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Photo of the Hart House quad on a sunny summer day
Hart House quad. Photo by Arthur Kwiatkowski

Updating Hart House for a New Generation

A legacy gift from alum Donald Burwash will help make the iconic student centre more accessible to all

Hart House is entering its second century with an ambitious plan to update many of its popular spaces, thanks in part to a legacy gift from Donald Burwash (BA 1954 Victoria), a longtime supporter of the much-loved U of T gathering place.

In his honour, Hart House will rename the South Dining Room the Donald Burwash Room, a place he loved, and where he regularly attended or chaired Hart House meetings and events.

The Hart House south dining room, with chairs and tables and a piece of art hanging on the wall
The Hart House South Dining Room will be renamed the Donald Burwash Dining Room. Photo courtesy of Hart House

The gift will help replace and restore aging furniture and other decor. It will also allow equipment to be updated, ensuring that students have access to charging stations for their electronic devices and that rooms are equipped with projectors and smart screens.

Redesigned Information Hub

Additionally, funds will boost efforts to make Hart House a leader in accessibility – by installing push-button door technology, ramps for main entrances, better lighting in public spaces and accessible washrooms.

The Information Hub at the building’s main entrance, which serves about one million visitors annually, will also be redesigned to make it more welcoming and accessible for students of all physical abilities.

“This is a transformative gift,” says Hart House warden John Monahan. “Don’s generosity is enabling us to revitalize and reimagine our spaces in ways that better serve the needs of today’s students and other members of the U of T community. We are incredibly grateful.”

A passionate volunteer

Friends of Hart House from the 1950s through to the 1990s may remember Burwash’s deep commitment to U of T’s iconic student centre – first as a student, and later as a passionate volunteer. Burwash, who died in November 2018, left part of his estate to the university. It’s the largest gift to Hart House since the Massey Foundation donated the building itself to U of T in 1919.

Donald Burwash

After graduating from U of T, Burwash went to law school and worked as in-house counsel for Coca-Cola Canada. Throughout his life, he lent his talents to many good causes – including Hart House and the university more broadly, serving for decades as a member of U of T Governing Council and numerous Hart House committees. He even stepped in as the acting warden of Hart House for a brief period in 1997.

 “Don was passionate about Hart House,” says Monahan. “He wanted to ensure that future generations of students have the quality of opportunities he had at U of T. Don is leaving not only an extremely generous financial legacy, but also a deep and rich personal and professional legacy of giving back to the communities and places that benefitted him throughout his life.”


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