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June 5, 2023 | Alumni

In Memoriam: Patti Fleury (1937-2023)

As the first female alumni member of Governing Council, Patti Fleury built a legacy at the University of Toronto

The first 8 U of T alumni governors in 1972. Patti Fleury, the only women, sits at the centre of the group.

The first group of alumni members of the Governing Council, 1972. From left to right, standing, Graham Cotter, Ian Tate, James Joyce, William Broadhurst, Keith Hendrick and Walter MacNeill. From left to right, seated: Patti Fleury and Gesta Abols. Photo by Robert Lansdale/University of Toronto Archives A78-0041/027(08)

Patti Leanore Fleury (DipPOT 1958, BScOT 1982 WDW) lived a life of helping others — whether through her career in rehabilitation and therapy, or aiding children with impairments to lead happy lives full of inclusion and joy. As her family wrote in Fleury’s obituary,  she “always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt,” and was consistently reminding others that everyone is just doing their best. And Fleury’s best, in turn, “made the world a brighter and kinder place.” Fleury was a community leader throughout her life and, at the University of Toronto, she was the first female alumni member of Governing Council.

On July 4th 1972, U of T’s Governing Council was created. This is the governance body that oversees the academic, business and student affairs of the University, composed of 50 members — 25 members from within the internal University community, including administrative staff, teaching staff and students, and 25 members external to the University, including government appointees and alumni.

Fleury was among U of T’s inaugural group of eight alumni governors — and the first female. At the time, she was working toward her post-graduate Physio and Occupational Therapy diploma. It was this program she would later successfully advocate to become a degree program and would then, herself, complete the requirements to earn it.

Patti Fleury was an alumna who represented everything we hope that our students will strive for and achieve

Patti Fleury was an alumna who represented everything we hope that our students will strive for and achieve,” says President Meric Gertler. “Through her professional career, she helped thousands of people lead healthy and happy lives. And as our first female alumni member of Governing Council, she was a trailblazer who contributed to the foundation and legacy of success that continues to guide the University of Toronto today.”

Following graduation, Fleury worked at Scarborough General Hospital in prenatal, rehabilitative and palliative care. Along with her husband Bruce, she also founded the Connemara Camp and Centre at their family farm in Kinmount, Ontario, which they ran for fifteen years. This summer camp was the first in the province to focus on children who are neurodivergent and children with physical impairments — integrating them into the programming with more neurotypical children.

I’ll always remember my grandmother as being the last to speak but the first to listen

I’ll always remember my grandmother as being the last to speak but the first to listen,” says Emma Fleury Harvey. “And that was definitely among the things she was most proud of. Because, by making that Occupational Therapy into a degree program, she has since changed thousands of people’s lives.”

Patti Fleury was the first among hundreds of women to serve on Governing Council since its inception in 1972. She helped lay the groundwork for a body that would guide the University of Toronto to become one of the world's leading public institutions of higher learning.

The University recently held a Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of the Governing Council.  In her opening remarks for the Symposium, Janet Ecker, Chair of the Governing Council, paid tribute to Patti Fleury’s trailblazing role. “Patti was a remarkable and inspirational friend and ambassador of the University of Toronto. She had a significant impact not only on governance, but also on her field of Occupational Therapy, and beyond.”