Long-serving staff enjoy a trip down memory lane

In 1965, Lester B. Pearson was still the prime minister of Canada after elections brought him a second consecutive minority government. That same year, Pearson delivered a speech at Temple University, which called for a stop to the bombing of North Vietnam and infuriated American President Lyndon Johnson. And some of York’s 2010 staff had just been hired. These are a few of the historical highlights outlined by Gary Brewer, York’s vice-president finance & administration, during his trip down memory lane that was part of the University’s celebration of long-serving non-academic staff on Nov. 29.

The Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration (VPFA) hosts the annual celebration. This year, 85 staffers who have devoted anywhere from 25 to 45 years of service to the University were honoured. Some 200 community members, family and friends were there to join the festivities.

Right: Gary Brewer delivers his trip down memory lane. Click on the image to view a slide show of photographs from the event.

“The University community has benefited from your institutional knowledge and ongoing dedication for the past 25 to 45 years,” said Brewer. “We are happy that you are here to celebrate our collective achievements as a university.

“The number of degrees granted over the years is perhaps most symbolic of the growth, changes and adaptation we have all had to make over the past 50-plus years of York’s existence,” said Brewer. “We granted 91 degrees in 1965; 1,548 degrees in 1970; 3,613 degrees in 1975; 4,151 in 1980; 5,430 in 1985; and 11,490 degrees in 2009. Thank you to our honoured guests for staying the course and for your contributions to the growth of this great institution.”

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Vice-President Academic & Provost Patrick Monahan, and Vice-Presidents Stan Shapson, Jennifer Sloan and Robert Tiffin were all present at the celebration.

Marc Wilchesky, executive director, Counselling & Disability Services delivered remarks on behalf of all the honourees. “In my humble opinion, this group is definitely the youngest-looking group of long-serving employees that York has ever seen!” joked Wilchesky. “I’m not sure about my fellow York veterans, but when I began working at York in October 1985 I never imagined that 25 years later I would be attending an event such as this.”

Right: Marc Wilchesky delivers his speech on behalf of all of the long-serving employees

“Many of us have changed jobs over the years at York, and even for those of us who have not changed jobs at York, the truth is that York University is not the ‘same place’ –  it is a very different place in a very different world than what it was in 1985.”

Wilchesky outlined the many changes that have taken place, from the first Amiga personal computer launched in 1985 to the Windows operating system from Microsoft. “Up until then, windows were something that we looked in and out of in our homes and offices,” he said. “Over the past 25 years, we have witnessed massive changes in both the physical environment at the Keele campus and the addition of outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs at Keele and Glendon. These changes, together with a significant increase in our student population and the rich diversity of those students, have challenged all of us to continually respond to the new realities of our students.”

He spoke about the recent White Paper initiated by the vice-president academic and provost and the strategic plan laid out in the paper and its focus on engagement. “The White Paper emphasizes that engagement should be understood as referring not just to relationships between York and the broader community but also as a vehicle to strengthen relationships and connections on campus,” he said. “I would like to suggest that in order to accomplish this worthy goal, all of us need to come together as a community to understand that not only are we in the business of higher education; rather, we at York University are really in the human development business.”

He urged everyone to adopt a culture of caring about the student experience. “If we are successful in doing this, I believe it will go a long way toward achieving the strategic goal of being a more engaged university as outlined in the White Paper.”

By doing so, and through other initiatives, “York will be a place where outstanding employees will want to stay for a very long time,” he said.

Here is a snapshot of important events and historic milestones for each anniversary year that was celebrated at the event:

1965 (45 years ago)

Above: The York employees who have contributed 45 years of service

The Maple Leaf becomes Canada’s national flag and it is marked by ceremonies across Canada. Trans-Canada Airlines is renamed Air Canada. Toronto City Hall opens. Eligibility age for pensions is lowered from 70 to 65. Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft for 12 minutes, becoming the first person to walk in space. The Beatles perform the first stadium concert in the history of rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York City; Sir Winston Churchill dies; Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City.

1970 (40 years ago)

Above: The York employees who have contributed 40 years of service

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is in his second year with a majority government. Trudeau introduces the War Measures Act to deal with the FLQ threat – the October Crisis. Premier John Robarts continues to lead Ontario. The federal government announces plans to convert the nation to the metric system. The federal voting age is lowered from 21 to 18. Montreal is awarded the 1976 Olympics. Around the world, large antiwar protests occur in the US. The Beatles release their final album – Let it Be.

1975 (35 years ago)

Above: The 35-year long-service group of York employees

Trudeau is still prime minister. Bill Davis (an Osgoode Hall Law School alum) is in his early years as premier of Ontario. Ed Broadbent replaces David Lewis as leader of the NDP. Environment Canada switches to Celsius. The CN Tower is completed. The wearing of seatbelts becomes mandatory in Ontario. Former York University Chancellor Oscar Peterson wins a Grammy Award.  Around the world, the Vietnam War ends. Bill Gates founds Microsoft. NBC airs the first episode of “Saturday Night Live”.

1980 (30 years ago)


Above: The 30-year  long-service group of York employees


Joe Clark defeats Trudeau in a minority government win to become Canada’s 21st prime minister. A non-confidence vote results in a new election and Trudeau succeeds Clark in a majority win. Trudeau announces his plan to patriate the Canadian Constitution. Jeanne Sauvé becomes the first woman to be speaker of the House of Commons. Bill Davis continues as premier of Ontario. Quebec votes against separation in a referendum. O Canada becomes the official national anthem. Terry Fox begins his Marathon of Hope. Around the world, US President Jimmy Carter proclaims a grain embargo against the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan defeats Carter in the US presidential race. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is released. The Pac-Man arcade game makes its debut. Beatle John Lennon is killed in New York City.

1985 (25 years ago)

Above: The York employees who have contributed 25 years of service

Brian Mulroney is elected prime minister and he and US President Reagan agree to cooperate on Missile Defense and Free Trade. Frank Miller succeeds Davis as premier in a minority government and David Peterson (who forms a coalition with the NDP) subsequently succeeds Miller. Lincoln Alexander becomes the lieutenant-governor of Ontario. Rick Hansen launches his Man in Motion world tour to raise money for spinal cord research. The last episode of “The Friendly Giant” airs on CBC. US President Reagan is sworn in for a second term. Nelson Mandela rejects an offer of freedom from the South African government. Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the Soviet Union.

The VPFA Web site also contains an archive of events supported by the Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration.