Convocation is a time not only for celebrating memories and friendships, but also the academic and extracurricular achievements of the graduating class. This year, almost 150 graduating St. Michael’s students received medals and named awards. Celebrate their accomplishments with us as the Class of 2020 enters the St. Michael’s alumni family.
Graduation Awards by Application
The Principal’s Medal Award
In conjunction with the family of the late Professor Lawrence E. Lynch, the Principal’s Medal was created in 1978 to recognize the almost lifelong association of Professor Lynch with St. Michael’s College, and also to mark his 25th wedding anniversary.
Professor Lynch served as the College Principal from July 1976-June 1981.
The medal is given annually to a graduate who has made a distinctive contribution to life at the college and who upheld the practice of Catholicism proper to a university community.
This year’s recipient of the Principal’s Medal is Rose Wang.
The Marina Santin Award
Sylvia and Raymon Santin, St. Mike’s alumni, established the Marina Santin award in honour of their late daughter. During her time as a St Mike’s Marina contributed significantly to the life of the College and to the University through her work as an Arts and Entertainment columnist for The Mike, staff photographer for The Newspaper, a Coordinator of the 1991 St. Michael’s Orientation, and by her presence at and support of College and University events and programmes.
The Marina Santin Award is presented annually to a female graduate who has distinguished herself by an active and constructive involvement in the life of the college. Recipients exemplify the Christian ideals of joyful engagement in life, openness to others, service to the community, and responsible leadership.
This year’s recipient of the Marina Santin Award is Sasha Hellwig.
The Sir Bertram Windle Graduate Scholarship
The Sir Bertram Windle C.A Graduate Scholarship is awarded to a student with an excellent academic record who will be entering a liberal arts graduate program at the University of Toronto in the September following graduation.
This year’s recipient of the Sir Bertram Windle Graduate Scholarship is Isabel Armiento.
The W.B. Dunphy Medal
The W.B. Dunphy Medal was created in 1991 to honour Professor William Dunphy, who served as College Principal from 1981-1991.
Principal Dunphy was particularly concerned that university life should not be separate from the life of the wider community.
The medal is awarded annually to a graduate who has been most successful in combining excellent academic achievement with sustained commitment to volunteer service in the wider community.
This year’s recipient of the W.B. Dunphy Medal is Zara Ahmad.
The Fr. Henry Carr, CSB Award
The Father Henry Carr, CSB Award, named in honour of a Basilian father who helped shape this institution and who served as president and superior at St. Michael’s from 1915 to 1925 is presented to a graduate who has made an outstanding contribution to the University of Toronto in athletics, academics, leadership, or student life.
The recipient of this year’s Father Henry Carr, CSB Award is Hodan Mohamud.
The Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards
Father Robert Madden was a much admired professor, chaplain and rector at St Mike’s who served as the director of alumni affairs in his retirement. The Father Robert Madden Leadership Awards are presented to students who have made significant contributions to the University of St. Michael’s College community by demonstrating leadership, cooperation, and solidarity in student-run organizations or community endeavours.
The recipients of this year’s Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards are:
Vicente Constantino Kripka
The University of St. Michael’s College Young Alumni Award
The recipient of this year’s University of St. Michael’s College Young Alumni Award is Samuel Gearing.
Graduation Awards by Merit and Program
The Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni – Centro Scuola Scholarships
Alberto Di Giovanni, 7T1 and his wife Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, 7T0 have a long and close association with the University of St. Michael’s College. They met here as students and have stayed involved as alumni. Three of their children (Annamaria, Carlo and Franca) as well as nieces and nephews have followed in their footsteps and graduated from St Mike’s. Alberto and Caroline have endowed scholarships and an annual Dante lecture to demonstrate their appreciation for their experiences here and to encourage St Mike’s graduates to develop life-long connections with their alma mater.
Four Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni Scholarships are awarded each year to St. Michael’s College students. Earlier this spring Di Giovanni scholarships were awarded to students participating in the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas.
Today we are recognizing Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni Scholarships for graduating students who have achieved the top marks in Italian Studies and have demonstrated leadership and community spirit on the St. Michael’s College campus; and in the community at large.
The recipients of this year’s Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni – Centro Scuola Scholarships are Julia Volpe and David Adamiszyn.
The Tommaso Serrao Award
This award was established by the Family and Friends of Mr. Tommaso Serrao, who had a great love and passion for Italian literature.
The award is presented to an outstanding graduate who has excelled in the study of Italian.
The recipient of this year’s Tommaso Serrao Award is Janet Marta.
The Mercier-Knowlton Prize for Philosophy in Christianity & Culture
While studying at St Michael’s College, William Leo Knowlton, class of 1927, developed a deep love of philosophy that never left him.
In 1999, he made a generous donation to St Michael’s to establish an endowed lectureship in Philosophy and Theology.
This gift also enabled the College to re-institute the Mercier Prize, which had been established in 1924 in honour of Cardinal Mercier and his work relative to the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas.
This award is given to the student with the highest CGPA in Philosophy and Christianity & Culture.
The recipient of this year’s Mercier-Knowlton Prize for Philosophy in Christianity & Culture is Sasha Hellwig.
The James O’Brien 5T0 Book Award
The James O’Brien Book Award was inspired by the memory of James O’Brien, St. Mike’s Class of 1950.
After graduating he remained an active alumnus of the College, serving on the USMC Senate for a number of years and on the Library Committee.
His family established this award to honour his love of literature and to celebrate their continuing association with St. Mike’s.
The recipient of this year’s James O’Brien 5T0 Book Award is Danielle Nassr.
College Gold Medals
The College Gold Medals are awarded to graduating students with the highest cumulative grade point average in Arts, Science, and Commerce.
The recipients of this year’s College Gold Medals are:
|Nathaniel Crocker||Laurestine Bradford||Anthony Adair|
College Silver Medals
College Silver Medals are awarded to all other graduating students who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.7.
The recipients of this year’s College Silver Medals are:
|Vinit Nirav Jogani
Julian A Takagi-Stewart
Gianni Vincent Pescetto
Erica Alexis Venturo
Kate Rose Jaworski Friesen
Christian John Tramontin
Julia Francesca Volpe
David Jan Adamiszyn
Nicolas James Cicci
Constantine Dean Gregory Kanargelidis
Jamie Evers Stalcup
|Christy Melody Simangon
Michelle Antoinette De Pol
Timothy Chee Cheng Lui
Christian Michael Rostankovski
David Frank Rhodes
Ke Er Zhang
Amelia Lois Leung
Joseph Matthew Massabki
Xin Yue Gao
Ming Yuan Zhao
Nicole Joan Turner
Yu Jia Yin
Ian Michael Cappellani
Janet Adele Marta
Chelsea Ann Marie Amos
Gregor Neil McEdwards
Marina Samantha Salis
Yi Wai Kwok
Tianna Alexandra Damario
Sara Eslam Pour
Lara-Melodie B V Patry
Sayeda Fatima Zahidi
Yara Haitham El Bardisi
Hallam James Willis
Isabel Marie Rose Armiento
Jason Kei-On Ho
Jong-Hwan Joseph Lee
Jeremy Boon Chinsen
Rhonda Michelle Rathburn
Simon Alexander Craig-Wright
John Alexander Muir
Oriana Irene Maurach Theo
Andres Felipe Medina Pineda
Although a virtual ceremony took the place of an in-person Convocation at the conclusion of their university experience, members of the Class of 2020 look back fondly on their time at St. Mike’s, starting from the moment they first set foot on campus. “Every time I think about my time at St. Mike’s,” Michael Coleman (Honours Bachelor of Science: Physiology and Biochemistry double-major) says, “it really starts from the welcome I got” during Orientation Week.
Anna Zappone (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Environmental Geography major, Forest Conservation and English minors), a veteran of St. Michael’s orientations over several years, agrees. “It’s such an amazing week, no matter what goes wrong or whatever happens,” she says. “Everyone screams until they lose their voices – everything is just so extreme and it’s just so fun.”
The thrill of the week’s activities introduces new students to a community of care and support. Coleman remembers Orientation for the way “it makes you feel a part of something bigger, but not intimidating,” a quality he did his best to communicate to new students when serving as an orientation leader and residence don in later years. “Everyone’s your family,” he says. “It’s gotten better every year.”
Brennan Hall provides a setting for Paul Nunez’s (Bachelor of Arts: English major, Classical Civilization and Anthropology minors) memories of St. Michael’s. “I really love how’s there’s a community within the Coop,” he says, “very outgoing, encouraging strangers to join in the fun.” Though he often spent late nights there hitting the books alongside his classmates, “we don’t usually talk about what we’re studying.” The camaraderie grew irrespective of programs or disciplines.
Joseph Rossi (Honours Bachelor of Arts: International Relations major, History and Political Science minors) remembers this feeling of camaraderie in Brennan, and across campus generally at “move-in days, Dean’s cup events, and great conversations in the residence or in the Coop.”
“The college system is great at UofT, and I think it’s an important experience,” Rossi says. While students benefit from the larger University of Toronto setting, St. Michael’s provides community and support on a smaller scale, something that students often mention as being uniquely valuable. “I think that St. Mike’s is where I found my support network,” says Michelle De Pol (Honours Bachelor of Science: Neuroscience specialist, Physiology minor). “I will remember the support that I felt from other students at St. Mike’s most.”
Julia Orsini (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Political Science major, English and Italian Culture and Communication minors) comes from a long line of St. Michael’s grads, setting her memories of community on campus alongside those of her family. “It’s true what they say, St. Mike’s is a very tight knit community,” she says, mentioning the Office of the Registrar and Student Services as giving her essential support throughout her undergraduate experience. “They were really there to listen and hear what was going on, not only in my academics but in life,” she says. “They want to see you succeed.”
Family is, of course, the word that keeps coming up in reference to the St. Michael’s community—and that family only continues to grow. “I met my best friends here,” Kate Friesen (Honours Bachelor of Science: Immunology major, Physiology and Biology minors) says. “Living in residence, we would go out—like half the floor would come to McDonald’s to get a coffee at 1 a.m. to keep studying.”
Echoing several of her classmates, Friesen says the most memorable thing for her about St. Michael’s is “how welcoming everyone was, and how supportive the whole community was, and how fantastic the people were.”
We asked members of the Class of 2020 if they had messages for their classmates. Here’s what they said.
Julia Orsini is a member of the graduating class of 2020. On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, she was granted an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Political Science and Double Minor in English and Italian Culture and Communication. She will be pursuing a Master’s Degree in Marketing at Schulich School of Business in September 2020.
Double Blue Forever
Coming from a long line of family members with double blue running deep in their veins, I was so excited to carry the torch in my academic journey and become a St. Michael’s College student myself. By reflecting on my time working with USMC Orientation, teaching chants like Hoikity Choik and Bubbaloo, I couldn’t help but remember learning them at a young age and wearing my dad’s oversized SMC sweater. For decades, St. Mike’s has influenced education through Basilian teachings to transform young enthusiastic student minds into great leaders, and the university welcomed me with open arms the fall of 2015 with opportunities to grow and develop.
At USMC we are always quick to discuss our tight-knit community. It is no wonder the place quickly became the home that I had been expecting on my arrival, and hence why it will be so difficult to leave now that I have graduated. I learned early on that your university experience will be whatever you put into it, and I knew being heavily involved in the USMC community from the start was integral to my five years here. As I prepare to leave the gates of USMC behind I am confident that my time and experiences here have helped me mature in ways I could have never imagined when I first stepped foot on campus. My time with the St. Michael’s Troubadours Drama Society and The Mike are notable memories, including having the opportunity to find creative ways to connect the Young Alumni community as a work-study student at the Office of Alumni Affairs. The latter is now becoming reality for me as I become part of the Young Alumni Community myself.
Although our USMC Class of 2020 had the unconventional experience of graduating via a YouTube Convocation, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that God does not give you more than you can handle. I believe that the Class of 2020’s unwavering determination to continue learning without a traditional university experience is a testament to our strength as a community capable of accomplishing greatness.
Despite not having the traditional convocation, the University of Toronto administration still managed to recreate the procession, which I watched as I gathered with my family at home on the couch. Instead of wearing fancy heels that bore the impact of walking across campus from USMC to Convocation Hall, I opted for comfy house slippers. Rather than trying to find my parents in the sea of people as I waited for my name to be called out, we screamed, celebrated and cried when my name appeared on our television screen, and we held each other tightly. It turns out our unprecedented virtual convocation allowed me to celebrate instantaneously with my family in a way that transcended distance, continents and time zones.
I am proud to be a St. Michael’s student turned Young Alumni member, and share with the graduating class the optimism for a better and safer future as we continue to form new knowledge, skills and experiences to keep the world on turning.
Read other InsightOut posts.
“Community” is one of the words that comes up most often when graduating students talk about what made their St. Michael’s experience special. While their university experiences were not always easy, several members of the Class of 2020 found that the St. Michael’s community was there for them when they needed it most.
“I struggled in first year,” Kate Friesen (Honours Bachelor of Science: Immunology major, Physiology and Biology minors) says. “I was going to transfer home—I transferred all my credits.” What ultimately convinced her to stay? Conversations with older students in the Canada Room, who encouraged her that things would get better if she stuck it out. At St. Mike’s, she says, she found “people who are going to push you further.”
Friesen found community at St. Michael’s near the beginning of her student experience, meeting people who would become her best friends in residence and at Orientation. An orientation coordinator her first year who “was just so welcoming” stayed in touch with her and even recently provided her with a reference. Because of the support Friesen received at St. Mike’s, she stuck it out at the University of Toronto—and now is preparing to take on a PhD placement in Oncology at Oxford University. “I feel I’ve grown leaps and bounds from where I was when I came in,” she says, “and I wouldn’t have grown this much if I’d stayed at home.”
“St. Mike’s is such a wonderful community, it’s so diverse, it’s so warm and welcoming,” Friesen’s classmate Anna Zappone (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Environmental Geography major, Forest Conservation and English minors) says. She finds the college’s sense of community unique at the University of Toronto. “Everybody is always together, always doing things, always so eager to give back to our little community.” Involved in Orientation, student government, and even Collegium during her four years at St. Mike’s, she spent much of her student career giving back to the community in just this way, and was recognized for her contributions this year with a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award.
Joseph Rossi (Honours Bachelor of Arts: International Relations major, History and Political Science minors) didn’t realize how much the diversity of the St. Mike’s student body would shape his experience—but that diversity would become one of the things he valued the most about his time in the school’s community. “Learning about different religions, cultures – it shapes your own perspective,” he says. “When you listen to someone and have a conversation, you grow as a person, and as an intellectual.”
“The older colleges are so rich in tradition, and I think there’s something to be said about that – it gives a community and a heritage aspect to it,” he continues. Michael Coleman (Honours Bachelor of Science: Physiology and Biochemistry double-major) agrees: “St. Mike’s is probably the most proud college to display its history,” from historical photos on display dating back to its founding to the many fireplaces that can be found all over campus. “Pretty much everywhere you go, St. Mike’s is just brimming with history,” he says.
As a student in residence all four years, including two as a residence don, Coleman took a special pleasure in introducing parents of students to this history while helping their children move into their rooms during Move-In Day. Welcoming students to campus is, in part, helping them come to see this history as belonging to them, as well.
“I associate St. Mike’s primarily with community engagement,” says Paul Nunez (Bachelor of Arts: English major, Classical Civilization and Anthropology minors), founder of the SMC Wellness Club and a fellow winner of a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award. Nunez’s experiences of community at St. Mike’s are primarily set in the Coop, a hub for both students in residence and commuter students alike. For him, the most memorable parts of life at St. Mike’s “are the nights in Brennan Hall when I would stay till closing at 11 p.m. studying,” he says. One or two other students would almost always be doing the same, creating a special late-night camaraderie.
Ultimately, what Nunez and other students came to feel about St. Michael’s during their time as students is summarized well by their classmate Michelle De Pol (Honours Bachelor of Science: Neuroscience specialist, Physiology minor): “Coming onto St. Mike’s campus, I always felt like I was coming home.” Coordinator for SMC Mentorship and also a U of T Student Leadership Award winner, De Pol continues: “I find that that kind of student community is unique at U of T, and it was definitely a cornerstone to my success throughout university.”
The following remarks were included in a program delivered to members of the graduating class as part of their virtual Convocation.
On behalf of Principal Boyagoda, and all of our colleagues at the University of St. Michael’s College, I offer congratulations on completing your undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto.
The historically rich university ceremony of convocation is meant to provide the opportunity to celebrate your academic accomplishments and to acknowledge publicly those who have supported you. Well done, and congratulations also to your family, friends and the professors and many others who have helped you complete this important chapter in your educational and personal journey.
This year, however, you and your classmates, in fact all of us, have been also called to reflect upon the extraordinary events we find ourselves facing, individually and as a society. The circumstances surrounding your convocation are like no other. We recognize that it has been a challenging way to end this year. It is not only the shift to remote learning, and the distancing from good friends at this time of celebration: for many, the events of the last few months have added real economic and personal strain to the usual challenges one would expect to face as program completion deadlines approached. So, please know that we acknowledge that in addition to the academic focus and discipline you have demonstrated in this last semester of your studies that you have been asked to find within yourselves the patience, flexibility and strength to face these new challenges.
Thank you for the grace and resilience you have demonstrated in this challenging time. You, and the class of 2020, will be remembered in a unique way in the long and rich history of St. Michael’s.
Congratulations again. Be well, and God bless you and yours.
David Sylvester, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
The University of St. Michael’s College
John Montefiore is a member of the graduating class of 2020. On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, he will be granted a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Double Minor in Education and Society and Human Geography.
Walking Away—and Coming Back
My relationship with St. Mike’s goes back to 1995, when I first began my university career. I abandoned my pursuit of a university degree, however, after I was found I was unsuccessful in performing academically while also being a varsity athlete with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team. I walked away from both my academic and athletic dreams, primarily because I was unable to face and overcome the adversity and difficult position in which I had put myself.
Decades later, in the summer of 2018, I returned to the University of St. Michael’s College to explore the possibility of returning to school to complete my university degree. The staff at the registrar’s office were so helpful, accommodating, and supportive of me in my goal to complete my studies! A special thank-you goes out to Associate Registrar Miranda Cheng. She helped me plan my return and directly contributed to my success. I will be forever grateful to her and to the entire St. Mike’s administrative staff for helping me erase decades of feelings of regret and disappointment.
Today, I am proud to be a graduate of the University of St. Michael’s College. My feelings of pride, however, would have been delayed if not for the flexibility, actions, and commitment the entire University took to ensure that the academic year would not be lost due to COVID-19. All my professors went above and beyond to transition to a virtual format to help complete the winter term. Considering my own experience with adversity, seeing the University of Toronto react so positively in a time of crisis was inspiring. As such, I have decided the best way I can repay both St. Michael’s and the University of Toronto for their efforts is to aspire to be the best version of myself in spite of being faced with challenges that may arise, and to “pay it forward” to anyone that can benefit from any assistance I can provide.
As for not having an in-person convocation, well, I do feel somewhat disappointed. More so for my family, who would have loved to experience a moment that I failed to deliver to them decades ago. But it is just the cherry on top of the sundae! As I reflect back on my academic journey, I am reminded that it was the journey itself, the knowledge gained, the friends I made, the personal growth, and my sense of accomplishment that was the ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream and nuts that made up one delicious dessert. I am so grateful for being a part of the class of 2020, and will always remember graduating during the COVID-19 crisis. So, instead of using crisis as an excuse, I will use it as a reason, a reason to rise above it and do interesting things during these interesting times.
Read other InsightOut posts.
At the Faculty of Theology and Continuing Education Division’s 2019 Fall Convocation, not only will new scholars receive degrees qualifying them to conduct high-level research and teach, but two already-accomplished scholars will also receive special honours in recognition of their longstanding contributions. This year’s honorary degree recipients are Dr. Catherine B. Shannon and Dr. James Heft, SM (Marianist), both prolific researchers, writers and educators whose work embodies the ideals of the University of St. Michael’s College.
Dr. Shannon graduated from St. Michael’s with a B.A. in History in 1960, and went on to become a historian of Northern Ireland. In addition to her research on the historical roots of partition and the Northern Irish conflict, she worked to organize conferences and symposia during the 1980s and 1990s to promote dialogue between nationalist and unionist politicians. She has written on the impact of the conflict on Northern Irish women, and convened two conferences where women from Northern Ireland and the Republic discussed their aspirations for peace and their roles in achieving it.
In addition to her scholarship and advocacy, Dr. Shannon has served as a guest historian for museum and historical society exhibits. She has also served on the Executive Board of the American Conference of Irish Studies for over a decade, and has served as president of the Eire Society of Boston and the Charitable Irish Society of Boston.
Dr. Heft is a priest in the Society of Mary and has been a leader in Catholic higher education for over three decades. He received his MA in 1971 and his PhD in 1977 from the Faculty of Theology at St. Michael’s. For years, he served in a variety of teaching and administrative roles at the University of Dayton, where he chaired the Theology department before working as provost and then university chancellor. He departed in 2006 to found the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
The author or editor of 13 books on topics ranging from intellectual humility and interreligious dialogue to Catholic higher education, Dr. Heft has also published over 175 articles and book chapters. His book Catholic High Schools: Facing the New Realities (Oxford, 2011) was listed as a best-seller in a recent Oxford catalogue, and a new book on the future of Catholic higher education is under review with the same press. In recognition of his long and distinguished service to Catholic higher education, in 2011 the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities made Dr. Heft the recipient of the Theodore M. Hesburgh award.
For their many contributions and accomplishments, Dr. Shannon will be conferred with a Doctor of Sacred Letters, honoris causa and Dr. Heft will be conferred with a Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa on Saturday, November 9 during a joint convocation for the Faculty of Theology and Continuing Education Division at St. Basil’s Church. A reception will follow in Fr. Madden Hall.
A list of all past recipients of honorary degrees from the University of St. Michael’s College can be found here.
On June 14, the University of St. Michael’s College will welcome back to campus two accomplished alumni, who will be addressing the Class of 2019 at each of this year’s two-degree conferral ceremonies.
At 10 a.m. June 14, Arts graduates will gather in Convocation Hall for the presentation of their degrees, and Dr. Andy Smith, CEO of Sunnybrook Hospital, will deliver remarks.
Dr. Smith graduated from St. Michael’s in 1990 and entered medical school. Today, Dr. Smith serves as president and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a prestigious appointment that followed years of leadership in other roles at Sunybrook, the Division of General Surgery at the University of Toronto, the Odette Cancer Program and Cancer Care Ontario. A surgeon by training, Dr. Smith anticipates a day when advances in ultrasound and other medical technology result in surgical procedures no longer requiring incisions on the patient’s body – a science-fiction scenario he is helping to bring into reality with his team at Sunnybrook.
Science and Commerce graduates will gather at Convocation hall at 2:30 p.m. for their degree conferral ceremony, and those students will hear from Aashni Shah, CEO of non-profit Elixir Labs and software engineer for Square.
A member of the St. Michael’s Class of 2016, Ms. Shah was named one of Canada’s 50 most inspiring women in STEM by Inspiring Fifty, an honour she received for her innovative work at the intersection of technology and philanthropy. She was the first female president of the Computer Science Student Union at the U of T in over a decade, and founded UofTHacks, Canada’s first student-run hackathon. Born and raised in Kenya before moving to Canada in 2011 to start university, Ms. Shah is an advocate for diversity in tech, and believes that “by promoting diversity in STEM, we’re increasing our odds of finding stable and sustainable solutions that will help Canadians and people all around the world.”
Dr. Smith and Ms. Shah have worked to create new pathways into the future, representing the value of an education that pairs elite skills and job-readiness with a sense for the most important questions facing society today. We look forward to their remarks to the Class of 2019.
Chancellor Wilson, Dean Cameron, Principal Boyagoda, Mr. Foran, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Graduands:
I bring you greetings on behalf of our Chancellor, Cardinal Collins, and on behalf of the University of St. Michael’s College.
One of the things that I have enjoyed in my time here is the opportunity to celebrate the many connections that link St. Mike’s with the University of Toronto. Of course, the biggest and most important link is right in front of me, because you, as students, are citizens of both institutions.
But that’s only one of many ties that bind.
You can find another in the building next door to us, Simcoe Hall, which is where the President and senior administration of the University of Toronto have their offices. The foyer of the building houses plaques and portraits that speak to the remarkable history of this institution. Dominating one wall is a list of the names of people who’ve contributed to the development of the U of T through the decades.
The very first name on the list, dated 1850, is that of John Elmsley, son of a Chief Justice of Upper Canada, and himself a veteran of the Royal Navy and a leading figure in the Toronto of his day. He’s someone who had an enquiring mind, a well developed conscience and a remarkable sense of integrity.
Following his marriage, Elmsley became a Catholic, which was not a particularly good career move in these parts in the 19th century. But he devoted himself to helping that struggling community, and was an early champion of Catholic education.
His gift was his farm, Clover Hill, on what was then the northern edge of Toronto. It is now the heart of the St. Mike’s campus. St. Basil’s, the Church that he helped build, where he attended Mass daily, and where we gathered for Mass this morning, is the oldest building in continuing use on the University of Toronto campus.
Elmsley decided that to be who he was called to be, he needed to question and, at times, to challenge the culture and received wisdom of his day. But in daring to do that, he never stopped being a loyal, energetic, sometimes controversial and always fully-engaged member of his society. In many ways, he embodies qualities that have come to define the University of St. Michael’s College and its graduates.
In congratulating you today, and sending you off to do all the great things that you are going to do, I ask you to spare a thought for John Elmsley, someone who dared to be different, who followed his conscience, and who never stopped giving his gift of service to this university, this city and this country.