Stories of Support

Celebrating family, history and community with a Landmark Project bench

Mychael Danna smiling, wearing a tuxedo and holding his Academy Award
Elizabeth Smyth (BEd 1977, EdD 1990)

When Elizabeth Smyth (BEd 1977, EdD 1990) completed her term as Vice-Dean, Programs, at the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) in 2018, her SGS colleagues honoured her decade-long contribution with a personalized paving stone to be placed outside Convocation Hall.

“I was so moved to be acknowledged in such a personal and public way and I am thrilled that my paver will be placed outside Convocation Hall,” says Smyth. “There’s an energy and excitement around Con Hall that is unlike anywhere else at the University. It is the place where we gather to teach and learn and where we celebrate milestones—welcoming new members to our community and saying farewell to our students as they move on to the next stage of their lives.”


Smyth has been an integral part of the U of T community for more than four decades. Starting as a Bachelor of Education student at the Faculty of Education in the late 1970s, and going on to earn an EdD in 1990, she joined the OISE faculty in 1989 and is currently Professor of Curriculum Teaching and Learning.

Her research interests include the history of education in Canada, the history of the professions and professional education, the intersection of religion and history, history of teachers and the pedagogy of new technologies. She has served the profession in a number of executive roles and was co-editor of Historical Studies in Education, the journal of the Canadian History of Education Association.


Inspired by her colleagues’ generosity and the proposed transformation of the St. George campus, Smyth has chosen to donate a personalized Landmark Project bench that will be situated on Front Campus.

“Given my academic interests, I’m keenly aware of the historical importance of this part of campus, not only to the University, but to Toronto and Canada. University College was the start of public non-denominational higher education in Ontario, so having a bench in this area is very special to me,” says Smyth. “The Landmark Project has done a marvelous job respecting the historical significance of the existing landscape, enhancing it and making it even better.”

The Landmark Project is one of the most significant open space projects on the St. George campus of the past 200 years. This extraordinary initiative will reclaim the historic campus core for pedestrians by moving surface parking around King’s College Circle and Hart House Circle underground and introducing new plazas, pathways, trees benches and gardens to create a campus experience more befitting a world-class university.

Plans are also underway to install a major geothermal field beneath King’s College Circle, saving an estimated 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year—equivalent to taking more than 3,000 cars off the road. It will make a significant contribution to greening the St. George campus and achieving our commitment to reducing U of T’s GHG emissions by 37 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030.


Smyth has chosen to commemorate her family’s multi-generational connection to U of T by naming her bench after two sides of her family—Spencer and Smyth.

“Several generations of my extended family have ties to U of T,” says Smyth. “We are immigrants to Canada, from Ireland, and I wanted not only to honour my forebearers, but also to memorialize the contribution that immigrants make to the University.”

For Smyth, the decision to donate a bench was also motivated by her wish to provide students, faculty, and visitors with a place to pause and take in the beauty and grandeur of our downtown campus: “I enjoy seeing such a diverse range of people using the outdoor spaces on campus. You see families; you see faculty, staff and students having lunch; you see visitors to the campus with the maps trying to figure out where they’re going next. I am happy to be doing my part to support this kind of engagement with the campus.”

Interest in the Landmark Project continues to grow here in Toronto and around the world. Close to 2,000 donors like Smyth are leaving their mark on the University’s historic core with commemorative gardens, trees, benches and pavers.

Join us in reimagining U of T’s downtown campus as an even more inspiring place to learn, live and work. Read more of our donor storiestake a look at the renderings and discover how you too can leave your mark!

Posted on May 30, 2019