June 4, 2021 | Alumni
The Classes of 1970 and 1971 reminisce about their time at U of T at virtual Alumni Reunion
By Michael McKinnon
Some 350 alumni celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduation at U of T’s Alumni Reunion Home Edition (photo by Kimberly Lyn)
Alumni from Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Israel and the United States — and from across Canada — attended U of T’s Alumni Reunion Home Edition recently to reconnect with old friends, reminisce about a romance that has lasted 50 years after blooming on campus and marvel at how much has changed since they last strolled through campus.
"While of course we would prefer to be on campus celebrating with you, our Home Edition allows many of you from outside Toronto and around the world to join us — and we have some 350 alumni from five countries with us this afternoon,” said Barbara Dick (BA 1987 UC), assistant vice-president of alumni relations at U of T, as she welcomed alumni who graduated in 1970 or 1971.
More than 230 alumni from the Faculty of Arts & Science alone registered to attend, including Gregory Baker (BSc 1965 VIC, MSc 1967, PhD 1970), who accepted a faculty position at Bryn Athyn College near Philadelphia after leaving U of T and has lived there since.
“With my home a 500-mile drive from Toronto, I generally do not get to attend reunions in person. Remote attendance this year gave me a chance to participate,” said Baker, who holds three degrees from U of T. He earned his honours bachelor of arts in math and physics in 1965 as a member of Victoria College, his master’s in physics in 1967 and his PhD in physics in 1970.
I am very grateful to U of T and Vic for a fine education at Canada’s premier university
“I am very grateful to U of T and Vic for a fine education at Canada’s premier university,” he said.
So grateful, in fact, that he and his wife, Margaret Baker (DBac 1965), who graduated with a diploma in bacteriology from U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry in 1965, established the Gregory L. and Margaret I. Baker Scholarship for Victoria College students majoring in physics or mathematics.
At the reunion, he offered advice for today’s students.
“At that age, when you’re at university, you feel as if you're under a lot of pressure, and I think you have to remember you're going to make mistakes, and it's not going to be perfect,” Baker said. “Doing the best you can is good enough. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be super. It just has to be what you can try to do by putting forth a pretty decent effort.”
The reunion began with video remarks by U of T President Meric Gertler, who noted how different the world was in 1970 and 1971. In 1970, Pierre Trudeau (Hon LLD 1991) was prime minister and U of T had just opened its state-of-the-art Medical Sciences Building to usher in a new era of teaching and research. Perhaps some U of T students had attended the 1971 Led Zeppelin concert at Maple Leaf Gardens, Gertler said, or saw Fiddler on the Roof, directed by fellow U of T grad Norman Jewison (BA 1949 VIC Hon LLD 1985, Hon DSacLt 2001 VIC), which won three Oscars.
The world has changed a lot over the past 50-odd years, but there are striking similarities between then and now
“The world has changed a lot over the past 50-odd years, but there are striking similarities between then and now. Just like the early 1970s, the past year has been a time of considerable turmoil and rapid social change. We've become much more aware of the inequities in our society, laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gertler told alumni.
“Many of you were active in social movements when you were students at U of T. I can assure you that your alma mater is firmly committed to build on the progress you started.”
U of T holds a lasting impact of higher education treasured together with the place where we met. Good combo!
Alumni then joined online breakout rooms, including for Arts & Science. There, Ronald Layton (BA 1971 TRIN) shared a touching story of having recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with his wife, Joanne Pinarello (BA 1971 SMC, MA 2000), whom he met at Trinity College’s Buttery lounge when they were students. Pinarello earned her honours bachelor of arts in languages as a member of St. Michael’s College while Layton earned his honours bachelor of arts in political science and economics as a member of Trinity College.
For them, U of T holds a lasting impact of “higher education treasured together with the place where we met,” Layton said. “Good combo!”
The celebration was brought to a close by a visit from Arts & Science Dean Melanie Woodin (BSc 1995 VIC, MSc 1997).
You have nourished years of wisdom, experiences and life stories to be passed down to the next generations
“Today is your day to celebrate, to share memories and to reconnect with your classmates because a golden anniversary is certainly a milestone to be feted,” Woodin told those who had gathered in the Arts & Science breakout room. “You make us all so proud to be Arts & Science alumni. After your walk across the dais in Convocation Hall half a century ago, you went on to achieve wonderful things. You advanced your careers, nurtured your families, built networks of friends and volunteered in your communities. You have nourished years of wisdom, experiences and life stories to be passed down to the next generations.”