York honours five alumni trailblazers

The leadership and achievements of five York University alumni will be recognized at the annual Bryden Alumni Awards dinner tonight at The Design Exchange in Toronto.

Those being honoured are: Sandie Rinaldo, weekend anchor of CTV National News; Helen K. Sinclair, chief executive officer of BankWorks and BCN.tv; Debra Lynne Brown, principal choreographer for Cirque du Soleil; Farouk Jiwa, senior manager of CARE Enterprise Partners; and Steve Dranitsaris, senior executive officer in the Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration at York.

“These five exceptional individuals have distinguished themselves in fields ranging from news and communications to the arts, alumni affairs and international development,” said York’s executive director of Alumni and Advancement Services, Naguib Gouda (MBA ’84). “The achievements of these alumni show very clearly that York graduates are making a difference in the world, and they are each following their own remarkable paths to this success.”

The award is named after the late Bruce Bryden (BA ’64), founder of the York University Alumni Association (YUAA) and the first alumni Chair of the York University Board of Governors.

Pinnacle Achievement: Recognizing true distinction in professional life or in any field of endeavour

Sandie RinaldoSandie Rinaldo (BA Hons ’73) has been a weekend anchor of  “CTV National News” since 1985. She has co-hosted the news program “W-FIVE” with veteran news anchor Lloyd Robertson since 2004 and has acted as reporter on a number of the show’s notable stories. Rinaldo is also the reporter/producer of a segment called “A Sandie Rinaldo Success Story” on the national news. Her career at CTV began in 1973, one week after graduating from York University. Although she started as a junior secretary, within a year Rinaldo had earned a position as a researcher for “W-FIVE”. In 1976, she joined “Canada AM”, where she became a reporter-at-large, and by 1980 she had been promoted to news anchor of “Canada AM”, becoming the first woman in Canada to anchor a daily network newscast.

Outstanding Contribution: Dedication to the advancement of the University through exceptional service, commitment and contributions

Helen K. Sinclair (BA Hons.’73) is the founder and chief executive officer of BankWorks and BCN.tv, a satellite communications company which runs a network of more than 200 interactive virtual classrooms and meeting rooms in hotels and conference centres across Canada. A past president of the Canadian Bankers Association, Sinclair held a variety of positions with the Bank of Nova Scotia. She sits on several boards including the Board of Governors at York, is a past chair of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, and has been very active in the not-for-profit sector.

 Redefine the Possible: For leadership and successes which are innovative, unconventional and daring, embodying York’s trailblazing motto “Redefine the Possible”

Debra Lynne Brown (BFA Spec. Hons. ’78) is an internationally renowned choreographer. Principal choreographer at the Cirque du Soleil since 1987, her credits include Alegria, Saltimbanco, Mystère and La Nouba. She has also acted as principal choreographer for the Canadian Opera Company’s The Golden Ass and the Metropolitan Opera’s Ghosts of Versailles, and she has a number of film credits as well. Brown has done choreography for musicians including Aerosmith and Madonna and, as a winner of eight national awards in gymnastics, has choreographed for a number of Olympic athletes and teams.

One-to-Watch: For remarkable professional and community accomplishments early in his or her career

Farouk Jiwa (MES ’03) is senior manager at CARE Enterprise Partners, a division of CARE Canada that applies innovative, market-based approaches to poverty reduction in the developing world. He is also co-founder and director of a community-based beekeeping enterprise in East Africa, known as Honey Care Africa, which has doubled the income of more than 2,500 small farmers by training them in commercial beekeeping and buying their honey at a guaranteed price. Jiwa has received a number of prestigious international awards: the Equator Initiative Prize, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, for his contribution to poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation; the International Development Marketplace Innovation Award, from the World Bank and George Soros Open Societies Institute; and the World Business Award, for his contribution to UN Millennium Development Goals. He was also recognized at the 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos as among the World’s Most Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs.

Local Hero: A York alumnus and employee of the University who has gone beyond the call of duty

Steve Dranitsaris (BA ’73), now in his 33rd year as a York employee,  is the senior executive officer in the Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration. His involvement in the alumni program over three decades has included co-founding the alumni sports program, editing Alumni News, setting up the Alumni Annual Fund program and founding York’s Sport Hall of Fame. Dranitsaris has held a number of positions at York over his lengthy career and has also been involved in many committees, task forces, building projects and student scholarships. For the past decade he has served on the board of the York University Alumni Association and has been alumni representative to the University Senate.