Boundless Campaign Celebration

December 8, 2016

Thank you, David [Palmer]. And thank you for your outstanding work in bringing us to this big day.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are here tonight because we share a love for the University of Toronto, a commitment to its academic mission as one of the world’s great public universities, and a belief in its vital importance to our country and our planet. We are here because U of T plays a major role in our lives, and because we know that, in supporting U of T, we are playing our own role in the history of this great, good place.

This is a place where Canada prepares global leaders – think of Norman Bethune and humanitarianism; Lester Pearson and peacekeeping; Rosalie Abella and employment equity…

This is a place where we meet global challenges – whether it be the scientists of the Connaught Laboratories, who helped defeat diabetes and polio, the team in our Institute for Aerospace Studies that helped bring Apollo 13 back to Earth, or our Olympic and Paralympic athletes who brought medals back from Rio de Janeiro…

This is a place where, together, we can re-imagine the world.

As I look out at this gathering, I see inspired leaders from our three campuses, our faculties, and our colleges; I see dedicated volunteers and enthusiastic first-time supporters; and veteran champions, whose contributions extend over as many as seven decades.

Over the five years since we launched our campaign publicly, you have helped us attract brilliant scholars and students from across Canada and around the world. You have enabled us to launch ground-breaking academic initiatives that address some of the most pressing issues of our time. And you have helped us build magnificent new facilities for research and education.

In short, you have vindicated the bold choice we made in 2011 – our choice to launch the largest philanthropic campaign in Canadian history, and to call that campaign Boundless. And so, at this gathering of so many of the greatest citizens of the University of Toronto, I am absolutely delighted to share three numbers with you tonight. Together they illustrate powerfully the magnitude of what we have achieved together.

The first number is 94,736. That’s the total number of unique donors who have supported the Boundless campaign to date. Their names are flowing onto the central screen – truly an honour roll for the history books. And we are incredibly proud that so many of you are a part of it.

The second number is 43,521. That’s the number of people who made their first-ever gift to U of T through Boundless – our newest generation of U of T supporters. This number is also an emphatic statement of faith in the deep relevance of our academic mission in the 21st century.

This brings me to the third number I would like to announce this evening. I expect you may be wondering how close we are to reaching the $2 billion goal we set for Boundless when we launched the campaign five years ago. In fact, I have been asked this very question many times since we asked you to ‘save the date’ back in October. Each time, of course, I’ve had to say, ‘Just wait until December 8th’.

And now, here we are. Thanks to your extraordinary vision, commitment, and generosity, we have now reached a singular milestone in Canadian philanthropy. Members and friends of the University of Toronto community, it is my great honour and pleasure to announce our Boundless total as of this moment: $2,058,559,590!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have met and exceeded the very ambitious goal we set for ourselves in 2011. Looking at this number, you might find yourself at a loss for words. When I look at it, two words leap to mind – and I offer them now with deepest gratitude, on behalf of the entire University: Thank you.

To our donors, thank you for your incredible generosity. To our volunteers, thank you for your loyal service and exemplary leadership. To our faculty, staff, and academic leaders, thank you for the dreams you have shared and the plans you made to realize them. And to our students, alumni, and friends, thank you for being our inspiration.

And I would like to add one more ‘thank you’ – to my predecessor and friend, President Emeritus David Naylor, for his crucial role in setting us on the path to this amazing success.

When we launched Boundless, we did not expect to surpass our bold target so quickly. We did not predict the unprecedented number of volunteers, or the record level of alumni engagement, it has attracted. And, though we anticipated renewal among the ranks of our academic leaders, we could not have known what opportunities each new wave of leaders would uncover, to extend U of T’s impact as a global powerhouse of learning and discovery.

As Boundless progressed, we identified Three Priorities for the University, to help us achieve our strategic plan. First, we are leveraging our three locations in one of the world’s most vibrant and diverse city-regions, for the benefit of both the University and the city. Second, we are strengthening our partnerships with leading peer institutions around the world, to provide more opportunities for our students to gain international experience, and for our faculty to collaborate with global colleagues. And third, we are re-imagining undergraduate education, enabling our students to make the most of their experience at U of T to help them prepare for a lifetime of fulfillment and success.

These Three Priorities have been embraced energetically across our three campuses and throughout the University. And the Boundless campaign has created an unprecedented wave of momentum. We would be wise to sustain this momentum as we cross our original finish line, to propel us forward in the pursuit of even more ambitious goals to support our teaching and research missions.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce one more, very exciting number. With the unanimous support of our volunteer Campaign Executive Closing Committee, and our Principals and Deans Advisory Group, we have decided to expand the Boundless campaign – to achieve a total goal of $2.4 billion for the advancement of the University of Toronto.

As I’ve said before, U of T defies gravity. This institution somehow competes with, and even outperforms, some of the greatest (and wealthiest) universities in the world, with a small fraction of their budgets. And we remain staunchly committed to ensuring that all qualified students can complete their studies at U of T, regardless of their financial means.

You – and tens of thousands like you – have enabled us to realize the ambitions and ideals that we share in the U of T community. With your continued support, together we can accelerate our implementation of the University’s highest priorities.

And we can reach even higher – as a world leader in regenerative medicine, genomics, computational medicine, and machine learning; as a hub of new thinking on the future of the Toronto region and other major urban regions around the globe; as a key source of ground-breaking scholarship across the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences; as a massive engine of innovation and entrepreneurship; and as a global portal for the talent, creativity, and collaboration on which the future of our world depends.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said a few minutes ago, we are here tonight because of our commitment to the University of Toronto. But there is a deeper motivation that unites us, and a special contribution we are called to make.

As David noted, we launched Boundless in a time of great uncertainty in the world. We believed that the challenges of that time gave us all the more reason to press onward. You rallied to the cause – and indeed, you have helped us make history.

The year 2016 has also been a time of astonishing and unsettling change. Some of the world’s most powerful and progressive countries are turning inward, and the temptation to build walls and burn bridges seems unstoppable.

In my travels on behalf of the University, I hear my international colleagues express concern. But they also express their admiration – for U of T, and for the wonderfully successful experiment in diversity we call Toronto.

And so, in a new time of challenge, we are once again presented with an opportunity. It is Canada’s moment to shine, as a beacon of inclusion and hope. These values are our values, as Canadians and as members of the global U of T community.

We have so much to contribute, so much more we can accomplish together, to help reimagine the world – as a world of equality and justice, health and prosperity, wisdom and wonder. I invite you to join us as we embark on this new and final stage of our campaign for the University of Toronto. And I thank you – each and every one of you – for the historic, boundless progress that you have made possible.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our great ambassador and advocate, our Chancellor, the Honourable Michael Wilson.