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Irv Ash
Irv Ash of the School of Legal, Public & Office Administration holds a photo of his late wife Irene Borins Ash. The couple have left bequests in support of students at Seneca.

Sept. 3, 2020

Three months after Irene Borins Ash and her husband decided to leave two separate bequests in their respective wills in support of students at Seneca, she died of complications from pancreatic cancer, just a few weeks after the couple celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in June.

“She wanted her name to live on — it was her bid for immortality,” said Irv Ash of the School of Legal, Public & Office Administration. “She appreciated that Seneca was the first higher education she did. She very much enjoyed her experience here.”

While Mr. Ash is leaving a bequest to benefit students in the Law Clerk and the Justice Administration Services programs, Mrs. Ash’s gift will create an endowment for students in the Social Service Worker programs.

“She was especially focused on gerontology,” he said. “It meant a lot to her.”

Mrs. Ash graduated from Seneca’s Social Services Techniques program in 1973. She went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from York University and a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University in New York City.

She was a social worker as well as a photographer, author, speaker and environmentalist. Her first book, Treasured Legacies: Older & Still Great, featured 44 photos and texts about the seniors she interviewed. Her second book, Aging Is Living: Myth-Breaking Stories From Long-Term Care, was co-written with Mr. Ash. The couple also collaborated on a video, titled One Planet: Harnessing Hope, about restoring the environment in faith-based communities.

“We don’t have kids and it came down to us wanting to do something to help others — the students.” — Irv Ash

Mrs. Ash spoke about her passions at a convocation ceremony at Seneca in 2010.

“That was Irene at the height of her power,” Mr. Ash recalled. “She loved being the tribute speaker even though she was nervous.”

Mr. Ash himself has attended convocation every year since 1995, soon after he started teaching at Seneca 28 years ago. Before that, he had worked as a lawyer and then as a corporate executive for various companies, including as vice-president of Cineplex.

“Intellectually, law appealed to me at a young age,” said the author of Paralegals and Tribunal Practice and Procedure. “But I love teaching, I love the students. I’ve been teaching longer than anything else I’ve done in life and Irene was proud of me for working at Seneca.”

Due to Mrs. Ash’s illness, Mr. Ash says they had been thinking about making legacy gifts for a while.

“We don’t have kids and it came down to us wanting to do something to help others — the students,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time now. If I didn’t care about the students at Seneca, I would have stopped.”