Campaign Launch


IMAGINATION UNBOUND: launching the Victoria University Campaign

Transcript of the speech given by President Gooch
3 April, 2012, Isabel Bader Theatre

Welcome, and thanks to our honorary co-chairs Blake Goldring, Hal Jackman, and Norman Jewison; our advisors and campaign executive; and to the Chancellor of the University of Toronto, the Honourable David Peterson. 

Thanks too to Kate Bruce-Lockhart for so ably representing the students of Victoria College. Kate, this campaign is all about the students of our two colleges. Their education in the fullest sense is our reason for being. We have done a good deal in the last few years, more than I had first imagined; but I promise you, Kate, that when you come back from Oxford with your doctorate, you will find a Vic even better than you can imagine. Right now we could argue that a Vic education is the best in the country. By the end of this campaign, that claim will be beyond dispute. It will take just a little imagination, and the means to realize our vision.

Let me say a word about imagination and education. Northrop Frye, a Vic and Emmanuel graduate, said succinctly that the business of education is to form the educated imagination. Education should not be about making everyone content with the way things are; it must open up new possibilities. Frye claimed: “The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in”.

Our task here is to produce well-informed, disciplined and creative imaginations, a task that requires a vision of the Victoria University we want to live in. We have that vision. It’s the Vic conviction that a first-class undergraduate education is personal, inclusive of learning beyond as well as within the classroom, and global, taking us past the parochial and provincial boundaries which necessarily circumscribe our early years. These values are also true of an excellent theological education.

If that’s the vision, how much has been realized? And what are the means necessary to complete the task?

Tonight we announce the Campaign for Victoria University: Imagination Unbound. The goal is $60 million.  Unimaginable?  No. Thanks to you—our alumni and friends—we are already 70% of the way there. And here’s what we have done.

Victoria College has made undergraduate education personal in the first year. Nine years ago, with the support of an advisory board (some of its members are here tonight) we launched Vic One, with two streams. Today there are five streams, and enrolment has doubled to about 25% of the first year class. The program has succeeded beyond my imagination.  In 2011 it won the U of T’s prestigious Northrop Frye Award for linking research and teaching – and the research is done by students, not just teachers, with some Vic One students publishing papers in academic journals. The program has become a model that every U of T college needs to emulate. Applications for next fall come from 23 countries outside Canada.

We have not forgotten the other 75% of the entering class. All applicants to Victoria College are required to complete a profile before we will consider them, so that we have information about them as individuals, not applicant numbers. And every student must take a small course so that they get to know, and be known by, a faculty member and another 20 or so students by name. I want to pay special tribute to David Cook as he ends his term as principal. Vic is a much better place due to David’s leadership in these initiatives since 2000. 

In the upper years, we have been able to support Vic students in international exchanges and study abroad courses. About 15% of our students graduate having had an international experience. Thanks to the generosity of a Vic parent, our Registrar Susan McDonald has been able in the past two years to assist 80 students in short visits to 27 countries to enhance their education. A bequest for a research fund sends Vic students to Oxford University as interns in life sciences labs. No other college can match the scholarships and financial aid that Vic grants its students – 670 awards this year, with a total value of over $1.5 million.

Students in every year have access to a wide array of clubs and societies. Just in the last month, in this theatre, you would have found a student-written production of a musical, the Mikado performed by Vic Chorus, the Vic variety show. At the U of T athletic award lunch, you would have seen Vic students recognized with Silver T awards for fencing, skating, rowing, swimming. Or perhaps you read of the current Vic student (and Vic One alum) who won the CBC Short Story competition (from over 3,750 entries). You can see this week at the University of Toronto Art Centre an exhibition of work by Vic students.  Next week is the closing dinner for Theatre for Thought, a section of Ideas for the World – our signature non-credit program that engages Vic students in lively discussion on all manner of issues, from science and medicine to politics and religion. Thanks to the creative energy of Dean Kelley Castle, we have a remarkable set of programs for commuting students as well as residents, and when the Goldring Student Centre opens in ten months it will be not just an architectural gem but also the place where ideas are fuelled and friendship fostered.

All this we’ve done with $43 million from our alumni and friends since our last campaign. Now we need to complete the transformation of education at Victoria. There are four pillars in the Imagination Unbound Campaign that you’ll be able to read about in case for support: academic programs, student support, capital projects, and unrestricted giving.  I’ll explain them briefly now.

First, academic programs. I’ll mention four. (1) It is time to secure Vic One for the future. A specialized, enriched program like this needs dedicated endowment, so we will create a number of professorships in the streams of Vic One. In the fall of 2013, a new stream in physics, math and chemistry will begin, named in honour of our Nobel laureate and 1941 graduate Arthur Schawlow. An endowment of a million dollars for each professorship will insure that we can engage highly qualified staff who will attract top students. (2) Material culture: there is no undergraduate program in the country that studies history and culture through artifacts and objects. Our long relationships with the ROM and the Gardiner Museum make Vic the natural place for such a program, which was approved this year by U of T. We need to fund it with a professorship, stipends and scholarships.  (3) Education: we have in conjunction with OISE a concurrent teacher education program. It’s a model, especially for the quality of its students and for its international outlook. We need some independence from the vagaries of public funding so that we can cultivate excellent teachers. (4) Muslim Studies: under the visionary leadership of Principal Mark Toulouse, Emmanuel College has the only degree program in pastoral studies in Canada with a track for Muslims. Following on the model of the Deer Park professorship in sacred music (again, a unique program in Canada) and the Brushey-Martin Chair in Church and Community, Emmanuel will create a chair in Muslim Studies in the Canadian context. 

The second pillar is Student Support. With so many scholarships and bursaries, why do we need more? Because we have so many more academically outstanding students. In 1993, 5% of our students won scholarships, and this year, 19%. And the dollar value of our awards has not kept pace with inflation: tuition has increased threefold since 1993, but our awards are falling behind. Our students are now doing research even before they get to graduate school. Although we can support some student research in the sciences, we must in justice extend this to students in the social sciences and humanities, who often need a few hundred dollars to enlarge their education. Likewise with travel subsidies for international study, for both Vic and Emmanuel students. And those Ideas for the World programs require financial support annually. A combination of endowment and expendable funds will support the best student experience we can imagine.

The Goldring Student Centre is the largest item in our third pillar, Capital Projects. It’s exciting to see the new building out of the ground, ready to join up with the Wymilwood building. Our students have pledged to finance a $7 million mortgage. Our alumni will, I know, step up to match that challenge to complete the financing. Of course, a historic campus like ours has many capital needs and opportunities, and we would be delighted if we could finish the top floor of Old Vic, now unused, to create stunning space for a premier boutique program.

The fourth and final pillar is represented by our need for unrestricted gifts to meet unanticipated challenges. The Annual Fund is the vehicle for very many of our alumni whose gifts, though smaller in dollars but large in generosity, will add up to make a significant contribution to the Campaign.

You will read more about these pillars in the booklet available as you leave tonight. More importantly, you will see in Old Vic in just a few moments the transforming work of our students this year. You will see in Old Vic in just a few moments the activities and work of our current students, a taste of the transforming qualities of a Vic education – which is, as we like to say, much more than a matter of degree.

Please join us in securing a strong foundation for this transformation. There is something special and unique about this community we call Victoria. It is here that the Imagination, in Frye’s words, must be educated. The mind’s eye must learn to see what could be there, but is not yet. Reason becomes imaginative; imagination becomes informed. As imagination is unbound, it is freed of its preconceptions, and tutored in the art of discerning and achieving the previously unthought. I ask you to loosen your own imagination:  how might you help us ensure Victoria and its graduates continue to stand apart from the rest?  With your assistance, when Dr Kate Bruce-Lockhart Vic 1T2 returns from Oxford, she will find more than she imagined. She and her generation will be thanking you for what you have made possible for their children: an education without peer in this country and beyond.