University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Jon S. Dellandrea, Vice-President and Chief Development Officer
Jon S. Dellandrea. Photo by Laura Arsiè

The Real Backbone

Alumni and friends are providing the solid support that the university will need in the future

Each year when the Maclean’s magazine university rankings are published, the headlines zero in on which institutions topped the list. And while U of T has held the number 1 spot overall among research universities for seven consecutive years, we have also moved to the top of a category vital for the future of the university.

The less tangible category of reputation has more to do with relationships than it does with hard numbers. Being ranked at the very top of that performance measure tells me that the Campaign for the University of Toronto has not only created an unprecedented standard of giving, it has also helped to cement an unparalleled relationship between U of T and its tens of thousands of alumni and friends. They now have a profound understanding of the university and its vision, and that is worth celebrating.

Thus far, much of the campaign’s visibility has centred on gifts of $1 million or more, and you will see plenty of evidence of that crucial support in the mid-campaign report that follows. The university’s ambitious campaign effort is much more, however. It is a coming together of the university community. Since the launch of the campaign in the fall of 1997, more than 40,000 people have given to the university for the first time. In doing so, they have become the real backbone of the campaign.

Because so many have rallied around the university, the campaign will have a significant impact on the future. Thousands of students today and tomorrow will benefit from unprecedented levels of financial support. Teaching and research are already being enhanced across all disciplines. Pioneering work has been made possible in cellular and biomolecular research. A centre for integrative thinking has been created at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. Humanities scholarship is being strengthened through Canada’s first chair in Holocaust studies and a broad Canadian studies program.

These are but a few examples that reflect the critical moral support necessary for the university to take a central place on the world stage. That’s where our students, faculty and staff want us to be. That’s where we have to be in a global environment where knowledge is the currency.

The campaign has received 82,000 gifts of $1,000 or less. The solid foundation that the university will need in the decades to come already has been built by donations like these. They are absolutely essential if U of T is to succeed in its quest to become one of the top research universities in the world. Elsewhere in the magazine, you will read about such donors, and the reasons they give to U of T. There are thousands of stories like these across the country and the world.

This kind of support is not just a matter of dollars and cents. When an alumnus or alumna volunteers to host an event in a community far from the U of T campuses, the gesture helps to strengthen the reputation of our academic enterprise, resulting in more effective and wide-reaching efforts to recruit the best students. It creates greater awareness of the research excellence that is a hallmark of U of T. And increased awareness leads to increased support in many ways: government funding for research and buildings, support from corporations and foundations — and most importantly from our alumni and friends who account for 58 per cent of the funds raised to date.

Financial support will make this university strong. Relationships — the understanding and moral support of our alumni and friends — will make this university great.

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