Hundreds of York community members gathered virtually on November 19 to celebrate 20 years of York alumni who have changed the world for the better. The York U Alumni Celebration brought past Bryden award recipients together with York’s global community of alumni, friends, students and leaders for an entertaining and inspiring evening. The celebration was masterfully hosted by York alumna Natasha Ramsahai (MSc ’01), who guided the audience through an evening filled with entertaining anecdotes, interviews with celebrity alumni guests, and musical performances.
“Tonight has been absolutely incredible and what I’m struck with is that I don’t even know all of our amazing alumni,” said York University President, Rhonda L. Lenton. “And an event like this just reminds me, and amplifies, how our students are not only making an impact while they’re at school, but how our graduates continue to make an impact far, far beyond their time in university.”
Entertainers Noah Cappe and Paul Lillakas (BA ’12) kicked off the celebrations during the pre-show with lively banter and a cooking demonstration, showing audience members how to make a mouth-watering French onion grilled cheese with miso butter-roasted shallots.
An event like this just reminds me, and amplifies, how our students are not only making an impact while they’re at school, but how our graduates continue to make an impact far, far beyond their time in university.Rhonda Lenton, York University President
Alumni guest appearances throughout the evening included well known TV personalities Cynthia Loyst (BFA ’98) and Melissa Grelo (BA ’02), rapper, music producer and philanthropist Kardinal Offishall, as well as Come From Away playwrights and 2011 Bryden Award recipients Irene Sankoff (BA ’99) and David Hein (BFA ’97). The evening also included musical performances by student group WIBI A Cappella, the Toronto cast of Come From Away, and a live performance by the Great Canadian Dueling Pianos featuring York alumna Alexandra Fotopoulos (BFA ‘08).
The celebration of Bryden Alumni Award recipients and their successes and contributions was interwoven with themes of connection and kindness in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted our community locally and globally. President Lenton spoke to the important work that York alumni are doing on the frontlines of the pandemic and many of the guests, including Kardinal Offishall, spoke to the importance of unity and compassion.
“I know that they say it’s social distancing, but I think that it’s the wrong language. Don’t be distant when it comes to being social. Be together,” implored Kardinal. “Even though we’re physically distant, be socially together and support one another.”
Tickets to the event were complimentary, and audience members were invited to donate to York’s Emergency COVID-19 Student Relief Fund to help students cover unexpected housing, rent, food, travel, and other costs due to the pandemic.
To watch the full event recording on YouTube, click here.
A special thank you to Premier Sponsor TD Insurance. Affinity program partner providing home and car insurance for York University alumni, students, employees, and retirees.