This year, on the 13th anniversary of the Gordon Cressy Leadership Awards, 153 students received recognition for their exceptional contributions to the university. The celebration at the Isabel Bader Theatre on March 1 was marked by a severe winter storm and a second ceremony was held on April 18 at Wycliffe College. Gordon Cressy, a former vice-president at U of T, was on hand to present the awards.
At the reception on March 1, Eleanore Gann – a French major at Innis College – was one of the honoured students. Gann is best known for her work as founder and president of the U of T chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND), Canada’s largest Darfur advocacy organization. Between 200,000 and 400,000 people have lost their lives in the region since 2003,as part of an ethnic-cleansing campaign backed by the Khartoum government.
When Gann was not busy organizing demonstrations or fundraisers on campus, she was running letter-writing campaigns to the prime minister. Last November, after seeing footage of the devastation in Darfur, Gann assembled the cookbook Cooking for a Cause: Darfur Activism in Your Kitchen. She sold all 200, and then donated the proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières.“It meant a lot to me to receive the award in the company of friends and staff from my college, because Innis has a warm community that fosters student involvement,” says Gann. “And I hope the award will help to spread awareness about Darfur.”
Among the many other honoured students were Anneleen Naudts, who served as president of the Victoria University Environmental Society and initiated The Human Bean,a student-run fair-trade café at Victoria; Michael Maksimowski, a psychology and zoology major who volunteered with Peace by Peace, which trains university students to teach Grade 5 children how to peacefully resolve conflict; and Tasleem Murji, who represented U of T’s 800 medical students as president of the Medical Society.