2017 Bryden Alumni Awards


Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen’s Park (Bloor Street entrance)
Toronto, ON
6:30pm Cocktail Reception
7pm Dinner & Awards
Cocktail Attire
Alumni and friends tickets:
$150 – Individual
$1200 – Table of 10
NEW! Early bird pricing of $125 for Individual tickets and $1000 for Table of 10 available until October 22.

Corporate tickets:

$1500 – Corporate Table*For more corporate and sponsorship opportunities, contact Melanie McLean at mcleanm@yorku.ca
(All prices include HST & business receipts will be issued)
*Please visit registration page for details

Join alumni, students, donors and friends as we honour four remarkable alumni at the annual Bryden Alumni Awards dinner.

An expected 300 guests will come together at the Royal Ontario Museum for an evening of superb food and entertainment in celebration of York’s finest.

Tickets are limited, so don’t miss this opportunity to attend! Includes open bar, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, entertainment and more!


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Learn more:
Event Sponsors 2017 | Award Recipients | Event Host | Entertainment | Selection Committee


PREMIER SPONSOROfficial provider of car and home insurance for York University alumni, students, employees and retirees.


Colleen Johnston, BBA ‘82 (Schulich School of Business)

Group Head, Direct Channels, Technology, Marketing and Corporate & Public Affairs, TD Bank Group

Colleen Johnston is currently Group Head Direct Channels, Technology, Marketing and Corporate & Public Affairs at TD Bank Group.

Prior to this Colleen was Group Head Finance, Sourcing and Corporate
Communications, and Chief Financial Officer, TD Bank Group. Colleen joined TD in March 2004 as Executive Vice President, Finance Operations, after spending 15 years with Scotiabank in various senior positions. She began her career in 1982 with Price Waterhouse.

Colleen graduated from York University in Toronto with a bachelor of business administration. She received her chartered accountant designation in 1984 and in
2006 was elected a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA), the highest designation conferred by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, recognizing her outstanding career achievements and dedication to community activities.

Colleen has received numerous top industry honours as a senior finance executive – she was recognized by Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women three years in a row and inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame in 2007. Colleen was named “Best Chief Financial Officer” in October 2009 by Canadian Business magazine, and in 2011, for the third year in a row, was named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker. In 2012, Colleen was recognized as Canada’s CFO of the Year, an award that is presented annually by Financial Executives International Canada, PwC and Robert Half International. In 2013, Colleen was awarded the Catalyst Canada Honours in the Business Leader Category.

Colleen is a board member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and sits on the advisory board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. She also served as past Chair and President of the Board of Directors for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Chair of Bridgepoint Health, and the ShareLife Corporate Campaign. She is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Schulich School of Business at York University, a member of the Canadian Board Diversity Council, and a member of the board of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. In 2015, Colleen joined the board of the Shaw Festival. At TD, she is actively involved in promoting diversity in the workplace including the bank’s Women in Leadership Committee.

Born in Vancouver, Colleen currently resides in Toronto with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys travelling, reading and an active lifestyle.

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION - J. Mark Lievonen, C.M., BBA '79, MBA '87, Hon LLD '15

J. Mark Lievonen, C.M., BBA ‘79, MBA ‘87 (Schulich School of Business), Hon LLD ‘15

Former President, Sanofi Pasteur Limited

Mark Lievonen is the former President of Sanofi Pasteur Limited, the Canadian vaccine division of Sanofi, which he joined in 1983. Under his leadership, Sanofi Pasteur has become a billion-dollar enterprise in Canada, manufacturing over 50 million doses of vaccines for both domestic and international markets.

A veteran of the industry for over 30 years, Mark began his career in Finance and rose through Sanofi Pasteur’s ranks, guiding the company through a number of significant milestones and initiatives. He notably spearheaded a cancer vaccine program in 1997 and supported the key launch of a five-component pertussis vaccine, which is still widely used today. Working closely with the provincial and federal governments, Mark has led the site through several major contracts and investments, including the opening of a $100-million, state-of-the-art research and development facility in Toronto.

A strong supporter of innovation and economic development in Canada, Mark has been honoured to serve many industry organizations throughout his career. Currently, he is a Director of Oncolytics Biotech Inc., Quest PharmaTech Inc., the Gairdner Foundation and the Public Policy Forum. He is the past Chair of organizations such as Rx&D (now Innovative Medicines Canada), BIOTECanada, Ontario Genomics Institute, the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations, and the Vice-Chair of Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Mark was a founding member and the Vice-Chair of YORKbiotec.  He served as a member of the BIOCouncil, the Ontario Investment and Trade Advisory Council and the Toronto Mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Advisory Committee.  He chaired the BIO2002 Steering Committee.

Beyond his work in the biopharmaceutical industry, Mark has always been a passionate advocate for public health access, education, and giving back to the community. He is a former Chair of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation, and served as an ex-officio member on the Markham Stouffville Hospital Board.  He served on the York University Board of Governors and as a Director of the York University Development Corporation.  He also chaired the Healthcare Division of the United Way of Greater Toronto Cabinet. Mark is the founder of the Sanofi BioGenius Canada, a program that has fostered young scientists for more than 20 years – giving over 5,500 students a chance to pursue groundbreaking and career-defining projects in the field of biotechnology.

Mark’s contributions to the biopharma industry, economic development and the community have earned him much recognition. Among the honours he has received are the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medallions, Lifetime Achievement Awards from Life Sciences Ontario and the Pharmaceutical Sciences Group, and the Canada Medal from The Chemical Institute of Canada.  He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2015, named a Chevalier de l'Ordre National de Mérite by the government of France in 2007, and was inducted into Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame in 2013.

Mark holds a BBA in accounting and an MBA in finance and marketing from the Schulich School of Business, York University. In 2015, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University. Mark is a Chartered Accountant and received his designation while working with PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to joining Sanofi Pasteur.  He was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2007.

TENTANDA VIA - Rudy Buttignol, C.M., BFA '82

Rudy Buttignol, C.M., BFA ‘82 (AMPD)

President & CEO, Knowledge Network

Rudy Buttignol is the President and CEO of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network Corporation, and President of the BBC Kids channel, a joint venture with BBC Worldwide. Since his appointment to the Crown Corporation in 2007, Buttignol has led the transformation of the public broadcaster from a single television station to a mulit-channel digital media network that includes video streaming through its apps and websites. This strategy has significantly increased audience share and tripled revenue, making Knowledge Network the most publicly funded public broadcaster in Canada

Buttignol moderates annual documentary financing forums in Amsterdam and Leipzig; and is a tutor at the Berlin-based Documentary Campus Masterschool. He is a Director on the Boards of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Britannia Mine Museum, and the Knowledge-West Communications Corporation; and Vice-Chair of the Canadian Association of Public Educational Media. In 2011 he was appointed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, an independent tribunal of the federal government. He is a member of the Order of Canada, has an honourary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University, andis the winner of nine Canadian Academy Awards.

From 2000 to 2006, Buttignol served as TVO’s Creative Head of Network Programming, responsible for re-branding Ontario’s public broadcaster and significantly increasing audiences and revenues. Concurrently, he was the Executive Producer of Saturday Night at the Movies, the international documentary series Human Edge, and the HBO special Before Their Time. As TVO’s Commissioning Editor and Creative Head of Independent Production from 1993 to 2006, Buttignol founded The View From Here, an international award-winning documentary series than ran for fourteen seasons.

His internationally heralded commissions included feature documentaries such as The Corporation; Manufactured Landscapes; Allan King’s Dying at Grace; The Bodybuilder and I; McLuhan’s Wake; Bret the Hitman Hart; The Champagne Safari; Emmy winner Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles; and Oscar-nominated Hardwood. Commissioned series include Diamond Road; Black Coffee; Empire of the Word; Michael Ignatieff’s Blood and Belonging; Korea, the Unfinished War; The War of 1812; and Emmy and Grammy-winner Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach.

From 1975 to 1993, Buttignol worked as an independent writer, director and producer of documentaries, children’s series, and commercial work. His programs have been broadcast on A&E, Bravo, CBC, Channel 4 (UK), Discovery, Global, The History Channel, and PBS. Titles include Alan Bean: Art Off This Earth; The Dairy; Jack Bush; the multi-screen Ontario Place installation Inward Passage; Neon: An Electric Memoir; Shipyard; The SpaceWatch Club; and Soviet Space: The Secret Designer. In 1979, Buttignol founded Rudy Inc. with partnerships in Houston and Moscow.

In 1983-84, Buttignol served as part-time instructor at the Ontario College of Art & Design; and as administrator of the producer’s assistance program at the National Film Board of Canada. In 1984, he spent two months in Bangladesh documenting health and literacy initiatives for a Canadian NGO.

Buttignol’s community volunteer time has been focussed on board governance. Past service includes: founding Chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada; founder of the Hot Docs Financing Forum; consecutive elections (1985 to 2003) to the Board of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, including seven years as Chair; and founding President of the Academy’s Foundation. Buttignol has served as a Director on the Boards of: Banff Media Festival; Canada Media Fund; Canadian Conference for the Arts; Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre; Hot Docs International Documentary Festival; and the European Media Management Academy’s Advisory Council in Strasbourg. Buttignol has also moderated financing forums in Chengdu, Kuala Lumpur, La Rochelle, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto and Xiamen.

Buttignol was born in Pordenone, Italy and came to Canada in 1955. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Toronto’s York University, and has completed Executive programs at the Banff Centre, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Harvard Business School. Buttignol’s international honours include: the inaugural Doc Mogul Award from Hot Docs International Documentary Festival; Honorary Texan from the Governor of Texas; Distinguished Merit award from the government of Fiume Veneto, Italy; President of Honour of the 23rd Sunnyside of the Doc, La Rochelle, France; Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; and nine Canadian Academy Awards. On December 30, 2015, Buttignol was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada, “for his contributions as a champion of Canadian documentary filmmaking and for his transformative leadership at the Knowledge Network.” In June, 2017 Buttignol was awared an honorary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University.

ONE TO WATCH - Abdullah Merei, BASC '09, MBA '15

Abdullah Merei, BASC ‘09, MBA ‘15 (Lassonde School of Engineering, Schulich School of Business)

Director - Compression Systems, Evertz Microsystems Ltd.

Currently serving as a Director in the R&D department at Evertz Microsystems, Merei is leading the design, development, marketing and full deployment of industry changing products and solutions for major broadcasting/media networks around the world proving he is one to watch both now and in the future.

An expert in the field, the technology industry has looked to Merei for his insights and knowledge in which he has gladly contributed having been quoted in a number of articles alongside industry leaders. Merei has also made significant accomplishments in the media and entertainment field helping to push the industry forward with his support of technical advances and cutting edge initiatives.

A passionate lover of technology from a young age, Merei achieved his first two tech milestones in 1994 at the age of 8 when he completed his first computer programming course and introduced his country, Jordan, to the Internet via a televised demonstration. His passion for technology was cemented when he moved to Canada in 2004 to attend York University where he earned his degree in Computer Engineering in 2009, graduating first in his class with distinction, and his MBA at the Schulich School of Business in 2015. In addition to being active on numerous student groups during his time at York, including the President of the Engineering Society 2007 – 2008, he also managed to excel academically. His long list of accomplishments include: receiving the Allen Berg Award in 2007 and 2008 and being awarded a gold medal from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers for having the highest GPA by a graduating engineering student and demonstrated leadership in professional affairs and extra-curricular activities. Merei was also the recipient of the inaugural Alumnus of the Year at the annual Lassonde Awards in 2015.

Never forgetting his York roots and eager to give back to his community and help others succeed, Merei created the Merei Family Scholarships making him the youngest of Lassonde's major donors. The scholarship awards six students annually in the field of engineering and computer science acknowledging leadership skills, academic excellence, and support for women in engineering. Most recently, Merei has provided seed funding to establish the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) early stage venture program. He has also connected Evertz with the Lassonde Co-Op Program to give undergraduates the chance to gain experiential education experiences through work placements.

In his spare time Merei regularly seizes the opportunity to remain active and engaged. He is a mentor and role model to a number of Lassonde undergraduate students and is leading the startup of the Lassonde Alumni Network. He also volunteers by mentoring start-ups in the technology industry.


David Common, BA '99

David Common, BA '99
Host, CBC's The National and Marketplace

York University is proud to have David Common (BA '99) host the 2017 Bryden Alumni Awards.

Common is among the most seasoned of CBC's correspondents on The National and as host of the consumer affairs program, Marketplace. He became known to CBC Radio listeners as host of World Report, the morning national newscast with more than a million listeners. He also remains a Correspondent with CBC News, and has become quite good at moving, with postings to New York, Paris, Toronto, Fredericton, Winnipeg and Regina.

Born in Winnipeg, Common grew up in Toronto, went to York University in Toronto and Stockholm University in Sweden. He started with CBC as an intern at their London, England bureau in 1998.

Common knows travel - he's reported from more than 50 countries, from the beaches of the Seychelles Islands to eight separate trips to Afghanistan. He helped cover the 2003 invasion of Iraq, toured the Arctic on a Canadian icebreaker, covered the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Japan, elections in the US, and once interviewed Elmo from Sesame Street.

Common has received several awards and has been nominated for a Gemini twice - winning once under the Best Reportage category. He's also one of the CBC's multi-skilled journalists, able to shoot and edit his own stories as needed.

Common currently lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.

Sarah Davidson-Gurney, Violinist

Sarah Davidson-Gurney, Violinist
MA '12 (AMPD)

Sarah Davidson-Gurney is an accomplished violinist and music teacher with a Masters degree in Violin Performance. She completed her Bachelor degree from the University of Toronto, also majoring in Violin Performance. Having played violin since the age of three and piano since the age of five, Sarah’s achievements include recording a CD at the age of thirteen, attending the prestigious Chautauqua Music Festival in New York four times on scholarship and winning York University’s concerto competition.

Sarah was the concertmaster for the York University Symphony from September 2009 to May 2011. Playing the violin, she also won an Arts scholarship worth $7,500 by virtue of winning the talent portion at the 2010 Miss World Canada Beauty Pageant. At the age of sixteen, she was featured as the new young artist at the Brantford Sanderson Centre for Performing Arts as a Violinist in a Solo Concert.

She has performed at multiple venues world wide including the Ritz-Carlton, the Shangrila, and the Four Seasons hotels as well as the AGO, the ROM, the Gardiner Museum, the TIFF Bell lightbox, the Liberty Grande, Muzik nightclub, and the Ritz Carlton. Sarah has played for such companies as Rolex, Royal de Versailles, Guerlain, Givenchy Parfums, BMO, TD Canada Trust, Microsoft and Cadillac. She has opened for artists such as Gwen Stefani, Usher, Akon, and Kendrick Lamar.

Sarah recently recorded her fourth music video in which she performs her own selection entitled "Beyond the Dark."

Andrea Valdez Levin, Dancer

Andrea Valdez Levin, Dancer
BFA '13 (AMPD)

Originating from Mexico, Andrea Valdez Levin started her training at the professional Ballet School of Cuba in Mexico and at the National Ballet School in La Havana, Cuba. While completing her studies at York University in Toronto, Canada Andrea also participated in an international student exchange program at the University of Chichester, England where she had the opportunity to perform around the UK. After completing her BFA of Dance at York she has continued her dance career in Canada and Mexico performing for several national and international dance companies.

Rachelle Haynes, Dancer

Rachelle Haynes, Dancer
BF '11, MA '14 (AMPD)

Chellz is a Canadian born dancer and musician who in 2008 relocated to Toronto to study, teach, and perform. Her West Indian/Caribeña background and culture has had a huge impact on the genres of dance and music she performs; mainly South/Central American, Caribbean, West African, contemporary, and ballet. She is continuously stressing the importance of dance and music being married together as one, and pursues this philosophy through her interactions with music and dance and by playing such instruments as: cajon, cuatro, steel pan, and Brazilian percussion. Chellz has performed throughout Canada as well as abroad including such venues as: PanAmerican Games 2015, Sunfest London, Salsa on St. Clair, and Muhtadi's Drumming Festival. Chellz completed her MA in 2014 and is a dancer and choreographer, vocalist, writer, musician, and designer whose passion is sharing culture through movement and rhythm.


Antonio Di Domenico, BA ’02, LLB ’05
Francesca Accinelli, BFA ’92 Ron Ferguson, BSc '89
Al Burton, LLB/MES ’00 Jeff O’Hagan, VP Advancement
Hamza Dawood, BA '07, MBA/JD ’11 Randy Williamson , LLB '88
Kathy Elliott-Bryden, BA ’66 Bart Zemanek, BA '07, MSc '10
Monika Federau, BA ’86