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Donors help build a new campus gateway

Donors to the project known as Highland Hall are excited to help provide more space for student services and activities, as well as for social science research.

For Adam Watson, it was almost a no-brainer to support the campaign for the project known as Highland Hall, the building that will be the new eastern gateway to the University of Toronto Scarborough.  After all, at age 33, he still considers himself a U of T Scarborough student. 

Watson and his wife, fellow business person Yien Ha-Watson, gave $250,000 to the Highland Hall campaign, which will be matched by the university. They have joined other key donors—including Krembil Foundation President Mark Krembil and Paramount Fine Foods President and CEO Mohamad Fakih—who are eager to see the building come to life in 2018.

Watson, a former president of the SCSU, got into his landscaping and property management business so quickly he never graduated. He still takes classes when he can, intent on finishing his degree.  “I have a vested interest, as I will be using that building,” he says with a chuckle. “I was there when it was a very boring kind of space, and to see the plans for a place this exciting is very cool.”

Indeed, Highland Hall will be the new one-stop shop for student services and a hub for campus life when its multi-million-dollar transformation from the R-Wing recreation centre is complete. It will also serve critical academic needs by bringing together nearly all of the campus’s social science faculty in one highly integrated space with innovative labs and areas for collaboration and cross-unit work.

Krembil (BA, 1988), an executive who has served as vice-chair of the UTSC Campus Council, felt so strongly about the project that his family foundation donated $1 million with, as he puts it, “no handcuffs”, in hopes that other donors would be inspired to join in and support the project.

He notes that the family foundation’s main focus is supporting medical research and education. “As alumni, my daughter and I felt it was important to do something that will benefit the students at UTSC,” he says.

“The university’s downtown campus is essentially landlocked and maxed out. The growth for the future lies with UTSC and UTM.”

Fakih, who has built an international chain of Middle Eastern restaurants since arriving in Canada from Lebanon, is also focused on the future. “Anything to do with taking care of our next generation, including students in university, is something Paramount is interested in,” he says.  “This is going to help UTSC grow to 20,000 students, and that is very important to me.”

Paramount’s gift of $50,000 for Highland Hall was its first to U of T, but he says he hopes to do more to help the campus grow. “We’ve been trying to show as a brand that we are not here just to make money,” he says. “Our partnership with the community is very important. I always say to people, you’re never too poor to give back to the community.”

Georgette Zinaty, UTSC’s Executive Director, Development and Alumni Relations, says there has been “good momentum” in reaching the campaign’s target of $5 million. “I talk to people about the opportunity to invest in a place that’s growing and really lifting the community around it,” she says. “It’s going to be a building with high impact.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough