As summer hurtles towards fall, I am thinking a lot about two numbers: “1” and “100”. 1 reminds me that, for thousands of new students, this September will be their first year at U of T. For most of them, it will also be their first opportunity to encounter Hart House. 100 reminds me that 2019-2020 marks exactly a century since Hart House was gifted to the University as a unique educational centre, bringing together students, faculty, alumni and community members to explore their common humanity beyond the classroom.
Given that this fall marks the start of Hart House’s 100th year, there is perhaps no better time to think about that student who has yet to set foot on one of U of T’s three campuses. How will that soon-to-be-student, the first cohort of Hart House’s second century, engage with campus life? Will they feel welcomed? Will they find a sense of belonging? Will they see and hear their own identities and narratives reflected back at them in the physical spaces they encounter, in the studies they pursue, in the activities they enjoy outside of the classroom? What role will Hart House play in their time at U. of T, and hopefully in their life afterwards? What relevance, if any, will the 100thAnniversary of Hart House have to them? How can we connect them to both the legacy and the promise of Hart House, whether this year marks the 1st or the 1001st time they cross our threshold?
As a friend or supporter of Hart House, I invite you to think about your own, personal Hart House number. Is it 5, for the number of times you went to the Fitness Centre each week to stay fit, relieve stress and hang out with friends? Is it 1970, or 2000, or whatever year it was you served on the Hart House Board of Stewards, or joined the Music Committee, or earned your scuba certification with the Underwater Club? Is it 12, for the number of books you read for pure enjoyment, curled up on a sofa in the Hart House Library? Is it 25, for the number of friends who gathered to watch you say your vows in the Hart House Chapel, or is it simply 1, for the person who stood there beside you, holding your hand?
Whatever your personal Hart House number, and the Hart House experience it represents for you, I hope you will join me at Hart House during our upcoming centennial year. We invite you to re-connect with old friends and make new ones at any number of our memory-making special events between now and Spring 2020. All of them are listed at www.harthouse100.ca, but I would like to bring your attention to three upcoming events in particular that you might find interesting:
Weaving Wisdom: Imagining the Future of Feminism (Tuesday, September 10, 7–9pm, Great Hall, free for students/$10 general admission):
In 1929, a famous Hart House debate featured Agnes Macphail, Canada’s first female MP, speaking to the resolution that “the emancipation of women has been a failure.” On September 10, 2019, for a special Centennial “reimagining” of that discussion, Hart House has convened an intergenerational, intersectional “who’s who” of leading feminists whose contributions to gender equity in Canada have been, and continue to be, nothing short of historic. Candy Palmeter moderates.
Open (Hart) House (Sunday, September 15, 2–5pm, free):
On Sunday, September 15, all of Hart House will come alive with activations and entertainment that speak to the shared memories and experiences of our alumni and friends. At this whole-House, free, family-friendly event, your experience takes centre stage. In whatever way Hart House affected your life, we hope you will join us for a whole-of-House birthday celebration. The party wouldn’t be the same without you!
Hart House Gala of the Century (Tuesday, November 12, 6–10pm, $250/ticket):
On November 12, Hart House is hosting a grand fundraising dinner celebration we are calling, in all humility, the Hart House Gala of the Century. In addition to delicious food and glorious music, the highlight of the gala will be the historic unveiling of the Hart House Centennial Art Commission: a new sculptural masterwork by Anishnaabe artist Rebecca Belmore and her partner Osvaldo Yero entitled Adoopoowiningemuh Waabandizo (seeing yourself at the table). We will be joined by The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and by our four (4) distinguished Honorary Dinner Chairs: U of T President Professor Meric Gertler; Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River; Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; and U of T Chancellor Dr. Rose Patten. It will be a night to remember.
Thank you for being such an important part of the Hart House community. I can’t wait to see you during our centennial year. Thank you, too, for providing us with the ongoing support that helps ensure that today’s first-year students have an opportunity to follow in your footsteps. If all goes according to plan, they will soon have their very own Hart House “number” to show for it.
12th Warden of Hart House