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Biographical Notes about YURA Executive members

Diane Beelen Woody, Co-President (Academic)

Head and shoulders photo of Diane Woody

Diane Beelen Woody was born in the Netherlands and came to Canada as a toddler. She grew up in New Lowell (just north of Toronto) in a boisterous family with six brothers. She attended high school in Barrie and then earned a B.A. in French Studies from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

She completed graduate studies in French Language and Literature at the Université de Dijon and at the University of Toronto (M.A. and Ph.D., specializing in 18th Century French Literature). After working part-time at various institutions, she came to York University in 1987 as an adjunct professor. She completed an M.Ed. in Theory and Policy in Higher Education at O.I.S.E in 1998 and joined the Dept of French Studies in a tenure track position in 2001. She has served as Department Chair and as the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. She retired as a Senior Scholar in January 2020.

Her main interests are teaching and learning and 18th Century French literature. With respect to teaching and learning, she has made contributions in the areas of pedagogy-based technology, the First Year experience and the academic recovery of students who have difficulty during their time of transition to university-level studies. She has published pedagogical materials for the learning of French, as well as articles on theoretical aspects of second language learning. Her main publication project has been as an editor of the multivolume Correspondance of Madame de Graffigny, an 18th century French author. During retirement, Diane continues to work on the final volume of the Correspondance.

She met her husband David when they were both undergraduates at St. Michael’s College; they have been married since 1975 and have three grown children and four lively grandchildren. Diane has very much enjoyed her years of employment at York University; she deeply appreciates the many opportunities she had to do interesting and valuable work with many inspiring colleagues and staff members. It occurs to her that transition into retirement calls for many of the same values or “senses” that York tries to inculcate in first year students through its YU START program. For “YU RETIRE”, it seems wise to focus, as YURA does, on purpose, resourcefulness and connections.

Steve Dranitsaris, Co-President (Non-Academic)

Steve retired from York in January 2014, following more than 40 years of service.  A 1973 York grad, he was Senior Executive Officer in the Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration for 12 years prior to retirement.  His career at York also included leadership roles in Kinesiology and Health Science, Athletics & Recreation, Private Funding, Alumni Affairs, the Convocation Office and Stong College.

During his working years, Steve served the University community in many voluntary roles, among them long stretches as Chair of the University Parking Committee and Parking Appeals; director of the CPM Employees Association; coordinator of York’s summer slow-pitch league; and in organizing the annual faculty and staff golf tournament.  He was involved in many University committees, task forces, and building projects; was instrumental in much fundraising for student scholarships; and was a long-serving member of the York University Alumni Board.  For 17 years, he also represented the alumni on the University Senate.

Steve served as Secretary of the YURA Board from 2015 to 2021 after which he was appointed an ex-officio member to assist with Association administration and the YURA web site.  He was recruited to return to the Executive as Co-President in 2022. In retirement, Steve has been an active volunteer at his curling club, his church, for several charitable causes, and at York.  He provided leadership for the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Kinesiology & Health Science in 2017 and Stong College in 2019.

Marla Chodak, Secretary

Marla grew up near Toronto and is a proud alum of York University, graduating in 1972 with a BA (Hons.) in Sociology from the (then) Faculty of Arts. In 1973, while completing her Master’s in Criminology at the University of Toronto, she joined York’s support staff as a receptionist in the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts. With the support and encouragement of colleagues in the office, she progressed to the position of Executive Assistant to the Dean – Faculty Council and Policy, serving as Secretary of the Faculty Council and its committees, and supporting initiatives and processes around academic planning, tenure and promotion, curriculum development, and student support.  She was the recipient of the President’s CPM award in 1996. 

After more than 20 years in the Faculty, Marla moved to the Office of the Provost & Vice-President Academic as Academic Policy Analyst. In collaboration with colleagues across the University, she provided administrative support for a range of initiatives such as academic planning (including planning for new/restructured Faculties), faculty complement, planning for the 2006 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at York, the Deans’ Forum, and the Academic Innovation Fund; and contributed to drafting of major reports and other documents. She also provided support and coordination for searches for Deans in every Faculty, as well as several other senior administrative positions.

Marla retired from York in 2020 and enjoys reading, walking, and cheering on the Leafs and the Jays. She immediately joined YURA, becoming a member at large of the YURA Executive in 2021; she looks forward to continuing to connect with and support friends and colleagues through YURA.

Melody King, Treasurer

Melody retired from York as Director of Procurement Services, Finance Division in 2014. Prior to coming to York, she had a lengthy career in finance and purchasing in Toronto (bank), Alliston (newspaper), Barrie (social service agency) and York Region (municipality) in both the public and private sectors. She has a degree in Mathematics and a professional designation in Supply Management.

Although working put food on the table and a roof over her head, Melody also finds satisfaction in her many volunteer accomplishments, having held the positions of Treasurer, Vice-President and President of Public Buyer Co-ops, Condominium Corporations, Kinette Clubs, a PROBUS Club, the United Way of Barrie and at York as the President of the CPMEA (Confidential, Professional & Managerial Employees Association). And yes, most of this list is plural as her family moved a lot.

Melody grew up in Scarborough, married her banker husband, had two sons, and as mentioned, moved frequently. Over the years, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren have been added to the family.

She currently lives in Wasaga Beach and spends the winter in Florida. Her retirement interests include golf, travel, camping, playing cards and games with friends, needlework and the many social activities in her Florida community.

Anne-Marie Ambert, Ex-Officio, Newsletter Editor

Anne-Marie Ambert grew up in the east of Montreal where “I often ended up doing battles with the English-speaking boys who would call us French kids ‘frogs, papists, F-C pea soup, etc.’ At age 17, she was sent to secretarial school by her parents who were waiting for her to get married. But she inadvertently discovered that she could get a BA by attending university at night and on Saturdays. For several years, she did secretarial work and other jobs, such as teaching high school, to support herself and pay for her studies. She particularly recalls working for a huge English advertising agency on Stanley street where the few French-speaking employees were paid much less than the others, were segregated on a separate smaller floor, did not get the latest  equipment such as electric typewriters like the others, and so on. Before leaving the agency to do her M.A. full time, she remembers casually asking the head of the agency if it was not a mistake for ‘the English’ to discriminate so obviously against the French because we were more numerous.’  Sort of prophetic, although she never was a Separatist.

In 1965, she went to Cornell University for a PhD in sociology—despite her professors at the U de Montreal pushing her to go to Moscow. Tired of being a student, she did the minimum years of required residence (two)  and,  in 1967-68, she taught in an all-black college in Augusta, Georgia, and saw first-hand how dangerous it was to be black.  After that, she followed her husband and taught in various institutions in and around Austin, Texas, again being paid lower salaries, this time because she was a woman. She accidentally ended up as the director of a research center on developmental delay sponsored by the NIMH.

This is where she discovered her passion for researching, writing, and publishing, especially books. Again, in an accidental way, she was hired at York on a one-year contract in 1971 and retired in 2006.  After that, until 2015 she did a great deal of consulting work for government agencies and corporations, especially in the USA as she enjoyed these new challenges and the free travelling involved. While at York, she traveled regularly (often with my small children), mainly for leisure.  She enjoyed photography, volunteer work, activism, and doing editorial work for journals and for the newsletters of the various groups she joined. In 2009, she created a website to help condo owners understand their rights. The activism resulting from this website forced the government of Ontario to revise the Condo Act. Above all, she was very involved with the women's movement all her life and started many women's groups, the latest being at Christie Gardens, the retirement residence where she now lives.  She began as editor for YURA in 2012 at Sandra Pyke’s and Janet Rowe’s invitation—something which she has enjoyed immensely. The first Newsletter she edited was no. 19.”

Angus Anderson (Member until December 2023)

Angus joined York in 1998 on a contract as an assistant in the President's office and was eventually offered a full-time position as Coordinator, Special Events, a job that hes says he was lucky enough to do for three Presidents until his retirement in 2018.

His roles included working on Convocation which he says was one of the great pleasures of the job, seeing all the graduates and their families on what was such a proud day for them.

York's campuses have both grown enormously since he started, including the subway finally arriving at the main campus. Apart from working on the official opening, he did get to ride it to work for his last eight months at York, though he didn't take the last 196 bus trip from Downsview which he heard was a lot of fun!

That said, he also participated in many ground-breaking ceremonies and government announcements which meant working and planning with people from all departments, which he says makes you realize how many dedicated people work at York. He is pleased to say this team work was one of the best parts of his job. He also took part in organizing many events like the Staff Recognition Awards, Retirees’ Lunch, Bryden Awards, and the Chancellor's Convocation “Thank You” Reception. It was great to see colleagues recognized by the University.

Lastly, he worked on some of the events for the United Way. So all in all, Angus is a proud "Yorkie", a term that he thinks was minted for the York Circle events.

Sheelagh Atkinson (Member until December 2023)

A proud York staff member and alumna, Sheelagh worked at the University for 30 years.  She began in Housing and was quickly moved to Hospitality York (the “Conference Centre”) once her background in the hotel and travel industry became known. From conferences and meetings, she moved on to manage Convocation at Student Affairs, and later in the Office of the President.

Convocation moved around and reported to various areas, until it eventually lived under the VP Advancement portfolio, where Sheelagh consolidated all University events and ceremonies at the request of then-president, Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri.

During her time, convocation was centralized and many efficiencies and changes were achieved, including a number of ‘green practices’ and technology that allowed for the highlighting and celebration of each student as they crossed the stage.

After many years, she is pleased to report that the University now holds a ‘new student convocation ceremony’ that welcomes first-year frosh into the academy, thus bookending their academic experience with tradition and ceremony.

Sheelagh is a firm believer in Convocation as the single most important event the University holds and as the gateway for students becoming alumni and lifelong members of the York community.

Bruno Bellissimo, Ex-officio, Representative to the Pension Fund Board of Trustees

Bruno Bellissimo serves as YURA's nominee on the York University Pension Fund Board of Trustees. As a trustee, he provides oversight to the management of the Pension Fund ensuring that the assets are prudently invested with the best possible rate of return given our overall risk appetite. After serving for six years as a member of the YURA Executive, he has recently been appointed an ex-officio member so that he can continue to represent all York retirees and YURA on the Pension Fund Board.

Bruno, who earned a MBA degree from York U, held the position of York's Director of Internal Audit from 2001-2012. His main professional interests are in the areas of board governance, risk oversight and financial management. He was instrumental in introducing Enterprise Risk Management Framework to the University. Bruno is a registered P.Eng. and a CPA-CGA in Ontario. Through his community work, he is an advocate for Parkinson's Disease Awareness.

Charmaine Courtis, Ex-officio, Immediate Past President

Head and shoulders photo of Charmaine Courtis, YURA Co-President Non-Academic

Charmaine graduated from York University in 1972 (Honours Sociology).

She started her career at York immediately in the Central Admissions office. Her first office was a closet in the basement of Steacie Science Library! In 1973 she was hired at the Faculty of Administrative Studies as the Admissions Officer. Over the next 40+ years she had several roles in Student Affairs and Student Services. The culmination of this experience led to her role as Executive Director of Student Services and International Relations for the Schulich School of Business (renamed in 1995 from Administrative Studies). As a senior member of the Dean’s management team, she traveled extensively both on behalf of the school and the university to build a large international exchange network for Schulich and finally to help in the development and launch of the India MBA program. This program was launched in 2010 in Mumbai, and three years later it was moved to Hyderabad to a permanent space.

Charmaine retired in September of 2014 and set herself up to do some independent consulting and advising for people looking for the appropriate schools internationally, and she continued to do that for another year.

Charmaine has served on the YURA Executive for seven years, six of which she was the Co-President, Non-Academic. She says it has been a great pleasure to serve on the Executive Committee and she will continue as to do so as the Immediate Past President, ex-officio. Charmaine has been a regular volunteer in the YURA office, has coordinated YURA membership processing, and has been the impetus for endowing YURA's three graduate student awards.

Fred Fletcher, Ex-Officio, ARFL representative on the YURA Executive

Fred grew up in Vancouver, B.C.

He was educated at UBC (English and Political Science) Duke University (Political Science), with side-trips to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Mass Communication) and University of Michigan (Research Design and Data Analysis). Among other activities at UBC, he was Editor-in-Chief of The Ubyssey (1960-61).

Fred lived in Vancouver, Durham, N.C., Nigeria (where he married Martha, whom he met at Duke), and Seattle (University of Washington) before moving to Toronto in 1971 to join York's  Political Science Department..

Fred’s career at York was varied. He was Graduate Program Director, Political Science (1976-80), Assistant Dean of Arts for Research (1980-83), Coordinator, Communication Studies (various years), and Founding Director, Joint York-Ryerson Graduate Program in Communication and Culture (1998-2006). Besides teaching in Political Science, Communication Studies, African Studies, and Environmental Studies, he coached the York University badminton team from 1988-2003.

In the broader community, his activities have included: Academic Director, Ontario Legislature Internship Program (1980-88), President, Canadian Communications Association (1982-84) and Research Coordinator, Media and Elections, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (1990-92), President of the Canadian Media Research Consortium, 2001-2007, as well as President, Richmond Hill Badminton Club. He has been a member of the World Internet Project since 2003.

Since Fred’s formal retirement, he has taught courses at UBC, MacEwan University in Edmonton, and the Institute of Social Research at Swinburne University in Melbourne and, of course, York.

Fred serves as the YURA and ARFL representative on the Board of CURAC, the College and University Retiree Associations of Canada. He has served as CURAC Vice-President, Communications Chair and Newsletter editor, in addition to being a longstanding member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Retired Faculty and Librarians at York (ARFL) and is an ex officio member representing ARFL on the YURA Executive Committee.  These activities, he is sure, keeps him sane.

Sheila Forshaw

Retired in 2019, Sheila has had a long history at York as a student/student-athlete, proud alumna (1983) and employee in academic and non-academic units beginning in 1996.  Sheila held the position of manager then executive officer in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science/Athletics & Recreation prior to joining the Division of Students as the VPS Executive Director.

Prior to joining York, Sheila was the inaugural executive director of the Ontario Women’s Interuniversity Athlete Association (OWIAA), former governing body for women’s intercollegiate athletics in Ontario.

As a student-athlete, Sheila was a member of the first OWIAA Championship field hockey team won by York.  In her capacity as a York employee, Sheila sat on many pan-University committees as well as representing staff on York’s Board of Governors.  She is the recipient of the President’s Leadership Award and the Bryden ‘Local Hero’ Alumni award.

Sheila is now happily retired working at a horse farm and getting worse at golf, year after year!

Agnes Fraser

Upon migration from her home country Guyana, South America, Agnes attended Ryerson University part-time while also working. At this time, she worked in the secretarial department at the University of Toronto’s faculty of Medicine. Following that, she worked at Ontario Hydro and First Canadian Place, one of Ontario’s leading Law companies. However, the corporate world was not the best choice for her so she came to York University. She chose York University for its then pastoral setting and the community-like feel.

In 1985, Agnes started her career as a Faculty Secretary at York University in the Psychology Department of the former Faculty of Arts. She then moved to the Economics Department of the former Atkinson College and more recently the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional studies where she also worked as Faculty Secretary/Records.

In Guyana, Agnes was able to explore her passion for acting. She played a lead role as well as supporting cast in various theatrical plays. She also enjoy singing and has participated in numerous Christmas and Easter cantatas.  An additional commitment outside of York University includes working with and supporting humanitarian organizations both within Canada and beyond its shores.

In 2018, after 33 years of service, Agnes retired from York University and joined York University Retirees’ Association shortly after as a volunteer in the Central Square office. She is grateful to be part of the Executive Committee and for the opportunity to serve the retiree community in a greater capacity.

Rosanna Furgiuele

Rosanna retired from York University as a Senior Scholar in June 2021 after thirty-eight years of service.

She completed an Honours Degree at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto with a double major in French and Italian Language and Literature and a minor in English Literature. She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in French Language and Literature from the University of Toronto specializing in French Canadian Literature.

She began her career at York in 1983 on the Keele Campus as a part-time instructor in the French Department, then obtained a Contractually Limited Appointment for three years before being offered a tenure track position in the French Department at Glendon College.

In addition to teaching French language and literature courses, Rosanna held a number of administrative positions at Glendon. She was Director of the French Language Program; Coordinator of the Bilingual Program; Chair of the Department of French Studies; Associate Principal, Student Services; Director of the Glendon Student Exchange Program; and Director of the Ontario/Rhône-Alpes (ORA) Student Exchange Program of Ontario Universities International (OUI).

Rosanna has an avid interest in curriculum design and development and is the co-author of five French language manuals. She was awarded nine grants from the York University Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) from 2011 to 2019 which funded multiple projects that focused primarily on student success, student leadership development, first-year university experience, transitioning to university, experiential learning and e-learning, a virtual learning skills program and student resiliency and well-being. AIF funding also contributed to the design and development of three courses: Student Leadership Development: From the Classroom to the Community; Leadership for Social Change; Pathways for Life-Long Learning as well as to a “Forum on Student Success: Making the Case for an Integrated Approach” held at York University on April 25, 2019.

Rosanna has greatly enjoyed her long career at York University. She is grateful for the numerous and varied opportunities she has been given to collaborate with gifted colleagues and to work to improve the student experience and promote student success.

Beyond the University, Rosanna has been actively involved in her parish for many years and has sat on numerous committees in the Archdiocese of Toronto over a period of forty years. The main areas of her involvement have been: Lay Movements, Interfaith Dialogue, Jubilee preparations (2000), and World Youth Day (2002). She completed two mandates as a member of the Board of Governors of Saint Augustine’s Seminary and continues to be its Harassment and Discrimination Officer. Since her retirement, she has been volunteering as an English instructor for Becoming Neighbours, an organization that offers support to new immigrants and refugees during their initial adjustment in Toronto.

She looks forward to this new chapter in her life and hopes that it will continue to be an enriching and fruitful experience. She is delighted to join the YURA Executive Committee and to get to know other active and dynamic York retirees.

Jane Grant

Jane grew up in Windsor, Ontario.

She studied Biology and Chemistry at the University of Windsor, 1967-70.

She moved to Toronto with spouse John and son Michael in 1971, when John joined Connaught Laboratories as a scientist involved in vaccine production and development.

She studied at York University while the children were young, a course per semester. She worked as a technician in John Heddle’s cytogenetics laboratory from 1978 to 1981. In 1981 she was hired by the Biology Department as an undergraduate technician preparing materials for student biology labs, and later she became supervisor of this working group until her retirement in 2014.

She became active in the staff union, YUSAPUY, as a steward and a member (and sometimes Labour Co-Chair) of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, and later became President from 1991 to 93, and VP for several years thereafter. She was President of the Confederation of Canadian Unions from 2000-2009.

She is now enjoying retirement.

Debbie Hansen

Retired in 2022, Debbie was the Executive Director, Community Supports and Services responsible for the Office of Student Community Relations and The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education which was established in 2018.

Her history at York University spans over 44 years and she has served in key positions such as Interim Director (Residence), Director of Client Services, Director of Non-Academic Employee Relations, Associate Registrar and Acting Director in the Office of Student Affairs.

Debbie has sat on several pan-University committees.  She is the recipient of the President’s Leadership Award and the Harriet Lewis Team Award for Service Excellence.

Debbie is currently contributing to community growth by joining a township committee, all while enjoying retirement with family and friends.

Ian Greene (Member until December 2022)

Head and shoulders photo of Ian Greene, YURA Co-President Academic

Ian grew up in a small town in Alberta. After doing his undergrad at the University of Alberta, he did his grad work at the University of Toronto in political science, focusing on problems of delay in courts. He worked for the Alberta government for several years, and taught at a community college in B.C. and the University of Lethbridge before joining the Political Science department at York in 1985. He became Chair of Senate in 2003, Master of McLaughlin College in 2004, and helped to found the School of Public Policy and Administration in 2006. He has written or co-authored nine books on judges, the Charter of Rights, or ethics in politics.

Ian has been happily married for 40 years. He and Eilonwy have three adult children, the youngest of whom is a York University student.

Ian retired in 2013 at 65 (turned out to be a good choice), joined YURA immediately and began to participate in the rich YURA activities. He soon learned that retirement is the best stage of life because one can build on the past but have a new freedom to enjoy the future in an age when we retirees are in the prime of our lives. He joined the executive of YURA in 2017. He became co-chair of the executive of YURA in 2019, honoured to serve with co-chair Charmaine Courtis and to succeed his mentor, John Lennox.

From Ian’s perspective, one of the amazing benefits of YURA is that we get to know our colleagues – both retired faculty and staff – as PEOPLE, not just in their former roles, which hid many of their amazing qualities from our view at that past time. But we get to know our former colleagues as whole people, which not only restores our hope for the future and gives us joy.

Ian served on the YURA Executive for six years, from 2016 to 2022, the final five of which he was Co-President (Academic).

Ed Lee-Ruff (Member until December 2021)

Geographical trajectory pre-Canada arrival: Shanghai->Hong Kong-> Vienna-> Paris -> Montreal.

Post-secondary education: B.Sc. and Ph.D. McGill University. Post-Doc- Columbia University (N.Y. City) 1967-1969.

Ed Started at York in 1969 at half the salary which was offered by Dupont Chemicals (Wimington, Delaware). In retrospect he says he made the right decision coming to York. He avoided conscription during the Vietnam conflict but witnessed the student riots at Columbia (what an eye-opener having come from the placid surroundings of McGill).

He enjoyed directing a research lab with about 60 students and post-docs passing through during his active research years.

Ed’s  more senior administrative responsibilities include Graduate Programme director; Associate and Chair of FGS graduate council; member of Tenure and Promotion  committees in the department, faculty and senate levels; member of the senate committee on honourary degrees and ceremonials – the latter graced by the presence of our former president, Lorna Marsden with whom I enjoyed interacting.

Ed officially retired in 2001 but he frequents the campus daily, having his office there (routine has changed with the Covid-19 lockdown). He still keeps active in terms of writing scholarly works with colleagues in the US and here.

Ed is a grandfather of four from three children, one residing in California. He served on the YURA Executive for six years, from 2015 to 2021 and represented YURA on both the Retirement Planning Centre Advisory Board and the Executive of ARFL, the Association of Retired Faculty and Librarians at York University.

John Lennox (Member until December 2022)

Photo of John Lennox, YURA Past Co-President, wearing a YURA volunteer t-shirt

Notes contributed by Executive Committee members

After a distinguished career as professor and senior administrator at York University, John Lennox retired in 2010 and immediately became involved in the work of YURA. John was Co-President from 2011 to 2017 and served as Past President (ex officio) from 2017 to 2022.  His contributions included weekly staffing of the YURA office, significant involvement in fund-raising for YURA’s scholarships, recruiting and retention of retiree members, and enthusiastic participation in the association’s theatre trips, walk-a-thons, and other activities. John efforts improved YURA’s relationship with the university administration and ensured that YURA always served both faculty and staff retirees.

John also worked diligently to build a strong bridge between YURA and York’s other retiree organization, the Association of Retired Faculty and Librarians (ARFL) and to contribute to the work of the Colleges and Universities Retirement Associations of Canada (CURAC/ARUCC). Over the years, he was a delegate to several annual conferences where colleagues across the country were able to observe the wisdom and goodwill that marked his interventions in important policy discussions. John was particularly successful in recruiting colleagues for the CURAC/ARUCC Board and Committees, as well as for the YURA Executive and, on several occasions, contributed to the CURAC Newsletter/Infolettre.

That YURA is a welcoming space, with more than 500 members and a strong Executive Committee has been in large part a function of John’s personal warmth and commitment. On April 15, 2021, John was presented with the CURAC/ARUCC Tribute Award for outstanding service to YURA and to CURAC/ARUCC.

David Leyton-Brown

David Leyton-Brown grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and received his Honours BA in Economics and Political Science from McGill, and his MA and PhD in Political Science from Harvard.  In 1973 he joined the Political Science Department at Carleton, and in 1975 he moved to the Department of Political Science at York to teach International Relations.  He has been Associate Dean and then Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York, and was then seconded to the Council of Ontario Universities as Executive Director of the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies.  He returned to York to become the Master of Calumet College, and then the Master of McLaughlin College, until retiring and becoming Professor Emeritus of Politics in 2018.

David has been President of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, of the Council of Graduate Schools, of the TOEFL Board, of the Adjudication Committee of the Canadian Fulbright Program, of the government of Ontario’s Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, and of the Board of Trustees of World Education Services (WES).  He has been a member of the Board of Governors of York University, York University’s Academic Colleague to the Council of Ontario Universities, and the Chair of five York University Senate Committees.  In his retirement, in addition to membership on the YURA Executive, David is President of Shining Waters Regional Council of the United Church of Canada, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

David has written extensively in the areas of Canada-United States relations, Canadian and U.S. foreign and defence policies, the politics of international trade and investment, and academic quality assurance.

Patricia Murray

Patricia has an undergrad degree in Physical Education from U of T and MSc degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Alberta.

Patricia spent 38 years at York as a Faculty member (Sc.) in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science, retiring in 2010. Her role within the School changed over time from instructor, lab demonstrator and coach(s) to an administrator in Sport and Recreation. In 1995 she became the Director of Sport and Recreation at York for 13 years. When she began her career at York she coached Badminton and Synchronized Swimming and continued to do so for 20 years. Coaching got her involved in volunteering  in community sport and eventually she became President of Artistic Swimming Canada (Synchro Canada) and an executive member and Vice President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. She was fortunate to attend six Olympic Games around the world during her tenure with these two organizations. She also served on the Executive committee of the Toronto Bid for the 1996 Olympic Games.

On the inter-university front she served as a board member and Vice President of Canadian Interuniversity Sport and as Canadian Chef de Mission of the 2005 Summer Universiade in Izmir, Turkey.

Over her 38 years at York, she served on the University Licensing Board, was a Senator, and an Academic Tutor in Stong College. She also took an active role in Bethune College as a Faculty member.

Patricia joined YURA when she retired and served on the Executive Board for six years, cycling off in 2021. Her contributions included co-chairing the YURA Showcase event for four years. She continues to serve on the YURA Events Committee and recently agreed to return to the Executive in an ex-officio capacity to serve as YURA's liaison to AROHE, the Association of Retiree Organizations in Higher Education, based in the U.S.

Savitsa Sévigny (Member until December 2022)

Savitsa was born and grew up in Cairo, Egypt where she majored in English and minored in French at Cairo University (1961-1965). She came to Canada in 1965.  Two months after her arrival, she went on to teach English as a Second Language at George Brown College (Toronto). She studied at OISE, U of T and received an Interim HSA Type B Certificate. This was followed by doing a Masters in Theoretical Linguistics at the University of Toronto.

In 1971, she joined the Division of Language Studies at York University which was later divided into the Department of French Studies (her  new home department) and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. She taught courses in the French Language, Applied Linguistics, and French Linguistics. In 1972-1973, she served as a member of the Second Languages Program Committee: E.S.L. which was the founding committee for the E.S.L. program in the Faculty of Education where she directed and taught methodology courses for teaching French in the Intermediate and Senior Divisions.

Savitsa held the positions of Undergraduate Coordinator, Director of Undergraduate Studies (3 times) and Acting Chair in the Department of French Studies.  She was also the Coordinator of the French as a Second Language pre-service program in the Faculty of Education from 1979 to 1985 and the Academic Monitor for the B.Ed: in-service program in Aurora in 1979-1980. She became the Chair of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Arts in 2008-2009 and the Master of Calumet College (2001-2006).

Savitsa was a consultant in French as a Second Language Curriculum and Methodology to the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto (1987-1990), to Tartu University and Narva College in Estonia (2000-2001), to the Ontario Curriculum Centre (2004-2005) and to the Native Studies Public Education writing team for the review of Grade 12 University/College Preparation Course Profile (2001-2002). Upon request of the Council of Ontario Universities, she wrote validation reports for many Ministry documents, including F.S.L. Curriculum Guidelines for many French programs (1985-1999).

Savitsa has written many teaching materials to be used in courses at York University and has co-authored two grammars of English and 13 teaching manuals for F.S.L. that are used in schools. She was a frequent speaker on methodology for the teaching of French in schools in the Toronto area.

From 1991 to 2009, she served on the Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee of the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLTA) Toronto French Contest and ran the York side of the Toronto French Contest during that time.

In 1996, Savitsa was the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Teaching, Faculty of Arts. In 1986, she received the “Parents of the Year Award” given by the Ontario Academy of Music in Toronto.

Savitsa has been happily married to her husband Georges for 53 years. They have two grown-up sons and a granddaughter.

In 2015, she retired, joined YURA and served two terms on the YURA Executive Committee.

Stan Shapson

Stan is a Senior Scholar and University Professor emeritus.  As an academic leader, Stan served first as Dean of Education and later as Vice-President Research & Innovation.  He has numerous service contributions to his credit, both federally and provincially, including membership on the Granting Council of the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), including as Interim President and Chair.  Prior to coming to York in 1991, Stan had served as Associate Dean of Education at Simon Fraser University.

Stan’s research interests spanned the fields of technology-enhanced learning, bilingual and multicultural education, and the development of innovative programs and policies: his publications received both national and international awards (American Educational Research Association and Canadian Journal of Education); he was awarded numerous research grants and directed large-scale national and provincial studies.

In his role as York’s founding VP Research & Innovation (2000-2011), strategy shifted from his own individual research to building institutional R&I capacity. He worked collaboratively, with leaders from municipalities, community hospitals, and businesses in York Region/Markham on economic and social innovation clusters. He was the Co-chair, with the Mayor of Markham, of the Innovation Synergy Centre, founding Chair of YORKbiotech, and the consortium that established the Convergence Centre in Markham.

In 2013, Stan was awarded the honorific title of University Professor for his significant contributions and achievements in advancing both the teaching and research missions of York University. 

Donna Smith

Donna is a graduate of York University. She worked full-time in the Department of Human Resources and the Division of Research and Innovation in various positions for 18 years.  She retired early from her full-time position in 2016. Donna represents YURA on the All-University Pension Committee (AUPC).

Peter A. Victor

Peter was born in London (UK) to a Jewish family. He graduated from the University of Birmingham with a B.Soc.Sc. (first class hons). In 1967 he entered UBC where he earned a Ph.D. in economics, returning to the UK in 1970 to join the University of Kent at Canterbury as a Lecturer where he met and married Maria. Together they emigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1973 where Peter joined the recently established Ontario Ministry of the Environment as Senior Economist. After four years in the Ministry Peter was hired by the consulting company Middleton Associates. This led him to set up his own consulting Victor and Burrell to work on a very wide range of environmental and energy issues.

Peter's association with York began in 1975 when he started teaching part-time in York's Faculty of Environmental Studies. This continued until 1991 apart from two years in the 1980s when he was a member of a Faculty team living and working in Kenya as advisors, accompanied by Maria and their two daughters.

In 1991 Peter was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ontario Ministry of the Environment where he led the Science and Standards Division and was also responsible for shepherding the Environmental Bill of Rights through the legislative process. The opportunity to return to academia full time came in 1996 when he became the Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York, a position he held for five years before resuming teaching and research full time. He was soon approached by his former Ph.D. supervisor who, like Peter, was deeply troubled by the mounting environmental crises. The two economists began investigating possibilities for advanced economies to manage without economic growth and so reduce pressures on the biosphere. This led to Peter's book Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, Not Disaster published in 2008, just when the financial crisis hit and the idea of managing without growth became something many people and organizations around the world wanted to hear about.

Peter has continued to pursue his interests in the relationships between the economy and the environment and to work with an ever-widening range of researchers and activists on alternatives to economic growth. Though he retired from York in 2019, Peter maintains an active program of research and writing. His latest book is a biography: Herman Daly's Economics for a Full World: His Life and Ideas published in 2021. Peter continues to serve on advisory panels and to help younger scholars. His work on ecological economics has been recognised by several awards and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

So far Peter has found retirement quite liberating, allowing time for long walks and to learn the guitar. He is very happy to be a member of the YURA Executive and to join with others in making the most of this time in our lives.

Richard Weisman

Richard Weisman grew up in New Jersey and received his BA from Columbia College and his PhD in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. His first appointment at York was in the Department of Sociology at Glendon in 1969. A fellowship from YUFA plus a sabbatical enabled him to complete his LL. B. at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1985. In 1997, he was cross appointed to the Law and Society Program in the Department of Social Science in what is now the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 2013.

Richard has been involved in service to the university throughout his career. At Glendon, he was acting chair of his department for three years. In the Department of Social Science, he served as coordinator of the Law and Society Program- a large undergraduate program from 1997-2001. He was one of the three members of the Department of Social Science who established the Graduate Program in Socio-Legal Studies and he served as its first Graduate Program Director from 2010-2012. He has also been active in the Canadian Law and Society Association- our national association for socio-legal scholarship- since its inception in 1985 and served as President of the Association from 2010-2012.

With respect to his academic work, Richard has published extensively in interdisciplinary journals related to sociolegal research. His monograph entitled Showing Remorse: Law and the Social Control of Emotion won honorable mention for the Distinguished book award from the Sociology of Law section of the American Sociological Association in 2014 and the 2015 book prize from the Canadian Law and Society Association. He has contributed to workshops related to law and emotion at conferences held in universities in England, Wales, Austria, Israel, Spain, and Australia.

Post-retirement, in addition to continuing his research, Richard has returned to his long-time interest in jazz improvisation on the piano.

John Wilson (Member until December, 2021)

John Wilson retired from York after 32 active years of service. During those 32 years he worked in Campus Services and Business Operations and was entrusted with numerous jobs and responsibilities including Horticulturist, Arborist, Supervisor and Assistant Superintendent of Grounds and Vehicles, Manager of Mailing Service, Manager of Inter University Transit System, in addition to acting as Communication Liaison Officer for numerous Capital Construction projects on the York campus.

Beyond his commitment to York, John is and continues to be a strong advocate for Arboriculture and the need for a greater appreciation of our urban forests. He is the acting Chair of a non-for-profit organization called the Canadian TREE Fund that provides funding for research and education projects that relate to urban forest issues and challenges. He is also a Director on the Board of the Aurora Community Arboretum, a 20-year old organization that has established and maintains an arboretum with over 500 trees in Aurora.

For several years, John happily assisted with the day-to-day operations of YURA and served on its Executive Committee for four years. He found the involvement provided a great transition from full time employment and a chance to stay in touch with longtime friends and colleagues.