The University of Toronto has a history of advocating social progress and tolerance. As far back as the 1860s, during the American Civil War, the university insisted upon admitting a person of colour to the Literary and Scientific Society – despite the protests of students from the American South then on campus. The following alumni exemplify the positive roles individuals can play in their chosen communities.
When Caroline Macdonald (1874-1931) decided to enter the math and physics department of U of T, she demonstrated her determination to go places others thought she shouldn’t. In her second year she entered an essay contest sponsored by the political economics department and shocked the other contestants, all male, by winning. She earned her bachelor’s degree from University College in 1901, but turned down an offer to do graduate work in physics. Macdonald went on to establish the Young Women’s Christian Association in Japan and initiated prison reform in that country. She was the first woman awarded an honorary doctorate by U of T, in 1925.
It was perhaps during his days as a political science student that the Rev. Bill Phipps (BA 1962 Victoria), moderator of the United Church of Canada, first found his calling. Phipps later took part in civil rights marches in Chicago during the ’60s and eventually decided against his planned career as a lawyer.
Robert Rumball (BA 1952 Victoria) is executive director of the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf in Toronto and has worked for years to improve conditions for deaf people in Canada. Rumball was a halfback for the Varsity Blues football team and later played for the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Rough Riders.
As the head of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control, Wendy Cukier (MA 1981, MBA 1986) has spent more than 10 years fighting for more stringent gun laws. When she began her efforts following the shooting deaths of women engineering students at Montreal’s l’Ecole Polytechnique, she had no political experience. Today, the coalition she heads is credited with creating an effective lobby for better gun-control laws in Canada.
A champion of the underdog, Anne Golden (BA 1962 UC, PhD 1970) has demonstrated her ability to deal with divisive public issues. During the late ’90s, the chair of the United Way of Greater Toronto headed the Greater Toronto Area Task Force and the mayor’s task force on homelessness.
Since 1992, Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer (BA 1984 Innis) has appeared at inquests into the deaths of four schizophrenic men. His efforts have publicized the needs of mentally ill people and prompted coroners’ juries to recommend safeguards for them.
Two unusual grads have been driven by their love of the natural world to work towards building a healthier planet.
When social worker Kerry Bowman (MSW 1987, PhD 1997) isn’t examining the links between health and culture in Toronto, he works with the African Gorilla/Chimpanzee Protection Project to save primates in central Africa.
Two decades before Bowman stepped on campus, Monte Hummel (BA 1969 Victoria, MA 1970, MSc Forestry 1979) became energized by the fledgling environmental movement on campus and helped to found Pollution Probe in 1969. He is now president of World Wildlife Fund Canada.
Research by Rebecca Caldwell.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre