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Alumni spring reunion a great success

SPRING REUNION: More than 300 people attended the event , including alumni, family and friends. They gathered on the H-Wing patio for activities, games and burgers. (All photos by Ken Jones.)

by Laura Redpath

Activities, games, burgers and camaraderie among old friends brought the H-Wing patio alive on May 31 for the Alumni Spring Reunion.

The U of T Scarborough Alumni Association hosted the 2009 event, a cookout and various activities in honour of the alumni. Professor Franco Vaccarino, Principal of U of T Scarborough, welcomed everyone to the event and said he was pleased with the turnout despite the chilly weather. Visitors said that they were unfazed by the unseasonably cool temperatures and happy to get together with other graduates and their families. For more photos of the event, click here.

Vaccarino told the crowd that the future is bright for the campus. He talked about U of T Scarborough’s plans for infrastructure development, a recent increase in the number of faculty, and new appointments including the upcoming arrival of Professor Rick Halpern as the campus’ new vice-principal (academic) and dean, along with a new vice-principal for research to be announced.

“We’re delighted to welcome you back and to tell you what an exciting time this is for U of T Scarborough,” he said. “We’re now in a really dynamic period of growth and activities.”

More than 300 people attended the celebration that centred on alumni, family and friends. According to Kim Tull, U of T Scarborough’s alumni relations manager, that number represents a 10 per cent increase compared to attendance at previous reunions (dating back to those of the late 1990s and early 2000s..

“When alumni come back to our campus and bring their family members and friends, they are demonstrating that they still care and feel connected,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see how many are still interested in the University of Toronto Scarborough and to hear about their eagerness to learn more about the future well-being of this campus.”

The alumni association regularly organizes events, including “Dinner with 12 Strangers” in which alumni and faculty host students for a meal, and various other get-togethers, public speakers and lecture series. She said planning for the reunion began back in December 2008.

Alumni members greeted each other with hugs while meeting for the first time since their school days and said their goodbyes with promises to see each other soon. Many of the children enjoyed bouncing and jumping in the inflatable rubber castles and participating in other organized games. While the children chased each other around, many of the adults told stories of what U of T Scarborough was like in their days.

One alumna with stories to share is Maureen Somerville (BA 1969), current alumni member of the U of T governing council, who earned her degree in English from UTSC. She went on to teach English and dramatic arts and now works as a tour guide for downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls. She recalled with a smile her student days, with classes of 50 students or fewer and time spent studying outdoors on the lower campus in the Highland Creek Valley.

“One spring was especially beautiful,” Somerville said. “I remember taking a break from studying and going hiking way up Military Trail. There were no houses, just farms and scrubland, so you could walk on a quiet country road and go down to the valley, find a rock by the water to sit on and study. It was so lovely.”

As a governor of the university, Somerville said she likes to attend as many events as she can. “Scarborough is my alma mater,” she said. “I love coming out here and I have loved watching the place grow.”

While 1980s tunes boomed from a booth set up by Fusion Radio, the student-run campus radio station , Steve Black (HBA 2003) greeted old and new faces. A graduate with a history major and a political science minor who now works in real estate, Black reminisced about lectures given by Professors Modris Eksteins and John Corbett, which he said were passionate and inspiring.

One of Black’s fondest university moments was attending convocation with both of his parents, he said, since they live in separate cities. “It was a good family moment, and definitely a proud one.”

Student volunteers led campus tours for those wishing to see how the campus has developed over the past few years, with the most recent addition being the Science Research Building, which opened in 2008. Visitors could also look at photographs dating from the early days of the campus. Some envelopes contained photos from formals as well as socials such as Spring Reunion 1998 and other events including the groundbreaking for the Student Centre in April 2003.

Seated in the Meeting Place was alumna Malika Bisambar-Kharag (BA 1994), who attended the event with her husband and two children. During her years at U of T Scarborough, she double majored in philosophy and anthropology. She said one of her fondest memories of her student days was attending the dances put on by the Indian Students Association.

Alumni wrote messages on white posters spread across picnic tables in the Meeting Place. Principal Vaccarino’s message was written in pastel crayon and welcomed everyone to the reunion. Others wrote how they felt being at the campus. Maureen Somerville wrote, “still an amazing place to learn.”

Laura Redpath is a graduate of the journalism program delivered jointly by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College.

© University of Toronto Scarborough