Cover Story / Winter 2001
Heart & Soul

Alumni, like the 30 profiled here, have given to the campaign for diverse reasons. No matter what cause they support, their help serves one central purpose — nurturing students


From the Latin verb alere — to nourish — stems the word alumnus. Such etymology befits the tens of thousands of alumni who donate to U of T each year, and whose gifts help create a university rich in academic and cultural programs.

The 30 alumni profiled here have pledged between $50 and $5,000 to projects that underscore their own unique beliefs and enthusiasms. Former opera singer Riki Turofsky, for instance, gave to a program that will support a full-scale opera production at the Faculty of Music. Nancy Chong set up a scholarship for single mothers in honour of her own mom, who raised six children on her own. Mark Deacon contributed to a groundbreaking sexual-diversity program at University College. Other donors have given in the name of leukemia research, child-care facilities, mentoring programs, urban design initiatives and architectural renovations.

These alumni represent a tiny fraction of the 93,534 donors who had contributed to the campaign by the end of October 2000. About 90,000 gave $5,000 or less, with close to half of them contributing for the first time. Indeed, close to 60 per cent of alumni have made at least one donation to the university in the past 10 years. Although a lot of fanfare justifiably has surrounded the many large contributions the campaign has enjoyed, our alumni — and their sincere desire to give something back to their Alma Mater — are the heart and soul of the campaign.

Despite their generosity, these 30 donors are a modest group. They insist their donations are nothing special, and almost unanimously they agreed to be profiled only for the sake of their pet projects. Clearly, they derived something special themselves as students, and their concerns, in the end, are student-centric. Alumni give to fuel curiosity, encourage exploration and support diversity. And knowing a thing or two about what it means to be nurtured, once they have lent their support they prefer to stand back quietly and watch as students thrive and grow.

Kent Munro — Alumni Gates
As an urban planner, Kent Munro (BA 1986 Scarborough) maintains one hard-and-fast rule: create complete communities, not suburban sprawl. In other words, build towns with schools, workplaces, attractive parks and recreational facilities as opposed to subdivisions. “We strive to create nice civic spaces for people to live,” says Munro, a co-owner of Ekistics Town Planning Inc. in Vancouver. It is this commitment to creating attractive communities that led Munro to donate $1,000 to the Alumni Gates project. The ceremonial gates will be erected at the King’s College Road and College Street entry by 2002, as part of the plan to rejuvenate the St. George campus. “People’s appreciation of public space has been eroded over time,” he says. “I hope projects like the Alumni Gates will start to build back an appreciation for what can be.”

Nancy Chong — Transitional Year Programme

To raise six children on her own, Soo Jin Chong laboured as a home worker in the Toronto garment trade, embroidering patterns on dresses and sweaters. When she died of complications from a stroke in 1997, her daughters, Nancy (BA 1996 Trinity) and Liz Chong, set up the Soo Jin Chong Memorial Award. The $200 prize is awarded annually to a single mother graduating from the Transitional Year Programme (a one-year course of studies that qualifies adults who have not had the opportunity to finish high school for university admission). While Soo Jin never had the chance to study at university, the award commemorates her spirit as a single mother, says Nancy, an arts festival administrator who attended the program in 1989-90. “She was able to handle so many things as well as raise her kids, and I know that when I was at the program there were single mothers doing the same.”

Riki Turofsky — Faculty of Music
For more than 25 years, Riki Turofsky (Dip Op Perf 1970) sang with such major companies as the New York City Opera and Canadian Opera Company. Today, the lyric coloratura soprano helps ensure that future opera stars are ready to take centre stage. She has donated $5,000 to the Opera Production Fund, which will enable the Faculty of Music’s opera division to mount a second full-scale production each year in perpetuity. One production simply does not supply enough stage training for burgeoning opera singers, says Turofsky, who also chairs the volunteer opera committee. “It is very important that students get the experience of being on the stage, with an orchestra in the pit, following a conductor, and acting and moving in costumes around a set,” she says. “We’re still $150,000 short of our target, but I’m determined that we will get there.”

Susan Addario — Staff Member
As director of student affairs, Susan Addario (BA 1977 St. Michael’s, MA 1981) oversees the Expanding Campus Childcare project, which will amalgamate three of the four day cares on the St. George campus. But her reasons for donating $750 to the project are also personal: her daughters, Nora, 16, and Audrey, 13, each spent three years at the Margaret Fletcher Day Care Centre on campus. “Every day I see the value of them having had good solid care from the very beginning,” says Addario.

The first phase of the project will have two of the day cares, Margaret Fletcher and Nancy’s Part-Time Child Care Centre, moving into a new building in the fall of 2002. Other goals include the creation of a parenting resource centre and more flexible day-care hours both ideal for students with families who may need extra support. “For a lot of students, having safe, high-quality, affordable child care on campus is one of the things that make a university education accessible,” says Addario.

Dick Cousland and Robert Martin — Victoria College
On the Victoria College campus in the early ’50s, Dick Cousland, Robert Martin and Alan Kullas (all BA 1954 Victoria) formed a particularly close-knit fraternity. The three friends, who all majored in history, served on the history club executive together. They attended football games together. They went to lectures and studied in the library together. “If you saw the one, the other two were not far behind,” says Martin. “We had a lot of laughs.”

After university ended, Cousland studied law at Osgoode Hall, while Martin and Kullas became teachers. Then in 1972, Kullas, a vice-principal in Scarborough, died of leukemia at the age of 39.

Now, more than a quarter of a century after Kullass death, the men’s names have once again become intertwined on campus. Cousland and Martin each donated $2,000 to have their names engraved on the balustrade of the Lester B. Pearson Garden for Peace and Understanding at Victoria College — and both gave another $1,000 each so that Kullass name would also appear. The money will support Victoria scholarships, bursaries and residence renovations, as well as the E.J. Pratt Library. “Alan was a very important part of our lives throughout U of T. We thought this might be a nice idea to commemorate him,” says Cousland. Adds Martin, “To have two names on without the third would not be correct.”

Kadri Roman Wichman — Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
When Kadri Roman Wichman (BLA 1985) heard that her $100 donation to the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design would help fund a lecture about the grounds at the palace of Versailles, she was delighted. Her education, however, has also taught her to appreciate the less palatial scenery just outside her front door. “With a degree in landscape architecture, I’m able to see the physical world in a way I wasn’t able to before,” says Wichman, a mother of five who lives in Okemos, Mich. “In light of today’s emphasis on speed and technology, oftentimes the beauty of nature is overlooked.” She hopes that any donations she makes will help lead students to value their everyday surroundings: “I appreciate having been enlightened, and I wish that experience for others.”

Sydney Gangbar — Faculty of Medicine
In 1967, Sydney Gangbar (BA 1948 University College) and his wife, Anna, set up the Geoffrey Samuel Gangbar Scholarship Fund at the Faculty of Medicine. The couple created the fund shortly after their six-year-old son, Geoffrey, died of leukemia. Recently, hoping to encourage students to pursue research in blood work, the Gangbars donated $4,000 to the fund, which helped increase the amount of the scholarship from $250 to $500. Back in 1967, Sydney realized that if a cure was to be found, there had to be enough people trained to do the necessary research — a truth that still resonates today. “In order to have research done, you must have people who are interested and capable of doing it, and you must encourage those who are capable by giving them a sort of boost,” says the Toronto lawyer. “That, to me, is extremely important.”

Veena Daddar — New College
Fresh out of university in 1988, Veena Daddar (BSc 1987 New College) may not have had time to amass a fortune, but she willingly shared what she had: the young alum gave $5 to the New College Annual Fund. The size of her gifts increased over time, and last year Daddar pledged $500, which was earmarked for the career mentorship program. It is a fitting donation, as Daddar not only helped develop the program — which matches students with alumni who work in their field of interest — but also mentors two students herself. “I think people just don’t realize the value of a university education both the value of being educated and the doors it opens,” says Daddar, a financial adviser at the London Life Insurance Company in Toronto. “I’m very thankful.”

Michael Pharoah — Faculty of Dentistry
Michael Pharoah (BSc 1971 Scarborough, DDS 1975, MSc 1984, Dip Oral Radiology 1985) is quick to claim that his donation of $400 to the Faculty of Dentistry was “self-serving.” If Pharoah considers the needs of his students a matter of self-interest, then he may be right. As head of the radiology program, Pharoah was aware of the need for a tomography unit, a computerized X-ray machine that can produce detailed images of jaws. The unit is necessary for implant training programs in radiology, surgery, periodontics and prosthodontics. Most American universities already had one, says Pharoah, but only a few existed in Canada. In 1998, he launched the project to obtain a unit for his department, convincing members of the alumni association of its necessity, and finally donating to the project himself.

Dorothy Ross — Faculty of Social Work
When Dorothy Ross (BA 1937 Victoria, BSW 1947) was 14 years old, she worked as a summer counsellor at a fresh-air camp for disadvantaged children in Bolton, Ont. There, she met older staff members who were taking university social-work courses, and her career path was swiftly cemented. “I came back and announced to my mother that I was going to become a social worker,” says Ross, 86. After attending U of T, she worked for such agencies as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Peel Community Services in Mississauga. Ross recently pledged $500 over five years to the Faculty of Social Work alumni campaign.

Márta Ecsedi — Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
For 12 years, Márta Ecsedi (BASc 1976) played a substantial role on the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Alumni Association, serving as a council member, committee member and even president. She is also the past president of the U of T Alumni Association. Add to that the 25 years she has been donating to the faculty, and her commitment is evident. “I want to give back to the place that helped me with my career and my success,” says Ecsedi, a director at NorthPoint Canada Communications Inc. in Toronto. Last year, she contributed $1,500 to the Annual Fund. Alumni donations, she says, allow the faculty to “continually upgrade their facilities, so they’ll stay on top of the technology they are teaching.”

Lillian (Tang) Smith — Victoria College
On her wedding day in 1997, Lillian (Tang) Smith (BA 1993 Victoria) made more than one public declaration: At the reception, she unveiled to guests that she and her husband, Jeff (BA 1993 New College), would be donating $1,000 to Victoria College’s Lester B. Pearson Garden for Peace and Understanding. “It is definitely a tradition in my family that when something great happens to you or you are celebrating something, you share that with as many people as possible,” says Lillian. And sharing with U of T seemed a logical choice, as the couple first met during a sociology tutorial in their second year.

As a first-year student, however, Lillian lived off campus and felt her ties to the university were tenuous. In her second year, she became an “associate” (a commuter who takes part in a residence’s social events) at Victoria’s Margaret Addison Hall. “As soon as that happened, I felt like I was part of the school,” she says. She soon took up quarters at Margaret Addison.

Eighteen months ago, the Smiths welcomed daughter Jasmine into their family. “We really hope she will go to U of T and definitely Vic,” says Lillian. “I had such a positive experience there that I want Jasmine to have the same.”

Diane and Ron Rudan — Hart House
Last fall, Diane (BA 1962 St. Michael’s) and Ron Rudan (BA 1959 St. Michael’s) honoured an old acquaintance who had returned from the United States to Toronto. The Rudans donated $2,000 to have President Bob Birgeneau’s name inscribed on a stone pathway on the Founders’ Prayer patio at Hart House. “It’s a way of acknowledging that someone we knew when we were university students has come back in this position, and its a privilege to know him,” says Diane. “President Birgeneau and his wife, Mary Catherine, are genuine and thoughtful beyond words.”

The Rudans’ gift reflects their intense fondness for Hart House as well as a family connection to it (their daughter, Lynne Woollcombe, held her 1999 wedding reception at The Gallery Grill). “I just love the building,” says Diane. “I love everything about it.”

Cynthia Watada — Biomedical Communications
In 1995, Wendy Kates (BSc BMC) died of Hodgkin’s disease one hour after receiving her Biomedical Communications certificate in her hospital bed. In 1999, Cynthia Watada (BSc BMC 1995, MSc BMC 1996) helped keep her memory alive by donating $75 to the Wendy M. Kates Scholarship fund. The fund, established at the request of Kates’ parents, provides scholarships to two Biomedical Communications masters students (initially, it provided for only one). Watada knows first-hand how validating the award can be: she was the 1996 winner. “Students need something to aim for, something that says, You’ve done well,” she says.

The program, which trains students in medical illustration, is a small one: Watada and Kates were two of only seven students in their graduating class. Watada remembers her former classmate as a wonderful artist and friend. “She was smart, friendly, and was always willing to help others,” she says. “She was just a beautiful person.”

Mark Deacon — University College and University of Toronto at Mississauga
The lack of charitable giving among many young adults nettles Mark Deacon, director of executive programs at an information-technology research company. “We do not have a culture of philanthropy in Canada, and particularly we do not have a culture of philanthropy amongst young people,” says Deacon (BA 1987 UTM). The 36-year-old proves the exception to his rule and has donated $1,000 to the University College Sexual Diversity Studies program through the Rainbow Triangle Alumni Association. The program, one of the first of its kind, helps students understand the range and dynamics of different sexualities. Deacon has also given $100 to the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) Student Centre, through the Annual Fund. His reasons range from the personal (as a student council member in the ’80s, he helped conceive the idea of a new building) to the esthetic (the original student hangout, the Meeting Place, has all the ambience of a prison courtyard, he says). “We expect people to take care of us,” adds Deacon. “We don’t realize we have to take care of ourselves.”

Luigi LaRocca — Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
The design talents of Luigi LaRocca and his architectural firm can be seen throughout the St. George campus: As a senior associate at Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg in Toronto, he has helped develop the Munk Centre for International Studies and The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences. But LaRocca (BArch 1979) has also contributed to the campus in a less visible manner: In the fall of 1999, he gave $50 to the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Designs general building renovations fund, and $50 to the studio work-station renewal fund. His blueprint for giving is simple — give consistently, so the university has donations it can rely on. Faculties shouldn’t have to “send out the drum call, and once every blue moon you give some money,” says LaRocca. “The only way the university is going to stay great is by having money, and that should come from alumni on a regular basis.”

Lilian Ma — Faculty of Law
As a Faculty of Law student in 1990, Lilian Ma (LLB 1992) participated in a human-rights internship at the University of Hong Kong. For seven weeks, Ma researched the impact of a proposed Hong Kong bill of rights. Last year, she gave $100 to the Faculty of Laws Excellence Fund, which supports a wide range of student programs — including human-rights internships. These internships allow students to gain the type of firsthand experience that cannot be culled from textbooks, says Ma, a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto. The students work also benefits the host countries, she notes: “Canada has an atmosphere that is conducive to people speaking out and caring about human rights issues, and the law school, by having this program, is spreading seeds of hope throughout these countries.”

Grace Mankowski — University of Toronto at Mississauga

Grace Mankowski’s business card reads, “A UTM graduate and proud of it.” The Mississauga chiropractor explains, “A lot of University of Toronto at Mississauga students come to the office and think, ‘Oh, I’m going to a UTM grad,’ and it makes them feel better.” In 1999, the proud alumna donated $500 to the new Student Centre. The building contains sitting areas and study lounges — a definite plus in Mankowski’s eyes, as she remembers having nowhere to hold late-night study sessions with friends. Mankowski (BSc 1994) and her brother, Alex, also a chiropractor and UTM graduate (BSc 1996), recently found another benefit of the new centre: it gave them the space to host a chiropractic health talk, during which time they spoke to students and faculty on everything from sports injuries to nutrition to pregnancy.

Doug and Sylvia McConney — Faculty of Social Work
Doug (BA 1948 Victoria, BSW 1949, MSW 1957) and Sylvia McConney (BA 1948 University College, BSW 1949) have one very personal reason for donating to the Faculty of Social Work: The couple met at the faculty during their final year of study. Six months after graduation, in January 1950, they married.

The McConneys met after being discharged from the armed forces when the Second World War ended in 1945 (Sylvia had been in the women’s division of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Victoria, while Doug was in the navy). “When we came back to civilian life, we were given the opportunity of going to university with all our tuition paid for and an allowance,” says Doug. After graduating, Sylvia served as a case worker for the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto for a short time, and Doug secured work with the Boy Scouts of Canada.

The couple made a $300 pledge over three years in support of the Social Work alumni campaign, which is raising funds to name the deans office in memory of Albert Rose (former dean of the faculty) and to support a resource centre within the Anti-Racism, Multiculturalism and Native Issues Centre (AMNI). “The Faculty of Social Work has meant a great deal to us personally, but the practice of social work is also very important to us,” he says.

David Ernst — Faculty of Law
When David Ernst (LLB 1998, MBA 1998) heard about the renovation of the Falconer Hall solarium at the Faculty of Law, it appealed to both his legal and esthetic sensibilities. As a 1998 law graduate, Ernst was eager to support the program, and as an architectural major in his undergraduate years, he was happy to help refurbish the ailing solarium. Ernst, an associate at White & Case in New York, recently pledged $1,500 over two years to the renovation fund. “It bothered me that the solarium, which used to be one of the nicest spaces in Falconer Hall, is in such deteriorated condition,” he says. “Seeing it returned to its former glory is something that would be a real asset to the school.”

Maureen (Hart) Biason — St. Michael’s College
In 1998, Father Robert Madden (BA 1952 St. Michael’s, MA 1955, STB 1955), then executive director of alumni affairs and development at St. Michael’s College, retired after 50 years of service. To mark the occasion, Maureen (Hart) Biason (BA 1989 St. Michael’s) helped organize a retirement party for the popular campus figure. Approximately 700 guests came to bid farewell at the largest alumni event in St. Mikes history. The occasion also raised $150,000 to renovate an auditorium in St. Mikes Carr Hall and rename it in Maddens honour. Biason, who is past-president of the St. Michael’s College Alumni Association, gladly contributed $50 to the fund. “He was many things to many alumni including friend, teacher, mentor, colleague,” says Biason. “He’s just a very, very endearing person whom a lot of people aspire to be like.”

Noreen Taylor — School of Graduate Studies
Students from the Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama enacted scenes from The Servant of Two Masters in a rather unusual venue last June: the backyard of Noreen Taylor’s Toronto home. Taylor (BA 1969, MA 1970, BEd 1971) held a garden party for some 65 guests to demonstrate that university programs have worth beyond the borders of the campus precinct. “I think perhaps as cultural institutions we tend to work as little city states,” says Taylor, an artist and vice-president of the Windfield’s thoroughbred horse farm. “I want to have an understanding and awareness within my community that universities are important places for the community not just important for the students who are enrolled.” The party, for which Taylor spent approximately $2,000, raised awareness of — and funds — for the drama program.

Colin Furness — Hart House
Colin Furness (BSc 1990 Trinity, MISt 1999) is an information architect in “Silicon Alley” — a Manhattan tract that boasts a large concentration of Web site companies. But it was Professor Ron Baecker in the department of computer science who introduced Furness to the original Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, Calif., while Furness was preparing for his master’s degree. It was only one of many ways that the professor influenced him, says Furness. “He was an academic inspiration to me…. He’s a leading thinker in human-computer interaction and an amazing teacher.” Last summer, Furness pledged $2,000 to have Baecker’s name, as well as his own, inscribed on the stone pathway on the Founders’ Prayer patio at Hart House. The gift, which went to the Mind, Body and Soul Campaign, will help preserve Hart House and its farm, restore the Great Hall, support clubs and increase the building’s accessibility through the installation of an elevator.

Bill Cowan — University College
The friendship of Bill Cowan and Larry Smith took root in the 1930s, when both were studying at University College, and continued to flourish well beyond their university days. The two men served together in the 23rd Field Regiment in northwest Europe during the Second World War, and Smith stood as best man at Cowan’s wedding. After Smith (former managing editor of the St. Catharines Standard) died in 1994, Cowan (BA 1941 University College) instituted the Larry N. Smith prize in history, which is awarded annually to an undergraduate who is studying Canadian history. In 1999, Cowan, in conjunction with friends outside the university, donated $1,000 to the prize. “I did it in his memory, because he died sooner than he should have,” says Cowan.

Margaret Minter — University of Toronto at Scarborough
Margaret Minter (Bed 1962, MEd 1973) attended King’s College at the University of London in England on full scholarship. She earned an honours English degree in 1952, and has always been grateful for the support she received. “If I hadn’t had a scholarship it would have been impossible for me, because my father [who had rheumatoid arthritis] had to retire early,” says Minter, chair of the University of Toronto at Scarborough senior alumni lecture series. Minter has continued the cycle of support, typically giving $100 each year to the Scarborough Annual Fund, which helps to support student scholarships.

Marg Shaw — Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
As president of the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy (PT/OT) Alumni Association, Marg Shaw (Dip Occupational Therapy 1949) plays a key role in such events as Spring Reunion and graduation receptions. Although she has donated to the PT/OT Annual Fund for many years, her involvement with the alumni association has made her realize just how important donations are to maintaining a high-quality education: “I have had the opportunity to observe firsthand how much both programs have expanded and continue to keep pace with the changing world of health care,” says Shaw, who gave $150 last year. “The new graduates are a great credit to their professions.”

Eileen Millar — Faculty of Nursing
Last June, women from the 1960 Faculty of Nursing class held a 40th anniversary reunion in Toronto. Almost 25 former classmates gathered from as far away as Wisconsin, Alaska and New Brunswick to attend — not surprising, as the women have met almost every five years since their graduation. There, the classmates decided to establish the Faculty of Nursing Class of 6T0 Award, which will be an annual fellowship for a graduate student in nursing. Eileen Millar (BScN 1960) pledged $600 over three years to the fund. Millar has given to her former faculty for 40 years, starting out with $100 the year of her graduation and eventually increasing her donations to $200. “By giving my little bit every year for all these years, I was surprised by how much I’ve been able to give to the university,” she says. “Really, every little bit counts because over a long time it does add up.”


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