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In Memoriam: Reva Gerstein (1917-2020)

by Jon Farrow Jan 28 / 20

An accomplished psychologist, educator, and policy advisor, Gerstein was a guiding light for CIFAR.

CIFAR mourns the loss of Reva Appleby Gerstein, chair of the CIFAR board from 1990-1994 and a member of the board until 2001. Reva passed away on January 6, 2020 at the age of 102.

“She had an incredible presence whenever she walked into a room,” remembers Alan Bernstein, CIFAR president and CEO. “Her strength of character, leadership, and compassion will be sorely missed.”

An innovative fundraiser who saw the importance of building lasting relationships, she started a CIFAR membership program in June 1990, shortly after taking up the leadership of the CIFAR board. Members would give $1000 per year for five years, which gave the organization much-needed support at a crucial time. But, perhaps more importantly, members would meet and talk with researchers at lectures and dinners and see the impact of their donations.

Several of CIFAR’s longest-standing donors, including Michael Koerner and Lawrence & Judith Tanenbaum, began their philanthropic relationship with CIFAR that year, and continue to support our initiatives today.

Gerstein stepped down as chair of the board in 1994 (former Governor General the Right Honourable David Johnston succeeded her), but remained an active executive member of the board until 2001.

When CIFAR’s founding president Fraser Mustard retired in 1996, it was Gerstein who chaired the search committee and recruited Stefan Dupré (CIFAR president 1996-2000). As the board grew, Gerstein saw a need to clarify and codify the responsibilities of board members, ensuring they were knowledgeable ambassadors for the organization.

As well as her invaluable contributions of skills, advice, and time to CIFAR, she has left an indelible legacy for people in crisis across Ontario. The Gerstein Crisis Centre, which she founded and whose board she chaired, writes, “her advocacy supported a community of people affected by mental health and poverty to speak up and gave rise to the establishment of community supports and services that seek to better the lives of those affected by mental health issues, including Gerstein Crisis Centre.”