Humble, dedicated and sincere are just a few of the words friends, colleagues and family used to describe the Learning Enrichment Foundation’s (LEF) retiring board member James Fergus Brown.
Or as they call him: Fergy.
After 32 years of tireless work with the LEF, Brown, a past president of the foundation, was honoured at Tuesday night’s 35th anniversary party after announcing his retirement.
“I told them a night like this...it really wasn’t necessary,” said Brown, to the crowd filled with church members, colleagues and city council members past and present.
‘It’s a little bit overwhelming to hear all the gratitude all at once.'
– Fergy Brown
Brown, one of the three founding members of the LEF, was overwhelmed by the kind words people shared about how he’s impacted their lives through politics during his eight years as the mayor of the former city of York, through their time at LEF or even how he unknowingly played matchmaker.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming to hear all the gratitude all at once,” said Brown, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
His daughter, Judy Ventura, was just as touched as he was at the outpouring of love, respect and admiration swirling around the room.
“It’s wonderful that they’ve done this,” said Ventura. “LEF was such a big part of Dad. I heard about it constantly.”
Brown has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic disease that affects the lungs. The timeliness of the event couldn’t have worked out better, according to Ventura.
“This really lifted his spirit,” said Ventura. “He was really excited about tonight.”
Brown was also honoured with a plaque to commemorate his time as president of the LEF from 2007 to 2009; a letter from Premier Dalton McGuinty expressing his appreciation for the hard work he’s done; and a lifetime achievement certificate from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for his work with the LEF.
MPP Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) was adamant that the LEF should be renamed The Fergy Brown Centre of the Learning Enrichment Foundation as a symbol to his devotion.
“He was their biggest supporter, champion, advocate, raised money, promoted it and got the money from different levels of government,” said Colle.
“This was his love. To me when I think of the LEF, I think of Fergy Brown – the naming would be perfect.”
Colle didn’t waste any time and has already donated $100 to the cause and by the end of the night donations poured in.
“I can’t think of anything more brilliant, to name the centre and underpin our values with Fergy’s values,” said LEF executive director Peter Frampton.
“I know it will have very serious consideration and it’s good to know it’s out there and on the table.”
As for Brown, his humility got the best of him, as he insisted that the renaming of the centre wasn’t necessary, as was all the praise. He was just glad he was there to help out.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Brown. “It’s really been a labour of love.”