50 years in the community
Gordon Cressy is a community builder, fundraiser and eternal optimist. He shares his experiences of working with people from all backgrounds, combining his accomplishments with a healthy dose of humour. Simply put, Gordon’s stories re-energize the people who do good work on the ground.
Gordon began his career in 1963 as a young CUSO volunteer at the YMCA in Trinidad. Just 19, he ran a youth hostel, developed a swimming program, and mounted his first major fundraising project, selling 1500 Canadian Christmas trees on the Caribbean island.
After leaving Trinidad, Gordon studied in Chicago, where he was a youth worker and community organizer on the city’s South Side at the height of the civil rights movement. Back in Canada, he earned his Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto, before creating Toronto’s first after-school program and leading Opportunity House, a group home for youth.
In his 12 years as a local politician, Gordon 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 created the country’s first Take Our Kids to Work Day, which now involves more than 250,000 students and 75,000 businesses across Canada.
Gordon has chaired YMCA Canada and CUSO, and co-founded the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He played a key role in bringing Nelson Mandela to Toronto to speak to 50,000 students at the Skydome. He was the founding co-chair of the Harmony Movement, which brings 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.
Gordon 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.
From 2008–2011 Gordon and his wife Joanne worked with the local community to establish the first ever YMCA in Tobago West Indies.
Gordon now serves as a Senior Advisor to the George Brown College Foundation and continues to volunteer with Trails Youth Initiatives and the Tobago YMCA.