Arts & Science alumni celebrated at 2023 Arbor Awards

January 31, 2024 by Adam Elliott Segal - A&S News

Members of the Faculty of Arts & Science were among those honoured at this year’s Arbor Awards for their exemplary volunteer work in 2023 with U of T.

Of the 92 Arbor recipients, 11 are from the Arts & Science community. The awards are the highest distinction bestowed upon volunteers at U of T.

“Our success is due in no small measure to the excellence of our alumni and friends, whose dedication is exemplified by our Arbor Award winners, past and present,” U of T President Meric Gertler said at the ceremony.

The Jan. 16 event also honoured 2020-2022 award winners unable to attend in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gathering of previous awardees gave special meaning to this year’s event, which brought together alumni and friends from a cross-section of departments and programs.

Arbor Award winners have a tremendous impact in the lives of undergraduates in a range of areas, from academic expertise to networking to community-building and career-planning.

For students, building relationships with alumni is a critical path to future success. Having experienced professionals to rely on for guidance fosters a sense of community spirit and continues a longstanding tradition of mentorship at U of T.

Arts & Science winners

This year’s Arbor Awards recognized multiple recipients at Rotman Commerce, including Han Yun (Jenny) Hsu (BCom 2008 WDW), Andrew Kavanagh (BCom 2010 TRIN), Kwan Ho Fok (BCom 2014 WDW) and Joanna Chan (BCom 2015 WDW).

Deanna Horton and U of T president Meric Gertler on stage holding a certificate in a frame.
Deanna Horton and U of T president Meric Gertler.

Fok has been a committed alumni volunteer since 2016, regularly mentoring students through the Rotman Commerce Alumni Mentorship Program and frequently speaking at student group events, while Chan has offered invaluable support and advice to many students over the years and generously offers her time and insights to student groups and events.

Hsu has been a valued and committed member of the Rotman Commerce Alumni Mentorship Program for 12 years and helped foster the professional growth and development of numerous students.

Kavanagh, a dedicated volunteer since 2019, shared invaluable industry insights with his student mentees and assisted in facilitating career exploration opportunities.

Innis College proudly recognized Noel Simpson (BA 1967 INNIS), Michael Orr (BA 1971 INNIS), John Ota (BA 1977 INNIS) and Webnesh Haile (HBSc 2009 INNIS).

Simpson, a member of Innis College's first graduating class, was instrumental in planning his cohort's 50th anniversary celebration, acting as a class ambassador and reconnecting with countless peers.

Haile provided valuable oversight and advocacy as a two-time college representative on the Council of Presidents and as an alumni representative on the Innis College Council. She also shared her insights on an adjudication committee for an Innis leadership award for Black students.

Han Yun (Jenny) Hsu and U of T president Meric Gertler on a stage holding a certificate in a frame.
Han Yun (Jenny) Hsu and U of T president Meric Gertler.

Since 2020, Ota has supported alumni outreach efforts by contributing to the college’s alumni magazine, championing the college's capital campaign and sharing words of inspiration with graduating students.

Orr is a long-time volunteer with Later Life Learning, a not-for-profit educational organization affiliated with Innis College for 40 years. Under his recent leadership as president of Later Life Learning's board of directors, the organization contributed generously to Innis College's scholarships and capital campaign.

Jonathan Chen (HBA 2008 NEW), Katelyn Leonard (HBA 2011 WDW) and Deanna Horton were also recognized.

Chen’s experiences with the Career Mentorship Program inspired him to pursue law school and he returned to volunteer his time as a mentor himself, helping students navigate the application process.

Leonard has been a dedicated volunteer with the Woodsworth College Alumni Association's Board of Directors since 2019. She also served as a mentor with the Woodsworth College Alumni-Students' Mentorship Program and as an alumni volunteer for Career Navigator with the Faculty of Arts & Science. Horton, friend of the faculty and senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, has contributed significant volunteer hours in support of student success over the past decade. A champion of public outreach, Horton also hosted events to advance the Munk School's mission to engage thought leaders in Canada and globally.

The notion of giving back reaps rewards for both students and alumni.

“Something we know all too well is that as much as we give to the university, we gain so much in return,” said Brian Lawson (BA 1982 TRIN), co-chair of the Defy Gravity campaign and a past Arbor Award winner, who was at the event.

Each award winner receives a pin for their service. More than just a symbol of pride, the oak leaf embodies the university’s motto, Velut Arbor Aevo — “May it grow as a tree through the ages.”