Students, faculty and alumni reflect on 100 years of Rotman Commerce—and get a sneak peek of the program’s new home

June 14, 2024 by Coby Zucker - A&S News

Rotman Commerce celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Centenary Soirée that took guests on a trip through the program’s history.

In late May, the Rotman School of Management welcomed students, faculty and alumni of Rotman Commerce to campus to celebrate the program that unites them all.

“Tonight is really a remarkable celebration of a century of achievements and a toast to the inspiring possibilities that lie ahead,” says Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, which jointly offers Rotman Commerce along with the Rotman School of Management.

Dean Melanie Woodin.
Dean Melanie Woodin addresses the crowd at the Rotman Centenary Soirée. Photo: Rotman Commerce.

“From the very beginning, Rotman Commerce was more than a place of learning,” says Susan Christoffersen, dean of Rotman School of Management. “It was a community, one that started with just seven graduates in 1924. And it's grown to nearly 800 students graduating next week.”

The Centenary Soirée also became the public unveiling of plans for a new home to Rotman Commerce. Renderings of the building were presented in a video prepared by U of T alumni, featuring the live reaction of students seeing the plans for the first time.

“This state-of-the-art new contemporary building will stand as a much-needed home for Rotman Commerce, as we heard from the students, and will bring together this vibrant community of faculty, staff, students and alumni,” says Woodin. “It will spark important collaborations and partnerships. It will enhance learning, leadership and mentorship and ultimately take this renowned program to greater heights of excellence.”

The new building will be located on Devonshire Place between the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sports and St. Hilda’s College residence building. It is scheduled for completion in 2030.

“It’s a really good idea. Long time coming — a hundred years, even,” says Janet Lamb, who earned her bachelor of commerce in 1973, of the new building.

A rendered drawing of Rotman Commerce.
The new home of Rotman Commerce will be located on Devonshire Place. Photo: Preliminary rendering provided by 3XN and IBI Architects.

Lamb was attending the event with her lifelong friend and fellow commerce graduate, Catherine Stefan. The pair reflected on how much Rotman Commerce and U of T had changed since they graduated.

“In our graduating class of 90 people, I think there were five women,” Stefan says.

“The diversity of the student body is hugely different from when we were in school,” Lamb says.

The scheduled portion of the evening opened with remarks from current Rotman Commerce student Jay Chuang, who delivered a land acknowledgment and heartfelt expression of gratitude to the people who make Rotman Commerce the program it is, including the many donors in attendance.

“I'm fortunate to have received scholarship support throughout my undergraduate degree,” Chuang says. “Your contributions not only recognized our achievements and potential, but most importantly they empowered us to continue excelling in our chosen paths.”

Alum Kathy Weng, who earned her bachelor of commerce 2023, has only just set out on her career path thanks to her Rotman Commerce degree. Her studies in taxation informed her decision to be an accountant.

A long table of open books and images showing the history of Rotman Commerce.
A display takes guests through 100 years of Rotman Commerce history. Photo: Rotman Commerce.

Weng remarked she felt a strong sense of nostalgia standing in Desautels Hall, where she received her first orientation for Rotman Commerce five years ago.

“Because of the Rotman Commerce program, I was able to go on exchange overseas to a business school I really wanted to experience,” she says. “It changed my life. I made friends from both Rotman and abroad whom I wouldn't have met had I not gone on that exchange.”

Other alumni were similarly brought back to their days on campus and at Rotman Commerce. Whether they hadn’t been back for one year or 20, many had deep feelings about the impact of Rotman Commerce on the 100th anniversary of its graduating class.

“I think one of the great things about Rotman is that it keeps up with the times,” says Bill Ross, who earned his bachelor of commerce in 1972 and his master of business administration in 1976. “It's flexible and fluid, it's dynamic, it's agile. I think that's so important in today's market.”