Helen Hogg - Astronomer and Faculty Stephen Leacock - Humorist and Graduate Elsie MacGill - Engineer and Graduate
Transparent Spacer
University of Toronto
U of T Great Past

Transparent Spacer

 

Question

What landmark Toronto building came close to being located on the campus of the University of Toronto?

Answer All 816,000 square metres of the SkyDome were proposed for the northern edge of the U of T campus, but then-president James Ham took a pass on the opportunity.

On March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout 2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.

In spite of the financial difficulties, a number of significant physical changes to the university took place during the tenure of President James Ham. The athletic centre - to be used by both men and women - was opened officially in September 1979, and named after the long-time director of men's athletics, Warren Stevens.


"A ceremony at this time would be seen by the local residents' associations as 'rubbing salt in the wounds' and might even spark demonstrations."

It contained excellent facilities - for example, an Olympic-size pool, a 200-metre indoor track, and twelve squash courts. A sod-turning event was avoided because local residents were opposed to that they called "Fort Jock," and Vice-president Frank Iacobucci advised the director of athletics, Bud Fraser, that "a ceremony at this time would be seen by the local residents' associations as 'rubbing salt in the wounds' and might even spark demonstrations."

James Ham's installation
The dean of engineering, Bernard Etkin, places a ap on president James Ham's head at Ham's installation in September 1978. Paul Fox, the principal of Erindale, is to the left and behind, and Peter Richardson, the principal of University College, is directly behind.

The reconstructed Sandford Fleming engineering building, which had been gutted by a fire in 1977, was opened officially in June 1982, with a provincial grant of almost $10 million, and a library for Scarborough College, named after Vincent Bladen, was built after the students raised $400,000 in a student levy.

The former Toronto Reference Library at College and St George streets was acquired from the city, and construction started on its conversion into the Koffler Student Services Centre, which brought together, from around the campus, such services as health, housing, and career counselling, as well as the University of Toronto Press bookstore. It did not include space for student-run activities, however, such as the Students' Administrative Council or the Varsity.

Koffler Student Services Centre
The Koffler Student Services Centre, formerly the Toronto Reference Library, opened in 1985.

President Ham also received a commitment from the Ontario government for two-thirds of the approximately $40 million required for a new earth sciences building on the south-west campus, between Huron Street and Spadina Avenue. A limited campaign to raise the rest was undertaken by the Noranda executive Adam Zimmerman. The Earth Sciences Centre, which was to accommodate teaching and research programs in botany, forestry, geography, geology, and environmental studies, would not be opened officially until 1989.

One project Ham wisely opposed was a non-University proposal for the construction of an immense domed stadium on the south side of Bloor Street to replace Varsity Stadium and other buildings. Premier Bill Davis had invited Ham to view the proposed site, which had the convenience of being adjacent to two subway lines. Ham told him it was "impossible," and the Skydome was subsequently built on its present site close to Lake Ontario.

President Ham can be credited also with reopening academic exchanges with China and other East Asian countries, including Korea and Japan. He and a number of colleagues made two trips to the Far East during his term and with the assistance of the government of the Republic of Korea established a fund of $500,000 to support Korean studies at the University.

Norman Bethune
Norman Bethune

The University had been active in China during President Falconer's tenure, but the subsequent political situation there had made continuing involvement difficult. After the cultural revolution ended in the 1970s, however, China was eager for academic assistance, and Toronto, with its long relationship with China and its program in Chinese studies, and as the alma mater of Norman Bethune, was a welcome participant. In the early 1970s, the University established a joint program in modern Chinese studies with York University, and in 1980 it established a centre for South Asian studies.

The increasing number of Asian immigrants settling in the Toronto area and the resulting increase in the number of students of Asian background at the University were also factors in the growing interest in these areas. So-called visible minority immigrants to Canada rose from 10 per cent of all immigrants in 1962 to more than 50 per cent by the mid-1970s, and by the late 1990s "visible minorities" would comprise about one-third of the population of the greater Toronto area, with persons from Chinese and South Asian backgrounds making up about one-half of that number.

Back to Last Page

Links of interest:

Transparent Spacer
Transparent Spacer