University of Toronto word mark

Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud


2013 Arbor Award Recipients

When David Scandiffio thinks about the University of Toronto, he thinks family, and not just because his parents and two grandparents also went to U of T.

Scandiffio is one of 112 people who received 2013 Arbor Awards from the University of Toronto. The ceremony to present the awards was held recently at the President’s residence on Highland Ave. The awards are given annually to those whose loyalty and dedication add significantly to the U of T experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni through their volunteer work.

Scandiffio, who earned his Bachelor of Science from St. Michael’s College in 1994, is now president and director at IA Clarington Investments. He said in an interview that “it’s always nice to be recognized, but I am just grateful for the experience of being a volunteer, to be honest.”

His volunteerism was inspired by something that occurred when he was an all-star guard for the Varsity Blues football team in 1993, the year U of T won the Vanier Cup. That year, a group of alumni volunteers helped keep the team alive through its financial support.

A member of the U of T’s Sports Hall of Fame, Scandiffio became an executive member of The Friends of Varsity Blues Football which launched the Varsity Leadership Foundation, where he is currently a director. The foundation raises funds for scholarships for U of T football players. A new mentoring program is also in development to connect alumni with Varsity Blues football students.

David has also stayed connected to St. Michael’s College and helped organize an annual golf tournament that has raised more than $2 million for the college. “It is a way as well to re-connect with other alumni, to continue to be a part of the U of T family.”

The Arbor Awards, were created in 1989 and next year will celebrate their 25th anniversary. About 2,000 people have received the award to date.

In the Arbor Award’s inaugural year, the first person to receive the honour was Donna Bain. Now a vice-president at the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Donna recalls the first ceremony in 1989 with great fondness. It was “the most lovely event I’ve ever attended…it was an astonishingly gracious thing for the University to do; we never expected any award, except for the thanks we got from the faculty.”

Over the years, there has been an incredible variety of people who have dedicated their time, expertise and experience to making a difference across all university divisions, across three campuses, and around the world

Porcia Leung is a perfect example of someone who has worked hard to carve out time to volunteer despite a hectic work life. Leung has been president of the Hong Kong branch of the U of T Alumni Association for the past four years.

After she graduated from U of T in 1998 as an English major, Leung became involved in the alumni association and felt that it should become even more involved in charity work.

That prompted her and her fellow U of T alumni to visit seniors’ homes and orphanages and to spend time with children with developmental challenges during their limited spare time in bustling Hong Kong.

Leung, regional public relations director for Christian Dior, says she was “flattered and honoured” to receive an Arbor Award this year. There are more than 4,000 active members of the Hong Kong alumni association, which has become more active under her leadership, playing host to charity events, annual dinners and even hiking tours.

In November, she will play a major role in organizing the Asia-Pacific Graduation Ceremony, during which new U of T President Meric Gertler will speak.

Arbor Award winner Steve Park came all the way from Seoul to accept his award this year.

Less than five years ago, there were about a dozen alumni groups in Korea, with very little communication among them. Now, there is one united organization, thanks to Park.

He said the award is not so much a recognition of him but of the Alumni Association of Korea, whose 400 members are doing a lot to raise the profile of Toronto in that country. “Our association is relatively young, and our recognition helps strengthen our role in the region,” he said. Park, as president of the association, has spent the last four years organizing and attending alumni events and connecting with new U of T students from Korea. There are now 2,000 of them in Toronto.

Park graduated from U of T in 1983 with a bachelor of arts and is now the proud parent of two U of T alumni, with one more to come.

Canon W. Ebert Hobbs’s volunteerism illustrates the wide range of contributions Arbor Award winners make to the University community.

Canon Hobbs remembers as a very young man being in the Royal Canadian Air Force, training to fight in the Second World War. An accident prevented him from fighting but he contributed in many other ways while serving his country.

And for the past 15 years, he has helped others remember those who gave their lives in both world wars, leading the Remembrance Day service at the foot of Solders’ Tower at Hart House Circle. He was a member of the Fort York Royal Canadian Legion 15 years ago when a friend asked him to conduct the service, and he has been doing it ever since.

“It’s very well attended and I am impressed with the variety of people, including 100-year-olds, young people, students, faculty and staff,” he said. The Soldiers’ Tower is a memorial to the 1,181 members of the University of Toronto who gave their lives to the two world wars.

Receiving an Arbor Award “is a great honour,” he said. “I didn’t really expect to receive an award for something I am privileged to do.”

President David Naylor said at the award ceremony that “volunteers provide us with their most valuable resources: their time, skills and knowledge, and in doing so enhance the quality of the University of Toronto for the faculty, students and staff who work and study here.”

The 112 recipients of this year’s Arbor Awards suit that description to a tee.

Photographs and citations for all of the 2013 recipients can be found online.