Rahul K. Bhardwaj might be a Londoner by birth, but it is the city of Toronto that has truly captured his imagination and his heart.
Bhardwaj, president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Foundation, moved with his family from London, England, to London, Ontario, at the age of six. He had no real experience of urban Toronto, the place that is the focus of his passion for city building, until he arrived at the University of Toronto as a first-year student.
“The first few times I saw U of T were eye-opening,” Bhardwaj said. “I fell in love with the city right away.”
His degree in political science and philosophy led Bhardwaj to law school and a successful career in corporate law, but it was the city that really stirred his interest. After the birth of his first child, Bhardwaj’s gaze began looking beyond the walls of the law firm, wondering how he could improve Toronto for the next generation. Organizing a fundraising golf tournament for the United Way set him on the path to both volunteerism and city building. Soon, he was invited to join the United Way board of directors, and later, as Vice-President of Toronto’s 2008 Olympic Bid.
More board opportunities followed, including current appointments to the boards of Metrolinx, the Rideau Hall Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada, and earlier as Chair of the 2012 Ontario Summer Games as well as the TD Canada Trust Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival, among others. In 2007, Bhardwaj shifted the focus of his career to take up the reins of the Toronto Foundation, which connects philanthropy with community needs and opportunities to improve the city.
“We have both the privilege and the responsibility to help shape the type of community we want to live in,” Bhardwaj said. “There are many things that I’ve been very privileged to be part of that in some way have enhanced this city.”
It is thanks to his U of T experience that he had the ability to chart such a satisfying career course.
“U of T offered me enough breadth to find my own route,” he said, “and the intensity, commitment and passionate lectures from the professors inspired me to step up my own game.”