New warden John Monahan on the allure of Hart House
This past August, John Monahan (BA 1987 Trinity, JD 1998) was appointed warden of Hart House. He joins U of T from the Mosaic Institute, and talked to Stacey Gibson about his new role.
What does the Hart House warden do?
I’m kind of the executive director – the chief cook and bottle washer – who provides general strategic, business and programming direction. I have overall responsibility for everything from fundraising to human resources to governance, and I try to make sure that all of the pieces are working together so that the end result is greater than the sum of the parts.
How do you see the role of Hart House in the lives of students and alumni?
Hart House is a centre for lifelong co-curricular education. Whether you are a current or former student, a staff or faculty member, or a member of the general public, Hart House is a place to join in communities of interest that form around the arts and culture, politics and social justice, or health and well-being. People come here to strengthen their bodies, enrich their minds and refresh their spirits. It is no wonder that many of our alumni remain passionately committed to the house long after they graduate.
How would you like to see Hart House evolve?
I would like us to devote more effort to inculcating a spirit of “giving back” in those students who are active at Hart House, and better enable them to go out into the world beyond the university and contribute meaningfully to the community. It already happens a bit now. For example, our farm committee runs a food security program with students from Flemingdon Park.
Also, because Hart House aspires to be an inclusive place where all students see themselves reflected, I would like to be far more intentional in creating opportunities for students to acquire intercultural competencies and learn how to navigate across differences of all kinds. I’d love to give international and domestic students more opportunities to know each other on a deeper level and to exchange perspectives about all manner of issues with truly global relevance. I think Hart House is perfectly situated to play host to those sorts of conversations because we have always been a place for the convergence of people and ideas.
What are your favourite things to do at Hart House?
In addition to feeding my interest in dialogue and debate, and social justice issues, Hart House is also a great place to experience the arts. I’m a season ticket holder at the Hart House Theatre and I love going to performances. I’m also a huge huge fan of the Justina M. Barnicke gallery, one of the finest contemporary art galleries in the country, which is now happily federated with the U of T Art Centre under the banner of the Art Museum of the University of Toronto. I have not taken a ballet class yet but I was thrilled recently when Greta Hodgkinson, legendary principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, led a class. It’s amazing the sorts of opportunities that present themselves here, and so far I’ve only just scratched the surface.
Read more about John Monahan.