Donations to the Hart House Farm and the Hart House Finnish Exchange – two legacies of the late Warden Nicholas Ignatieff – expand students’ access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, for which Hart House is renowned.
Donor backing can be nothing short of transformative. Thanks to the generosity of a group of alumni and donors, the future is bright for students wishing to participate in one of Canada’s oldest continuing student exchanges: The Hart House Finnish Exchange.
“The thoughtful generosity of these donors, past participants in the Exchange, will help us ensure that the students of tomorrow can have the opportunity to work abroad, experience a different culture and become engaged members of a lasting community,” says Warden John Monahan. “This funding will make the Exchange accessible for future generations, supporting our students in becoming well-rounded individuals and global citizens.”
Jaimi Foster, Chair of the Hart House Finnish Exchange, describes the impact of donors on the program: “We are tremendously grateful for the support that our alumni and friends of the Exchange have shown our program throughout the years. It is only because of the generosity of our donors and volunteers that we can continue to offer this life-changing opportunity to students.”
Alumnus Bosko Loncarevic, who participated in the first reciprocal Finnish Exchange in 1955 (crossing the Atlantic by boat), supports this important work. Alongside several other magnanimous donors, he has pledged to help secure the future of the enduring legacy of Warden Nicholas Ignatieff, including the Finnish Exchange and the Hart House Farm.
Photo:From left - Bosko Loncarevic, Gordon Sheppard and John Becker, participants in the 1955 Exchange.
“I was delighted to join my good friends Gordon and Katri West in helping to launch the Nicholas Ignatieff Legacy Fund. I want to help others enjoy the remarkable opportunities we had as University of Toronto students,” Loncarevic says. He describes the Exchange as a “glorious adventure” in which he worked at a radio manufacturing company and was thrilled to assemble Finland’s first television set.
The Finnish Exchange was shaped, in its earliest years, by another University of Toronto (U of T) alumnus, Gordon West. An engineering undergrad and Hart House Committee member at the time, he worked closely with Ignatieff on the Exchange. He and his Finnish wife Katri have continued to support the Exchange.
“The Exchange and the Farm activities were intended by Ignatieff to encourage students to develop their sense of personal responsibility and to engage with life beyond the formal classroom,” West explains.
Ignatieff’s Vision Lasting and Profound
The impact of Ignatieff’s vision on these young U of T students was profound. He was, after all, a remarkable man.
Ignatieff was born in Kiev, Russia in 1904. His father, Count Pavel (Paul) Ignatiev, was the last Minister of Education under the Tsarist regime. Spurred by the Russian Revolution and under threat of execution, the family fled to England in 1919. The young Ignatieff attended King’s College University (London) and graduated as an engineer.
In 1924, Ignatieff immigrated to Canada where he taught history and math at Upper Canada College from 1934 to 1939. Seeking to share with his students the vastness and beauty of their nation, he initiated trips, taking the kids to the far regions of the then Dominion of Canada.
He began working at Hart House after serving in World War II. He was Warden from 1947 to 1952, until his untimely death at 48 years of age.
Ignatieff’s desire to enrich his students’ lives ran deep. The Exchange and the Farm are proof of this robust conviction.
Exchange Forges Lasting Community of Support
The Exchange – known as Kaledonistit in Finnish – stemmed from an autumn 1950 visit to Hart House by the male choir of Helsinki’s Technical University alumni. The school had been heavily bombed in the war and the choir was on a fundraising visit to help rebuild.
Ignatieff was so impressed by their initiative that he took a group of U of T students to Finland in June 1951 to participate in the construction.
Ignatieff’s death might have meant the end of the Exchange, but because of its impact in Finland, the new Warden of Hart House, Joseph McCulley, was encouraged to see if a reciprocal visit of Finns to Canada could be arranged in 1954.
Today, run by students and alumni, and financed by former participants, the Exchange is a three-month summer program, a collaboration between U of T and three Helsinki-based schools: Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and the Hanken School of Economics.
Each year of the Exchange, eight students participate. The first two weeks include an orientation of the host country. Then the students are placed in a local job and/or receive a fellowship with alumni of a past Exchange.
While the Exchange helps students develop an appreciation for a new culture, it also helps them forge strong connections with other alumni, who continue to be a community of support long after the Exchange.
In this way, the Exchange makes an informal but important contribution to the growth of international co-operation. Both U of T and Finnish students have gained from it, and its past accomplishments bode well for its future influence on students of both countries.