On November 20th, the Great Hall at Hart House served as a fitting backdrop to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards. Established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) and the Division of University Advancement, the Cressy Awards recognize graduating students for outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.
170 former Cressy recipients from near and far gathered for an evening that celebrated and honoured the spirit of giving back. Guests were treated to a panel discussion that featured reflections on leadership, along with witty and personal stories from Cressy winners who have gone on to high profile positions in media, entertainment, law business and commerce. Additionally, several fellow alumni and Cressy winners spoke about their experiences at U of T and what the Cressy award means to them. “I am really grateful to U of T for many things,” said entrepreneur and UTAA member Ines Lucia Fernandez Valdivieso. “Winning the Cressy showed how much the University valued my role as a student leader, and gave me the confidence I needed to succeed as an alumna.”
More than 3000 student leaders have been recognized since the awards were created two decades ago in honour of Gordon Cressy, a former Vice-President of Development and University Relations. The qualities of leadership and dedication demonstrated by Mr. Cressy during his career are embodied in the efforts of students chosen to receive this award–students who are committed to “making a difference.”
In the past 20 years, the Cressy Awards have become a benchmark among volunteer student awards in Canada. The awards’ prestige is directly attributable to the excellence of student leaders at the University of Toronto. “U of T has well over half a million graduates,” said Barbara Dick, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations, “but even within an alumni population this large Cressy winners stand out—in their communities, professions and in their ongoing support of the University.”
Cressy winners continue to lead and give back in a host of ways. Jemy Joseph is a two-time graduate of U of T and is now attending medical school at the University of Ottawa. She credits her experience as a mentor and volunteer at U of T for helping her develop the skills and confidence needed to become a leader. Several years after graduation Joseph advocates locally, provincially and nationally to improve health care for Canadians: “Many of the skills I use now—especially those pertinent to leadership and effective communication—can trace their roots back to my time at U of T, for which I am ever grateful.”