2014 Founder’s Award of Distinction – Gordon Cressy


Gordon Cressy

For some people, social involvement is a temporary stop during their professional career. Such is not the case with Gordon Cressy, who has been involved with the not-for-profit and academic sectors for 50 years.

He was a youth worker in Trinidad, where he helped to build the first YMCA on the island; it officially opened April 6, 1964. Many moons later, he was back in Tobago, this time with his wife, Joanne Campbell, spearheading the building of the first ever YMCA in Tobago.

He got the Tobago House of Assembly  to donate three acres of prime land just outside of Black Rock and raised $13 million TT dollars and now they have the finest swimming pool complex in all of Trinidad and Tobago.

The opening took place in August 2010, and over 1200 young people and adults are using the facilities every week.

Mr. Cressy did not stop there. The reason the Founder’s Award, which he is receiving tonight, is being presented first, instead of in its usual position of second-to-last is, immediately after accepting, he will depart for the airport, on his way back to Tobago.

The Tobago House of Assembly was so pleased with the results, that they have asked the YMCA to design, build and operate a second facility up the island, in Kendal next to Roxborough, and that’s where he is heading tonight.

A graduate of the University of Toronto’s Master of Social Work program he served as volunteer chair for the board of YMCA of Canada and Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO).

Community builder, fundraiser and eternal optimist, Cressy shares his experiences of working with people from all backgrounds, combining his accomplishments with a healthy dose of humour. Simply put, Cressy’s stories re-energize the people who do good work on the ground.

In his 12 years as a local politician, Mr. Cressy was elected as a Toronto city councillor, Metropolitan Toronto councillor, school trustee and Chair of the Toronto Board of Education.

Since leaving politics, he has led the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Tire Foundation, where he launched the Jumpstart charity.

As president and founding CEO of the Learning Partnership, Gordon Cressy created the country’s first Take Our Kids to WorkDay, which now involves more than 250,000 students and 75,000 businesses across Canada.

He co-founded the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and played a key role in bringing Nelson Mandela to Toronto to speak to 50,000 students at the Skydome.

Mr. Cressy is a founding co-chair of the Harmony Movement, which takes diversity training to schools across Canada, and has served on such boards as the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care and George Brown College.

Cressy spent more than 15 years teaching community-engagement courses at the University of Toronto. He has been vice president in charge of fundraising at both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, and led U of T’s successful $125 million Breakthrough Campaign.

Mr. Cressy is currently the president of the George Brown College Foundation, an organization for which he has played a catalytic role.