Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

An evening of firsts for Environmental Studies Awards Gala

An evening of firsts for Environmental Studies Awards Gala

The sixth annual Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Awards Gala marked an evening of firsts as FES Dean Barbara Rahder welcomed award recipients, presenters and friends to a packed Gladstone Hotel ballroom last Thursday night, Oct. 20.

A new certificate program and several inaugural awards were just some of the items on the evening’s agenda. Rob Tiffin, vice-president students, extended his congratulations to all of the award recipients, saying he was happy to have the opportunity to recognize and honour “some of the best and brightest students in FES, and…some of Canada’s future leaders.”

Tiffin applauded the Faculty in its efforts to position itself as a major centre for teaching and research, specifically recognizing FES’ recent developments in sustainable energy education. He said he was excited about the upcoming Certificate in Sustainable Energy, to which he remarked, “It will be a unique qualification for York graduates, in a very high-demand field.”

Left: From left, councillor Mike Layton, Ian Rice, who received the Jack Layton Prize for Environmental Research & Action, and Barbara Rahder

The first of the evening’s new awards was the Charles Caccia Award in Sustainable Development, spearheaded by Caccia’s wife Iva and friend Jim MacNeill. The award was financially established by dozens of individuals who wanted to commemorate Caccia in a way that would make him proud, by supporting student achievement and education in environmental sustainability. The inaugural recipient, PhD student Jennifer Mills, was amazed by Caccia’s contributions and dedication to environmental and social justice causes, noting that his example teaches us, “As Canadians, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must always strive to improve environmental policy and the quality of life for everyone.”

Right: From left, Robert Sirman presents the Molson Prize to Peter Victor with Brent Herbert-Copley and Barbara Rahder

Another award inaugurated with anticipation was the Jack Layton Prize for Environmental Research & Action. Layton’s son, Toronto Councillor Mike Layton, presented the award and shared the personal connection that he and his father had to the Faculty. Mike attributed his decision to come to York ultimately to his father, soliciting advice from him to help decide his graduate school. Jack had advised Mike to “talk to policymakers… to find out how they got to where they wanted to be.” Mike noted a recurring theme as he approached “top minds in the field, and influential players”; they pointed him to the Master in Environmental Studies (MES) program at York. The inaugural recipient of the Jack Layton Prize was Ian Rice, who recently completed his MES degree and now works on climate change policy for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. When asked about his aspirational ties to the prize’s namesake, Rice responded, “I’m definitely a politically engaged person. I could see myself getting into politics. It would be a good profession to have where I could make a real difference.”

FES Professor Peter Victor was also recognized that evening with a special addition to the festivities. Victor was presented with the Molson Prize, an award administered annually by the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The award is bestowed upon two distinguished Canadians per year in recognition of not only past contributions, but to encourage continued contributions to Canada’s cultural and intellectual heritage.

Left: From left, Anita McBride, receipient of the Friend of the Faculty Award, with friends and donors Guy Burry and Susan and Ted Spence

Past recipients include Canadians such as Margaret Atwood, Marshall McLuhan and Glenn Gould. Robert Sirman, director of the CCA, was on hand to co-present the award to Victor alongside Brent Herbert-Copley, SSHRC’s vice-president research capacity. Sirman remarked that Victor was their ideal choice, particularly in light of his latest book, Managing Without Growth – Slower by Design, Not Disaster. The book had considerable resonance for the CCA, shadowing its own values which Sirman identified, “There needs to be a major paradigm shift in societal values, away from the concept of humankind as a ‘consumer,’ to something closer to humankind as an ‘expresser’… The existing paradigm has been very negligent in not recognizing the conflict and tension between expression and consumption.”

The final award of the night was not new to the FES Awards Gala, but it garnered possibly the most palpable emotion. The Friend of the Faculty Award, established in 2005, is awarded annually to recognize and celebrate the generous contributions and outstanding support provided to the Faculty in the pursuit of its vision. This year’s recipient was Anita McBride, former director of the FES student programs office.

As the first recipient of an honorary MES degree at her retirement in 1999, McBride’s involvement with the Faculty extended beyond her 25 years of service at York. She continues to be a devoted and generous supporter of the Faculty, keeping in touch with MES alumni to help them network with current students. “I just loved the students when I was working, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them… and with their children,” said McBride. Rahder offered a sincere and appreciative hug to McBride, noting that without FES’ generous supporters and donors, the successes celebrated that evening would not be possible.

Submitted by Alicia Brown, FES media/communications coordinator

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.