Stories of Support

Leaving a mark on their alma mater

When New College alumni Lesley Riedstra and Rian Mitra learned about U of T’s Landmark Project, they knew they wanted to be part of the historic beautification of their alma mater.

“The University of Toronto has been really good to us,” says New College alum Lesley Riedstra (BA 1995 NEW). “My husband [Rian Mitra (BSc 1997 NEW)] and I wanted to be the first to jump in and participate by buying a commemorative bench because we really believe in our alma mater and we want to engender enthusiasm among other alumni for this historic initiative. It’s a great opportunity to promote community and make U of T an even more welcoming place. Who doesn’t need to sit on a bench and watch the world go by once in a while?”

The Landmark Project is the most significant open space project at the University of Toronto in the past 100 years. The plan, based on more than a year of public consultation, will reclaim the campus core for pedestrians by creating a cohesive, welcoming and beautiful network of people-centric spaces more befitting our status as one of the world’s great universities.

Spacious new plazas, meandering paths and gardens, striking vistas, the dramatic reduction of surface parking and the addition of pavilions, a café, seating areas and other multi-use spaces will transform our downtown campus into a much greener, more accessible and socially dynamic place, while at the same time respecting and preserving the intrinsic character, beauty and legacy of one of Canada’s most significant landscapes.


U of T and the St. George campus have been central to Riedstra’s life for more than two decades– Lesley met her husband and many of her friends while attending New College. During her undergrad years, she was actively involved in the New College Student Council, and credits that experience as forming the basis for her leadership skills today. After graduating from U of T, she remained involved with New College as a mentor and in leadership roles through the New College Alumni Association, serving on many committees and groups at the college.

Lesley Riedstra, smiling, sits on a patio with Rian Mitra, smiling, standing behind her.
Left to right: Lesley Riedstra (BA 1995 NEW) and Rian Mitra (BSc 1997 NEW)

“I came into my own at New College,” Riedstra explains. “I grew up in small town Ontario, so I was pretty nervous when I first arrived in the big city. But those nerves didn’t last long. New College was so welcoming… I loved being there and became really involved in student life. And the fact that I also met the love of my life there makes it all the more meaningful.”

In recognition of what New College means to Riedstra and Mitra, the couple have also organized a campaign amongst fellow alumni leaders to raise funds for a New College garden in the heart of Front Campus. “No matter what college you belonged to, or faculty you attended, we all convocated at Con Hall. We all walked across King’s College Circle on our way to class, attended events at Hart House or played sports on Back Campus fields. Those areas play such an important part of campus life. The opportunity to make them even better versions of themselves is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

A variety of gift recognition opportunities are available through the Landmark Project, including new plazas, pavilions, gardens, trees, benches and granite pavers. Starting at $1,000 for the placement of an engraved paver, these opportunities offer a unique and meaningful way to pay tribute to a loved one, celebrate a milestone or honour an important memory of your time at U of T.

“Graduating is not the end of your relationship to your alma mater,” Riedstra says. “In fact, your student years are really just the beginning. U of T is something you carry with you through your life. I would challenge everybody to think about how they can give back—individually or collectively—to the Landmark Project. It’s our campus. It’s our space. Make your mark on it.”

Posted on October 17, 2017