An astonishing 112,819 donors gave to the Campaign for the University of Toronto. Here, a few explain why they contributed so generously
What does generosity look like? Over the course of the Campaign for the University of Toronto, it took on many faces. Some of the campaign’s donors are gregarious and well known, while others prefer to keep a low profile. Some recall a youth spent in diligent study, while others came to realize the value of education much later in life. But those profiled on the following pages have one thing in common: they have all performed acts of kindness that will nurture current and future generations of students.
The following profiles highlight just a few of the tens of thousands of alumni and friends who gave to U of T’s $1-billion fundraising campaign. The largest group of donors – more than 95,000 in all – gave less than $1,000. An astonishing 217 donors gave $1 million or more, and 30 of them gave $5 million or more. Of the 112,819 donors who gave to U of T since the launch of the campaign in 1997, almost half were first-time donors.
Every supporter can take some credit for the many ways the campaign has enriched the student experience, and every department feels the fortunate effects of such unprecedented giving. Student aid, faculty recruitment, new facilities and program enhancement are but a few areas that are better for the kindness and goodwill of those who have lent a helping hand to the University of Toronto and its students.
Who is Michael Lee-Chin, and why does he keep giving away his money? By now, you may know the answer to the first question: Lee-Chin is head of AIC Ltd., a mutual-funds company with some $13 billion in assets under management; a man who rose from modest beginnings in Jamaica to become one of Canada’s most prominent philanthropists.
The second question – why is Lee-Chin so generous? – gets asked a lot. And that’s because Lee-Chin gives a lot. In 2002 he purchased 75 per cent of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica, the largest financial institution in Jamaica, for philanthropic as well as business reasons. In 2003 he made an historic $30-million contribution to the Royal Ontario Museum. And most recently, he donated $10 million to the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, which enabled U of T’s fundraising campaign to reach its $1-billion target one year ahead of schedule.
“I’ve been inordinately blessed,” says Lee-Chin, speaking with enviable calm and precision. (Emotional control is one of his oft-cited tools of success.) “We who are more fortunate have a responsibility to inspire, motivate and give back.”
The need to pass on values to his five children spurs him on, as do memories of growing up in an economically precarious homeland. But there’s another reason, too. Giving, he says, “makes great business sense.” When you create wealth for a cause, asserts Lee-Chin, the cause will give back to you. “For a company to be everlastingly successful, it has to take on the issues of the community in which it operates.” By acquiring a major portion of Jamaica’s National Commercial Bank, for example, he hopes to put Jamaica on solid economic ground, putting initiatives in place that will contribute to solving the country’s education, crime, health- and senior-care woes. If these aims sound prime ministerial, he says they’re even farther-reaching than that: “Business people are the true leaders of society – not elected officials, because their time frame is too short. Our time frame lasts for generations.”
This is the sort of thinking that students will explore more fully under the auspices of the AIC Institute for Leadership and a chair to be held by the dean of the Rotman School. (The inaugural chair holder will be Roger Martin, Rotman’s current dean.) Both of these gifts will help develop business leaders who can integrate social and environmental responsibility into their vision of corporate success.
Education is another natural cause for Lee-Chin, since his own played such a definite role in his success. Although he didn’t end up as the civil engineer he studied to be, he values the problem-solving skills his studies conferred on him. “My education gave me confidence,” he says, “and once you have confidence, everything else will follow.”
Inge and Mario Pugliese
Every day at 3:30 p.m., Inge Pugliese finishes up her work as the mailroom supervisor at St. Michael’s College and sits on a bench facing the college’s main thoroughfare. Before her husband, Mario – the head groundskeeper at St. Michael’s – finishes work and can drive her home, she has a precious half-hour to sit and chat with passing students, staff and faculty members. “It’s my favourite spot because that’s where I meet everybody,” she says. “This place is like a big family to me.”
Inge and her family immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1955 when she was 11 years old. She started working at St. Michael’s when she was just 16, first in food services and housekeeping, and shortly after in the mailroom. In many ways, she is also the college’s goodwill ambassador. As St. Michael’s longest-serving staff member, Inge welcomes former students and faculty, answers visitors’ questions and is the maternal figure students turn to for help and advice. She fondly refers to St. Michael’s alum Prime Minister Paul Martin (BA 1961) as “one of our boys.” The same goes for President Robert J. Birgeneau (BSc 1963 St. Michael’s). Inge also counts several of the college’s past luminaries – including the late Marshall McLuhan – as friends.
Mario emigrated from Italy as a teen and first worked as a tailor with a Toronto costume company that outfitted some of the great opera stars of the time. About five years after marrying Inge, he returned to his rural roots by taking a job as a groundskeeper at St. Michael’s. “The soil and farming are in my blood. Whatever you see on the grounds, good or bad, I take the blame,” he says with a quick smile.
The couple travel to and from work together but say that keeping their days separate is important for a harmonious relationship. Two of their four daughters attended U of T, but neither chose St. Michael’s. Perhaps it was a bit too close to their parents for comfort, says Inge. (One daughter attended University of Toronto at Scarborough; another, Victoria College.) In the late 1990s, when their girls were older, the Puglieses began donating to the college on a regular basis, supporting such initiatives as the 150th Anniversary Prayer Garden. The garden, which is underway, is located to the north of the St. Michael’s quadrangle, and is being funded by faculty and staff. “We contribute because the university has given us our bread and butter for so many years,” says Mario. “It’s sort of like, ‘you’ve been there for us, and we want to show you we’re there for you, too.’”
It seems as if everything the Stollery family touches turns to – well, if not gold, then some other precious metal. Gordon Stollery’s grandfather was a successful haberdasher whose store has flourished at the corner of Toronto’s best-known intersection for more than 100 years. Gordon’s father, Arthur, was a mining engineer who staked Canada’s largest uranium mine with his own hands. And Gordon himself is a brilliantly accomplished oil entrepreneur whose $1-million gift to the department of geology is enabling U of T scientists to discover and exploit new energy sources in a world that desperately needs them.
The Gordon Stollery Chair was funded to support basin analysis and petroleum geology, a topic its founder describes as “fabulously interesting.” In clear terms befitting the geology professor he almost became, Stollery is passionate when describing how this field of endeavour, which is little known by the public, could help future generations.
“The word ‘basin’ generally refers to an area underwater that’s a big repository for sediment that’s being shed off the terrestrial land mass,” says Stollery. He creates a vivid travelogue: as he speaks, you can fairly see massive quantities of mud, guck and sand sliding off mountains, finding their way into rivers and ending up in the open sea, where the salt water hardens them into resource-rich areas that are sometimes hundreds of miles wide and millions of years old. “In the future, our energy sources are going to move more and more offshore, and somebody’s going to have to figure out where to drill, where to exploit, and where the oil, gas, coal, sulphur and salt are going to come from,” he says.
Thanks to Stollery, that somebody may well come from the University of Toronto, where he earned a master of science degree in 1972. Itching to join the workforce and indulge in his life’s passion, geological exploration, Stollery put an early end to his PhD studies. But he admits that academic geology has become much more interesting since he left it, thanks to the current understanding of plate tectonics and continental drift. “It’s very exciting stuff, which I’ve never been able to participate in, and that’s why I have a fascination with it. This is an area that can teach people about geology, and it’s very worthwhile; it’s where our natural resources are going to come from in the next hundred years.”
When John Switzer (BA 1970 UTM) arrived at University of Toronto at Mississauga (then Erindale College) in 1968, just a year after it opened, the campus wasn’t much to look at. There was only one academic building, an unremarkable piece of architecture. But the Spartan surroundings and small student population created an exceptional learning environment, he says. “There was a lot of energy because you really felt part of something new and experimental.”
Switzer was a member of the first graduating class of U of T at Mississauga (UTM), and is now president of the Canadian subsidiary of a global IT and business-consulting firm. Looking back, he says that transferring in second year to U of T from another Ontario university was one of the best decisions he ever made. “There was no class bigger than about 30 students, and most were seven or eight students. It was like a graduate program in terms of the intimacy and the proximity to our profs. I started giving to U of T the first year after I graduated, basically because I had these very fond memories.”
Though Switzer did his graduate work elsewhere, he says his strongest affinity is with U of T because it gave him the broad knowledge base that formed the foundation of his professional success. Switzer refers to his education at UTM as “the bargain of my life” and contributes both money and time to his alma mater. In addition to being a member of the UTM Principal’s Advisory Council, Switzer was recently asked to lead an initiative to raise $3.5 million to build UTM’s Alumni Gates and Alumni House, a welcome centre for visitors to the campus. (Projects are awaiting approval by Governing Council.) As part of the campaign, Switzer hopes to instil a culture of lifelong alumni giving.
Over the next five years, UTM will nearly double in size to accommodate enrolment growth, and Switzer is excited to be part of this surge in development. “The sense of uniqueness that we had because we were small and new back in the late ’60s has been replaced by a different kind of uniqueness,” he says, referring to UTM’s one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary programs and award-winning architecture. “I have a strong sense of pride that the campus has matured.”
Rose M. Patten
As one of Canada’s most influential businesswomen, Rose M. Patten knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in life. Sometimes hard work is just not enough, she says, and a helping hand can make all the difference. “For many people, success requires a few breaks here and there.”
This philosophy guides Patten’s professional life and her philanthropy. She is one of BMO Financial Group’s 10 most senior executives, and the National Post has included her on its “Power 50 Businesswomen” list for three consecutive years. She uses this authority to advocate for the advancement of women both within her company and within what has been a male-dominated financial-services industry. “I do a lot of mentoring and try to be helpful to young, up-and-coming women who want to break through barriers,” she says.
In Patten’s gifts to U of T, she has also focused her efforts on helping women overcome their unique challenges. She recently made a $333,000 donation to establish scholarships at Woodsworth College (home to a diverse student body that includes single parents, new Canadians and senior citizens, many of whom study part time) and the Transitional Year Programme (a special access program for adults who lack the formal educational requirements for university admission). This money was matched by the university and Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund, as well as by Professor Emeritus William Waters’ matching fund (which has been similarly matched). The result is two $1-million endowments.
For the scholarships, Patten is considering that first preference go to female candidates, especially those raising children on their own, but they’re also available to other students experiencing financial hardship. “When I was at university I saw women who were single parents struggling,” she says, “so I wanted to earmark some of my giving for this particular group.” In addition, Patten gave $333,000 to St. Michael’s College; this will be similarly matched, creating a $1-million endowment for students in financial need. The scholarship is named for her husband, Thomas Di Giacomo, who earned a bachelor of commerce degree in 1964 while attending St. Michael’s College. (Di Giacomo, who is president of Tadico Limited, a business-consulting and private-investment firm, is also a generous donor to the university.)
For the past 13 years, Patten has devoted some of her few spare hours to volunteering at the University of Toronto. She is currently vice-chair of Governing Council and received an Arbor Award for her service to the university. Career success brings increasing time demands, she says, but it also brings a duty to contribute to the community. “As we succeed in society we have an obligation to be role models, and as part of that we have an obligation to give back – whether it’s time, money or both.”
Nursing Class of 1955 and 1960
For the Nursing Class of 1955, the friendships they formed during their five years at U of T have not only lasted, they’ve grown. “It’s not just what the school gave us professionally, it’s those relationships that have meant so much,” says Sheila Shaw, who, along with classmate Ann Russell, facilitated the fundraising drive for the Class of 5T5 Award.
Other than for a few years when work and young children kept them apart, 17 classmates have made a point of getting together every year. Russell, who remembers the women in her class as “a group of rather high-spirited girls,” says the reunions take them back to the days when they played as hard as they worked. “We usually start on a Friday night and go through to Sunday,” she says. “There’s a great deal of laughter, food and ‘remember-whens.’”
In 1998, when Russell and Shaw approached the other women in their group about making a class gift, they set a modest goal. By their 45th anniversary in 2000, they wanted to raise an endowment of $5,000. Not only did the class reach its target, it’s well on the way to increasing the endowment to $50,000 by its 50th anniversary next year.
“The idea just seemed to click with our class,” says Russell. “It’s grown beyond any of our expectations.” The Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund will match pledges to student aid until the end of 2005, and Russell is encouraging her classmates to take advantage of this opportunity to maximize their gifts.
The Class of 1955 hoped that other nursing classes would follow their lead, and, in 2002, the Class of 1960 established a student award. “We heard about what the Class of 1955 did,” says Eileen Millar (BScN 1960), who has donated to the faculty every year since she graduated. “We felt that we received a quality education and that it prepared us for fulfilling jobs, and we wanted to help give someone else a chance to take advantage of the same opportunity.”
Millar recently came across a scrapbook from her undergrad years that detailed her education costs. “I was just floored when I saw how low the tuition was at the time, whereas now students have a real financial burden to shoulder,” she says. “I’m sure any help they can get is most welcome.”
The Goggio Family
If Emilio Goggio were alive today, he’d no doubt be surprised and pleased at how very Italian the world has become: it’s now a place where little prairie towns have cappuccino machines, and words like “ciao” have entered everyday discourse. But things were different when Goggio was growing up as an immigrant’s son in Boston, says his son Ernest (BA 1944 UC).
“There was a lot of discrimination against Italians in the early days.… My father was very big not only on teaching Italian but being able to show what Italians have contributed to world culture, to bring forth the contributions they have made.”
In 1995, Ernest and his siblings, the late Dr. Alfredo Goggio (BA 1935 UC, MD 1938) and Anita Lannom (BA 1946 St. Michael’s), established the Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies in honour of their father, who served as chair of the department of Italian and Spanish at U of T from 1946 to 1956. The $1-million endowment has since attracted such distinguished visiting scholars as Italian novelist Umberto Eco, and additional funds have gone toward building a world-class Italian Studies library.
It’s a fitting tribute to a man whose life was devoted to the rich cultural past of the country where he was born. In addition to his stature as a Dante scholar, Emilio Goggio was an art lover who also translated opera lyrics. He was briefly jailed in Toronto for having expressed an early, mistaken sympathy for Benito Mussolini, though he was soon released through the efforts of the university. The incarceration “wasn’t anything that turned him against Canadians – to the contrary. He died as a Canadian citizen and was very proud of it,” says Ernest, a prosperous businessman now living in San Francisco, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War.
In addition to funding the chair and library, Ernest and his brother, Alfredo, established several scholarships within the Italian Studies department. It’s appropriate, he says, that Toronto – which contains one of the largest Italian communities outside of Italy itself – should be home to such a strong program. “It’s an extension of the dream my father had: to see to it that people knew of the contributions made in literature, the arts, the whole spectrum of cultural events that have been part of Italian history.”
One rainy night seven years ago, Bob Burton (BA 1962 UC) was on campus waiting to pick up his daughter when a student tapped on his car window and asked him for some change to get home on the TTC. When Burton handed over the money, the young man promised to pay him back. Burton, being realistic, asked him instead to one day pass on the favour to somebody else.
It was a relatively minor exchange in Burton’s busy life. But over the next few days, Burton found himself reflecting on the rising cost of a university education. “When I was a student my tuition was maybe a few hundred dollars a year, which even then was loose change compared with what students pay now,” he says. He thought about how fortunate he, a lawyer, and his daughter (then a medical student) had been not to have to cope with financial stress as students. Then he resolved to help students who werent so lucky.
Burton decided to contribute $1,000 a year to create a Pass It On bursary for students in financial need. He has since increased his contribution to $5,000 a year, and, for the past year, donations to the bursary have been matched through the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund. The philosophy underlying his gift: give to those less fortunate than you, and they’ll give to those less fortunate than they are when they’re able. Students who receive the bursary are told that they are expected to offer the same kind of assistance to someone else when they have the money to spare. “Civilization requires civility,” he says. “This may be a trite little thought, but I think it’s very profound at the same time.”
Burton’s generosity also established a financial prize – the Golden Stethoscope Award of the Peters-Boyd Academy at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre – for third-year medical students who show themselves to be both academic achievers and humane and compassionate individuals. In the hope that he will motivate potential donors, Burton reluctantly agreed to have his name associated with his gifts. “I’m just one of hundreds of thousands of people who do things like this,” he says. “There’s no glory attached to it, no payback. It’s just doing good.”
Branko Vojnovic (BA 2000 UTSC) has a long-standing interest in what makes people who rise to life’s challenges. His immigrant parents provided him with his first model of perseverance. “They came to Canada from Yugoslavia with nothing and built a life for themselves and their family,” he says. “They felt that this environment provided them with so much opportunity, and they always wanted to give back.” Taking his cues from them, he has been volunteering for various charities and helping people in need for as long as he can remember.
During Vojnovic’s first years of university, he suddenly found himself coping with his own struggle. For two years, regardless of how much effort he put into his science studies at U of T at Scarborough, he could not get his marks “up to par.” “No matter who you are, everyone has some kind of hurdle to overcome,” he says. “Science was something that always interested me, but I realized that I could never do well at it.”
After taking a business course and receiving high marks, he took the daunting step of starting his university career all over again. “My professors provided me with a lot of support when I made that change,” he says. Their encouragement helped him persist, so he decided to establish an award to help motivate students who are passionate about their studies but – because of personal difficulties – may not receive stellar marks.
The $1,000 Branko Vojnovic U of T at Scarborough AccessAbility Award, granted annually since 2001, recognizes undergraduate students who have any of a variety of special needs – ranging from learning disabilities and mental-health issues to medical conditions – coupled with a drive for learning. Vojnovic decided that students shouldn’t apply for the award. Instead, he asks professors and other university members to nominate students. External recognition is what makes the award special and meaningful, he says. “It’s not necessarily the money that’s most important. It’s the whole package. It’s pushing them and acknowledging their striving. That’s what happened to me.”
Che Anne Loewen
Pianist Che Anne Loewen finds it hard to put into words why Canadian soprano Lois Marshall (LLD Hon. 1965) is so worthy of having a chair in voice studies named in her honour. “She was an amazing Canadian representative to the world of music, but that’s too dead a way to express it,” says Loewen. “She was a great artist – that’s the highest praise that a musician can give.”
In the spring of 2000, Loewen donated $250,000 to initiate a campaign for the Lois Marshall Chair in Voice Studies. Her gift came just six weeks before the deadline for a U of T matching-gift program, and in those few brief weeks the faculty was able to raise $750,000 from an international community of supporters. The university matched the $1 million for a total of $2 million to permanently endow the chair. Loewen was amazed by how quickly donors stepped up, but wasn’t surprised by how many people wanted to commemorate one of Canada’s most celebrated opera singers. Marshall taught at the Faculty of Music from 1986 until her death in 1997 at the age of 73.
The Lois Marshall Chair has allowed the faculty to enhance its voice curriculum and develop a new graduate program in collaborative piano, a growing field dedicated to piano accompaniment and coaching. Loewen, herself an accomplished collaborative pianist, has performed nationally and internationally. She is also an adjunct associate professor at the Faculty of Music and treasures the opportunity to work with promising young singers. “I love living at the creative intersection of youth and music,” she says.
A Mennonite upbringing instilled in Loewen a strong philanthropic ethic, and she says she feels privileged to be able to pay tribute to deserving individuals. “I’m uniquely placed because I know where the needs are and I can act on them. I can honour people who might otherwise not have a permanent legacy.”
A top investment manager requires creativity and adaptability, two skills that aren’t necessarily taught in classrooms. Perhaps that’s why Robert Farquharson has such a great affection for libraries. “After high school,” he says, “the teaching process turns to a dramatic amount of self-learning. A lot of my education took place in the library.”
Of course, libraries were rather different places back when Farquharson was working on his bachelor of commerce degree in the early 1960s. Back then, the only sound permitted in Victoria University’s E.J. Pratt Library was that of pages being turned. The books are still there, of course, but visitors entering the library’s beautifully refurbished portals can now hear something else – the sound of keyboards clacking away softly.
Credit Robert Farquharson. His 2001 donation of slightly more than $1 million was the impetus for the Information Commons at Victoria that bears his name: it provides public computers to all students, as well as laptops for sign-out and technical support. “They [the designers] also retained the personality of a library, which is critical,” adds Farquharson, who describes the library as a “very light, bright facility for private and collective study.” The potentially arid modernity of a computer facility is softened by leather club chairs and a gently lit art exhibit, which complement the reading room and book stacks.
And the books remain essential to Farquharson. “Without a highly educated, highly motivated population, you’re not going to be able to have the social benefits, the high standard of living we all aspire to,” says the soft-spoken benefactor, who is vice-chairman of AGF Management Ltd. and one of the country’s top mutual-funds managers. “I support education because in my own view it’s really important that as Canadians we support institutions that are critical in enabling our population to thrive, to develop the necessary skills – not only to put bread on the table, but to live the kind of life that we should live.”
During his undergraduate years, Carl Mitchell (BSc 1984 St. Michael’s) often spent the night in the computer-science lab. His nocturnal work marathons weren’t due to procrastination, but to necessity – after midnight, computers finally began to free up in the bustling facility. “If you got in there you didn’t leave until you were finished,” he says. “The subway stopped running at 1:30 a.m., so if you weren’t done by then you were staying the night.”
Today, a computer lab in the new Bahen Centre for Information Technology bears Mitchell’s name. When he heard U of T planned to build a state-of-the-art facility that would be the locus of the university’s groundbreaking IT research and educational programs, he immediately wanted to be part of it. He became the first computer-science graduate to donate to the Bahen Centre.
Mitchell enrolled in general sciences, but it wasn’t until he had to write a computer program for a first-year biology assignment that he found his niche. “Programming was a lot more intuitive to me than, say, chemistry,” he says. “I could work out a program in my head on the way over to the lab.”
When Mitchell started at U of T in 1979, computer science was in its infancy. Programming involved typing onto punch cards that were fed through special machines, and the computers didn’t have monitors. The technology progressed quickly after he graduated, and most of the equipment used in the course was rendered obsolete. Yet Mitchell credits his U of T education with helping him turn his innate sense of logic into a thriving career. “It taught me how to think and approach problems,” he says. “I learned to break down an idea and code it for the computer.”
After working his way up to software manager at his first job, in 1987 Mitchell and three partners ventured out on their own. Their company, V3 Semiconductor Inc., was soon developing rapid-data-transfer technology for a variety of clients including NASA and Intel. After selling the business in 2001, Mitchell went back to school and recently has graduated with an MBA.
In addition to his financial contribution, Mitchell maintains strong ties with the department of computer science by serving on award selection committees (including the University of Toronto Alumni Association Awards of Excellence Committee, and, this year, the Adel Sedra Committee) and the Industry Advisory Board. He says that the computers in the Carl Mitchell Laboratory are eons away from the ones in the lab he frequented in the early 1980s. But some things never change, he adds. “If I were to go there at 2 a.m., no doubt I’d see a bunch of busy students working away.”
Roy Foss enrolled as a St. Michael’s College student in the early 1950s, but soon found that he yearned for something different. “I felt when I went through that unless you wanted to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist or professional guy, there wasn’t really a reason to go to university,” he recalls. But having six children – and in turn 14 grandchildren – changed his mind about education. “I think it’s the most important thing in the world,” he says. “And I wanted to be a part of it.”
Hence the auto magnate’s $1-million donation to St. Michael’s College in 2001, coupled with $1.3-million in gifts to St. Michael’s Hospital, the university-affiliated health-care centre. (Foss describes himself as a proud “St. Mike’s person.”) His name now graces the Roy and Ann Foss Research Commons in St. Michael’s John M. Kelly Library.
All this generosity was made possible by his astonishing acumen as a car dealer. Foss, who confesses to a lifelong passion for the vehicles, has been in business since 1962, after several years of apprenticeship in the field. More than 40 years later, he owns the top General Motors dealership in the country. He has received a rash of journalistic attention since adding the redoubtable Hummer to his inventory.
But while cars have their undeniable attractions, they hardly begin to explain what drives this kind, reserved gentleman. Indeed, one gets the impression he would rather discuss the merits of buying versus leasing than talk about himself. Family and faith are his touchstones, along with strong social values and a sense of justice. “I just decided that education and health care are important to citizenship,” he says, with typical modesty. “And that’s why I did what I did.”
Simply stepping onto the St. George campus never fails to work a kind of magic on Teena Bogner (BA 1989 UC). “When I walk through King’s College Circle, I beam,” she says. “I love the architecture. I love watching the students hurrying around or just chatting on the steps. I love going to Hart House. It just does something for me.”
This energized feeling is what keeps Bogner coming back to U of T for any alumni event she can squeeze into her busy schedule. For almost eight years, she has been a member of the King’s College Circle giving society, which recognizes individuals who have provided for the university in their wills. Deciding to make a bequest to U of T was easy, says Bogner, who is now director of operations for a Fortune 500 company. “Without a doubt, the best years of my life were at U of T,” she says. Bogner took full advantage of what the university had to offer; she played intercollegiate soccer, bartended at a campus pub and attended services at Trinity College. In retrospect, however, what impresses her most is the quality of teaching at U of T. “I am in bewildered awe of the calibre of professors that I had. I don’t think I truly appreciated it then, but I do now.”
Bogner is also a member of the Presidents’ Circle, which recognizes individuals who contribute $1,000 or more in any 12-month period. Members of the Presidents’ Circle gather throughout the year for events ranging from lectures and wine tasting to the annual garden party at the president’s residence. Though he is not an alumnus, Bogner’s husband, Ian Gaskell, also included U of T in his will because the university means so much to his wife. The couple especially enjoys meeting the range of interesting people who attend Presidents Circle’ events.
Katherine Cashman (BSc 1984 St. Michael’s), who has donated $1,000 every year since 2000, also regards her undergraduate days as pivotal. “I was really shy and quiet in high school, and U of T was like a whole new world,” she says. “It took me right out of my shell and I grew up a lot.”
Being invited into the Presidents’ Circle was a bonus, says Cashman, a dental hygienist. “It’s a great way to reconnect with the university, meet new people and learn new things.
When Rudy Bratty was a student at University College back in the 1950s, he used to “bang on the windows of the girls at Whitney Hall.” Little did he know that one day, he’d provide other rascals with even more windows to rap their knuckles against.
In 2003, Bratty, one of Toronto’s most successful real-estate developers, pledged $1 million toward the development of a house within University College’s new Morrison Hall residence complex (which is scheduled for completion in 2005). At a time when student housing is at a premium, his contribution is highly valuable. And even though Bratty has certainly overseen bigger real-estate projects – including a 350,000-square-foot hotel and a neighbourhood of 30,000 houses – this endeavour has a special place in his heart. “It’s the old chestnut: you want to be able to give back when you’re lucky enough to be able to, and to leave the world a little better than it was when you entered it,” he says.
When Bratty talks, his tone is affable and street-smart, more like the kid who used to “haul bricks and carry nails” than the patrician lawyer and entrepreneur he’s become. “I wasn’t cut out for higher education and I didn’t think I’d use it,” he says, remembering his university days. “I always raced out of the lecture classes and went straight to work.” Work in those days meant building houses, a trade he learned from his father, a carpenter who came from Italy in 1922, when some local sidewalks were still made of wood. It was “of prime importance” to his parents that Bratty be educated, and despite a self-deprecating air and strong attachment to his tradesman roots, he’s clearly one of the country’s canniest and well-schooled builders.
As such, he has contributed not only by helping to fund the residence, but by assisting with design plans. The new edifice represents but one of many good works he has engaged in over the years. “Developers do have more of a social conscience now,” he says. “There’s a sense of satisfaction when you’re able to do good things for the community.”
Mrs. Norman S. Robertson
Mr. Norman S. Robertson may have been a corporate lawyer, but his first love was numbers. The late Torontonian, who earned an honours math and physics degree in 1914, had, at one time, planned to become an actuary. And in 1997, in order to honour him, his wife, Mrs. Norman S. Robertson, donated $1 million to the university to establish the Norman Stuart Robertson Chair in Applied Mathematics.
Throughout his long life, Mr. Robertson was an ardent collector and donor of antique math and science books. “He was very kind,” says his wife. “He liked to help people who were struggling to keep their heads above water.” Since his death in 1988, Mrs. Norman S. Robertson has extended that kindness by providing continual aid to students in the department.
Many of the Robertsons’ books – fruits of passion for collecting that took the pair all over the world – have found their way to the University of Toronto shelves, including one Mrs. Norman S. Robertson discovered some 50 years ago while browsing in an antique shop. “I was pretty sure it was one of the Principia,” she says, referring to Isaac Newton’s most significant work. “I asked the owners how much they wanted, and they hadn’t thought much about it; all they wanted was something to decorate a table.” Ten dollars later, the book – a classic now worth thousands – was hers. It, and 42 others, comprised a welcome donation that the Robertsons made to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in 1988.
Perhaps most valuable of all, however, is the collection of good wishes received by Mrs. Norman S. Robertson for assisting students in her husband’s memory. On one occasion, a young man even delivered more than four dozen roses to her in gratitude. “I get pleasure out of every year,” she says with pride. “seeing the names of young people who have benefited from scholarships enabling them to go on.”