First Steps: James Mossman on the power of UC One

Arthur Kaptainis
Magazine Section: 
Online Exclusives

As a University College alumnus who graduated in 1981, James Mossman understands that big classes – like Economics 100 – will always be with us.

But the retired investment banker also remembers the classes of 12 or 13 he attended as a UC upperclassman and benefits of that environment.

“The idea of having more direct contact with a great professor in an intimate classroom: I see the power of that. I want kids to have that opportunity.”

That is why Mossman has chosen to be the founding donor of UC One, a program for first-year students that combines the focus of small classes with the energy of community involvement to launch bright young students on their undergraduate careers.

Mossman knows how one choice leads to another and the importance of making the right one early. As a high school student in Windsor, Ontario, he was often questioned on why he was going “all the way” to Toronto.

“I’m glad I ignored them,” he says from this home in Greenwich, Connecticut. “U of T worked out really well.”

Mossmann lived in the Sir Daniel Wilson Residence and met friends who remain friends today. “Sharp kids” he calls them. “People who went on to do interesting things.”

On the strength of his BCom in finance and actuarial science Mossman entered the MBA program at Harvard. Then he started a career with the New York-based Blackstone Group, rising to the position of senior managing director and chief investment officer.

Since retiring in 2004, before he was 50, Mossman has not only given back, he has gone back. Two years ago he completed an MA in Physics at Columbia University. Now he is taking further graduate courses in the subject at Yale.

“I’ve always been curious,” he says. “Now I have time to focus on different things.”

And just as his finance courses as an undergraduate led to a brilliant career in investment, so a single elective in physics at U of T sparked a lifelong interest that he is now pursuing at a high level.

“If there hadn’t been a first step,” Mossman says, “that wouldn’t have happened.”