Longtime employee Nancy Accinelli worked tirelessly for York

Nancy Accinelli, a longtime employee at York and co-president of the York University Retirees Association, died at North York General Hospital on Sunday, Nov. 1, with family members at her side. She was 69. Funeral arrangements for tomorrow are noted at the bottom of this page.

Here, York English Professor John Lennox offers an appreciation of a woman who worked tirelessly for the University in a wide variety of roles, from administrative assistant to top-level adviser, as well as executive producer of Vanier College Productions.

Who among us would not describe Nancy Accinelli as a treasure? Accomplished, knowledgeable, gregarious, funny, empathetic, hard-working, disciplined, an impeccable judge of character, and incomparably generous in person and spirit. From the devotion and enthusiasm she brought over many years to Vanier College Productions, to the judiciousness that characterized all her activities, to the wisdom that she shared with students, colleagues and senior administrators, to her infectious sense of fun, Nancy exuded a love of life, an enormous capacity for friendship and an unmatched affection and respect for this institution.

When she walked into a room, you knew that something was going to happen. She relished her friends and she loved contributing to our collegial life. No one had higher standards for her own involvement and few could match her delight in the idiosyncratic and the unexpected which made her ever-youthful. There was always something of the free spirit about her.  

Right: Nancy Accinelli

Over the course of her four decades at York, Nancy became involved in more aspects of our collective life than most of us. She worked with students who thought the world of her and with presidents and vice-presidents who valued her as a discreet and discerning adviser. She relished and lived the arts from student theatre to the display of York’s creative talents during Congress 2006, the annual Canadian meeting of the humanities and social sciences. Most recently, she took on the co-leadership of the U50 Family Campaign to celebrate York’s 50th anniversary and was fully engaged as co-president in the work of the York University Retirees Association. Nancy was one of the pillars on which York has been built and she made her contribution with grace, acumen, great good humour and her unique sense of style.

Nancy made York a better place because she loved it generously, gave unstintingly to it and brought to our collective community balance, loyalty and a sense of our best selves. Most of us laughed with Nancy as she herself did – openly, often and with gusto. We saw her dedication and integrity as eminently worthy of emulation. Like most gifted people, she set a tone and a standard of human culture and tolerance and community that were edifying. It was always terrific to be with her and to catch her infectious joie de vivre. Her passing, so sudden and premature, leaves many of us hardly able to imagine York without her.

Nancy’s professional and personal life rested on the bedrock of family. She and husband Bob often attended York events together and Nancy talked with pride and love of her children, and with undisguised adoration of her grandchildren. She spoke of her family as she spoke of her work – with gratitude. In fact, one could say that she celebrated her life in the way that she lived it.

Nancy was the author of mighty works and also of occasional miracles. How lucky we were to have her among us. Her friends – and we are legion – will have their own memories of Nancy and they will be as varied as her sparkling self. For my part, I won’t forget how she loved music and how she was a dab hand at remembering lyrics to an infinite number of popular songs. That was one of the many fun aspects of knowing her. When I think of her, I’ll hear Smile and Strike Up the Band playing in my mind – with beautiful Nancy in front, leading the parade.

Funeral arrangements:

A funeral mass will be held at 1pm on Thursday, Nov. 5, at St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish, 650 Sheppard Ave. E., Toronto. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Vanier College Productions at York University by calling 416-650-8210. Condolences may be sent to R.S. Kane Funeral Home or by calling 416-221-1159.