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Alumni appreciation barbecue a huge success to close Spring Reunion

FUN IN THE SUN: Picture-perfect weather helped make Spring Reunion weekend at UTSC a big success. Here alumni are enjoying a picnic and barbecue. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Karishma Mohan-Ram

Under beautiful blue skies and sunshine, more than 350 alumni from the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) gathered for a fabulous barbecue that marked the culmination of Spring Reunion weekend. For more photos, click here.

The H-Wing patio was warm and breezy, buzzing with excitement conveyed as the attendees and their families enjoyed a summer-like day on May 30. An inflatable park was set up for the children, while alumni got a chance to meet, mingle and reminisce by the garden overlooking the Highland Creek Valley. Ideal picnic weather, large shady trees, blue gingham tablecloths and white patio furniture gave the event a relaxed Sunday feel, while light pop music played in the background.

Many attending the barbecue said they enjoyed the weekend of lectures and campus tours and had fond memories of their university days as well as their amazement at the number of new buildings on campus.

Professor Franco Vaccarino, UTSC principal, stopped by various picnic tables to chat with alumni before delivering his official remarks. “This event is a great success, with its very best attendance ever,” Vaccarino told the crowd. “It’s great to see alumni enjoying themselves. Alumni are a core part of our community and our plans for the future, so it’s important to participate in campus events and stay connected. ”

The principal described the current transformations happening on campus, talking about building expansion for the 2015 Pan Am Games and the new Instructional Centre slated to open in 2011. He went on to invite alumni back to the fast-approaching grand opening event for the new building, comments that led to excited cheers from the crowds.

Kimberley Tull (HBA 2000), manager of alumni relations, who celebrated the 10-year anniversary of her graduation, said she was pleased with the turnout and excitement among alumni. “We’re thrilled to welcome the alumni back to the campus, and each year this event seems to get better and better. This year we expanded Spring Reunion to two days and it now includes an academic component with Classes without Quizzes on Saturday,” said Tull. “It’s wonderful to see so many people coming back for educational and enjoyable events on a beautiful spring weekend.”

Chatting over hamburgers, some older alumni reminisced about their freshmen days. Stefan Sierakowski (BA 1968), Janice Sierakowski (BA 1969), Mark and Shirley Criscione (BA 1968), and Bruce and Stephanie Geddes (BA 1968) were among those seated at a table of the very-first graduates of the University of Toronto Scarborough, previously known as Scarborough College. Maureen Somerville (BA 1969), UTSC’s alumni representative on Governing Council, was also in attendance.

The Sierakowskis, Crisciones and Geddes remembered that the campus was still being built when they were in school. Mr. Geddes and Mr. Sierakowski had a chuckle over the fact that they had to attend their first few years of class downtown in the old Faculty of Medicine building on the St. George campus, since the two wings of UTSC’s Andrews Building were still being finished. Although the campus’ size was relatively small, they said their memories loomed large.

Stephanie Geddes remarked, “If you didn’t know people by name, you definitely knew their face.” Back then, the largest classes had about 30 people, she said, and those were generally for sociology or psychology. It was almost like you had a personal instructor, and the campus felt nice and intimate, she said.

Bruce Geddes described mid-day courses on various topics he used to attend, some taught by volunteer professors. One of his most memorable experiences was a lecture by the late zoology professor Fred Urquhart, who spoke about winter migration patterns among Monarch butterflies -- research later published in National Geographic. “He was a great guy and an amazing prof,” said Geddes.

Stefan Sierakowski said, “The transition from high school to university is huge, and for me, the Scarborough campus was an excellent introduction to life. It was a great training ground.” He said he held five different part-time jobs on campus while a student here, as well as meeting his wife, Janice, in the Meeting Place. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year. He has been the department head of English for the Toronto District School Board for 32 years.

Georgette Zinaty, executive director of development and alumni relations, is also an alumna. “The University of Toronto Scarborough is like home for me,” said Zinaty (BA 1989).

Several alumni members remarked about their excitant for campus developments and the new leadership. After the principal’s remarks, Stefan Sierakowski expressed his admiration. “Professor Vaccarino makes the alumni feel included and an important part of U of T history. He deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Karishma Mohan-Ram is a fourth-year management student at UTSC.

© University of Toronto Scarborough