This issue of University of Toronto Magazine, as always, includes substantial coverage of alumni activities. It also contains a list of donations to the institution, the majority of which come from alumni. That fact signifies the remarkable loyalty and extraordinary generosity of former U of T students. But it does lead a few alumni to ask how they can remain engaged with the university besides supporting it financially.
In reply, let me emphasize first that alumni are the university’s best ambassadors, the living legacy of the institution. Their successes are the finest advertisement imaginable for the transformative impact of a U of T education.
Alumni are also engaged as volunteers in a huge number of capacities. Alumni interview prospective students, help to choose scholarship and bursary recipients, mentor current students and advise faculty and administrators on research and educational issues. (For more information, follow the “Stay Connected” link from www.alumni.utoronto.ca.)
The University of Toronto Act reserves eight seats on the university’s Governing Council for alumni governors. The U of T Alumni Association (UTAA) intersects with the central alumni relations office, but there are 26 alumni groups at the faculty or college level, representing divisions with authority to recommend the awarding of a degree or postsecondary diploma. These groups are part of the College of Electors that chooses alumni governors. Leaders of those divisional alumni bodies also connect with the UTAA through a council of alumni presidents. And the UTAA executive, led by President Michael Deck, is committed to ensuring that all divisional alumni groups are better connected with each other and the university-at-large. This is a shift that, in Canadian parlance, can be seen as going from a federal to a more national perspective.
More generally, we are committed to strengthening alumni relations across all of our many faculties, campuses and colleges. Our goal is to foster a sense of community among our more than 400,000 graduates, wherever life takes them.
How to accomplish this worthy goal? Face-to-face meetings are the best way to develop relationships, so we are looking at ways of enhancing programming for Spring Reunion and other events to attract even more graduates back to campus. In the last academic year, almost 300 divisionally based alumni events took place, many at U of T. We have also expanded the number of events held abroad, including receptions in such diverse locations as Melbourne, Jerusalem, Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei.
We don’t have the resources to see all U of T alumni in person, so we rely on publications and e-mail to keep alumni informed. Almost every division produces an alumni publication, and E-News, an electronic compendium of news from around campus is sent monthly to more than 100,000 grads. The university has developed an extensive website, where alumni can find everything from academic departments to news from The Bulletin, and plans are underway to create a more extensive online community for U of T grads.
And yes, we do ask our alumni for financial support and they give very generously. In 2005-06, pledges and gifts from all sources reached $101.7 million, the highest since 2000-2001; a remarkable 84 per cent of the individual gifts last year came from alumni. But alumni can rest assured that we also seek and receive support from other sources. For example, about 60 per cent of the 2005-06 dollar total came from non-alumni supporters as well as foundations and corporations. All of these gifts have made a real difference. A simple example: during The Campaign that ended on December 31, 2003, we raised more than $500 million for student aid through direct gifts and leverage from government matching programs. These funds will directly support the next generations of U of T students.
These succeeding generations will be the successful alumni of tomorrow – for another 179 years and beyond. They – and you – embody the raison d’être of the University of Toronto. Whenever you graduated, thank you for bringing your talents and energy to U of T as a student; and thank you for staying connected as an alumna or alumnus of Canada’s great university.