Friends and supporters gather for the Adrienne and Donna Pocock Memorial Award

Don Pocock listening to recent recipient Alia Karim speak about her research at the 2017 BBQ. Photo credit: Jen Aurich

Supporting York University and its students has been an important commitment for the Pocock family. Don, his late wife Donna and their son Aaron Pocock established an award in honour of their late daughter Adrienne – who was a conscious environmentalist devoted to grassroots movements and had great concern for her world. “Our daughter Adrienne’s death rendered us absolutely helpless for well over a year,” said Don Pocock. “Although full recovery was and is impossible, with enormous support we began to climb out of that black hole. York University, through various connections, provided an opportunity for us to create something positive in Adrienne’s memory. That was the bursary fund in her name.”

“Recently Adrienne’s Mom, Donna, passed away and she has been joined in the memorial fund with her daughter,” said Pocock. “Aaron, our son, and I carry this tradition on with love for Adrienne and Donna and with tremendous gratitude to York, all the students, and FES.” The Adrienne and Donna Pocock Memorial Award is awarded to students whose area of study focuses on the Canadian environment.

Aaron Pocock with family friend and supporter Hilda Kopff. Photo credit: Jen Aurich

The Pocock’s generosity has done much more than give financial aid to students. It has allowed recipients to further their passions, focus on their study and connect and become part of a unique community. Pocock recalls that “the next natural step was to bring life to this clerical arrangement. Our large family would need to meet the student recipients at a dinner at our home. In a wonderful way these students would represent Adrienne’s love for her planet and all that it is. And that is what happened.”

According to Pocock, every year new students would be the guests of honour along with past recipients and the annual dinner became a living breathing entity. Friendships and connections have been made and now, 13 years later, the Adrienne Environmental Circle rolls along with 41 recipients to date.

Tanya Chung Tiam-Fook, one of the earliest recipients, fondly recalled the impact the award had on her work, saying that The Adrienne Pocock Award was a great addition to the funding bundle for her PhD field research in Guyana. “The Award was particularly meaningful to me because the basic themes of my work eclipsed those that were dear to the late Adrienne, i.e. relationships between animals, Indigenous peoples and youth and the natural world,” said Tiam-Fook.

Tanya Chung-Tiam Fook (BA '97, PhD '11)

The funds were only the beginning of the honour that Tiam-Fook received as the Pocock’s welcomed me into a heartfelt and brilliant circle of past and current Award recipients, family and friends, and FES faculty and staff. “I am pleased to have been part of this growing circle over the years, and that it continues to celebrate our shared passions for producing the kind of environmental and social research that inspires pathways for understanding and transformation in the world.”

Each summer, Don Pocock and family host a barbeque for past and present recipients – the most recent recipients are Alia Karim, a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and MES student Oonagh Butterfield.

Alia Karim

Karim’s doctoral research explores the ‘hidden’ histories of Indigenous peoples’ wage labour and the colonial and capitalist relations which have, and continue to, influence their labour roles. Karim explains the value the award has brought saying, “I'm very grateful to receive this award and to attend the Pocock family gathering this past August. I felt so welcomed by Don Pocock and I was humbled to speak about my research interests over dinner. The award presents a unique opportunity to network with current and past FES students concerned about nature. I'm looking forward to the next summer gathering!”

Oonagh Butterfield

Butterfield’s research focuses on ecological ethics and philosophy, particularly at intersections of arts-based research and environmental education. Butterfield said that receiving the Pocock Memorial Award has been an incredible gift. “Not only did it grant me the space and time to focus solely on academic pursuits, but also supported an opportunity to present at the World Environmental Education Congress in Vancouver. Attending the annual summer gathering was an added privilege. Fostering community across studentship, scholarship, administration, and alumni -- sharing food, ideas, and stories – the Pocock family's generosity of spirit is as significant as the award itself. "

FES Interim Dean, Ravi de Costa also acknowledges the Pocock’s contributions saying that The Faculty and the University is indebted to donors like Don and Aaron Pocock, not only for their financial contributions, but for enabling a future generation of students to succeed in achieving their goals. “The Pocock Family has created a wonderful legacy through their generosity and imaginative spirit, providing opportunities for so many of our excellent students,” said de Costa.

From left to right - Alia Karim, Dilya Niezova, Ravi de Costa, Oonagh Butterfield. Photo credit: Jen Aurich

The Pocock family has so generously opened their home and invested in future academic generations at FES. Through this community of Environmental professionals and researchers created by the efforts of the Pocock’s, the passion that Adrienne held for the environment lives on in the work and research supported by this award.

Don Pocock chatting with student award recipients at the 2017 BBQ. Photo Credit - Jen Aurich

For more information about the Adrienne & Donna Pocock Memorial award, visit If you wish to designate a gift towards this find, you can do so online at: