University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Illustration and photos of UofT alumni who contributed to Canada
Illustration: Ed Schnurr /Photo Research: Klix

Class Acts

As the UTAA celebrates its 100th birthday, we raise our hats to 100 alumni who made their mark on the 20th century

If we may bow in the direction of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and imagine for the moment that the 20th century really did belong to Canada, then we might add (with only modest exaggeration) that it also belonged to the University of Toronto.

A prodigious number of the men and women who advanced our nation over the past 100 years are U of T alumni. You’ll meet just some of them in our list of 100 alumni who had an impact on the 20th century, which we have compiled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the University of Toronto Alumni Association. The list is by no means exhaustive; indeed, so many alumni have earned the right to be included that it was a real challenge to stop at a mere 100 names. You won’t find such well-known alumni as Paul Martin or Atom Egoyan. Instead, you’ll meet some less familiar graduates, like Dr. Marion Hilliard, a pioneer in women’s medicine, or Wilbur Franks, whose work prefigured the spacesuit.

The early grads who helped shape the future of law, politics and the sciences include Augusta Stowe Gullen, the first woman to graduate from medical school in Canada, economist (later prime minister) William Lyon Mackenzie King and Frederick Banting, discoverer of insulin. Later, U of T alumni helped establish Canada as a leader among nations. When told he had won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, Lester B. Pearson could only mutter, “Gosh,” a testament that in the ’50s, we were still a small, self-conscious country. Yet Canada flourished in the post-war period. Just as Banting and Charles Best had established Canadians as pre-eminent doers, Pearson, along with grads such as Escott Reid, established us as great thinkers. Artists such as William Hutt and Margaret Atwood cemented our reputation as great creators.

All of our 100 grads made their mark on Canada, even the world, but first they made their mark at U of T. We think you’ll find, as U of T alumni, that you are in great company.

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  1. 9 Responses to “ Class Acts ”

  2. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    It is gratifying to read of the great contributions to humanity made by a few of the graduates of U of T. However, the true glory of the university is not its most eminent graduates, nor its research work, nor its postgraduate programs. Its great glory is the thousands of ordinary graduates that the university has given to Canadian society as civilized and educated citizens.

    E. Ritchie Clark
    BComm 1933 UC
    Mount Royal, Quebec

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    The magazine is terrific. U of T is an amazing place where exciting achievements occur through sheer human will and wisps of inexhaustible human genius. "I belong where I read," wrote Anne Michaels. Fits here.

    Dr. William Davies
    MD 1974

  4. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    "Class Acts" was indeed one! Try it again with a second, third and fourth tier – several times!

    Henry J. Sissons
    BA 1937 VIC
    Orono, Ontario

  5. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I was dismayed to find Anne Carson, PhD in classics, author of Economy of the Unlost, missing from your special alumni issue. She is much appreciated in the United States; I hope we in Canada will give her as much notice.

    Theresa K. Gerson
    MLS 1980, BEd 1992

  6. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I strongly feel that you should have included A. Alan Borovoy (BA 1953 UC, LLB 1956), general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and remind you of an honorary doctor of laws degree he received from U of T (LLD Hon. 1991).

    Murray Rubin
    BSc Pharmacy 1954

  7. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Good 100-year retrospective. But what about Professor E.F. Burton, head of the physics department who started the radar classes to train specialists during the Second World War? Also, Caesar Wright, dean of the Faculty of Law, who fought so that U of T grads could have access to the legal profession without having to study a further year at Osgoode Hall Law School?

    Barbara I. Wilson
    BA 1938 VIC

  8. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    What I am doing is in the worst possible taste; I proceed. I take a very dim view of the omission of my name from the Alumni Who Shaped the Century, but more of the omission of my sister, Irene Irwin Clarke. From her entrance to Victoria College with five scholarships, through a brilliant career in classics and drama, to her role as president of Clarke Irwin, she was distinguished in many fields. She was the first woman on the university Board of Governors and cross-Canada speaker of the Canadian Women's Club. She and her husband launched the painter Emily Carr and published works by Carr and journalist Robertson Davies, to mention only two. I pass over her distinguished war work in the Canadian Women's Volunteer Services (and incidentally her chairmanship of the women's division of the National Fund, U of T) and, to use the current cliché, much, much more.

    Grace Irwin
    BA 1929 VIC, MA 1932, DLitt Sac Hon. 1991

  9. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    My father, Dr. Herbert L. Pottle, is a U of T alumnus (MA 1934 psychology, PhD 1937 psychology and education). He is a worthy Canadian of Newfoundland heritage who had considerable impact on the national and international scene. For starters, he is the last living member of the Commission of Government that brought Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949. He turned 93 in February and resides in Ottawa.

    Helen Wesanko

  10. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I enjoyed reading the spring issue for many reasons, if only to read about people I went to either Skule or school with. I was a little disappointed at one omission, though. The co-developer of IMAX cameras and projectors was Bill Shaw (BASc 1951). Bill's contribution certainly made an important impression on the entertainment field.

    John Sudbury
    BASc 1952
    Picton, Ontario

    Editor's Note: And Graeme Ferguson (BA 1952 VIC), as president of Imax Systems Corp., advanced the huge, multiscreen format.