Four deserving grads named Bryden Award recipients

From left: Colleen Johnston, Abdullah Merei, Rudy Buttignol, J. Mark Lievonen

Now in its 17th year, the Bryden Alumni Awards celebrate outstanding York University alumni who have achieved the extraordinary and made remarkable contributions in their fields, communities and to the University. The four leaders who will be honoured Nov. 23 at a celebration at the Royal Ontario Museum are:

  • Colleen Johnston (BBA ’82), group head, Direct Channels, Technology, Marketing and Corporate & Public Affairs, TD Bank Group;
  • Rudy Buttignol, C.M. (BFA ’82), president & CEO, Knowledge Network;
  • Abdullah Merei (BA Sc ’09, MBA ’15), director, Compression Systems, Evertz Microsystems Ltd.;
  • J. Mark Lievonen, C.M. (BBA ’79, MBA ’87, LLD [Hon.] ’15), former president, Sanofi Pasteur Limited.

“This year’s Bryden Alumni Award recipients illustrate the endless possibilities for achievement that are available with a York University degree,” said Jeff O’Hagan, vice-president Advancement. “Our 2017 honourees embody York’s innovative way of thinking and join a distinguished list of over 70 Bryden recipients before them who continue to inspire us with not only their remarkable achievements and thoughtful leadership, but also their dedication and passion to making a lasting impact. Their exemplary contributions to society – both locally and globally – continue to inspire everyone here at York.”

This year, there are four categories of Bryden Alumni Awards, each category honours a distinct set of achievements and contributions.

Outstanding Achievement: An alumnus or alumna who has achieved distinction in their field and whose integrity and ability inspire alumni, faculty, staff and students.

Colleen Johnston

Colleen Johnston
Colleen Johnston

Johnston (BBA ’82) is currently the group head of Direct Channels, Technology, Marketing and Corporate & Public Affairs at TD Bank Group.

Johnston joined the TD Bank Group in March 2004 as Executive Vice President, Finance Operations, after spending 15 years with Scotiabank in various senior positions. She began her career in 1982 with Price Waterhouse.

She received her chartered accountant designation in 1984 and in 2006 was elected a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA). The recipient of numerous top industry honours as a senior finance executive,  she was recognized by Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women three years in a row and inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame in 2007. She was named “Best Chief Financial Officer” in October 2009 by Canadian Business magazine, and in 2011, for the third year in a row, was named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker. In 2012, Johnston was recognized as Canada’s CFO of the Year, an award that is presented annually by Financial Executives International Canada, PwC and Robert Half International. In 2013, she received the Catalyst Canada Honour in the Business Leader Category.

She is a board member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and sits on the advisory board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Schulich School of Business at York University, a member of the Canadian Board Diversity Council, a member of the board of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and a board member of the Shaw Festival. At TD, she is actively promotes diversity in the workplace including the bank’s Women in Leadership Committee.

Tentanda Via: An alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated innovative, unconventional and daring leadership and success, reflecting the University’s motto – “The Way Must Be Tried”.

Rudy Buttignol, C.M.

Rudy Buttignol
Rudy Buttignol

Buttignol, C.M. (BFA ’82) is the president and CEO of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network Corporation, and president of the BBC Kids channel, a joint venture with BBC Worldwide. Since his appointment in 2007, Buttignol has led the transformation of the public broadcaster from a single television station to a mulit-channel digital media network.

Buttignol moderates annual documentary financing forums in Amsterdam and Leipzig; and is a tutor at the Berlin-based Documentary Campus Masterschool. He serves as a director on the boards of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Britannia Mine Museum, and the Knowledge-West Communications Corporation; and is vice-chair of the Canadian Association of Public Educational Media. In 2011 he was appointed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. He is a member of the Order of Canada and has received of nine Canadian Academy Awards.

From 2000 to 2006, Buttignol served as TVO’s creative head of Network Programming. Concurrently, he was the executive producer of Saturday Night at the Movies, the international documentary series Human Edge, and the HBO special Before Their Time. Buttignol also founded the award-winning documentary series The View From Here, an international award-winning documentary series than ran for 14 seasons.

His commissions include documentaries such as The Corporation; Manufactured Landscapes; Allan King’s Dying at Grace; The Bodybuilder and I; McLuhan’s Wake; Bret the Hitman Hart; The Champagne Safari; Emmy winner Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles; and Oscar-nominated Hardwood. Commissioned series include Diamond Road; Black Coffee; Empire of the Word; Michael Ignatieff’s Blood and Belonging; Korea, the Unfinished War; The War of 1812; and Emmy and Grammy-winner Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach.

Buttignol’s community volunteer time has been focused on board governance.

One to Watch: An alumnus or alumna who has made a significant impact in their field and/or community within 15 years of a bachelor’s degree or 10 years of a professional/ graduate degree.

Abdullah Merei

Abdullah Merei
Abdullah Merei

Currently the director in the R&D department at Evertz Microsystems, Merei (BA Sc ’09, MBA ’15) leads the design, development, marketing and full deployment products and solutions for major broadcasting/media networks around the world.

His passion for technology was cemented when he moved to Canada in 2004 to attend York University where he earned his degree in Computer Engineering in 2009. He graduated first in his class with distinction and then went on to earn an MBA from  the Schulich School of Business in 2015. While at York University, Merei volunteered on numerous student groups and served as the president of the Engineering Society for the 2007-08 academic year. He received the Allen Berg Award in 2007 and 2008 and a gold medal from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. In 2015, Merei was the inaugural recipient of the Alumnus of the Year award from the Lassonde School of Engineering.

He created the Merei Family Scholarship, which makes an annual award to six students in engineering and computer science. Most recently, Merei provided seed funding to establish the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) early stage venture program. He has also connected Evertz with the Lassonde Co-Op Program to give undergraduates the chance to gain experiential education experiences through work placements.

In his spare time, Merei is a mentor and role model to a number of Lassonde undergraduate students. He is also leading the startup of the Lassonde Alumni Network. Merei volunteers by mentoring startups in the technology industry.

Outstanding Contribution: An alumnus or alumna who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of York and its students through exceptional service, commitment and/or philanthropic contributions.

Mark Lievonen, C.M.

Mark Lievonen
J. Mark Lievonen

Lievonen, C.M. (BBA ’79, MBA ’87, LLD [Hon.] ’15) is the former president of Sanofi Pasteur Limited, the Canadian vaccine division of Sanofi, which he joined in 1983. Under his leadership, Sanofi Pasteur became a billion-dollar enterprise in Canada, manufacturing more than 50 million doses of vaccines for both domestic and international markets.

Lievonen began his career in finance and rose through Sanofi Pasteur’s ranks, guiding the company through a number of significant milestones and initiatives. He spearheaded a cancer vaccine program in 1997 and supported the launch of a five-component pertussis vaccine.

Lievonen is a director of Oncolytics Biotech Inc., Quest PharmaTech Inc., the Gairdner Foundation, the Public Policy Forum and the York University Development Corporation. He is the past chair of Innovative Medicines Canada (formerly Rx&D), BIOTECanada, Ontario Genomics Institute and the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations. He was the vice-chair of Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and is a founding member and former vice-chair of YORKbiotec.

He is the former chair of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation, an ex-officio member on the Markham Stouffville Hospital Board and has chaired the Healthcare Division of the United Way of Greater Toronto Cabinet. Lievonen is the founder of the Sanofi BioGenius Canada, a program that has given 5,500 students a chance to pursue projects in the field of biotechnology.

Lievonen holds a BBA and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business. In 2015, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University. Lievonen is a chartered accountant was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2007.

For more information about the Bryden Awards or to learn more about this year’s recipients, visit