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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud


Learning, connecting and celebrating mark Spring Reunion 2013

With more than 500,000 graduates in 180 countries, U of T’s alumni community is an ever-expanding multi-generational network of talent and expertise with impact across a broad range of professions and communities.  Every spring, this remarkable community of alumni — from our most recent graduates to those celebrating milestone anniversaries – is invited to come back to U of T for Spring Reunion where they can reconnect, attend a lecture, meet new people and rediscover their alma mater. This year’s event was held from May 29-June 2. Over 3500 alumni and friends attended the 113 events, available across all three campuses.

To kick off Spring Reunion, alumni and friends celebrated U of T’s diverse LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer) community at an event in Toronto’s Design Exchange.  The event recognized U of T’s pioneering LGBTQ roots and its crucial role in nurturing change. UTM graduate Bobby Diaz was the event’s keynote speaker, where he discussed the importance of queer life at U of T, the value of
U of T’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, and the various student LGBTQ groups.

With 13,000 new graduates every year, our newest alumni represent a community of young, vibrant graduates, eager to connect with their fellow alumni on a social and professional level. Nowhere was this more evident than at this year’s SHAKER event, “Shake, Paddle and Bowl,” held at The Ballroom in downtown Toronto. The event found young alumni networking and connecting with fellow U of T grads, while taking part in some friendly bowling, ping pong, pool, bubble hockey and foosball. The event sold out early and attracted 765 guests.

But it’s not just the younger alumni who came out to rediscover, connect and celebrate their shared experience with fellow alumni. The Chancellor’s Circle Medal Ceremony saw U of T’s new Chancellor, the Hon. Michael Wilson (BA 1959 TRIN) present 250 alumni with medals to honour the occasion of their 55th, 60th, 65th, 70th and 75th anniversaries of graduation. The class of 1963, celebrating their 50th anniversary of graduation were recognized at a ceremony hosted by President David Naylor (MD 1978).

Dr. Stanley Woo (MD 1963) celebrated the 50th anniversary of his graduation from the Faculty of Medicine. “I came to Canada at age 15, not speaking English,” he said. “Once I learned English, I enrolled in U of T’s pre-med program, was accepted into medical school and have enjoyed a rewarding career,” said Koo, who has enjoyed a successful career as a urologist.

Harold Margles (BA 1955 UC, LLB 1958), who celebrated the 55th anniversary of his graduation from the Faculty of Law, reflected on the ceremony, remarking on the emotional return to campus. “I graduated 55 years ago, and coming back to campus still strikes an emotional chord,” he said. “Coming back after all these years, rekindles some of that feeling I had as student; the potential for learning and making a difference becomes renewed.”

Even those who have not been away from campus for too long report feeling nostalgic at Spring Reunion. Raj Dhiman (PhD 2011) says that although he still works on campus, there is something special about coming back as an alumnus for Spring Reunion. “It’s great to catch up with old classmates and take in the atmosphere. We like to reminisce and touch base about what we are doing today,” he says. “I have so many great memories from here, from the tremendous learning, to just taking a breather in a familiar space.”

Chancellor Wilson was also the keynote speaker at the University of Toronto Alumni Association’s Annual General Meeting. In his address, Chancellor Wilson celebrated the university’s impact on mental health research, education and care. Praising the “growing culture of mental health awareness across the University,” he noted that “U of T offers an amazing range of health and wellness programming for our students, across our three campuses.” During the meeting, alumni elected the UTAA Board of Directors and welcomed Lenna Bradburn as the new UTAA President.  Following the meeting, alumni attended the Spring Reunion Barbeque sponsored by the UTAA.

One of Spring Reunion’s main attractions is the Stress-Free Degree, a lecture series presented by noted U of T professors, graduates and authors.  Again this year, the program provided opportunities for alumni to engage in lifelong learning and hear what the brightest U of T minds have to say on a host of issues, trends and topics. “I love the alumni because of their literate and engaged approach to life,” says Professor and graduate Stephen Scharper of the School of the Environment at U of T Mississauga who delivered a lecture in the “Three new “Rs” – revealing, reflecting and redeeming, and how they can help us reconnect with the natural world. “They came here to learn and leave here to learn.”

In total, twelve lectures were offered including one by Chemistry professors John Polanyi (LLD 1995) and Scott Mabury, who honoured the iconic Lash Miller Chemistry Building, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Stephen Lye of the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development spoke on the genetic and environmental exposures during the first 2,000 days of life and their impact on a child’s health, learning and social functioning.

Along with the U of T-wide programming that is open to all U of T Alumni, guests are invited to attend receptions and events specific to their college, faculty, or even residence groups.  For many alumni like Steve Rogers, a UC alumnus who received his MBA from U of T in 1992, such events hold very personal memories. “I met my wife when we were both Lit members in 1981, so having a The Coffee House Reunion for the University College Literary and Athletic Society is a great idea. It takes us back to a memorable time.”

Although Spring Reunion may be over for another year, the memories, learning and connections made over a few days in June will last for many years to come. Organizers are already busy planning next year’s event, ensuring, above all, that Spring Reunion continues to provide all alumni with opportunities to express their pride and maintain lifelong connections to U of T.