Toasting York’s most generous donors

York’s faculty, staff and students raised their glasses to thank the University’s most generous donors on a perfect spring evening in June. Hosted by the York University Foundation, the fourth annual Honour Court Dedication and Reception drew a gathering of old and new friends, supporters and students representing all five decades of excellence at York. This year a total of 20 new donors were inducted into the Honour Court, while 19 others were recognized for their continued support of the University and upgraded to a new recognition level. The dedication took place June 20.

Right: Toasting to the generosity of all Honour Court donors are Paul Marcus (left), president & CEO, York University Foundation; Marshall Cohen, Chair of the York University Board of Governors; Tom Gallant, Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Modern Studies; Lorna R. Marsden, York president & vice-chancellor; and Tim Price, Chair of the York University Foundation Board of Directors

Held at the Honour Court & Information Centre, an award-winning structure at York’s Keele campus made possible by a leadership gift from philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the event celebrated York benefactors who have made contributions of $100,000 or more to the University. The Honour Court structure contains a pavilion wall with granite stone blocks symbolizing varying levels of support. These granite blocks represent a cumulative total of $150 million in donor support of York University since it was founded in 1959.

“We at York are grateful for the support of all our donors,” said Marshall Cohen, Chair of the York University Board of Governors. “While your support is helping us build the Honour Court walls stone by stone, more importantly, your generosity helps us continue to strengthen York University.”

Left: Representing the Atkinson Students’ Association are Junaid Khan (left) and Fathima Jaffer

Tim Price, Chair of the York University Foundation Board of Directors, thanked donors for their leadership and commitment to the University.

“The generous support of York’s committed donors,” said Price, “enables this University to provide better access and resources for students, more freedom for teachers to develop world-class, interdisciplinary research programs and allows us to expand upon our infrastructure.”

“I am pleased to report to you that we are making amazing progress,” he continued. “This past fiscal year was our most successful year of fundraising yet, with $22 million raised in support of the University’s greatest priorities. In four years, our fundraising revenue has doubled.”

One of the University’s priorities is the creation and enhancement of scholarships, bursaries and awards. Lorna R. Marsden, York’s president and vice-chancellor, reported that thanks to donor support, a total of $8 million, which includes the dollar-for-dollar match by the Ontario government, was raised for York students through the Ontario Trust For Student Support (OTSS) program, since its inception last November. “I know that all the students present today join me in saying thank you so much for supporting their needs,” said Marsden.

Right: The Barrack Family makes giving to York a family tradition

For Tesfaye Kumsa, a second-year media and culture master’s candidate, the compassionate spirit of donors has provided him with a second chance in life. The Writer-in-Exile Bursary opened doors that he thought would be forever closed to him when he first arrived in Canada. After spending the majority of his career writing and working for the media in Ethiopia, Kumsa like thousands of new immigrants, was unable to find suitable employment in Canada because of his lack of Canadian education and work experience.

“There are no words that will help me describe or express my deep appreciation to all of the donors at this wonderful University,” said Kumsa. “After moving to Canada and giving up everything I had spent half my life building in Ethiopia, I felt like I had nothing left. York and this bursary allowed me to rediscover and recreate myself and now I am in a position to contribute to this country.”

Left: Enjoying the event are Tim Price (left) and York alumnus Bill Hatanaka (BA ’77)

Atinna Hercules, a jazz vocal major in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and a Harry Rowe Bursary recipient, will be entering her third year of undergraduate study in September. She attended the Honour Court event to personally thank donors for contributing to the University. “Thanks to your support, students like me do not have to seek part-time employment and are therefore able to pour our whole selves into our studies,” said Hercules.

Donor support also provides York with the resources to hire the best faculty and staff, to create and deliver exciting academic programs and foster innovative research opportunities.

“Building a great university must be a collaborative effort,” said Tom Gallant, holder of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Modern Studies and a speaker at the event. “It is the united efforts of donors, faculty, staff and students that has allowed York to do so many great things. Thank you for contributing to the development of York’s groundbreaking programs and research initiatives.”

Right: Attendees Ronald Pearlman (left), interim dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies; Mark Lievonen (BBA ’79, MBA ’87); and Guy Burry (BA ’82)

Alumnus Michael Barrack (LLB ’80), a newly inducted Honour Court benefactor and a partner at McCarthy Tetrault LLP, established the William and Edward Barrack and John Joseph Radey Bursary at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “I feel that it is important to give back to York, because I gained so much from my own student experience,” said Barrack. “I was the first person in my family to attend university and it was a difficult time for me both emotionally and financially. I know many young students are now under similar strains and they are the very reasons why I have created this bursary.”

Other donors inducted into the Honour Court in 2006 are:

  • Abitibi Consolidated Inc.
  • Brazilian Carnival Ball, represented by Anna Maria and Ivan de Souza
  • Henry and Barbara Bank and Family
  • Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, represented by Mark Young
  • Pamela Cooper Brown
  • Walter Carsen
  • In Honour of Willie and Mildred Fleischer, represented by Max and Heather Gotlieb
  • Paul Hoffert
  • The Jarislowsky Foundation
  • A tribute to the late Suzanne Holland Leggett, represented by her mother Nancy Holland
  • Living & Learning in Retirement, represented by Margaret Gibson
  • Eileen A. Mercier
  • The Mirkopoulos Family & Cinespace Film Studios
  • Chris Robinson
  • sanofi pasteur, represented by Mark Lievonen
  • Rogers OMNI TV, represented by Paritosh Mehta
  • Richard R. Waugh
  • A tribute to the late James M.H. Wu

In addition, many donors continue to support York University year after year. Donors whose generosity has moved them to a new level of Honour Court recognition in 2006 include:

  • Lawrence & Frances Bloomberg
  • The Brookfield Group
  • Michael J. Cooper
  • George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation
  • Milton & Ethel Harris
  • Harris Steel Group Inc.
  • Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.
  • Steve K. Hudson
  • The late Allen T. Lambert
  • Manulife Financial
  • The Maytree Foundation
  • Newmont Mining Corporation
  • Noor Cultural Centre
  • Petro-Canada
  • The Sam Sorbara Charitable Foundation
  • TELUS Business Solutions, represented by Nick Di Giovanni
  • Torys LLP
  • Tribute Communities, represented by Lucy Stocco
  • Jack and Anne Weinbaum and Family

Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation, concluded the evening’s ceremonies by toasting all York’s Honour Court donors and thanking them for their outstanding generosity. To help him describe the significance of extending a helping hand, Marcus cited an ancient Chinese proverb. “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a life-time, help somebody.”

This story was submitted to YFile by Bibianna Poon, communications and events intern, York University Foundation.