Donors honoured for making library excellence possible

Donors to York’s Libraries received a heartfelt thank you at a recent celebration held in the Scott Library. The event, which took place Wednesday, May 11, was hosted jointly by the Libraries and the York University Foundation to honour those whose generosity makes library excellence possible. 

Cynthia Archer, York’s chief librarian, kicked off the celebration with greetings and warm words of appreciation. “I want to welcome the many donors who are here with us today,” she said. “We are holding this event to thank you, to celebrate what you’ve done for York and to let you know that we truly appreciate your generosity.”


 Above: Librarians, faculty members and staff gather with donors for a group photo
 to commemorate the celebration.

Archer went on to express that gifts, whether given in-kind or through funds in support of specific projects, truly make a difference. “When you give the library your private papers, you make our collections stronger for the students, faculty members and researchers from around the world who make use of them,” Archer told donors. “Cash donations go toward purchasing up-to-date books and materials that enhance our collections, and also enable us to renovate buildings and create new state-of-the-art learning spaces.”

Lorna R. Marsden, York’s president and vice-chancellor, conveyed her appreciation and highlighted the significant role that the Libraries play in university life. “York’s Libraries are the intellectual heart of the University,” Marsden said. “For York students, our libraries are the preferred place of study and learning outside of the classroom. I want to thank our donors for helping us achieve our goal of providing excellent library space and resources for our students and faculty members.”

In addition, Marsden referred to the University’s remarkable holdings, which encompass the papers and collections of such distinguished individuals as Margaret Laurence, Rohinton Mistry, John Yolton and many others, as ‘jewels in the crown of York University’.

The event also paid tribute to the long York career of esteemed archivist Kent Haworth who passed away in Jan. 2003.

Judy Godfrey, who with her husband Sheldon, donated a collection of books and papers to York in 2004, spoke about their personal dealings with Haworth and their reasons for choosing the University as home for their donation.

Their collection consists of 1,200 books from the early 1700’s to present day, including much background on their original research into the earliest Canadian Jewish pioneers, comparing Canada’s religious laws to those in England, the United States, Holland and the Catholic New World settlements.

“We are very pleased to be included in honouring Kent Haworth who initially worked with us regarding our collection,” said Godfrey. “He was so enthusiastic and so able to see the importance of preserving materials crucial to understanding the past and its lessons for the future.”

The Godfreys’ collection contains the source material for close to 10 years of research on the legal history of Canadian rights, and served as the basis for their book, Search Out The Land: The Jews And The Growth Of Equality In British Colonial America,1740-1867 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995). Through their donation, they hope to preserve their findings for generations to come at York, across Canada and internationally.

“My husband and I thought very seriously about where to donate our collection,” explained Godfrey. “Because York is a university in Ontario and in Canada and because it houses the most significant Canadian Jewish studies program in the country, as well as an excellent law school, we chose these Archives with hopes that our research materials will enable future scholarship to take place.”

Jonathan Rex Mejia, 2005 winner of the Kent Haworth playwriting contest, spoke to those in attendance about his experiences as a student working with York’s archivists and library staff. The playwriting contest that he participated in encourages students to employ the materials housed in York’s Archives as the basis for creating new dramatic expression.

“In my quest to complete this contest I learned that Kent Haworth was a man who dedicated his life to York University,” said Mejia. “The staff I encountered truly upheld his ideals by taking time away from their regular duties and responsibilities to ensure that I thoroughly understood how to best make use of York’s library and archival resources.”

Following Haworth’s death, the Kent Haworth Fellowship for Archival Research was established to recognize the archivist’s desire to help graduate students from all over the world utilize the Archives at York. Support of the fellowship recently reached $25,000. The fellowship will commence in September, 2006.

Right: From left, Noemi Volovics, Haworth’s partner (and photographer of his portrait); John Lennox, dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies; and Cynthia Archer, chief librarian, admire the memorial portrait of Haworth to be placed in the Archives and Special Collections study room

John Lennox, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, spoke about his personal friendship with Haworth and expressed his gratitude to donors for making the fellowship possible. “Kent was a hard working and ambitious man, extremely committed to what he did, and openly and forever grateful that York University was his home,” Lennox said. “He was generous to a fault and understood and treasured the living presence of archives as the centre of a university. This fellowship will honour the personality and humanness of a truly wonderful man.”

As a tribute to the outpouring of generosity exhibited in his honour, the Archives and Special Collections study room will be named in Haworth’s memory. The room will feature a portrait of the archivist taken by his partner, Noemi Volovics.

“I want to thank you all again for celebrating with us today,” Archer said in her closing remarks. “I’m so glad we had the opportunity to thank you for your support and to pay tribute to Kent Haworth. I think this was a perfect afternoon.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Allison Berg, communications officer, York University Foundation.