By Marika Kemeny, Glendon Communications Officer
There was a special buzz at Glendon College, York University’s bilingual liberal arts campus on the evening of May 25th of the current year. The Junior League of Toronto, whose Glendon Hall Showhouse opened to the public from May 8th to June 6th, generously gave over that evening to the College, in order to raise funds for the creation of a proposed scholarship: the Junior League of Toronto Showhouse 2004 Entrance Scholarship. This scholarship is destined for a female student entering Glendon, with preference for a graduate of the Pathways to Education Program™ - the beneficiary of this year’s Showhouse fundraising. The invited guests were Glendon’s current and retired faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors to the College.
This gala occasion started with a leisurely tour of Glendon Hall, a gracious mansion built in 1924 with an Italian country house flair, followed by an elegant buffet dinner in the College’s Old Dining Hall. The guest speaker of the evening was Glendon alumnus Christopher Hume (B.A. English and Political Science 1974), art, architecture and urban critic of the Toronto Star.
Glendon Hall’s transformation and fresh beauty were beyond the imagination and expectations of everyone, especially those who were unfamiliar with the Junior League’s seven previous renovation projects, an impressive list including Graydon Hall, Bob Rumball Manor, Valley Halla and the McLean Estate, to name just a few. Every room, every space, balcony, hallway, garden had become the special project of a different designer group, forty-eight of Toronto’s finest, including Glendon alumnae Katherine Newman (main floor living room) and Elizabeth de Jong-Greer (Mrs. Wood’s sunroom, 2nd floor). Each room displayed a different style, yet still harmonized with the original character of the house. Carpets, tapestries, textile wall coverings, beautiful art work, paintings and glass created a magical whole – a dream house where everything was possible.
Following the tour, close to a hundred guests assembled in the festively decorated Old Dining Hall, where white tablecloths and gleaming china, colourful flower arrangements and a display of flags underscored the evening’s importance and special ambiance. During the cocktail reception, professors, staff and students had an opportunity for reconnecting with each other as they found their places at the dinner tables.
In a brief address, Glendon’s Principal Kenneth McRoberts outlined the history of the renovation project and how it became a reality. He confirmed the feeling of magic as, in two short months, the interior of the building and the surrounding gardens were completely transformed. McRoberts praised the “tremendous skill and organization of the Junior League of Toronto” and gave special thanks to JLT President Laurie Sikura and Ela Landegger, Co-Chair of the Showhouse Project, both of whom attended the dinner, as well as E. Jane Clark, the project’s other Co-Chair. Other distinguished guests included H. Ian Macdonald, President Emeritus of York University, former Glendon Principal David McQueen, York Director of Facilities Planning Rick Howell and President of the Friends of Glendon Don Walker.
Principal McRoberts also had great praise for Glendon’s Executive Officer, Gilles Fortin for “his critical instrumental role in realizing the project”. But the greatest thanks were reserved for the Junior League of Toronto, for allowing Glendon to keep the entire evening’s revenue as a first step toward creating the new scholarship.
The guest speaker of the evening, Christopher Hume gave a gracious nod to the value of his Glendon education. Hume expressed his conviction that his courses at the College were an excellent preparation for his journalistic career, providing him with a wide exposure to liberal arts subjects. He recalled fond memories of Glendon Hall, though, as he explained, his “most vivid memories were of the basement, where the pub was located”. He marvelled at the results of the renovation, saying that “everything has changed in the Manor, and all for the better”.
Hume recalled an article he had written in 2001 in the Toronto Star’s architecture column, with the title “A Suburban Dream Fades”. In it, he had lamented the shabbiness of the Manor and the other buildings of the campus, dating to the 1960s, as having “an air of being ruins waiting to happen”,… “a small liberal arts campus that itself seems increasingly forgotten and abandoned”. Hume praised the renovation project with much warmth and admiration. His favourite haunts of the past, the spaces of the Pro Tem office (Glendon’s student newspaper), the bookstore and the pub had become completely unrecognizable and simply beautiful. “Glendon Hall is the most attractive and least pretentious, a house built on a human scale”, said Hume, “and perfectly in harmony with the surrounding landscape. It’s great to see it so beautifully restored”.
Hume’s last comments were directed at the value he placed on Glendon as a university. He expressed his conviction that Glendon Hall was an important part of students’ education, as well as a symbol for the entire campus. The renovation ensured that future generations would benefit – true to Glendon’s motto: “Alteri saeculo” (…For future generations….). Hume added his congratulations to the Junior League’s achievement and remarked that their undertaking this project confirmed their conviction of the importance and excellence of Glendon. The dinner and the evening drew to a conclusion in an atmosphere of great optimism for the new scholarship and for the future of the College.