For Bart Zemanek (BA ’07, MSc ’10), a York alumnus, former York Lions starting quarterback and current manager of varsity athletics, York University was the place that changed his life. “At York, it didn’t matter where I came from or who I was,” he said. “No matter your race, gender, creed or sexual orientation, my fellow students and I could be counted alongside tomorrow’s leaders. There’s no place like this on the planet – and I’m thrilled to be back working at York.”
Zemanek is just one of the nearly 300,000 York alumni who are living and working around the world in every field of endeavour imaginable. Almost 1,000 of them are working on one of York’s campuses. To acknowledge the hard work, dedication and support of campus alumni like Zemanek, York’s Alumni Relations team hosted the Campus Alumni Breakfast on Oct. 1, coinciding with the University’s Red & White Day celebrations. This event not only celebrated campus alumni, but also offered them the opportunity to meet, catch up and connect while showing their red-and-white pride alongside the rest of the York community.
With a York connection more than 13 years strong, Zemanek has taken on a variety of roles since his time as a student-athlete, including a position as a coach and administrator. Having personally struggled as a member of a recently immigrated Polish family, he recalled for guests at the event that York was the place where he could feel just like everyone else and where he could finally envision a bright future for himself. “If you want opportunity, you’re going to get it here at York. You’ll have to earn it, but you’ll get it!”
The early morning event brought out almost 100 grads, many of whom proudly displayed their York pride by donning their best red and white. The attendees made up a very diverse group, with alumni who graduated from as far back as the mid-1960s. The breakfast concluded with a set of raffle prize draws that saw two alumni walk away with some great York memorabilia to help them carry on their University spirit, including a York U golf bag and a copy of York Chancellor Greg Sorbara’s book, The Battlefield of Ontario Politics.
“As grads, you know better than anyone the incredible impact that the York experience can have,” shared Jeff O’Hagan, York’s vice-president advancement, with the alumni in attendance. “Day in and day out, your hard work, dedication and passion is building the same great experience for future students that you had during your own days as a York student.”
O’Hagan also paid tribute to the alumni community for their outstanding contributions to the University as donors. “An astounding five out of seven of our donors are York alumni themselves. You understand our future vision for the University and, without your generous support, our success would not be possible.”
Guests were also reminded of their next opportunity to celebrate outstanding alumni – the upcoming Bryden Awards taking place Nov. 19 at the Royal Ontario Museum. This year’s Bryden Alumni Awards recipients are:
- Bruce Lourie (MES ’87), president, Ivey Foundation;
- Douglas Bergeron (BA ’83, Hon. LLD ’13), founder, chairman and CEO, Opus Global;
- Gail McVey (BA ’85, MA ’89, PhD ’95), psychologist and health systems research scientist, the Hospital for Sick Children; director, Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders; and associate professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto; and
- Michael Prosserman (BAS ’08), founder and executive director, UNITY Charity.
Learn more about the 2015 recipients, purchase your ticket and make a donation at alumniandfriends.yorku.ca/bryden.
Zemanek echoed the important role that campus alumni have in celebrating York and its community at events like Bryden. “We, as campus alumni, represent the front lines of the University, granting us a unique opportunity to influence and impact our students with the red-and-white pride flowing through our veins. York is a place where minds are opened and futures are defined, so let’s do our part in bringing the best of what this University has to offer to our community and to the world.”