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Photo of Linda Schuyler.
Linda Schuyler. Photo by Matthew Plexman, Courtesy of the Ontario College of Teachers

Degrassi Creator Gives Back

Linda Schuyler’s $1-million gift to U of T celebrates cinema

Celebrated television producer Linda Schuyler (BA 1974 Innis), whose shows are widely acclaimed for their sensitive and realistic portrayal of teenage life, has made a major gift to the institution that first sparked her interest in the TV industry.

The co-creator of the award-winning Degrassi franchise, which includes five dramatic series, Schuyler has donated $1 million to the University of Toronto’s Boundless campaign. The funds have been allocated in a way that benefits three areas, all meaningful in Schuyler’s life.

Linda Schuyler’s donation has helped renovate Innis Town Hall with a brand-new sound system and state-of-the-art acoustics. Credit: Michael Roy Baker
Linda Schuyler’s donation has helped renovate Innis Town Hall with a brand-new sound system and state-of-the-art acoustics. Credit: Michael Roy Baker

The Innis College Cinema Studies program, which helped launch her career, received the majority of Schuyler’s gift – $550,000. This went toward renovating Innis Town Hall, a prime screening space that not only serves students, but also plays host to large community events, such as public lectures and debates. The money helped upgrade the projection booth, which previously used only analog technology to screen 16- and 35-millimetre films. The new Linda Schuyler Projection Booth includes modern digital equipment for screening a broader range of both vintage and contemporary films.

“A premier theatre is a gift to everyone at the university. Students, faculty and film enthusiasts – all appreciate the importance of quality of space, sound and image when studying a dynamic subject like cinema. It’s a wonderful place to learn, teach and also be entertained,” says Janet Paterson, principal of Innis College.

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Alumni and students reminisce about Innis Town Hall and celebrate the renovations

Video by istoica

The gift also reflects Schuyler’s commitment to respecting individual differences, particularly sexual orientation – a subject often addressed in the pioneering youth culture programming she produced over the last 35 years.

The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at University College has received $225,000. A total of $175,000 will create a Global Education Fund to support the introduction of new courses focusing on sexual diversity in an international context. As well, an endowment of $50,000 will establish the Linda Schuyler Student Award, to provide the centre’s first international research opportunities. Recipients will be able to use the funds to attend conferences or conduct fieldwork abroad. “Improving understanding and acceptance of individual differences makes it possible to raise a generation of much more compassionate people,” says Schuyler, an Order of Canada and Order of Ontario member, and recipient of an Academy Achievement Award from the Gemini Awards.

Finally, Schuyler has directed $225,000 to the Media Commons, the University of Toronto Libraries’ repository of archival and contemporary audio-visual research resources. The gift will establish the Linda Schuyler Digitization Fund for Preservation and Access, which will help the Commons digitize its analog holdings and preserve its original digital material.

“Linda is a trailblazer in the TV industry, not only in Canada, but worldwide,” says Janet Paterson. “Her success as a female producer in a male-dominated industry is truly inspiring. It is a source of great pride for our community.”

Linda Schuyler talks about her experience at U of T

Video courtesy of University of Toronto

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