Educator Stephanie Ling celebrates a life of learning

York alumna Stephanie Ling (BA ’87, MEd ’02) held a celebration of lifelong learning at the Gardiner Museum for 35 of her closest friends and associates. The event, held on June 24, was also a celebration by Ling of the completion of her PhD this past spring. 

Ling who is a board member of the of York University Alumni Association, founder and principal of Cornerstone Preparatory School, and a longtime advocate for the Faculty of Education and York University, thanked her guests for their support and encouragement. “My doctorate is as much yours as it is mine because of your faith in me,” she said. “Lifelong learning is really a response to life.”

Right: From left, alumna Stephanie Ling with former Faculty of Education Dean Paul Axelrod and his wife Susan

She related an experience she had while studying for her master’s degree at York. One day, her professor said something revelatory to her: "If you want your voice to be heard, you need to confront the disruptions in the midst of consensus." She immediately wrote it down. As a young girl growing up in the Chinese community and culture of Victoria, BC, she had been brought up to be quiet and obedient. The professor’s remark motivated her to look at ways to do things in a different way.

Ling no longer kept quiet. She learned to take risks in her thinking and toward life, in her profession and in her interactions with people. She said, “I continue to be influenced by the leaders of the York community. They have a passion for doing what is right, to do things with integrity, to do things with wisdom and, at the same time, to treat with dignity all the people that they work with. That has stayed with me.”

Paul Axelrod, former dean of the Faculty of Education stated, “What I’ve learned from Stephanie is not only the importance of and pleasure that flows from continuous learning, but the need to ground our engagement with the world in a strong sense of values. Such ballast helps direct and steady our ship on the seas of change.”

Axelrod said that Ling cherishes respect, tolerance, civility, family, spirituality and community. He continued, “Stephanie, you are not only a lifelong learner, you are a model citizen and a good friend, and it has been a privilege knowing and working with you.”

Ling’s commitment to lifelong learning and to the Faculty of Education is seen through the Cornerstone Leadership in Action Awards, which Ling and her husband Winston established in 2007. The awards, which are valued at $2,500 each, recognize two graduating students enrolled in the Faculty of Education who have demonstrated exceptional leadership potential or ability and who embrace attributes such as honesty, integrity, passion, enthusiasm, innovation, creativity, humility and trustworthiness.  

Ling said that she and her husband created the awards as a way to facilitate opportunities for York education students who also believe that lifelong learning is not just about acquiring new knowledge "but is a way of using that knowledge with our communities so that they become better places to live." 

"Learning does not have to come to a standstill when formal education comes to a close but rather needs to continue, in some degree, at every phase of life as a way to help us be more effective members of society. This becomes a living model for others to follow," said Ling. "York equips their graduates with best practices in the classroom, but life becomes filled with deadlines and the busyness of being a dedicated teacher. So this was our way of enabling graduates to keep alive their passion for continuous learning in the midst of their professional careers.

"The ultimate goal is to treat your fellow citizens with honour and respect, to listen to different voices and to be able to enter into a dialogue that will facilitate a positive, collaborative discussion on any particular topic that you choose, to rekindle the spirit of learning and to find opportunities in each of us to inspire somebody else,” said Ling.

She referred to the term “September University” to convey her sense of lifelong learning. The “September University” is defined as having no address, no country and no nationality. It is a state of mind and a concept that addresses the notion of complacency and lethargy in life. “I want to invite each of you to be aware of the need to rekindle the spirit of learning and to find opportunities in which each one of us can inspire somebody else, so that we can have a legacy for those that follow us,” said Ling.

Donations to the Cornerstone Leadership in Action Awards support York to the Power of 50, the largest fundraising campaign in York’s history.

For more information or to donate, contact York University Foundation at 416-650-8210 or