Paying Back to Pay Forward
My wife, Melissa 0T6, and I chose to attend St. Mike’s because of its reputation as a place where students become part of a genuine community. We both knew former graduates who had a great time at St. Michael’s, including Dan O’Connor 8T1, Angela Colantonio 7T8, Barbara Galecka 7T4 and John McHugh 8T0, and we knew we wanted to be part of the rich history at the College. From orientation to graduation, we spent our years at St. Mike’s contributing to the many facets of student life: Chaplaincy; SMCSU; several Frosh Weeks; The Mike newspaper, and several clubs. In fact, we met at a Chaplaincy retreat in 2003 and married at St. Basil’s a few years after we graduated. Today we participate in student life, in a small way, through our alumni donations.
We feel that our donations keep us connected to the College. At such recent events as the President’s Circle Garden Party and the reception at the Bank of Montreal, we’ve had the opportunity to meet a few current students, including several SMCSU members, and to reconnect with some old friends like Alex Zhang Kjorven 0T6, and Jerome McGrath 0T4.
During our student days, we learned the importance of generosity and community, but most importantly, that many students who’d be able to contribute to the St. Mike’s community, at times lack the resources to remain fully involved. A student’s life is filled with pressures to balance coursework, commitments to student community, volunteering and, quite often, earning money from part-time work throughout the academic year. This will probably always be the case. Completing one’s degree is the number one priority (for most people), paying for it follows and sadly, participating in student life comes in at a distant third.
We believe that students willing to enrich the traditions of an SMC education should be enabled to do so, especially when their resources limit them through no fault of their own. We hope that alumni who received student bursaries are now able to repay the favour by helping current students in situations similar to their own.
We started to donate to St. Mike’s immediately after graduation. Our decision to do so was largely based on our experiences through St. Mike’s— both of us were recipients of bursaries throughout our time at the College— and we realized this would not have been possible without the generosity of alumni before us. In recognition of this, we specified that our donations go back into funds dedicated for students in financial need.
Since we began, we’ve managed to increase our support gradually each year. In our case, the University of Toronto and the Ontario government have matched our contributions, so that by now more money has gone to the student bursary funds than we ever received from them during our university years at St. Michael’s College—as far as we’re concerned, a fine return on a much appreciated initial investment.