The UC Alumni of Influence Awards were established in 2012 in the belief that the success stories of our alumni should be known to current students and fellow graduates. As the College’s signature event, the annual Awards Gala celebrates distinguished alumni who have been selected by the UC community for their leadership and other inspiring contributions.
A trailblazer for women in science, Bernice Grafstein is internationally recognized as an expert in the field of nerve cells, particularly for her studies on cortical spreading depolarization, nerve regeneration and transport of materials along nerves. After holding faculty positions at McGill University and the Rockefeller University, she moved to Cornell University Medical College (now Weill Cornell Medical College) in 1969, where she is a professor of neuroscience, professor of physiology and biophysics, and the Vincent and Brooke Astor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience.
In 1985, Grafstein became the first woman president of the Society for Neuroscience. Throughout her career she has received awards and honours for research and teaching, including the Women in Neuroscience’s Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award.
After graduating at the top of his mathematics class in 1958, Leslie Green joined the University of Toronto’s recently-created Computer Centre as one of Canada’s first computer programmers. He later worked for a cross-disciplinary consulting firm and helped the City of Toronto to forecast traffic flows and computerize traffic lights. After advising Ontario ministries on computer policy, he joined the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, Italy, where he employed mathematics to reveal causes of delays of the World Food Program’s aid shipments to those in need. He then led the statistics service at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to make OECD’s data electronically accessible to organizations worldwide. After creating a method for teachers to design educational software for their students, he taught it to hundreds of educators in Ontario, Europe and Africa.
Margaret Holton is an award winning Canadian artist and author whose work covers a wide range of media, including furniture design, writing, photography and painting. She won first place in the 1989 International Woodworking Competition and has designed her own typeface, Lindsay, which was licensed to Letraset. She self-published her second novel, The Gilded Beaver by Anonymous, in order to ensure publication by a Canadian press. The decision led to the creation of Acorn Press Canada, and, in 1999, the novel won the Hamilton Arts Council Best Fiction Award. Holton’s pinhole photography and paintings have been exhibited worldwide, and the recent film adaptation of her short story, The Frozen Goose, launched internationally.
Dr. Rocco Martino is the inventor of the CyberFone, the world’s first smartphone. Internationally recognized as an influential scientist, inventor and technology guru, he is the driving force behind software systems permitting secure real-time video, voice and data linkages. He discovered the heating factors during the re-entry of space vehicles, which led to the heat shield developments making space travel possible.
He is the founder, chair and chief executive officer of Martino Systems, Inc., as well as XRT Inc., a global leader in providing complete treasury, cash and banking relationship management solutions for many of the world’s largest corporations and government entities.
He has authored five novels, 26 non-fiction books and numerous papers. Martino has received honorary doctorates from three American universities and was knighted by Pope St. John Paul II as a Knight of Saint Gregory. In 2017, he was elected to U of T’s Faculty of Engineering Hall of Distinction.
Peg McKelvey has made enormous professional and personal contributions to the arts. As a script writer, she was at the centre of early children’s television programming, writing for notable programs like Mr. Dress-up and Fred Penner’s Place. When Mordecai Richler’s Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang was released, she saw the potential for a musical. Richler agreed to give her collaborator's rights, resulting in a successful onstage production.
McKelvey was also one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the University of Toronto Art Centre in 1996, home to the historic University College Art Collection. She then became a member of the advisory board and co-ordinated all gallery volunteers. With a generous donation, she later supported a comprehensive collection catalogue, a resource of national importance, which underlines University College’s contribution to Canadian cultural history. In 2014, the University of Toronto Art Centre, alongside the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, became the two federated members of the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.
Karen Mock is an educator, psychologist and human rights consultant, specializing in equity and diversity issues and intercultural/interfaith dialogue. Having developed the first course in multicultural teacher education in Canada and served as senior policy advisor for the development and delivery of Ontario’s Inclusive Education Strategy, she is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost Canadian authorities on multicultural/anti-racist education.
In 2001, she was appointed executive director and chief executive officer of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a federal Crown corporation, after serving for 12 years as national director of the League for Human Rights (ADL) of B’nai Brith Canada. Prior to that, she taught at the university level for 14 years. Mock has been qualified by the Canadian courts and human rights tribunals as an expert in human rights, discrimination, anti-Semitism, hate crime and hate group activity. She has received many awards and honours for her work, and was recently named a member of the Order of Canada.
Arlene Perly Rae was a long-time member of the United Way Board and executive committee, founding the Success by Six program. She is currently a board member of the National Reading Campaign and the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. She has served on the boards of Sistema, McClelland & Stewart Ltd. and the Stratford Festival, and was a steering committee member for the national Campaign Against Child Poverty. As co-chair of the YWCA’s Elm Centre Capital Campaign, she helped raise $15 million to create 300 permanent housing units for women and women-led families in Toronto, including 50 Indigenous families.
For many years, Perly Rae was the children’s book reviewer for the Toronto Star. She wrote the award-winning book Everybody’s Favourites: Canadians Talk About Books That Changed Their Lives, and has adapted two operas --The Magic Flute and Petruschka -- for the Royal Conservatory of Music, helping to introduce children to the orchestra.
As former chief executive officer of Prime Restaurant Holdings, John Rothschild led a management team that built renowned restaurant brands such as East Side Mario’s, Casey’s and Bier Markt. With more than 65,000 employees, the company became an industry leader in the restaurant business. Currently, he is a board member at CARA, which acquired Prime Restaurant Holdings in 2013.
Rothschild has also been extensively involved with University College, having spent many years as a mentor in the college’s Career Mentorship Program. He has chaired the committee that selects U of T’s Moss Scholar -- the University’s highest honour for undergraduates. He currently sits on the boards of several Canadian companies and has won numerous honours and awards, including the 2003 Ernst & Young Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Ivey Business School’s 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award.
A leading scholar of North American politics and society, Mildred Schwartz’s work has effectively established the study of Canadian politics as a central concern to Canadian and American social research. At the beginning of her career, she served as a lead investigator in the first election survey of Canadian voters. In the 1960s, Schwartz began to probe questions that remain important to researchers and citizens today, such as: Are Canadians divided in significant ways along the lines of region and language?
In 2003, Schwartz won the Citation for Distinguished Scholarship in Canadian Studies from the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. In 2010, the American Political Science Association created the Mildred A. Schwartz Lifetime Achievement Award that recognizes scholars who have made significant contributions to the study of Canadian politics throughout their career. Schwartz is currently a Professor Emerita at University of Illinois at Chicago and Visiting Scholar at New York University.
Ivan Semeniuk has translated his passion for science to a career as a journalist and educator. As the science correspondent for the Globe and Mail, he has distinguished himself as a national voice on all things related to the world of science. His work requires a breadth and depth of scientific knowledge and an ability to present information in a way that resonates with readers.
Prior to his career in journalism, Semeniuk served in a variety of roles at the Ontario Science Centre, Discovery Channel, New Scientist, and Nature Publishing Group. He has received numerous awards and honours, including being named the 2015 Laureate of the Sanofi Pasteur Medal of Excellence in Health Research Journalism. In 2016, he was awarded the Fleming Medal and Citation from the Royal Canadian Institute for Science for his outstanding reporting and work to educate people about science-related topics.