Gift supports Ukrainian studies at York

A $150,000 donation from prominent Ukrainian-Canadian statesman and lawyer John Yaremko is allowing York to permanently offer two fourth-year half courses in Ukrainian cultural history. The courses, Ukrainian Culture within the European Context and Ukrainian Culture in 20th-Century Europe, can now continue to be offered as part of the European Studies Program, an interdisciplinary program housed in York’s Faculty of Arts. Each course will count toward a major in humanities.

Right: From left, John Yaremko presents a cheque to Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond

Announcement of the funding by the John and Mary Yaremko Foundation was made last month at the Ontario branch of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada on Spadina Avenue. “We are extremely grateful to the Yaremko Foundation and appreciate the generosity of Mr. Yaremko and his late wife in establishing the foundation, said Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond. “Offering these courses on a permanent basis strengthens York’s ability to deliver on its commitment to Ukrainian studies.”

In his remarks to those present at the announcement, York humanities Professor Patrick Taylor described the courses as an integral component of the European Studies Program and spoke about the overwhelmingly positive response by students enrolled in the courses. York history grad Katherine Chewchuk (BA Hons. ’08) spoke about the importance for Canadian students to learn about the history and culture of Ukraine which, excluding Russia, is the largest country in Europe but is still unknown to the majority of North Americans. The announcement  of Yaremko’s donation and a telecast of the ceremony at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada was later featured on OMNI TV, which focuses on multicultural programming

Born in Hamilton to a family of Ukrainian immigrants, Yaremko was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1951. His subsequent 25 years of service representing the riding of Bellwoods (now the ridings of Trinity-Spadina and Davenport) stands as the longest period of service in the legislature. During his career as an elected member of the legislature, Yaremko served as the minister of public welfare, minister of social & family services and minister of citizenship. However, it is his dedication to multiculturalism for which he is best known. Yaremko played a crucial role in developing Canada’s multicultural policies and is even said to be responsible for coining the very term “multiculturalism”.

Yaremko is also known and respected for his philanthropic activities, including generous support for education and scholarship. This investment will count toward York to the Power of 50, York’s 50th anniversary fundraising campaign to raise $200 million. It will be allocated to Innovate50, which represents pioneering programs and research and is one of four fundraising priorities for the campaign.