York honours six exceptional grads at Bryden Alumni Awards

The annual Bryden Alumni Awards is an elegant and often emotional event, and this year’s gathering at the historic Carlu in downtown Toronto did not disappoint.

On Nov. 5, York hosted nearly 300 faculty, grads and their family for the close to a decade-long tradition. “These grads inspire our York community and Canadians in general – to dream big and work hard,” said James Allan, senior director, alumni.

Left: Jian Ghomeshi entertains the crowd at the Bryden Alumni Awards

Emcee Jian Ghomeshi (BA ‘95) opened the show with personal anecdotes that had the audience laughing, but took a serious moment to share his thoughts on the value of a liberal arts degree.

“Being a renaissance person is a way to find success today,” he said. “It’s what people are looking for – well-rounded, interesting, interested humans. That’s what York brought to me.” 

The Pinnacle Achievement Award went to Barbara Budd (BA ’74), co-host of CBC Radio’s "As It Happens", for her extraordinary career as a stage actor and television and radio personality. Budd admitted frankly that she wanted to go to a conservatory for acting, but her mother insisted on a university education.

Right: Barbara Budd receives the Pinnacle Achievement Award at the Bryden Alumni Awards ceremony

“More than anything in the world, I wanted to tell stories,” she said, “and it was such a smart choice to come to York – where one was engulfed and enmeshed and embraced by so many cultures, suddenly and intimately and wonderfully.”

Immediate past chair of the York Board of Governors and tireless ambassador for the University, Marshall Cohen (LLB ’60, LLM ’63, Hon. LLD ’86) received the Outstanding Contribution Award.

He opened by saying the award belonged as much to his wife Judy as to him, and continued, “I’m enormously excited about York’s future. York is not just about people with degrees, but citizens, and people with consciences, and people who are thoughtful.”  

Left: Marshall Cohen is honoured with an Outstanding Contribution Award

For his great vision and long-time commitment as a senior member of the York faculty and administration, political science Professor Robert Drummond (BA ’67) was presented with the Local Hero Award.

“I was privileged to be a student at York when it was a small liberal arts college,” said Drummond. “I was doubly privileged when I returned to York as a faculty member and could see the small college growing into the country’s third-largest university.”

Right: Guy Burry, chair of the York University Alumni Assocation, (left), Bob Drummond, winner of the Local Hero Award, and Mamdouh Shoukri, York president & vice-chancellor

Drummond said one of the benefits of his student experience was that, as dean and in his many voluntary roles, he made sure York didn’t lose “the virtues of that small college” as it “embraced the opportunities afforded by growth.” 

Left: Paul Jones accepts the Redefine the Possible Award

Paul Jones (BSc Spec. Hons. ’80) received the Redefine the Possible Award, which he’ll share with his brother, Mark Jones (BA ’84), for their exciting leap from playing varsity basketball to commentating on major league games. While accepting his award, Jones made an emotional salute to his family: “I know there are some nights when daddy’s not there, but I want to thank you for allowing me to live my dream.”

Gretel Reid-Willis (BA. Hons & BEd ’01) was described as a much-loved teacher “who finds math in everything and is an incredible inspiration as an educator.” Following a video featuring many of her devoted students, Reid-Willis received the One-to-Watch Award. “York University has been a great training ground for me,” said Reid-Willis, who shared one of her most valuable lessons learned from a professor: you cannot teach them until you know them. She now shares this mantra with her colleagues. 

Right: Gretel Reid-Willis receives the One-to-Watch Award

There were nearly 20 past recipients of Bryden Alumni Awards in the audience, further evidence that passion and accomplishment go hand-in-hand. Guy Burry (BA ’82), chair of the York University Alumni Association, closed the ceremony with a special thank you to the lead sponsor Manulife Financial, reception sponsor MBNA and video sponsor Wellington West.

For more information about Bryden recipients, including video profiles, visit the Bryden Alumni Awards Web site.