Long-serving staff members take a stroll through the past

In 1972, the entire student population at York University was just 19,000, with 3,063 degrees being awarded. In 1977, the University granted 3,954 degrees; in 1982 there were 4,199 degrees granted; and in 1987, some 5,769 degrees were awarded.

A group of dedicated employees worked behind the scenes to support this dramatic growth. Late last semester, the University community paused for an afternoon to thank those individuals whose years of committed service supported York University during its early years.

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Family, friends and colleagues joined this celebrated group – those who joined the University in 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1987 – for a special event hosted by the Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration (VPFA). This year, staffers who devoted anywhere from 25 to 40 years of service were honoured.

Some 200 guests took part in the festivities

One of the highlights of the event is the traditional trip through history provided by Vice-President Finance & Administration Gary Brewer. Each year Brewer selects nuggets of interesting and quirky facts from popular history for his greeting to long-serving staff. Before delivering his speech, Brewer took a moment to thank those who have contributed 40 or more years of service.

“Our 12 honoured guests who started in 1972 (40 years ago), worked for a developing University on the outskirts of the city. You will remember a large campus with just a few buildings and less than half our current student population,” said Brewer. “We have grown a bit since then – we now have 55,000 students and we awarded a total of 11,748 degrees to students last year.“

Long-serving staff 028Gary Brewer delivers his traditional trip down memory lane

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton, Vice-President Advancement Jeff O’Hagan, Vice-Provost Students Janet Morrison, and Associate Vice-President Research and Innovation Lisa Philipps joined Brewer at the celebration.

Carol Irving, policy analyst with York International, delivered remarks on behalf of all those honoured. “Many of the speakers at past receptions have referred to events of the year when their 25 years began, so I thought I`d do the same,” said Irving.  “Twenty-five years ago, in 1987, the Conservatives were in power federally and the Liberals led Ontario. Wayne Gretzky was at the top of his game, winning the Canada Cup with Mario Lemieux. Equity and human rights were the focus of much activity. The stock market was down and there was unrest in the Middle East.  So in many ways, not much has changed.”

Long-serving staff 025Carol Irving delivers her speech on behalf of all of the long-serving employees

“For many of you, 1987 may have been the year that you started a full-time job. For me it was a return to work after being at home for two years with my young daughter,” she said, recalling how she learned to use a new device – the desktop computer – and could not get past switching the power on. “Up popped an instruction that said ‘Enter Date and Time’.  Well I tried – over and over again – every which way I could think of, but to no avail,” she said. Sometime later she learned that all she had to do was press “Enter”.

“I tell this story because I think that the interface with computers and other forms of technology is one of the major areas of development that has affected our jobs over the past 25 years,” said Irving. “Technology has become increasingly central to our working lives…. And I think this involvement with technology holds across the University.  For example, I see our colleagues from Facilities, walking from room to room with high-tech-looking devices to measure the temperature and humidity, trying their best to adjust our office heating to suit all the competing preferences of the occupants.”

Irving compared the growth of technology with that of the University. “Today our University is a small city unto itself.  It has a population larger than Aurora, larger than St. John, New Brunswick. But what exactly has prompted all of us to stay here at York for 25 years?”

In addition to excellent benefits, working environment, life-long learning opportunities and more, Irving highlighted that it was the wonderful people she had met along the way. “Most of all, there are the people – the staff, the professors, and the students, those who lead us. I am constantly amazed at the efforts that people here make to answer questions, solve problems, accommodate students’ needs, and to help make each of our  jobs easier,” she said.  “They are all incredibly committed individuals, all working their best to make York the terrific University that it is. There is a sense of social justice here, not just the words but efforts to put the concept into practice.”

In closing, she urged her colleagues to take a line from the University’s new “this is my time” brand awareness campaign. “This is our time, a time to be proud to be contributing, each in our own way, to this important institution, doing some of the most important things in the world, which are to educate our children and to discover new ways of doing or understanding things. These are our only hope for a better world.”

Here is a snapshot of important events and historic milestones for each anniversary year that was celebrated at the event. Coupled with each snapshot is a photograph of the staff honoured.

1987 (25 years ago)

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Platoon won Best Picture at the Oscars. The US Stock Market Crashed on Monday, Oct.  19, with a 508 point drop or 22.6 per cent. Stock markets around the world follow the decline. Ben & Jerry Ice Cream and Grateful Dead band member Jerry Garcia announce new Ice Cream flavor, Cherry Garcia. At York University, Harry Arthurs is president.

1982 (30 years ago)

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Michael Jackson releases Thriller, which sells more than 25 million copies, becoming the biggest-selling album in history. Chariots of Fire wins Best Picture at the Academic Awards . A severe recession hits the United States and the worst recession since the Great Depression begins in Canada (less than 12 months after York launched its “In Pursuit of Tomorrow” fundraising campaign). Canada gains a new Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At York University, Ian Macdonald is president and William Found is the vice-president academic.

1977 (35 years ago)

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Star Wars hits theatres –for the first time –and goes on to be the second highest-grossing film of all time. Saturday Night Fever sparks the disco inferno and the popularity of movie soundtracks. Elvis Presley dies at Graceland (his Memphis, Tennessee home) at the age of 42; other notable deaths included Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx. At York, Ian Macdonald is the president.

1972 (40 years ago)

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M*A*S*H premieres on CBS. A number of technological innovations emerged including digital watches, the compact disk, the CAT scan, the first video game – Pong, and the first scientific hand-held calculator (HP-35) which hit the market at a cost of $395. Average Income per year is $11,800.00. Canada wins the first hockey challenge against the Soviets.

More than 40 years ago

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Click here to view a slideshow of images from the event.