At the University of Toronto St. George campus (UTSG), 75 buildings are named after men, while nine are named after women. At the Mississauga campus (UTM), three buildings are named after men, while one is named after a woman, At the Scarborough campus (UTSC), two buildings are named after men, while one is named after a woman. 

According to the University of Toronto’s Policy on Naming, “The University of Toronto welcomes the opportunity to name buildings, rooms, endowed chairs, and other things to honour the distinguished contributions of its past members and others to humanity, to Canada, to Ontario, to Toronto and to the University. It also welcomes the opportunity to honour individuals whose generous benefactions make possible the erection of buildings, the establishment of endowed chairs, and other things.”

Michael Kurts, assistant vice-president, strategic communications and marketing, said the tendency to name buildings after men is the result of demographic trends. “Over the university’s history, many buildings have been named for individuals and families, with such namings typically reflecting the demographic of the philanthropic and academic community of the time,” said Kurts.

Established in 1827, women were not allowed to attend UTSG until 1884, when the Ontario legislative assembly passed a provision allowing women to be admitted.

In 1899, Clara Cynthia Benson became the first woman to graduate with a degree in chemistry from U of T. In 1903, she was one of two women to be awarded a PhD. The Benson Building at UTSG was named in recognition of her efforts to obtain better athletic facilities for female students.

The building names at the UTSC and UTM campuses, established in 1964 and 1967 respectively, show less of a gender bias than is seen at UTSG.

At UTM, the name for Deerfield Hall was selected in January among 200 submissions from students and staff. It was chosen to reflect Mississauga’s UTM’s legacy of nature and sustainability.

The new Jackman Law Building is named after benefactor and alumnus Henry N.R. Jackman. In 2012, the Faculty of Law announced a $10 million gift from Jackman to the faculty’s Building Campaign.

Kurts believes that the trend in naming buildings after men may soon change to reflect current postsecondary education demographics.

“Undoubtedly, this will continue to evolve in the future, by both gender and ethnicity, given the extraordinary diversity of the university’s current community,” he said.

“The past 20 years or so has seen a growing trend toward namings in honour of a family rather than an individual, acknowledging both male and female family members, often across generations,” he added.

 The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, currently under construction, is named in recognition of the Goldring family’s $11 million donation to the project.

Stay up to date. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, sent straight to your inbox:

* indicates required