York grad Karen Minden receives Order of Canada

York alumna Karen Minden (BA ’71, PhD ’81) was among 74 Canadians named to the Order of Canada at a special ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in November. The appointment recognizes Minden for her broad contributions to adolescent mental health in Ontario and to fostering economic partnerships between Canada and the Asia-Pacific Region.

Right: Karen Minden

“It is an overwhelming pleasure to be honoured in this way,” says Minden. “For me, the award is a wonderful recognition of the importance of this work and the impact it has made in our community.”

The timing of the award is especially poetic for Minden. In October, a new room in the Department of Psychology was dedicated to the legacy of her late father, York Professor Harold Minden. The Harold Minden Room, made possible by a generous gift from the Minden family, is furnished with his portrait, awards and references to his work, to help encourage students and show them what they can accomplish.

“The idea of refurbishing the room where psychology graduate students launch their careers was especially appealing to us because my father was so passionate about teaching and nurturing the next generation of psychologists,” says Minden. “We want this room to be as welcoming as possible to students and inspire them to make the world a better place.”

A former businessperson and owner of a successful leather manufacturing business, Harold Minden (MA ‘67, PhD ’69) went back to school at age 40 to study psychology, earning his master’s degree and doctorate at York – at the same time his daughter was pursuing her undergraduate degree.

If having your father on campus sounds slightly intimidating, Minden disagrees. “It was exciting to be students at the same time and to bump into each other between classes,” she says.

Left: In 1981, Karen Minden received her PhD from her father, Professor Harold Minden

Prof. Minden went on to become a faculty member in the Department of Psychology until his retirement in 1998, while his daughter followed up her studies at York with an MA in Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley. A fellowship at Beijing Language Institute made her one of the first foreign students to study in China, and doctoral studies in Chinese politics and history brought her full circle, back to York, where she completed her PhD in 1981.

For 25 years, she leveraged her expertise on China and Asian business to help promote international collaboration in science and technology, and strengthen Canada’s economic partnerships in Asia and the Pacific Rim.

An active champion of policy and programs for teen addiction for several years, Minden says she finally reached a point where her volunteer work became more compelling than her job. “After 25 years, I felt that while there were many others to take on the work I had been doing, I had an opportunity to make a real contribution to the health and well-being of adolescents.”

According to Minden, Canada has a critical gap in family-centred supports and services for teens struggling with substance abuse, compared to services available in the US. She co-founded Pine River Institute in 2006 to help close that gap and provide family-based residential treatment for youths who do not respond to other interventions.

“Pine River Institute has been able to change public policy, to provide services for these young people and their families and to improve outcomes,” she says.

Widely recognized as a pioneer in measuring treatment results, the institute has formed successful partnerships with the Hospital for Sick Children and York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution. An 80 per cent treatment success rate has also secured it permanent funding from the Ministries of Health and Education.

To learn more about the work Minden and her team do, visit the Pine River Institute website.