Granite fountain and benches unveiled to honour Nancy Accinelli

A little more than a year after longtime employee and co-president of the York University Retirees Association Nancy Accinelli died, a fountain has been unveiled in her honour.

“Nancy was a giant and everybody knows that,” said Master of Vanier College Stanley Tweyman, at the unveiling Nov. 24. “The question was how to honour her memory in an abiding way. How could we do something that would last, probably last longer than all of us?”

Above: From left, (front) Bixente and Elodie Accinelli, (back) Adrian Accinelli, Francesca Accinelli, Robert Accinelli, Gary Brewer, Carl Tacon, Stanley Tweyman and Michael Tulloch following the unveiling of Nancy’s Fountain

Tweyman told those gathered outside the main entrance of Vanier College that he didn’t want to name a room in the college after her, because he didn’t want someone to come along years later and rename it. That had already happened to a former college master. “I was resolved that this was not going to happen to Nancy – her name would not disappear.”

Left: Nancy Accinelli

As Tweyman and others wrestled with the appropriate way to honour the spirit of Nancy (see YFile, Nov. 4, 2009), her husband Robert offered the University a commissioned sculpture, a 2,400-pound granite fountain that was in their backyard. “It turns out to be quite magnificent,” said Tweyman. The fountain was designed and created, along with two inscribed granite benches, by York grad Carl Tacon (BFA Spec. Hons. ’88, MFA ’96), whose career Nancy had taken under her wing. Nancy’s Fountain and the benches are now installed outside of Vanier College where everyone can enjoy them.

Right: Francesca Accinelli along with Bixente and Elodie Accinelli unveil one of the two granite benches in Nancy Accinelli’s honour

“As many of us know here, Nancy was a lot more than a long-serving, dedicated and committed staff member; she really was a builder of the York community,” said Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration. “She was one of those people who have made a meaningful impact on the lives of students, faculty and staff.”

“Everyone who has met Nancy has a story about her. So in creating a lasting tribute to her, we’re ensuring that memories of Nancy and her important role in our community are passed on to future generations and not lost to the institutional memory,” said Brewer.

Left: Robert Accinelli donated the fountain to York in memory of his wife Nancy

Michael Tulloch (BA ’86, LLB ’89), judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario who came to York at the age of 17, is one of those who was guided by Nancy and has many stories about her. It was through her influence that he became a judge, he said. “Nancy has really meant a lot to me and my experiences here. She directed my path.” She was the first person he met at York. She guided him in his course selections, his college selection – Vanier – and provided him with a community.

“A teenager can easily get lost, but because of her I had a community that I was a part of and I felt that I belonged here,” he said. “She really made a difference in my life as a student, and I represent all the students of my decade. We all feel the same about her and her memory will forever live in my heart.”

Robert Accinelli said his wife had many wonderful attributes, and among them was an extraordinary generosity of spirit, a sense of community and a belief in the importance of service to a community.

“She believed in York, she believed in its values and she believed in its possibilities, and she especially believed in its students. She believed that each student has a potential and that it is the role of the university to assist that student, sometimes in recognizing that potential, but certainly in developing it.”

Above: From left, Elodie, Francesca, Adrian, Bixente and Robert Accinelli gather at one of the granite benches, while Michael Tulloch, Gary Brewer and Stanley Tweyman admire the fountain