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Alumni honoured with prestigious Arbor Awards

ARBOR AWARDS: Alumni from U of T Scarborough who received U of T Arbor Awards are (from left): Rebecca Plumtree, Ann Clarke and Tenniel Chu. Missing is recipient Eva Kent. (Photo by Lisa Sakulensky.)

by Eleni Kanavas

Four alumni from U of T Scarborough have been presented with an Arbor Award for outstanding volunteer service to the University of Toronto.

Alumni Tenniel Chu, Ann Clarke, Eva Kent, and Rebecca Plumtree, are this year’s Arbor Award recipients.

“Volunteers are an essential part of the University of Toronto and are very much at the heart of what we do,” said Professor David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, at the awards ceremony on September 15. “These volunteers are incredible supporters of the institute, and we couldn’t do what we do or be as successful as we have been without their support.”

The annual Arbor Awards were created in 1989 to honour the personal commitment of individuals who have given their time and supported the university and the overall learning experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Now in its 20th year, the awards were celebrated in a ceremony in the garden at 93 Highland Avenue, the official residence of the president of the University of Toronto. Recipients, families and friends gathered on the lawn for hors d’oeuvres and drinks before taking their seats for the ceremony, which was held underneath a large and festive white tent.

This year, a total of 87 recipients from across U of T were honoured with Arbor Awards for their generous volunteer service throughout various programs and committees. Both the university president and the chancellor, the Honourable David Peterson, presented the awards to the recipients.

Kim Tull, manager of alumni relations at U of T Scarborough, congratulated this year’s recipients. “Without the help and support of our alumni and community volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to execute half of our programs. It is these volunteers who end up giving back to our students and who really help to enhance the student experience,” said Tull.

“The Arbor Awards are a great way for our president and for the University of Toronto community to rally around the people who are essentially the backbone of everything that we do,” she added.

Profiles of the U of T Scarborough recipients of Arbor Awards follow here.

Tenniel Chu

A 1999 graduate from U of T Scarborough with a Bachelor of Arts in economics, Tenniel Chu has become an active contributor to U of T’s alumni community in Hong Kong, where he often provides advice and support to visiting members of the University’s senior administration.

Chu’s outreach efforts, however, don’t stop there. He is the Executive Director of the Mission Hills Golf Club in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China – one of the world’s leading golf communities — and he hosts numerous university events. Chu also strives to encourage more involvement from U of T’s emerging leaders for the well-being of society. Tenniel Chu was not available for an interview.

Ann Clarke

“When I’m not volunteering with the University of Toronto, I’m volunteering with the Malvern neighbourhood, which I’ve been doing for at least five years now,” said Ann Clarke, who resides in the Malvern area with her husband and three children.

Since earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 1984 from U of T Scarborough, Clarke describes her time living on campus as the best experience of her young adult years, because it enabled her to become actively involved with the university.

For more than eight years, she has been a member of the U of T Scarborough Alumni Association and has also served on the Board of Directors. More recently, she has dedicated her time to being a College of Elector representative.

“I believe it’s possible to manage it all,” said Clarke, who works for the Social Services Department at the City of Toronto. “It’s important that we show by example, and for me, it’s really important that you give back.”

Over the years, Clarke has worked hard to create partnerships between the university, alumni and the local community. She continues being a role model by working with youths in the Malvern and Galloway neighbourhoods of Scarborough and encouraging young people to pursue a post-secondary education.

Yet Clarke doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. She currently wants to focus more specifically on young girls and to help encourage and support them in pursuing an education. She wants to help persuade them of the value of gaining an education in the years prior to pregnancy and child rearing. “Someone had to beat that path before we got here,” Clarke said. “So we need to set the path for other people in order for them to have the same experiences that I had.”

Eva Kent

Since earning a Bachelor of Arts from U of T Scarborough in 1983, Eva Kent joined the Senior Alumni Association’s Volunteer program in 1999.

While pursing various volunteer initiatives, Kent began by scheduling volunteers to help lead tours or assist patrons at U of T’s Nona Macdonald Visitors Centre on the St. George campus. She also helped to expedite mass mailings for the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at U of T, as well as the School of Continuing Studies. She has also served as a docent (volunteer guide) in the Soldiers’ Tower Memorial Room at Hart House. Eva Kent was not available for an interview.

Rebecca Plumtree

“I was absolutely astonished, really flattered and delighted,” said Rebecca Plumtree, after receiving a letter in the mail indicating she had been nominated for an Arbor Award.

Plumtree graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from U of T Scarborough. After working in the field for some time, she felt that economics wasn’t quite for her and decided to pursue what she always wanted to do.

As a result, Plumtree enrolled in the nursing program at Centennial College and became a registered nurse. “Nursing was really my first love, underneath everything,” she said. “But I also really enjoyed doing my economics degree, which is kind of strange.”

She currently works full-time in the maternity ward at Markham Stouffville Hospital. Yet Plumtree maintains an ongoing interest in both nursing and research and data, stemming from her background in economics. These combined interests led her several years ago to some particular volunteer work with the University of Toronto.

Plumtree became involved with the U of T Scarborough local animal care committee after reading a notice given to her by one of the committee chairs that was looking for a new community member at the time. Since then, she has served as the Community Representative for the past 13 years.

“As part of life sciences, the committee is responsible for reviewing all faculty research protocol proposals, ensuring there is not inappropriate use of animals, and that animals are being cared for properly,” she said.

Recently, Plumtree stepped down as the community representative on the committee in order to spend more time with her two-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, while she continues to work as a nurse.

“I was still volunteering when I got pregnant, and once I had my twins, I thought, 'I’ll just bring them with me to the meetings',” she said. “So that’s what I did.  I put them in the stroller and along we went to the next four meetings until they were a year old, but after that they stayed home.”

Between raising a young family and working, Plumtree decided she had to reduce her volunteer commitment for the time being. However, she said she would consider joining another volunteer committee at the university in a few years.

Eleni Kanavas is a recent graduate of the journalism program offered jointly between U of T Scarborough and Centennial College.

© University of Toronto Scarborough