York students will benefit from St. George’s Society Red Rose Ball

The St. George’s Society of Toronto’s 2009 Red Rose Ball was held on April 1 with the society, like York, celebrating a special anniversary.

Right: York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri (left), Susan Shoukri, Jeannie Butler, Sandra Faire, Ivan Fecan and Ken Foxcroft, president of The St. George’s Society of Toronto

“One hundred and seventy-five years ago, a group of Torontonians gathered over dinner and changed the future of our city,” said Jeannie Butler, chair of the Red Rose Ball. “They founded The St. George’s Society of Toronto and we’ve been supporting causes that matter most, when they matter most, ever since. Today we support health, social services, the arts and, as tonight, education,” she said, referring to York University as the evening’s beneficiary.

Butler thanked honourees Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan for their hard work and community leadership “not just for The St. George’s Society but many, many, many charities throughout Toronto.”

Left: York Chancellor Roy McMurtry (left) with Robert Baines, a master’s candidate at York in ancient history. Both are great-great-great-grandsons of Thomas Baines, one of the original founders of The St. George’s Society

The society was established in a coffee house in 1834 and in addition to its charitable works, also “brings together men and women of all cultures with an interest in things British for good fun, good fellowship and good works,” said its executive director Stephen Johnson. The society’s long history also provided an interesting connection to York. It was revealed that two great-great-great-grandsons of one of the founders, Thomas Baines, were both in attendance and that both have strong connections to York. One is York’s Chancellor Roy McMurtry, while the other, Robert Baines, is a master’s candidate studying ancient history.

Each year during the Red Rose Ball, the charitable St. George’s Society bestows its Award of Merit on those who have made exceptional contributions to the community, and shares the proceeds from the ball between the charities the society supports and the charity chosen by the Award of Merit honouree. Typical of their thoughtfulness and dedication to York, Faire and Fecan asked that a portion of the funds raised from this year’s ball – announced at more than $400,000 – go to York students in financial need, to be matched dollar for dollar by the Ontario Trust for Student Support program.

Right: Osgoode Hall Law School Dean and York Provost-designate Patrick Monahan (left), York University Foundation President & CEO Paul Marcus, and York University Foundation Board member Honey Sherman.

The couple is a major force in Canadian broadcasting – Faire is a highly successful writer, producer and director while Fecan is president and CEO of CTVglobemedia and CEO of CTV Inc.

Their support for York includes a named theatre in the Accolade East Building as well as volunteer activities, including Fecan’s leadership role in the York to the Power of 50 fundraising campaign. He is also chair of the 50 to the Power of 50 group of accomplished alumni who act as additional ambassadors and a member of the York University Foundation Board.

Left: York University Foundation Board member Aidan Flatley, Ruth Flatley, Suzanne Tiffin and York Vice-President Students Rob Tiffin

“York University is a stand-out example of why Ivan and I chose to make our donation in the area of arts and education,” said Faire in accepting the award. “Because if we don’t support these institutions, and you don’t support these institutions, even in these tough times, who will? This kind of support isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

Many community leaders were in attendance, including York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, York Chancellor Roy McMurtry, Chair of York’s Board of Governors Marshall Cohen, as well as several York Faculty deans, prominent philanthropists and senior volunteers.

Right: Christopher Leal represented York’s students. He overcame difficult family circumstances to graduate in 2008 with a Specialized Honours Bachelor of Science. He drew the prize winner for a two-day rail trip generously provided by Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, owned by the Armstrong Group whose president is York alumnus Randy Powell (BAS ’89).

York University Foundation President & CEO Paul Marcus recalled Faire and Fecan’s own words to highlight their dedication to the community. Marcus recited a passage from their convocation address delivered last summer as they jointly received an honorary degree from York. “You can give money, you can give time, you can give big, you can give small, you can give to one cause or charity or you can give to several. But what’s really important is that you make that selfless commitment and decide to make a difference." On his own behalf, Marcus said: “Thank you for being role models, for caring and for making the world a much better place.”

For his part, Fecan took the opportunity to extol the benefits of York’s founding principle of interdisciplinarity – considered radical at the time of York’s birth. “In the lifespan of a university, 50 years is basically a nanosecond. It’s extremely young,” he said. “But today, as we look back, it’s clear that the experiment worked. The proof is in the depth and breadth of York’s dedicated alumni.”

For more information or to view more photos from the Red Rose Ball, visit the The St. George’s Society Web site.