The U of T Alumni Association (UTAA) has kicked off an ambitious campaign to refurbish Convocation Hall with a $500,000 gift, announced by outgoing UTAA president Brian Burchell (BSc 1987) at the association’s annual meeting last November.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Convocation Hall, and the UTAA hopes to spearhead the restoration of a building that has tremendous architectural and historical significance for U of T and its alumni, Burchell said. “All alumni pass through Convocation Hall, so it is only fitting that the UTAA take a leadership role in inspiring others to support this project.”
As part of the planned renovations, the stage will be refinished, many of the auditorium’s 1,731 seats will be refurbished or replaced and a new corridor of accessible washrooms will be installed. Extensive decorative finishing will enhance the historical millwork – including the trim, baseboards, and casings around doors and windows. The walls and floors will be painted and treated, and the exterior of the building will be cleaned. Future plans include the creation of a pedestrian plaza in front of Convocation Hall with trees and walkways.
The UTAA hopes its gift serves as a catalyst for other donations – from individual alumni, corporations and other organizations – to make the complete renovation of Convocation Hall and its surroundings possible.
President David Naylor (MD 1978) commended the association for its pledge, noting that U of T alumni were instrumental in raising funds for the construction of Convocation Hall a century ago. At that time, the university hoped to raise $25,000 from alumni to build a hall in memory of those who had fallen in the Fenian raids and the Boer War. The scope of the project grew after alumni raised $50,000 and the provincial government contributed another $50,000. The building design, by Frank Darling and John Pearson, was inspired by the Sorbonne theatre in Paris; its cornerstone was laid in June 1904.