The energy in University College’s East and West Halls was palpable last night as students, alumni, faculty, and staff gathered to kick off the highly anticipated UC Revitalization. The project, five years in the making, will breathe new life into U of T’s founding College through improvements to accessibility, a new Library, Reading Room, and Conference Centre, as well as a rejuvenated Quadrangle and upgraded classrooms.
The event, cohosted by UC Principal Donald Ainslie, U of T Chancellor Michael Wilson, and U of T President Meric Gertler, was attended by more than 250 members of the University College community. As guests arrived at the majestic East Hall, which will be transformed back into the UC Library, they were greeted with a celebratory sparkling beverage to toast a new era in the College’s history.
In his remarks, Principal Ainslie praised the UC community’s “admirable tradition of coming together when it matters to improve our collective lot… Your support is the force behind the transformation of our building, and, crucially, the experience of everyone who passes through it,” he said.
President Gertler spoke to UC’s place in the University and Canadian society: “Tonight is about this magnificent and well-loved building, one of Toronto’s and Canada’s most important. But most of all, it’s about the people who make University College the vital place that it is, and who are ensuring it will remain so, well into our third century.”
David Palmer, Vice-President, Advancement, thanked the major donors to the project: Paul Cadario, Distinguished Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs, whose gift will create the Paul M. Cadario Conference Centre at Croft Chapter House; the students of University College, who will fund improvements to student spaces through a levy on their fees; and Edmund Clark (BA 1969 UC) and Frances Clark (BA 1969 UC), the namesakes of the Clark Reading Room coming to West Hall. The couple, who met at the College, will also support the rejuvenation of the green space at UC’s core into the Clark Quadrangle, as was revealed for the first time last night to great fanfare.
Albert Hoang and Victoria Kourtis, President and Vice-President of the UC Literary and Athletic Society, respectively, explained the student body’s rationale for voting in favour of a levy to fund improvements to student spaces: “We said yes to these renovations because we believe that our beloved building needed student activity buzzing within its walls.”
With the aforementioned donors and officials on stage, Principal Ainslie extended his, “heartfelt thanks to everyone who gave so generously to this project,” as a cascade of balloons tumbled from the ceiling to enthusiastic applause.
Chancellor Wilson aptly closed the program, saying “University College has a truly amazing history, and a great future,” before inviting guests to a reception in West Hall, which featured an animated holographic donor wall. With construction slated to begin in early 2018 and run until mid-2019, it was the last occasion for the U of T community to enjoy UC’s iconic space for some time.