Michael De Angelis gifted Hart House a game-changing endowment for U of T students as a way of helping them and honouring his deeply held belief in the value of global education. Students who benefit applaud the donation, which also supports the Vice President, International’s plan to strengthen U of T’s presence on the world stage.
Two-time University of Toronto graduate Michael De Angelis (BA 1977; MA OISE 1991) is no stranger to Hart House. As an undergrad English and History major at the Mississauga campus (then Erindale), he spent a great deal of time at the Hart House Fitness Centre, playing on the back campus in an interfaculty football league; attending the Hart House Theatre; and visiting The Arbor Room with friends.
In fact, in every chapter of his life, the House and U of T have played key roles: Michael was Hart House’s Director of Program Administration from 2009 to 2014. He was a seconded instructor at U of T and the Tri-Campus Coordinator of OISE’s Teacher Education Programme, a collaborative, student-focused initiative involving the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses, the Faculty of Music, OISE, Kinesiology and Physical Education, St. Michael’s College and Victoria College.
These experiences reinforced in Michael a passion for global learning and global citizenship. In fact, while working as a secondary school principal for the Peel District School Board (1996-2009), he helped to develop an international exchange program.
These experiences also prompted Michael to give back at U of T – hence, the birth of the Michael R. De Angelis & Family Global Innovation Fund in 2019. “My experience at U of T provided me with all kinds of opportunities and possibilities for my life. If I have the chance to help other U of T students to do the same, then what could be better than that?” he asks.
“I decided to support Hart House because it was closely aligned with my belief system and I wanted to contribute to something that directly impacted students. I wanted to support innovative programming, learning and development beyond the classroom, which exposes students to a greater understanding and shared challenges that all students have. The thing I really like is the notion around agency: students having the ability to actually bring about meaningful change.”
“Mike holds the deep belief that active participation is essential to support the team. He always says that to support the team, you have to be on the field. I'm so grateful that he continues to be such an active part of the Hart House community,” says Peter Wambera, associate director, Advancement at Hart House. “His Fund is part of the legacy of Hart House’s 100th Anniversary because it’s meant to help the House continue to innovate and move forward in exciting ways.”
For the past three years, Michael’s Fund has supported Hart House Global Commons, an initiative that engages students from all three U of T campuses in an interdisciplinary space. Here, the students connect with counterparts from global partner locations in India, France, Colombia, South Africa and the United States of America; share perspectives; and learn from and with each other as they discuss pressing global issues.
"I really like the Global Commons concept. I thought, if there's something I can do that helps the House fulfill its mandate and it’s also what I believe in, then it's a perfect match,” Michael explains. “The ability to connect with students around the world in the pursuit of shared solutions, I think was very natural for me. Being an educator myself, I know the value of the co-curricular experience is something that can't be understated.”
This funding will also assist Global Commons in connecting more closely with U of T’s new minor in Global Leaders, a key priority of U of T’s Vice President, International Joseph Wong.
"We are excited to work with our colleagues across the University and globally to continue to develop our international engagement, forge new partnerships and deepen existing international activities. Our International Strategic Plan supports learning abroad, partners with global businesses and universities, and strengthens U of T’s presence on the world stage,” Joseph explains, adding, “The Michael R. De Angelis & Family Global Innovation Fund will bolster these plans.”
When asked how it feels to contribute to a global, pan-University initiative, Michael says modestly, “It’s heartening to think you can draw a straight line from my little fund to the bigger picture.”
Students Appreciate Skill Development and International Collaboration
This Fund has already supported some important work: Last year, Global Commons hosted a Climate Change and Democracy Design Jam. This was a collaborative international series co-presented by Hart House, the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, University West in Sweden, Participedia and U of T Scarborough (Department of Global Development Studies.)
It was a resounding success. “I had a wonderful experience in this design jam! Collaborating with people from different parts of the world taught me how to collectively solve a problem and make progress towards a common goal,” said one U of T student participant.
Special Message for Alumni
Michael encourages others to consider ways to contribute: “Become a mentor, get involved in committee work or become a community member of Hart House. There are all kinds of opportunities. It's just a matter of looking around and seeing what strikes your fancy and what's important to you.”
He suggests that alumni thinking of donating first take stock: “Look inward and see what benefits were accrued to you by your experiences at U of T, then drill down on those and find out how you might support. Do an environmental scan – within your college or faculty – to find the opportunities. Most likely, if a subject was important to you, then it would probably be a passion for others as well. And what a nice legacy to leave? To have a direct impact on young people in their learning.”