FES celebrates students and community at its second annual awards gala

The Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) celebrated student achievement and community involvement at its second annual Awards Gala on Nov. 30. The gala, which featured a dinner and reception at the Underground, formally honoured student award winners and the generous donors who make the awards possible.

Professor Bonnie Kettel, who emceed the 2005 Awards Gala, returned to that role to present more than 35 awards to FES undergraduate and graduate students. Many donors and University officials came to join the celebration, including York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, who presented the President’s Scholarship and the Susan Mann Dissertation Scholarship.

This year’s ceremony featured the inaugural presentation of three awards: the Dean’s Teaching Assistant Award, which celebrates teaching excellence by graduate teaching assistants; the Harold Mahabir Student Award for International Development, which supports second-year Master’s in Environmental Studies students with a demonstrated commitment to international development; and the Adrienne Pocock Memorial Award, which supports graduate research incorporating considerations of Canada, children, animals or aboriginal issues in relationship to the environment. Members of the Mahabir and Pocock families took the stage to assist with the presentations of those awards. Many other donors also joined in the presentation of the awards they helped establish.

Right: FES Professor Barbara Rahder (left) with donors Donna and Don Pocock, and award recipient Salina Young

"We were tremendously pleased that so many donors were able to participate in our celebration," said FES Executive Officer Carol Altilia. "It’s very inspiring for students to meet the people who make these awards happen, and we are glad to give our donors the opportunity to directly experience the positive effects their generosity has on students."

"I am immensely thankful to receive this award, and will find in it a perpetual memorial of the man after whom it is named. This deepens my resolve to commit to the international development cause," said FES student Julius Adagbon, recipient of the Harold Mahabir Student Award for International Development.

In addition to established awards, three new awards, which will soon be available to students, were announced: The Tasker Family Award in Water Resources (see story in the Dec. 6 issue of YFile); the Cotton Ginny International Research Award in Environmental Studies, which will support graduate student research abroad in the area of sustainable development; and the John A. Livingston Ecological Conscience and Nature Advocacy Award, established in memory of Professor Emeritus John A. Livingston (see story in the Jan. 20 issue of YFile), which will be awarded to a student whose work reflects Livingston’s passions.

Left: FES Professor Rob Macdonald (left) with donor Jacqueline Mahabir and award winner Julius Adagbon

The gala culminated in the presentation of the Friend of the Faculty Award, established in 2005 to recognize outstanding support of the Faculty, to the Han Shan Sih Buddhist Society of North York. In 2004, the society donated the house which had served as its temple for 15 years to FES, inspired by the connection between their spiritual approach to the environment and FES’s interdisciplinary approach to environmental education. The sale of the house resulted in an endowment of over $630,000 in financial support for graduate and undergraduate students.

"In entrusting their home to the Faculty, the society has created a legacy of learning through spiritual, ethical and religious exploration of environmental studies, enabling countless students to pursue higher education – many of whom may not have been able to do so otherwise," said FES Dean Joni Seager. "The Faculty of Environmental Studies is very pleased to present this award to the Han Shan Sih Buddhist Society as an expression of our deep appreciation for their generosity and support."

For more information on awards offered by the FES visit the Faculty of Environmental Studies Web site or contact the Student & Alumni Resource Centre at ext. 33196.