Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size

Meet this year’s OISE Arbor Award winners

November 20, 2020

By Perry King

Photo of Beth Corcoran, Diana Burchell and Kristina Leis, three of this year's Arbor Award winners at OISE

Photo of Beth Corcoran, Diana Burchell and Kristina Leis, three of this year's Arbor Award winners at OISE.


Seven members within the OISE community are being recognized for their tireless work as volunteers by the University of Toronto.

Beth Corcoran, Wendy Brennan, Diana Burchell, Harold Isaacs, Kristina Leis, Carolyn Kay and Jason Parker join dozens of members as recipients of the Arbor Award, the University’s highest honour in recognition of exceptional and longstanding volunteer service.

Since 1989, more than 2,800 U of T alumni and friends have received Arbor Awards for their tremendous efforts – many of them have connections to OISE.

“This year’s winners of the Arbor Award do not just embody OISE’s mission to educate and help others,” said OISE Dean Glen Jones, “but they have lifted us up and strengthened our bond as a community. As the coronavirus pandemic has kept us physically apart, these seven selfless people have kept the OISE community together in spirit.”

“On behalf of the OISE community, I want to congratulate this year’s Arbor Award recipients. We are grateful for your service.”

Learn more about all 2020 Arbor Award recipients

This year’s OISE winners have been involved in a variety of capacities. Beth Corcoran, a professor at George Brown College, is Chair of the OISE Leaders & Legends Awards Committee. She has successfully led engaging programs and webinars for the OISE community. 

Corcoran is honoured to receive an Arbor Award. U of T has had a profoundly positive impact on her family, dating back to her great grandfather – who graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry in the late 19th century.

“I have great respect for the University of Toronto and its keen focus on conducting world class research while educating the leaders and innovators of the future,” she says. “I also deeply respect the role that education plays in society as a whole, shaping the lives of young people. An education from the University of Toronto indeed is life changing, as it creates opportunities for its graduates, and positively impacts their career trajectory,” she adds.

“I have profoundly enjoyed volunteering at OISE. Its programs and people are inspiring, and its research on learning across one’s lifespan is commendable,” she added. “I respect OISE’s mission and purpose. To have my contributions recognized with an Arbor Award was a very pleasant surprise.”

Diana Burchell is also a dedicated volunteer with the OISE Alumni Association. Burchell, who earned a Master of Arts at OISE in 2019, is also chair of the Student Advisory Committee.

Recently, she created OISE Caremongering, a Facebook group bringing the community together during the pandemic.

Burchell was surprised when she was informed she won an Arbor. “While I’m technically an alumni, I'm also a current student and didn't realize that I was eligible,” she said. “I've always thought of the Arbor Awards as an honour received by professionals well-established in their field. I'm incredibly touched to receive this award alongside some of my own mentors.”

“I joined the Alumni Association to provide much-needed services for students at OISE,” she adds. “I am particularly determined to provide support to international students, as they have the potential to be the most isolated right now.

“The award means a lot to me, but I would have continued volunteering regardless,” said Burchell.

As well, Kristina Leis has volunteered with the OISE Alumni Association as an events volunteer, an alumni ambassador and a member of various committees. She is also an alumni mentor with the OISE Mentorship Program.

“It feels unreal. It feels like a recognition of my effort, ideas, and commitment to my alumni community. It feels as though ‘with OISE I can accomplish anything,’” says Leis, inspired by OISE’s I Can slogan.

When asked what the Arbor Award means for her volunteer service at OISE, she says, “wherever life takes me, I always have a community to lean on and give back to. My service in the community is just starting and I cannot wait to see what happens in the future.”

It is this level of dedication to students and community that U of T – and OISE – want to recognize.

“The leadership, creativity and diligence of this year’s Arbor winners have been crucial to the health and viability of our community,” said Sim Kapoor, OISE’s Director of Advancement and External Relations. “OISE thrives because of its volunteers and we are so proud of our Arbor winners. They truly deserve this honour.”

Here is a full list of OISE’s 2020 Arbor Award recipients:

Wendy Brennan, Bachelor of Education, 1978

Diana Burchell, Master of Arts, 2019

Beth Corcoran, Chair, OISE Leaders & Legends Awards Committee

Harold Isaacs, Bachelor of Education, 2000

Carolyn Kay, Master of Education, 1994

Kristina Leis, Master of Education, 2017

Jason Parker, Master of Education, 2015


More OISE News

Meet OISE student Melissa Sariffodeen, one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40

'Lost in the beginning': Billy Elliot production sparks connection OISE pair could have never expected

A leader, who studied leadership: Black student group founder reflects on OISE as Fall Convocation arrives