Meeting place

Two generations, three UTSC grads

Image of Courtney, Barbara and Charles Cutts

Left to right: Courtney Cutts, BA, 1998; Barbara Cutts, BA, 1969; Charles Cutts, BA, 1969.

When Courtney Cutts (BA, 1998; OISE BEd, 1999) came to UTSC, she liked seeing her parents’ graduation pictures in the hallway.

“It was cool that my parents attended the same university,” says Courtney about Charles Cutts (BA, 1969), President and CEO of The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, and Barbara Cutts (BA, 1969; OISE BEd, 1970).

Despite the 30-year difference, all three appreciated the campus’s homey environment. “The professors were very accessible and there was a real feeling of family,” says Barbara.

Barbara and Courtney both became teachers. Barbara became a secondary school teacher, and after a break to raise daughters Courtney and Stacey (now a social worker), she returned as a counsellor/teacher. Courtney now teaches elementary school.

Charles was also on track for teaching—until he had a chance encounter with an accounting firm recruiting on campus. This led to his becoming a chartered accountant and, in turn, managing the O’Keefe Centre at age 31.

Charles also loves music and the arts, and is passionate about the impact the arts sector can have on the Canadian economy. He received a Great Minds Alumni Award from UTSC in 2005, partly for his support of the arts management program.

All three embody a strong spirit of service. Charles is a board member of several organizations, including the Pug Awards (for Toronto architecture), the Toronto Entertainment District Business Improvement Association, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Barbara was a founding member of Herbie Fund, which brings children from around the world to The Hospital for Sick Children for life-saving or life- altering surgeries.

Courtney received a UTSC Alumni Admission Award for her volunteer work with the Girl Guides and the Red Cross.

Charles, who was presented with the Governor General of Canada’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, admits that his job provides some incredible perks. Among them: being introduced to Queen Elizabeth, hearing world-class performers, and meeting Richard Burton.

But his foundation is his family. “You go back to what provides you the security to enjoy those kinds of moments,” he says. “That stable base that grounds you.”

WHO'S DOING WHAT

Jeffery Alderdice doesn’t call himself a hero. But he saved the life of an American army officer during a five- hour battle with the Taliban.

Alderdice, a sergeant with the Toronto Police Service, was serving a nine-month tour of duty in 2010 and 2011—part of an RCMP program to train members for Afghan Police. With his background as a detective, Alderdice was assigned to teach high-ranking officers crime-scene techniques and counter-terrorism measures. To be close to their headquarters, he was billeted with a U.S. Army unit. This turned out to be fortuitous.

On Feb. 12, 2011, Alderdice and members of his unit were called to police headquarters in Kandahar City to help fend off a Taliban attack. One U.S. officer was alone, co-ordinating the American response.

“The enemy figured out where he was and began concentrating their fire,” said Alderdice.

He got permission to go to the officer’s aid, to engage the shooters and move the officer to safety. After a five-hour battle, Alderdice was soaked with the blood of the wounded he was tending to.

Back in Canada, he was awarded a Canadian Medal of Bravery, presented by the Governor General at Rideau Hall. It was an honour the UTSC graduate in criminology and sociology had never imagined.

“It really was an incredible life experience,” he said of his tour in Afghanistan, “even the events forged in tragedy. It has made me a better leader, a better manager and a better person.”

Love brought Daniel and Loretta Chen (both BBA, 2002) to UTSC.

The two met in Junior Achievement, and when 18-year-old Daniel got an offer from UC Berkeley, he didn’t want to leave Toronto and Loretta.

He applied to UTSC, attracted by its co-op option in management and accounting. A year later, loretta joined him.

A CPA with an MBA (2013) from the University of Pennsylvania, Daniel also sits on the advisory board of Junior Achievement in Silicon Valley.

“My degree from UTSC showed me possibilities I was previously blind to,” he says. “Without UTSC’s fabulous co-op program, I wouldn’t have had the facility to take the risks that I have and advance my career two steps at a time.”

 

Sahil Dhingra (BSc, 2006) has always been a leader. He was an award-winning student leader at UTSC. Then, while studying law at the University of British Columbia, he worked with the Olympic Games organizing committee to engage students.

Then a health scare and a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama took Dhingra down a different road— he founded a new movement to connect people.

“I wanted to spend a year giving back, so I thought about moments that gave me the greatest sense of significance,” says Dhingra. He began hosting Dream Circles, gatherings for people to connect and collaborate on reaching their goals.

Dhingra loves his new life as a professional speaker and facilitator.

“What I value most is making a contribution.” One of the 25 Dream Circles he has hosted was at UTSC, and he also gave a TEDx talk in Richmond Hill.

When Dhingra saw the impact of the Dream Circles, he began creating workshops about visioning, goal setting and how to connect in meaningful ways, under the name of The Potentialists.

“The Potentialists is a community for people who want to be their best selves,” he says, “but who also want to support other people to do the same.” He has dreams of growing The Potentialists, including the establishment of a community in every city.

“My bigger vision is to own a holistic personal development retreat centre that would serve as a collabora- tive living and working environment,” he says. “How amazing would it be to live somewhere that fosters the best you all the time?”

Althea Fernandes (BSc, 2007) knows what drew her back to UTSC as current Chair of the Alumni Association—it was the sense of community she experienced as an undergraduate.

“I loved being at UTSC and wanted a way to stay connected to the community and give back,” she says. “Taking the time to volunteer makes you appreciate life a bit more.”

Fernandes was one of the first students to go through the joint UTSC/Centennial College Paramedicine program, and her cohort initiated a 24/7 emergency response team on campus. After UTSC, she took a second undergraduate honours degree in psychology at York University.

“In healthcare, people come to you for assistance,” she says. “To be able to help—and sometimes people have nowhere else to turn—is very humbling to me, and one of the reasons I chose the field.”

A clinical study research assistant at University Health Network, Fernandes also volunteers at the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities as a training leader and hospice bereavement peer facilitator.

Her hospice work has piqued an interest, and she is now pursuing a Master of Counselling degree through the University of Lethbridge’s distance education.

When she finally gets time to relax, Fernandes likes to decorate cakes and has even done wedding cakes for friends. “It’s my stress reliever,” she says.