Music plays again for Randal Dooley to help raise funds for bursary

It’s been over six years since music was played in honour of Randal Dooley, but Tammy Nguyen (BA ’07), one of the first recipients of the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary in the Faculty of Arts, has written and recorded a song to commemorate him and to raise funds for the bursary in his name. Dooley, a resident of the Jane-Finch community, died tragically in 1998 at the age of seven, the victim of parental child abuse.

The Toronto Roots and Culture Festival, a multicultural concert, raised funds for the bursary on Canada Day 2002. Now Nguyen is adding her voice to the chorus of support with her own song, which explains a bit about the case and how the public remained unaware of Dooley’s condition until it was too late. She characterizes it as a ballad that is sad, moving and intense.

Right: Tammy Nguyen

The bursary is awarded to a secondary school student entering the first year of a Faculty of Arts program at York  from a high school in the Jane-Finch corridor, who has a record of community involvement in the area and who demonstrates financial need. It has helped to raise awareness about the welfare of children in the community while contributing to children’s development through education.

Nguyen says she first became aware of Dooley’s case in her high school law class and was deeply moved by his death and the surrounding circumstances. “When I heard that I was nominated for this award, I was shocked because I had actually attended the court case. I felt that there was some connection between Randal Dooley and me,” she says. “This case profoundly touched and saddened me because he was so young.”

Throughout her time at York University, Nguyen wanted to give back in some way, but didn’t know how. Then, in her fourth year, she recalled the moving performance of a friend of Dooley’s, who sang the song "The Wind Beneath My Wings" as a tribute to Dooley during the Toronto Roots and Culture Festival. Nguyen realized that with her musical background – a Grade 9 in piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music – she could give Dooley his own song.

Left: A portrait of Randal Dooley, given to York University in 2003 by Toronto artist and teacher Sara Sniderhan

Cameron More, director of the Fine Arts Performance Facilities, helped book and arrange for the recording of the song in York’s recording studio; Simon Head, Fine Arts Performance Facilities technician, assisted in recording the song; and Nguyen’s friend and fellow pianist, Eileen Tran, accompanied Nguyen on vocals.

“I hope that the Randal Dooley song will help raise public awareness of the issue of child abuse and the Randal Dooley case, honour the memory of Randal Dooley and raise funds for the Randal Dooley Memorial Award to help future recipients pursue their education,” Nguyen says.

Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond praised Nguyen’s effort, saying, "It is wonderful to see one of the first recipients of the award taking its spirit so much to heart and looking for a way to give back. Ms. Nguyen represents the best of what we hope to see in our students."

Nguyen majored in Law & Society at York and enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the program, which exposed her to a variety of disciplines such as sociology, law, and political science. “I think the main theme of the program is social change and I’ve always been interested in applying what I learned towards real life. I think that influenced me and was another one of the reasons I chose to compose the song,” Nguyen says. It encouraged her to think “outside the box” for ways to give back to Randal Dooley, the community and the University.

To listen to the song, click here. Visit the York University Foundation Web site to make a donation, call 416-650-8210 or send a cheque to the York University Foundation with a special note that this money should be for the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary in the Faculty of Arts.

The fund supports an annual bursary for three students from the Jane-Finch community entering York’s Faculty of Arts. It was established through the York University Foundation in 2002 by members of the Jane-Finch community, the Jamaican Canadian Association and the Markham-African Caribbean Association.

Funds will also count toward York to the Power of 50, York’s 50th anniversary fundraising campaign with a goal to raise $200 million.

Nguyen is currently pursuing her master’s degree in legal studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

By David Wallace, interim communications coordinator, Faculty of Arts