York University Foundation VP wins national award

York University Foundation Vice-President of Operations Cathy Yanosik is being recognized for her career contributions to university advancement.

Yanosik is the 2009 winner of the Manulife Financial Outstanding Achievement Award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE).  The award recognizes a current or recent member of the CCAE who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of educational advancement over a number of years.

Right: Cathy Yanosik

“One of the things that really stood out about Cathy is that she’s contributed to three very significant institutions in the country through her profession,” says CCAE executive director Mark Hazlett, reflecting on Cathy’s 20-year career at York University Foundation, the University of Toronto and Queen’s University. “She’s implemented or put in place many things that have not only helped the schools but also the [advancement] profession.”

In fact, building innovative systems, teams and tools from the ground up is a hallmark of Yanosik’s career. At Queen’s University, where she graduated with a degree in politics, she led a new faculty-based fundraising model resulting in the launch of four targeted mini-campaigns with combined goals of $46 million. Outcomes of these campaigns included raising funds towards the renovation of Herstmonceux Castle, Queen’s University’s international study centre in England, and the expansion of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston.

At the University of Toronto, where she moved from Queen’s, Yanosik played a number of roles, but a key achievement in supporting Toronto’s $1-billion campaign was her role in the implementation of a custom-developed database – a formidable undertaking involving the rationalization of several databases across the institution with data reaching back to the mid-1800s.

The biggest challenge came with her move in 2002 to York University Foundation, where she arrived as the first employee of the newly created fundraising body with its equally new president and CEO, Paul Marcus.

“We were implementing a new model for fundraising at York University,” says Marcus. “It really moved us a long way forward in a short period of time to have somebody with Cathy’s experience and expertise come on-board.” Cathy has a slightly more down-to-earth memory of her start at the foundation. “I remember Paul coming in on his first day with a plastic bag full of used pens to get us started,” she laughs.

Yanosik’s leadership and strategic input has helped significantly increase fundraising at York. The University’s 50th anniversary fundraising campaign, York to the Power of 50, is now closing in on its goal of $200 million with a current achievement of more than $185 million.

Left: Cathy Yanosik ready to bid at the recent Fisher Fund Wine Tasting & Auction in support of the Fisher Fund for Neotropical Conservation and York’s Las Nubes Rainforest

Hazlett says the awards are important in order to recognize excellence for its own sake, as well as to set a benchmark for others. “I believe the young people that sit in that gala dinner and hear about people like Cathy do take some real interest in what their career could be. It is absolutely an opportunity to hear about the best of the best.”

Yanosik says she still has as much to learn as she has to teach. “Working with the talented York community and the quality of people that we’ve been able to hire here at the foundation – I learn from everybody who comes through the door.

“I get so energized, as most fundraisers do, by the people. We have an incredibly committed and now in many cases, very long-standing, board of directors,” says Yanosik, adding that the campus environment provides daily motivation. “Any time I have the opportunity to talk to a student or a faculty member, I get completely excited about the contribution fundraising can have to their lives and to their work.” 

Yanosik will be presented with the Manulife Financial Outstanding Achievement Award during the CCAE’s annual conference, taking place this year in Hamilton from June 6 to 9.