“A Tribute to a True Friend of School Sport”
1918 - 2017
It is with sadness that OFSAA announces the passing of Helen Gurney, the only female member of the founding Board of OFSAA, and a true friend and supporter of school sport throughout her 99 years. As a Ministry representative to OFSAA for over 25 years, she advocated for strong athletic school programs, more women in leadership positions, and fair and equitable competition for all student-athletes.
When Helen began her teaching career in the 1940s, sport was mainly male-dominated. ‘Gurney’ quickly became known as a respected educator, coach and basketball official. She inspired many young women to participate in sports and worked tirelessly to provide them with fair and equitable athletic opportunities. However, Helen’s efforts to build and improve sport programs extended to both males and females. Many of you may have met Helen at the Ontario Athletic Leadership Camp where she was director and made sure the student-athletes received instruction and guidance from the top physical education teachers in the province. Helen believed good role models were necessary to encourage the young leaders of the future and she herself certainly led by example.
In recent years the many organizations in which Helen played key roles in the building of their groups and programs, have recognized her contribution with their top awards. She was inducted into the Windsor and Essex County Sports Hall of Fame, and the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame, Builders’ Division. She received the CAAWS “Historical Award”, and the Honour Awards of the Canadian Federation of Provincial School Athletic Associations and the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The YWCA recognized Helen’s work by bestowing their “Women of Distinction” award on her in the sport category. Helen was honoured with both the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilee Award (OFSAA’s nominee). She promoted growth within these groups with her generous financial support for scholarship programs and program development.
Gurney took pride in women’s sports and the progress she witnessed during her career. She published two books to record this: “A Century of Progress - A History of High School Sport”, and “A Century to Remember - 1893-1993: The Story of Women’s Sports at the University of Toronto”.
Many of you may not have had the privilege of knowing Helen, but the teaching and coaching environment is a better place today because of her efforts. The world of sport has lost a good friend, and a mentor for young women, teachers, and coaches. School sport and OFSAA thank Helen for her many contributions, and she will indeed be missed. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.
A ‘Celebration of Helen’s Life’ will be held on Friday, November 3rd at 11:00 a.m. at the R.S. Kane Funeral Home at 6150 Yonge Street (at Steeles Ave.)
(Thank you to Diana Rankin for this tribute to Helen's career and contributions)