York to the Power of 50: CAW gift boosts York education Chair

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union has donated $150,000 toward the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment.

The Chair will conduct research and generate recommendations to help teachers meet the challenges and opportunities of today’s diverse urban classrooms. The work of the Jean Augustine Chair is considered so crucial that York’s Faculty of Education has launched the Chair while fundraising continues toward its $3-million goal. The gift from the CAW pushes the current achievement to more than $700,000 contributed by external donors.

“We’re delighted to be able to make this donation to York University for this important position in the name of Jean Augustine, a woman who helped push the country forward on a number of social justice issues,” says CAW President Ken Lewenza (right). “Certainly this is an important investment in the education of the country’s youth, in her honour.”

The Chair is named for Jean Augustine, whose longtime commitment to equity, social justice and public life includes serving as a member of parliament and secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women. “As a former educator and principal in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto, I understand well what a difference inspiring and supportive teachers can make to students,” says Augustine. “I am deeply appreciative of the CAW’s commitment to education, to young people and to community efforts.”

“This significant gift from the CAW represents, not only the very high regard the organization has for Jean Augustine, but also a commitment to, and hope for, a bright future for more of Ontario’s young people,” says Alice Pitt, dean of York’s Faculty of Education. “It is a great honour to count the CAW as a friend and partner in education.”

The CAW’s gift adds to the broad-based support for the Jean Augustine Chair with donors numbering in the hundreds from across the country. York University has also committed $1 million toward achieving the $3-million goal.

“This level of support is commendable, especially in the current economy,” adds Augustine. The search for the inaugural chair holder is well underway.

The activities of the Jean Augustine Chair will build on many unique community outreach initiatives already established at York. For example, the University’s Urban Diversity Initiative encourages teacher candidates to incorporate culturally relevant teaching into their classrooms; the York-Westview Partnership and ACE Program encourage postsecondary education in the Jane-Finch area; Osgoode’s Community & Legal Aid Services Program provides free legal counsel to low-income community members; and the Bridging Program for Women assists mature immigrant women who want to upgrade their writing and speaking skills and explore the possibility of university study.

Left: Jean Augustine (left) with York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

Augustine emigrated from Grenada to Canada in 1961 and worked as a domestic before becoming a teacher and later a principal in Toronto. Elected as the first black woman to the Canadian Parliament in 1993, she served as secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women, among other postings. Augustine is a former member of the York University Board of Governors and she chaired the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. In 2007, she was appointed Ontario’s first fairness commissioner, an office that has a mandate to ensure that the regulated professions have registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

The CAW represents 250,000 workers across Canada in 17 different sectors of the economy.

Donations to the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment support York to the Power of 50, the largest fundraising campaign in York’s history. For more information or to donate, contact York University Foundation at 416-650-8210.