University of Toronto Schools (UTS) celebrated the beginning of a new chapter in the school’s history with the Homecoming Community Open House event on Saturday, September 17, welcoming more than 1,000 alumni, parents, staff and community members to the opening of the iconic renewed school building at 371 Bloor Street West.
Just before noon, a trumpet fanfare, followed by the resounding boom of the school’s Taiko drum group, welcomed attendees into the new 700-seat, state-of-the-art Withrow Auditorium for the start of the official opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.
After the speeches, Principal Rosemary Evans and UTS Board Chair Jim Fleck C.C. '49, P '72 were joined on stage by many members of the UTS community who played an integral role in making the project a success. Representing the University of Toronto, was Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost. Members of the Project Steering Committee, leaders from UTS Alumni and Parents' associations and the 2022-23 Student Captains also were on stage, along with leaders of the Building the Future campaign, principal architect Don Schmitt C.M. ’70 of the firm Diamond Schmitt, and CJ Smith of JLL Project Management. Together, they cut the ribbon on the new building to overwhelming applause.
“Today is our opportunity to celebrate the impact of every single person’s contribution to the renewal of UTS and open our doors to enjoy the incredible school we have become together,” Principal Rosemary Evans said to the Withrow Auditorium audience. “We are ushering in a new era in our refurbished home, making UTS a place with a greater belonging for all and a plan to continue to increase access and open our doors even wider.”
Alumni came from around the corner and halfway around the world to celebrate and see the new incarnation of their historic school building on University of Toronto’s St. George campus. UTS is officially affiliated with the University of Toronto, and the new building was a condition of the latest Affiliation Agreement between UTS and U of T, signed in 2015.
“Coming down Bloor Street today to see the front facade of the building still unchanged was fantastic and really brought back the memories – it’s amazing that it’s going to continue on with the space so new and improved,” says Audrey Marton ’78, who came from Aurora, Ont. for the event. A member of the first-ever class of girls at UTS, she met her husband-to-be, Leslie Marton ’76, at the school. “We'll always look back and think that UTS got so many things just right, such as the balance of academics versus athletics versus co-curriculars. They were visionaries.”
The iconic home of UTS blends the new with the old, preserving the historic facade in the right of this photo
The building came into being thanks to the Building the Future campaign, led by UTS Board Chair Jim Fleck as Campaign Chair, raising over $63.5 million from alumni, parents, staff and community to fund the project.
In the Withrow Auditorium, the crowd gave Jim Fleck a standing ovation for his efforts in securing the future of UTS. He in turn thanked the community: “Standing in this magnificent space celebrating the future of UTS is a testament to your unwavering commitment. This moment is a thrill of a lifetime, looking out into this auditorium to see the faces of UTS alumni, students and their families, staff, friends and partners, all here today to celebrate what we have accomplished together. Thank you for bringing the vision of an iconic new building for UTS to life!”
Jim’s brother, Bob Fleck, premiered his film, The New UTS, made in honour of his brother Jim, at the event.
The success of the fundraising effort was underpinned by 20 community members and groups who heeded Jim’s call to become UTS Founders by giving $1 million or more. Many of their names now appear at vital spaces around the school. And on the Founders’ Cornerstone at the Eureka! Entrance on Huron Street.
The iconic design of the new school, by lead architect Don Schmitt C.M. ’70, a UTS alumnus and principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects, and project architect Diana Saragosa, took great care to preserve the school’s historic facade from 1910 and original heritage windows with new, modern features. The new building itself provides 120,000 square feet of space, blending old with the new.
Don shared the architectural vision for the school: “We imagined the building as a crossroads for the school, a community space that connects every floor horizontally and vertically – the kind of X Y, and Z axis of the school as a space, as a crossroads, as a space of social interactions for intellectual interaction and a gathering place that really can forge and shape the heart of the school.”
With the main entrance to the school now on Huron Street, they designed a new entrance to open the school up southwards towards U of T, named the Wright Living Lane Entrance for UTS Founder David Wright ’89, and as the northern terminus to U of T’s Living Lane.
The building’s centrepiece is the 700-seat, state-of-the-art Withrow Auditorium, with a white brick exterior and a dramatic cantilever that extends over an outdoor plaza, putting UTS on the map as a landmark building in Toronto. The white brick complements the colour of the historic limestone, tying the new part of the building seamlessly together with the old.
Other exciting new features include the Jackman Theatre, a new studio theatre space with a dedicated backstage and dressing rooms; the Lang Innovation Lab, where students can bring their visions to life with a laser-cutter, 3D printers and robotics equipment; and the new UTS Athletics Centre powerhouse of the McIntyre Gymnasium, a double gymnasium with room to host large sporting tournaments, and the new fitness facilities of the Ridley Centre that overlook the gymnasium, with treadmills, rowing and ski machines and weight equipment, including multi-purpose rigging and teaching stations.
At Homecoming, people had a chance to see old friends and even old mentors in new spaces: UTS Student Life Officer and basketball coach Neuton Watson and Eva Huang '10 reconnected in the McIntyre Gymnasium.
Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost at U of T, said with this new building the strong and deep connection between UTS and U of T continues to resonate. “Over the past 20 years, the bond between U of T and UTS has endured in many important ways. The affiliation between our two institutions affirms UTS’ ability to set its own course and maintain its responsibility to its community. It’s also paved the way for the transformation of this incredible space.”
His Worship John Tory O Ont '72, the Mayor of Toronto and UTS alum sent a video message of congratulations, which played on the big screen in the Withrow Auditorium.
Tours of the school were offered to guests throughout the day, with many people marvelling at how they used to have swim practice in a pool now transformed into two music rooms, how they walked up the same staircase over 40 years ago and how much more space our students will have.
Tibor Szandtner ’59, who lives in Toronto, came to tour the space and said, “The facilities are fantastic. I think it's unlimited what the kids can do here now. And they’re already doing unlimited things as far as I can tell. In the last 30 to 40 years, the school has changed so much. It’s much more broad-gauge than it was in my day – deeper, wider, more variety of classes. And much more ambition.”
Eva Seto '02 and Jean Wan '02
Jean Wan ’02, who like many alumni came to Homecoming with an old UTS friend, Eva Seto ’02, said, “I can't wait until the students and the teachers and the entire community really make it their own, the same way we did with the old building. I can almost see it almost as like a blank canvas right now, just waiting for the stories to take root. I'm very excited because I feel a strong personal connection to the old building, and this is a beautiful start.”
UTSPA Co-President Zahra Mohamed P ’25 speaks at Into the New: Black Student Affirmation and Dismantling Anti-Black Racism
With the new building comes a heightened effort to embed an anti-racist approach throughout our school. As part of the Homecoming event, UTS hosted a community conversation, Into the New: Black Student Affirmation and Dismantling Anti-Black Racism. It was standing-room only as speakers Sudz Sutherland P ’21, ’25, UTSAA Director Jessica Ware ’95, Daeja Sutherland ’21 and UTSPA Co-President Zahra Mohamed P ’25 shared a candid conversation with our community. The event was orchestrated by Dr. Kimberley Tavares, our new Coordinating VP of Anti-Racism, Equity, Inclusion, Access and Program Innovation and the UTS Black Equity Committee. Also in attendance were Dr. Avis Glaze, who authored the 2022 report, Our Shared Responsibility: Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and UTS community partner, Dr. Trevor Massey of the Lifelong Leadership Institute the Leadership by Design program. You could feel the sense of community growing in the room as parents, alumni, community members and staff discussed the challenges we face and the actions we can take steps towards greater inclusion for Black and all students at UTS.
Other events of the day included the Keyes Gallery Retrospective of past alumni exhibitors, displayed in the new Boardroom, and the opening of the Lewis House Time Capsule, which was sealed September 25, 1991. Dr. Jeffrey Jaskolka ’93, a former Lewis House Prefect, stored it for 30 years in their basement until Saturday, when it was opened before a full house Homecoming guests, revealing several artifacts from the 90s including a green Lewis hat, a list of Lewis class members of that year, a cassette tape, an actual Toronto Transit Commission Ticket and transfer, books and many more timely treasures. It goes to show that while many things change, the UTS spirit only grows stronger with time.
Dr. Jeffrey Jaskolka ’93 second from right opens the Lewis Time Capsule with current members of Lewis House. #utsstories