YURA came into being in 1986, largely through the initiative of William (Bill) Small, who at the time was Vice President, Administration. With experience as a senior administrator going back to the foundation of York University in the early sixties, Bill Small was a prominent figure in the central management of the university. He played an active role in the formation of the York University pension plan during the early eighties, opposing the idea of separate plans for faculty and staff, and giving strong support to the comprehensive scheme that eventually included most, though not all retired employees of the university.
The question then followed: how were the interests of retirees to be expressed and defended and how would retirees be able to continue a relationship to the University? These questions led to the formation of YURA, with representation on both the All University Committee on Pensions (AUCP), composed of members from the various collective bargaining units of the University, and the Pension Board of Trustees (PBoT), which reports directly to the Board of Governors.
With this solid base of interest, YURA has steadily grown to a membership of 500, managed by an executive committee of 12-14 members, whose positions are confirmed or elected at an annual general meeting that is held in the fall. Since 2005 the executive of YURA has been chaired by two co-presidents, one of whom has been a retired member from the staff and the other from the faculty.
From its beginning in the 1980s the executive has met six times a year to initiate or direct initiatives, such as reports on pensions and benefits, the arrangement of theatre trips, gourmet dinners at selected restaurants, walks in Toronto, the raising of funds for student bursaries, the organization of the annual AGM and generally to promote social communication among members within the context of the physical facilities and the cultural activities of the University.
Through its annual Showcase & Sale, staged for twenty years (2000-2019) in the heart of the Keele campus, YURA "showcased" hobbies and interests of faculty and staff retirees while selling small, gently used household items donated by retirees (wanting to downsize or purge belongings) as well as home-baked goodies, contributed by retirees. All funds raised from this event were directed to the student awards and bursaries at York that YURA has created over the years.
As a fundraising initiative, to help endow the YURA Graduate Student Awards, YURA organized its first team in the annual Scotiabank Marathon Charity Challenge in 2019. This event has proven to be significantly more effective in raising funds than the annual Showcase & Sale had been, while involving a similar number of YURA volunteer participants. More about the Scotiabank Charity Challenge
Over the years, YURA has also developed a congenial and informal relationship with ARFL (the Association of Retired Faculty and Librarians), which was formed in the early 1990s as an associate of YUFA. In 2009, as participants in recognizing the 50th anniversary of York’s founding, the two Associations – YURA and ARFL – collaborated closely in a project entitled – Reflections, Recollections & Reminiscences – which led to a substantial contribution of essays and materials submitted from a wide spectrum of the membership. This collection was then deposited as a special donation to the York University Archives.
When ideas from a number of Canadian universities were first broached in 2001 about a national organization of university retirees, YURA was represented on the steering committee which led to the formation of CURAC (the College and University Retiree Associations of Canada), and YURA together with ARFL was the host for the annual meeting of CURAC in 2010. Each year, members of YURA attend the CURAC AGM, and through this connection we share our ideas and gain new ones. YURA is one of the most active and successful university retiree associations in Canada.
Altogether, YURA over the past thirty-five years has /become an effective and welcoming organization for those retired employees of York who wish to retain some degree of association with the University community.