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Source: McMaster University

Gallery of Distinction honours six community leaders

November 9, 2006

Six outstanding citizens who have made an indelible mark on the City of Hamilton through their leadership, dedication and talent were honoured at the annual Hamilton Gallery of Distinction Awards Dinner on Nov. 8.

The Hamilton Gallery of Distinction inductees for 2006 are Sheila Copps, Ethilda (Tillie) Johnson, Michael Joy, Michael Lee-Chin, Gene Sutton and Gary Warner.

"The Hamilton Gallery of Distinction provides us with an excellent opportunity to recognize the incredible people and talent that exists here in Hamilton," says Hamilton Gallery of Distinction President Mark Playfair. "Each of this year's inductees has made significant contributions to our great city, positively affecting the lives of so many Hamilton citizens."

Since 1984, the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction has publicly honoured the lifetime achievements of a select group of citizens who have made significant contributions to our community.

The Research Committee at the Hamilton Public Library conducts research on each nominee, so his or her contributions are well understood and documented. An impartial Selection Committee then reviews the nominations and makes the final selections of inductees.

The Gallery, located on the third floor of the Hamilton Convention Centre, provides a permanent showcase for the portraits of more than 144 people who have been inducted into the Gallery over the past 22 years.

A volunteer Board of Directors is responsible for maintaining the Gallery, organizing an annual search for new inductees, and planning a yearly awards dinner in November.

Sheila Copps

One of Canada's best known politicians, Sheila Copps spent more than 23 years in politics representing Hamilton.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Sheila was first a newspaper journalist at the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Citizen.

In 1981, politics called and she was elected a Liberal Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament. In 1984, she set her sights on Ottawa and won the federal riding of Hamilton East, a seat she held for the next 20 years. Her dedication and ability was rewarded in 1993 when she was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, followed by her appointment as Heritage Minister a few years later.

Sheila's commitment to her country and to her hometown were hallmarks of her political career. During her time in office she showcased Hamilton to world leaders, initiated the Great Lakes clean-up, and aided in Hamilton's waterfront improvements with millions of dollars in new funding to establish the Waterfront Trail and the Parks Canada Marine Discovery Centre.

She helped bring the United Nations University to McMaster and the World Cycling Championships and the HMCS Haida to Hamilton. She secured a new federal building on Bay Street, worked for the transfer of Hamilton Airport to the Region, and brought more than $300 million in infrastructure projects to the City.

Ethilda (Tillie) Johnson

A familiar face at the Hamilton Farmers' Market, Tillie Johnson has become a powerful voice and community leader.

Born in Jamaica, she spent several years in England before moving to Canada in 1968. When she arrived in Hamilton, Caribbean food was not well known and she opened the city's first West Indian Store, naming it Tilda's Tropical Delights. Her entrepreneurial spirit not satisfied, she took a stall at the Hamilton Farmers' Market and for the past 35 years she has been a fixture at the market, introducing people to tropical fruits, vegetables and products.

An active voice in improvements made to the market over the years, Tillie became well known in 1983 when she filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission over racist remarks and actions. She took the case to the Ontario Divisional Court, and won.

Not having had the chance to further her own education, Tillie is committed to giving others a chance and in 1997 established the Tillie Johnson Scholarship Fund. Through her own personal financial resources and her inexhaustible energy she has provided financial assistance to needy African-Caribbean or Caribbean students who want to pursue post-secondary education. Her dedication and commitment to education earned her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from McMaster University in 2002.

Michael Joy

One of the most decorated police officers in Canada, Michael Joy is a 36-year member of the Hamilton Police Service. But his first call to duty was on the other side of the border. Michael served three years with the United States Marine Corps, in which he obtained the rank of sergeant and completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. He came home to Hamilton with a medal and a commitment to serving the public.

During his many years patrolling the streets of Hamilton he received numerous awards and commendations for his proactive commitment to serve and protect. He has saved or helped save the lives of 11 people. He helped rescue two young women from an apartment fire, rescued and revived an 11 year-old girl who'd been caught in a conveyor belt, and confronted a gunman while he himself was unarmed, so that he could save another man's life.

The Hamilton Safety Council and St. John's Ambulance have recognized him numerous times with their Life Saving Awards. In 1998 he was invited to Ottawa to receive the Governor General's Medal of Bravery. One year later he returned to Rideau Hall to receive the Governor Generals Star of Courage, Canada's second highest bravery award.

The City of Hamilton has recognized Michael with a certificate of appreciation for long and dedicated service to the community, and the Canadian Police Association has presented him with a Special Award of Excellence.

Michael Lee-Chin <>Often referred to as a mutual fund giant, Michael Lee-Chin is the Executive Chairman of one of Canada's best known privately-held mutual fund companies.

It was in the 1970s that Michael emigrated to Canada from Jamaica to attend McMaster University. His first step into the financial sector was selling mutual funds and, in 1987, he bought AIC Limited, an investment firm with about $1 million assets under management.

Hard work and a commitment to the "buy, hold and prosper" philosophy has enabled AIC to become one of Canada's largest privately-held mutual fund companies, with approximately $9 billion assets under management.

Michael's business interests have expanded over the years. He's Executive Chairman of the Berkshire group of companies, a financial planning organization. In 2002, AIC acquired 75 per cent of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited and, in 2003, Michael launched an international money transfer company called Senvia Money Services Inc.

Michael's business acumen is matched by his belief in giving back. He's a leading philanthropist and his companies are outstanding corporate citizens. Many organizations have been touched by their generosity, including McMaster University, the Burlington Arts Centre, Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, Halton Child and Youth Services, and the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton.

In November 2003, Michael received an honorary degree from McMaster University in recognition of his business success and philanthropic initiatives. In 2004, Time magazine honored Michael by naming him one of "Canada's Heroes" and, in 2005, he was awarded Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Gene Sutton

Generations of athletes in Hamilton and across Canada owe their success to Gene Sutton.

A Hamilton native, graduate of McMaster University, and retired high school teacher, Gene is dedicated to amateur sport at every level. She serves as president of Sport Hamilton, was Team Ontario's chef de mission at the 2005 Canada Games, was elected to the Board of Directors of the Canadian Olympic Committee in the same year and served as chef de mission at the Pan American Games.

While she is committed to a variety of sports, her passion is gymnastics. She has been a coach and a judge at many international events, including the Olympic Games. In 1992 she was the manager of Canadas men and womens gymnastics teams at the Barcelona Olympic Games.

Her dedication has been recognized with countless honours, including the Spirit of Sport Award, the Rolf Lund Jule Misse Award presented by the Sport Alliance of Ontario, Gymnastics Ontario Jay Gould Award. As well, Gene was named Woman of the Year for Sports by the City of Hamilton in 1988.

A leader with true community spirit, Gene was a key member of the Citys 2010 Commonwealth Games Bid Team and served on the Executive Committee of the International Children's Game Millenium Festival.

Gary Warner

The Hamilton community has benefited from Gary Warner's commitment to human rights, equity and social justice for more than 30 years. An award-winning educator, Gary was the co-founder of McMaster's Theme School on International Justice and Human Rights and was a long serving director of the University's prestigious Arts and Science Program. He has inspired thousands of students and it is no coincidence that his students become powerful advocates and activists for the ideal of social justice.

His professional interests are mirrored by his commitment to and his impact on the community. As co-chair of the History of African Canadian Workers in Ontario he worked with numerous partners to create a traveling exhibit that chronicled the lives of African-Canadians from the 1990s to the present.

His involvement with the Settlement and Integration Services Organization (SISO), Strengthening Hamilton's Community Initiative, the Youth Making a Difference peace conference, and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction have had a significant impact on the way people think about human rights issues and the role individuals play in creating a more humane world.

His awards are many and in 2006 he was named Hamilton's Distinguished Citizen of the Year and was inducted into the Order of Canada.



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