By Elaine Smith
As Mother’s Day approaches, University College pays tribute to all the mothers who have graduated from the College and other post-secondary programs and those who have encouraged their children to follow in their footsteps.
Mothers are special people and UC honours them for their strength, determination, encouragement and pursuit of lifelong learning. The six women celebrated here personify those characteristics.
The late Dorothy Gurofsky Bennett (BA 1942 UC) was passionate about literature, and after her children were grown, she returned to U of T to earn her master’s degree. She, her daughters, Diana (BA 1965 UC) and Brenda each earned a master’s degree at the same convocation in 1969. Bennett went on to become a high school teacher, spreading a love of literature far beyond the family circle.
The story of Dorel Hay Callender (BA 1959 UC) is one of determination. Callender grew up in Jamaica at a time when the full spectrum of high school courses was unavailable to women. Unable to pursue an interest in science, she attended a technical school and learned to type. She obtained a job in a bank, which led to a job with Jamaica’s chief minister. Meanwhile, Callender saved her money, determined to attend university.
In her early 20s, Callender made her way to Canada and enrolled at University College where she met her husband, Victor (BA 1959 UC). She went on to earn a master’s degree in economics at U of T and became the first woman to serve on the board of the Inter-American Development Bank. Callender was also the first woman advisor to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States. These outstanding contributions earned her the Order of Distinction from the government of Jamaica.
In honour of her husband, Callender -- with contributions from her daughter and friends -- established the Victor Callender Memorial Award, which is awarded based on academic merit to a student born or raised in the Caribbean, with a preference for students from Grenada.
U of T is still home to Jennifer D. Lanthier (BA 1985 UC), an award-winning children’s author and former communications chair for the Board of Directors of PEN Canada. During her student days at U of T, Lanthier was involved with the University College Literary and Athletic Society and a contributor to student newspapers The Gargoyle and The Newspaper. She earned a journalism degree from Ryerson University, where she served as editor of the student newspaper, The Ryersonian. Lanthier worked as a journalist before returning to her alma mater, where she is now the director of editorial strategy for University of Toronto Communications. Her son, William Edwin Lanthier-Rogers, has followed in her footsteps and will be graduating from UC this spring.
Both UC and academia run in the Percy family. Dr. Maire E. Percy (BSc 1962 UC) is an emeritus professor of physiology and obstetrics and gynecology at U of T and her daughter, Carol Percy (BA 1985 UC) is an English professor here. Although retired, Dr. Percy remains active, serving as Co-Chair of the Research Ethics Board, Surrey Place Centre and associate editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. She is also a member of the editorial boards of two research journals. Dr. Percy mentors undergraduate students; develops community later life learning courses in medical research and aging and is involved in collaborative research in risk factors for complex diseases in people with developmental disabilities as well as in the general population. She publishes in the fields of dementia, aging and developmental disabilities. Her daughter couldn’t ask for a better role model.
Tracy Tieman (BA 1984 UC) graduated from UC exactly 100 years after her great-grandfather, John Coutts, whose 1884 graduation coincided with the first year the College began admitting women. Incredibly enough, Coutts would become the first of five family generations to pass through UC’s halls.
The second generation was Coutts’ son and Tieman’s grandfather, John McDermot (BA 1921 UC), who would go on to marry another UC grad, Mary Ellen MacBeth (BA 1931 UC). Tieman’s mother, Janet Katherine Coutts Tieman (BA 1957 UC) came next, who was also joined by brother Malcolm Coutts (BA 1959 UC) and sister Christine Coutts Clement (BSc 1963 UC) as UC graduates.
Of course, the fourth generation is Tracy Tieman herself, who had the privilege of celebrating her own daughter, the fifth and latest generation, back in 2017 when she graced the Convocation Hall stage wearing—you guessed it—a UC hood. Tessa Tieman (BA 2017 UC) also spent a year living in Whitney Hall during her undergrad.
In 2003, their commitment to higher education and to UC led the Coutts grandchildren to establish a scholarship in memory of Katherine Ballantine Coutts, wife to John, the UC graduate who began the family tradition. Although Katherine never attended university herself, she was a teacher and an accomplished writer. The Katherine Ballantine Coutts Scholarship is awarded annually to a UC student with financial need who comes from Ontario’s Essex or Kent Counties or Alberta.
Happy Mother’s Day to all! May you pursue lifelong learning and continue to encourage your families to do the same.