remaining Stong farm buildings are on the Keele campus: the Jacob and Sarah Stong House (circa 1860), which is currently used by the Faculty of Fine Arts as a studio facility, and the Stong barn, which is located just south of the historic Stong house.

Stong’s involvement with the University over the years has been one of historical advisor on the York lands. He has helped name preserved wood lots on the Keele campus in honour of the families who once lived and farmed the land, and the laneway leading to the Stong farmhouse was recently named Stong Lane.

“I have enjoyed your friendship and the pleasure of our meetings for as long as I have been at York,” said Marsden. “You have made a monumental difference in the lives of our students.”

Stong’s motivation for establishing this scholarship reflects his deep commitment to and personal interest in Africa and the quality of life of its citizens.

Three of Vernon Stong’s friends from the community accompanied him to the event. Thomas Asamoah, Joe Konadu and Eric Fredua-Kwarteng, known as Friends of the Scholarship, will help ensure that his legacy continues well into the future. “Thank you for caring so much about our students,” said Marcus. “You really have exceptional friends and together with you, they have been with us every step of the way in creating this meaningful scholarship.”

“My wish today is to assist a York student,” said Stong, “and bring some light to the study of continental African development.”

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