U50 Founders Tea at Glendon celebrates the class of ’63

Above: Members of York’s Founders Society, sporting white roses, gather for a group photo in front of Glendon Hall at the Founders Tea.

Members of the York’s first graduating class returned to the original campus at Glendon on Wednesday to celebrate the University’s 50th birthday at a special Founders Tea held in Glendon Hall. Wearing the white rose of York, members of the class of ’63 joined York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Chancellor Roy McMurtry to celebrate the past and share their hopes for the future of Canada’s third-largest university.

"York is growing and changing in an exciting way,” said Shoukri in his opening remarks as master of ceremonies. “York University has so much going for it but our greatest strength is the York family – that’s all of you. You are what help make York a community instead of being an institution.”

Above: Board of Governors Chair Marshall Cohen with Founders Society member Johanna Stuckey

Robert Ross, representing his late father, York’s founding president Murray Ross, spoke about the role his father played in leading York through its early years, despite advice from Eric Phillips, then chair of the University of Toronto Board of Governors, that he would be “wasting your life there – you’re going to the wilderness.” Ross went on to note the growth in York’s student population, from 68 students in 1960, to more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. “My guess is that, if Dad were here today, he would have been stunned by the growth and the proliferation of York’s offerings,” Ross said.

Shoukri talked about how the founding of York, at a time when the number of students entering university was about to explode, aligned a fervently held aspiration with pressing social need. “That is how York grew so well,” Shoukri said, “and I think this applied at that time and it applies today, so that’s a clue for us as we aspire to become a comprehensive University.”

Above: President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri chats with Founders Society member John D. Leitch

York Chancellor Roy McMurtry recounted how he came to be associated with York when his mother, Doris Elizabeth McMurtry, graduated with a BA “ordinary” in history as a senior in 1980. He noted with a smile: “There was nothing ordinary about my mother."

“I was greatly honoured last year to be invited to become York’s new chancellor,” McMurtry said. “I had long admired the University’s commitment to social justice, equality and accessibility and I am also proud to be associated with York’s remarkable student diversity, which so mirrors the rich plurality of Canada.”

In congratulating the members of the Founders Society, McMurtry noted that education is the “irreplaceable vehicle for creating social cohesion and the building of a just society” and said they “should all be enormously proud of your achievements”. 

Above: Michiel Horn (left) looks over a copy of his history of York with Professor Emeritus Sydney Eisen as fellow Founders Society member Donald S. Rickard looks on

The Founders Tea was held on the main floor of Glendon Hall, which was the original home of York after its early beginning on the St. George campus of the University of Toronto. As guests mingled in the main foyer and adjoining rooms, they stopped to purchase copies of York University: The Way Must Be Tried, the history of York written by Glendon Professor Emeritus & University Historian Michiel Horn, who was on hand to sign copies and share stories of the early days.

Among those in attendance were Marshall Cohen, chair of York’s Board of Governors and a number of his board colleagues. Also in attendance were some of York’s honorary governors and Presidents Emeriti H. Ian Macdonald and Lorna R. Marsden.

Members of the Founders Society, along with members of the first graduating class, were able to get together in front of stately Glendon Hall for a group photograph.

Above: Suzanne Dubeau (left), assistant head,  Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, looks over some photos with President Emerita Lorna R. Marsden and Bob Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts