Answering the Call

Author: 
Tracy Howard
Magazine Section: 
Campaign Update

Paul Cadario

With a new major gift to UC, Paul Cadario continues to give back to his “home and native land”

Upon hearing that the benefactor behind a new major gift to UC didn’t attend the College, your first reaction might be puzzlement. After all, people tend to give to the organizations with which they have the closest acquaintance. But after spending time with Paul Cadario and hearing about his wide-ranging commitment to the University of Toronto, his $3 million gift to University College’s Croft Chapter House makes perfect sense, especially because it will also help to facilitate a new space for the School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), which will soon be moving to UC.

 Cadario, who earned a degree in civil engineering from U of T in 1973, describes his gift as a reflection of his loyalty to his profession.

“I’ve always seen engineering as linked, through innovation, to identifying and solving societal and community problems,” he explains. (There also seems to be some kismet involved, for Cadario has heard there’s an engineering hook in UC’s history. Indeed, the beginnings of U of T’s Department of Civil Engineering can be traced to the merger of the Ontario School of Practical Science with individual courses in civil engineering taught at UC in the 1850s.)

While Cadario didn’t spend much time at UC as a student: “As an engineer, I was in other parts of the campus”—geographical boundaries pose little obstacle for the retired World Bank senior manager.

He spent a 37-year career at that institution travelling the globe to help improve living standards in the developing world, including overseeing the first World Bank-financed projects in Guinea-Bissau and Mongolia, and working on frontline development programs in Western Africa and China.

And as a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Global Innovation at U of T since 2012—he’s jointly appointed to the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the Munk School of Global Affairs—and co-instructor of a Civil Engineering capstone design course, Cadario makes more than 30 trips annually to his hometown, Toronto, from his home base in Washington, DC.

While Cadario cracks that when asked about teaching U of T’s first undergrad engineering course with a global development component, his initial thought was “my retirement vision didn’t include grading papers,” he clearly relishes his interactions with students.

“I’m a big fan of millennials,” Cadario says. “Since I have none of my own, it’s exciting to get their perspectives on things.”      

As for his appointment at the Munk School, where’s he’s also on the advisory board, he dubs himself a “friend of the MGAs (Master of Global Affairs students),” doing career and leadership workshops, helping debrief students on internships, and “trying to be helpful.”

And at the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN), he meets periodically with PhD students to ensure they have enough public policy in their doctorates.

Cadario began giving back to the University as an undergrad when he was a member of the student government and one of the first student members on the Governing Council. Later on, when only in his early thirties, he was elected as an alumni governor on the Council and served for nine years.

Among his many other volunteer posts were as a member of the Alumni Association, of which he eventually became president—the first one to live outside the GTA. He also chairs or sits on a number of other U of T boards and committees. 

In recognition of his contributions to U of T, as well as his service to the World Bank, Cadario was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 2013. This degree follows the BA and MA in economics and politics he received from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and the master’s in organization development he earned from American University.

He's also contributed financially to U of T with the Cadario Facility for Integrated Learning for Civil Engineering and a gift to CGEN in the new Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship. When he learned that there was to be an SPPG, helping it out seemed like a no-brainer.

“At the World Bank, I lived my life in public policy,” says Cadario, when discussing SPPG scholarships he endowed as well as funding for an annual visiting public lecture.

Knowing of Cadario’s connection to SPPG from its near inception (he’s also a member of its external advisory board) sheds light on his enthusiasm to support its move to its new space in the Laidlaw wing where the UC Library is currently located.

Moving to UC from its current location on the margins of campus, in the Canadiana Gallery, will allow SPPG’s students and faculty to more actively connect with the rest of the University, and in particular with the Faculty of Arts and Science, to which both SPPG and UC belong. The relocation will also provide a larger space for classrooms and seminar rooms—as well as some less tangible benefits.

“SPPG’s students will doubtless be inspired by a College that has produced so many fine statesmen and individuals dedicated to public service,” says David Cameron, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

For his part, Cadario says he gave “because I think student experience is important and student experience is primarily who teaches you and whom you learn with.  And when [UC Principal] Don Ainslie showed me the plans for the project, I said ‘this is just great.’”

Concerning the transformation of the southwest sector of University College into the Paul Cadario Conference Centre at the Croft Chapter House, he admits that when approached by David Palmer, Vice-President, Advancement, the size of the donation required some consideration.

But the contemplation basically ended when he discussed the project with Dan Gordon, his partner of 30 years.

“Dan said, ‘this is one of the prime pieces of real estate on the campus and they are proposing that you refurbish it into a place where people debate ideas and will have conferences that are important to you and your name will be on it?’” Cadario recalls with a smile. “And he said ‘of course, you’re going to say yes, you always say yes, how in the world could you not say yes!’  

With its circular shape and domed ceilings, Croft Chapter House is one of the most iconic spaces at the University. Named for Henry Croft, the chemistry professor who campaigned to establish U of T as non-sectarian institution, with UC as its founding college, the structure is one of the parts of the College that survived the fire of 1890. (Originally used as a chemistry lab, it was set apart from the rest of UC in case of any explosions. Ironically, this separation protected it from fire damage.)  

Currently used for meetings and receptions, the space will become an accessible, full-service conference centre with state-of-the art lighting and audiovisual features, and will host University, national, and international symposia.  

When Cadario speaks about the “exquisite plans to make the building what it was, but modern,” his eyes light up. 

“Universities are places where students come to learn and people do research,” he says. “But they’re also places where people are convened to talk about great and difficult ideas, and where there’s controversy that leads to understanding and solutions.” 

Cadario says he’s delighted to support the remodelling of “not only a historical building, but a historical element of the University,” as well as help meet the needs of SPPG. “So I’m getting sort of a twofer!” he says. 

While he sums up his own generosity in a light manner, Cadario speaks passionately about the need for support.

“Great research universities are where leaders of tomorrow need to come from,” he says. “And any of us who have the means and disposition to help make great universities make the world better, I think we’re called upon to do that.

No doubt, Cadario has answered that call.