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Celebrating Yvonne Chiu’s life of passion and support for students

PORTRAIT UNVEILING: This oil painting of the late Yvonne Chiu, created by artist Joanne Tod, was unveiled at the May 19 event at the University of Toronto Scarborough. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Eleni Kanavas

A special tribute to a gifted teacher and longtime member of the U of T Scarborough community was held in memory of Yvonne Chiu, who passed away suddenly this past September.

Faculty, staff and friends gathered in the Science Research Building on May 19 to celebrate her life at a memorial event that featured the unveiling of an oil-on-canvas portrait titled “Scarborough Fair” by renowned artist Joanne Tod. The portrait now hangs in the large lecture hall, (SY110), of the Science Research Building.

“This painting honours a wife, a mother, an outstanding UTSC citizen and a friend,” said Prof. Franco Vaccarino, principal of U of T Scarborough. “Yvonne Chiu was a passionate educator, a mentor to students and a dedicated colleague. We feel privileged to be the home of an artistic work of someone so treasured and the portrait celebrates the artistic and cultural interests she pursed so passionately.”

For more than three decades, Yvonne was a dedicated mentor to those pursuing life sciences, particularly in the areas of genetics and microbiology, where she took a personal interest in the thousands of students whom she helped to reach their fullest academic potential. She also had a zeal for the arts and a keen interest in opera, according to her friend and colleague Mike Filosa, professor emeritus in biological sciences.

Yvonne and her husband John spent their time working tirelessly to benefit the lives of others, according to their friends. Together, they were founders of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals (Ontario) Education Foundation, which was established in September 1981 and began operating in 1983 as a registered charity.

The goal of the foundation is to donate annual permanent scholarships and awards to deserving post-secondary students, regardless of race, religion or creed. In this way, the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals (FCCP) is able to support the higher education of young people and to encourage them to strive for excellence.

Through this foundation and their personal donations, the Chius have supported nine faculties across U of T. Two annual awards named the Ting Sum Tang Memorial Scholarship in arts management co-op and cell and molecular biology have, since 1987, supported 30 UTSC students in achieving their academic goals. They also created the Yvonne and John Chiu Award in Genetics in 2001, which has benefited nine UTSC students. Known as passionate patrons of the arts, the Chius have also contributed at UTSC beyond the classroom, to the Doris McCarthy Gallery.

Thanks to the generosity of the FCCP Education Foundation and the Chiu family, a new pledge to fund four new scholarships at U of T Scarborough in memory of Yvonne Chiu has also been established. These annual awards include: the Yvonne Chiu C.M. Memorial Scholarship in Arts Management and the Yvonne Chiu C.M. Memorial Scholarship in Cell and Molecular Biology, each worth $3,000. These awards will continue to support students for the next 20 years. In addition, the foundation is creating a new $500 annual prize in microbiology in memory of Yvonne Chiu, which it plans to fund permanently, as well as a $500 prize, the Yvonne and John Chiu Award in Genetics.

The Chius’ diverse gifts to UTSC in arts and sciences and their demonstration of community involvement all exemplify the breadth of their knowledge and passion and belief in a well-rounded education and appreciation for life. Together they encouraged others to give and they led by example.

© University of Toronto Scarborough