Luncheon celebrates excellence and honours donors

A selection of Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies donors or their families, and the student recipients of the awards they created, were recently brought together to say thanks and celebrate academic excellence. The recognition lunch was held in the Schulich School of Business and was followed by the 2004-2005 Atkinson Student Awards event. The afternoon provided York benefactors with the opportunity to see how their support is making a difference.

One student award winner, Irene McKewan, a single mother of three university-aged children, attended the lunch with her daughter, Patty. The recipient of the Atkinson Student Association Award this year, and other awards throughout the years, McKewan began her part-time studies in psychology in 1997 and is now in her third year with the intention of going to graduate school. The funding she received fueled her determination to succeed as the strain of family, work and school intensified.

Left: Irene McKewan (right) with her daughter Patty McKewan

“The support I received these past three years has pretty much paid for my education and has encouraged me to keep going,” said McKewan.

“Atkinson student financial support exists,” said Rhonda Lenton, dean of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, “because many of the individuals in this room established the endowments that fund these annual awards, and they have regularly topped up these endowments year after year. Our sincere thanks to you.”

The first dean of the Faculty, Harry Crowe, established the Harry S. Crowe Essay Prize. When Crowe passed away in 1981, his family continued to fund the award. Crowe’s daughter attended the lunch on behalf of her family.  “I always think it’s a great thing to get students and donors together,” said Crowe’s daughter, Moira Bendehan. “It’s important to continue the strength of Atkinson. It’s just a wonderful thing to do.”

Right: From left, York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, Moira Bendehan, and Daraius Bharucha

Daraius Bharucha, a mature student in the fourth year of a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, attended the lunch with his wife, Dilnaaz. Bharucha, a recipient of the Harry S. Crowe Essay Prize as well as three other awards this year, talked about the challenges of juggling family, full-time work and school and the lengths to which mature students with these responsibilities must go to succeed.

“The level of dedication I see among Atkinson students is excellent,” said Bharucha. “This is the case primarily because many of these students have to balance work and life. I thank donors for recognizing academic achievement and for helping Atkinson students overcome their financial barriers.”

“A lot of the students here today lead complicated lives,” said Lorna R. Marsden, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “They have families and they work full time and it makes their achievements all the more impressive.”

Receiving a scholarship, award or bursary is also a way for students to build bridges with the external community. For example, Joan Doran, a member of the Community Care Access Centre of York Region, which provides health services to the community, attended the lunch on behalf of the centre, which recently established the Jacqueline McCarthy Award in Nursing. “Atkinson’s nursing program is excellent, one of the best in Ontario if not nationally,” said Doran. “This award is a way for the centre to connect nurses with the York Region community.”

Also in attendance were Darren McEwan and his sister Sharon Reynolds, whose mother Beverly Margaret Reynolds was an Atkinson employee. After she died, her friends established the Beverly Margaret Reynolds Scholarship to recognize an outstanding research paper relating to the general area of Third World Studies completed by one or more Atkinson students.

Left: Darren McEwan (left) and his sister Sharon Reynolds

The late Andrew Roberts, a former Atkinson employee and a passionate continuing education student, left a bequest in his will to fund a bursary within the Faculty for students who face barriers to education such as single mothers and new Canadians. A short time later, Roberts suddenly passed away from a brain aneurysm at the age of 48.  “I know Andrew would be pleased to see this bursary realized,” said John Legge, a close friend of Roberts’. “I also know he would say that he wished it could have been established with many millions of dollars instead of thousands.”

Anita Gombos, a fourth-year specialized honours sociology student and the recipient of three awards at this year’s ceremony, appreciates every penny she has received and says that bursaries, scholarships and awards provide far more to students than money. “Students get discouraged in this harsh economic climate,” Gombos said. “Receiving private support is really nice for them because it encourages them to move on and it tells them that they are doing something right.”

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