Upper Canada College

Upper Canada College

Palmam qui meruit ferat
Let he who merited the palm bear it[1]
200 Lonsdale Road
Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1W6
School type Private day and boarding
Religious affiliation(s) None
Established 1829
Principal Samuel James McKinney
Faculty 140
Grades Kindergarten to 12
Enrollment Prep: 416
Upper School: 730
Total: 1146
Campus Deer Park/Forest Hill (38.5-acre (0.156 km2), urban)
Norval (450-acre (1.8 km2), rural)
Colour(s) Blue and White         
Endowment $42,322,395 CAD[2]
Visitor Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Website www.ucc.on.ca

Upper Canada College (UCC), located in Toronto, Ontario, is a private school for boys between Senior Kindergarten and Grade Twelve, operating under the International Baccalaureate program. The secondary school segment is divided into ten houses; eight are for day students and the remaining two are for boarding students. Aside from the main structure, with its dominant clock tower, the Toronto campus has a number of sports facilities, staff and faculty residences, and buildings for other purposes. UCC also owns and operates a campus in Norval, Ontario, for outdoor education.

UCC was founded in 1829 by Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada Sir John Colborne, based upon Elizabeth College, Guernsey. It is the oldest independent school in the province of Ontario,[3][4] the third oldest in Canada, and is described as one of the country's most prestigious preparatory schools,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] having many of Canada's most powerful and wealthy as graduates.[3][13][15] Modelled on the British public schools, UCC, throughout the first part of its history, both had an influence on and was influenced by provincial government and obtained a reputation as a WASP, Tory bastion. After facing closure by the government on more than one occasion, UCC became fully independent in 1900, nine years after moving to its present location. A major crisis befell UCC when, in 1959, the main structure at Deer Park was condemned and funds had to be quickly raised to build the Upper School that exists today. Through the 1960s and '70s, campus culture changed: the cadet corps was disbanded, the curriculum shifted from classical to liberal arts, and the student population became more culturally diverse. The college struggled between 1998 and 2004 with allegations of sexual abuse of students by teachers during the 1970s and '80s, as well as a related class-action lawsuit; one former teacher was convicted. Beginning in 2002, UCC made environmentalism a core component of students' education, put focus on the issue of boys' education, and, since 2007, has aimed to improve the student body's socioeconomic mix.

A number of extracurricular sports, arts, and community service programs are run at UCC, some by students, such as the World Affairs Conference. The operation of the school is overseen by a board of governors and the college engages in fundraising for construction projects, to augment its endowment, and to fund scholarships. A link to the Canadian Royal Family is maintained through Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as the official Visitor.[16]


Beginnings and growth

Sir John Colborne, founder of Upper Canada College

Founded in 1829 by Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada Major-General Sir John Colborne (later the Lord Seaton) in the hopes that it would serve as a "feeder school" to the newly established King's College (later the University of Toronto),[3][4] UCC was modelled on the great independent schools of Britain, especially Eton College.[16][17][18] The school began teaching in the original Royal Grammar School; however, within a year it was established on its own campus, known as Russell Square,[4] at the north-west corner of King and Simcoe streets. To there Colborne brought from the United Kingdom Cambridge and Oxford educated men, attracting them with high salaries.[19] Still, despite ever increasing enrolment, popularity with leading families of the day (both from the local Family Compact and from abroad);[20] a visit in 1847 from the Governor General of the Province of Canada, the Earl of Elgin;[21] and praise from many, including Charles Dickens,[22][23] UCC was faced with closure on a number of occasions: it was threatened either by opponents to elitism,[24][25] withdrawal of funding by the provincial government that administered it,[26] or by having no building in which to operate.[25]

Drawing of the former UCC campus at King and Simcoe Streets in downtown Toronto

The school survived its denigrators; it merged with King's College for a period after 1831 and moved 60 years later to its present location in Deer Park,[27] which was then a rural area.[4] The government of Ontario then stopped funding UCC in 1900,[4] thus making it a completely independent school. By 1910, however, UCC was dealing with declining enrollment and capital and considered selling the Deer Park campus for $1.125 million and moving again to become a full boarding school on a property purchased in Norval, Ontario.[28] Plans were halted by the outbreak of the First World War and the college remained where it was. It eventually thrived there, both physically and culturally, as the buildings were expanded and bright instructors attracted.

Central to this development was Principal William Grant, who, shortly after assuming the position of principal in 1917, concentrated on appointing a group of teachers described as "eccentric, crotchety, quaint, though widely travelled and highly intelligent"[29] and saw the student enrollment and teacher salaries double, bursaries grow, and a pension plan established over the course of his tenure.[30] The school expanded in 1902 to take in lower year students with the construction of a separate primary school building, the Prep, allowing for boys to be enrolled from Grade Three through to graduation.

UCC maintained a cadet corps from around 1837, which became a rifle company attached to the Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada (later The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada) in 1860[31] and the only student corps called to duty in Canadian military history when it assisted in staving off the Fenian Raids in 1866.[17] Through the two World Wars, a number of UCC graduates gave their lives and provided leadership; historian Jack Granatstein, in his book The Generals, demonstrated that UCC graduates accounted for more than 30% of Canadian generals during the Second World War and 26 Old Boys achieved brigadier rank or higher.[32] A war memorial display case and plaque (memorial number 35081-002[33]) in the Upper School's main entrance hall is dedicated to the UCC Old Boys who distinguished themselves during Canadian military service periods.[33]

After the Second World War

The original Deer Park building that had to be demolished in 1958

UCC faced a major crisis when, in 1958, it was discovered that the main building was, due to poor construction, in danger of collapse. At the time, despite its benefactors, UCC had no endowment.[34] An emergency building fund was started within the year and, with the assistance of Prince Philip, all of the necessary $3,200,000 was raised from Old Boys and friends of the college; Ted Rogers' contribution paid for the clock tower while Robert Laidlaw donated the funds necessary for construction of Laidlaw Hall. Construction of the present main building began in early 1959 and it was opened by former governor general Vincent Massey near the end of 1960. The crisis forced the school government to rethink their stance on foresight and planning, leading to a years-long program of new construction, salary improvements, and funding sources.[34] Further, in teamwork with Principal Sowby, whom he had helped select, Massey had further influence on the college, bringing about somewhat of a renaissance for the school: A number of distinguished visitors were brought in and leading minds were hired as masters.[35] At this time, the curriculum began to shift from a classical education into a liberal arts one; language options besides Latin were first offered after 1950.[36]

Governor General Vincent Massey (pictured in 1956, at left) helped UCC regain its stature and opened the new Upper School in 1960
The Massey Quadrangle with Upper Canada College's boarding houses at rear, Wedd's at left and Seaton's at right, with the housemasters' residences in between

1965 to 1975 was a decade of constant change at UCC;[18] global and local cultural influences such as the Vietnam War, Yorkville, Woodstock, changing fashion trends, rock bands, and Watergate, collided head-on with the conservative, traditional culture and environment at UCC. Individual freedoms trumped institutional discipline and moral authority had lost its clout.[37] Patrick T. Johnson, principal from 1965 to 1974, managed the cultural transition during these years, successfully integrating societal trends, traditional values, and individual self-expression. One of the casualties, though, was the cadet corps; it was disbanded in September 1975 in favour of a smaller volunteer corps. Under principals educated at Oxford (Johnson) and Cambridge (Sadlier), the college refused to adopt the new provincial educational standards issued in 1967, which it considered lower than the old standards.[38] UCC also moved forward with new educational and athletic facilities across the campus, while opening the campus to the wider community at the same time.[39] By the 1990s, summer camps were set up on the campus for any child who wished to enroll.

The college embarked on another building campaign, again with the aid of Prince Philip, beginning in 1989 and ending in 1994, with the construction of new athletic facilities at the Upper School and the replacement of the 1901 Peacock Building at the Prep. Two years later, UCC adopted the International Baccalaureate (IB),[40] which augmented the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Following this, Grade Two was added in 1998 and Grade One the next year. Since 2003, UCC has offered places from Senior Kindergarten to Grade Twelve.[41]

Into the 21st century

In the years following 1998, five UCC staff were accused of sexual abuse or of possessing child pornography; three were convicted of some of the charges against them.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48] In 2003, 18 students launched a $62 million class-action lawsuit against UCC, claiming sexual abuse by Doug Brown, who taught at the Prep from 1975 to 1993 and was eventually found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of indecent assault and sentenced to three years in prison.[49][50] UCC agreed to a settlement with the victims, the terms of which cannot be disclosed.[51]

UCC followed the trends in environmentalism when the Board of Governors unanimously voted in 2002 to establish the Green School initiative, wherein environmental education would become "one of the four hallmarks of a UCC education."[52] Plans to carry this out saw not only upgrades of the school's physical plant to meet environmentally sustainable standards, but also an integration of these new initiatives into the curriculum.[53] After the appointment in 2004 of Jim Power as principal, the curriculum further evolved to address reports of wider, societal trends showing a rise in boys' behavioural problems and a decline in their educational performance.[18][54] Simultaneously, UCC's status as an all-boys school found support following years of pressure to become co-educational,[18] especially as other prominent, formerly all-boys schools in Ontario began to make the switch, such as Lakefield College School (1989), Appleby College (1991), and Trinity College School (1991).

As part of the strategic plan for the school, the board of governors decided in 2007 to close the 180-year-old boarding programme, citing market changes and the neglect of boarding over preceding decades—saying it had been for too long "too broken to be excellent, but not broken enough to fix". However, students,[14] the Old Boy community, and others associated with UCC reacted negatively to the announcement, leading the board to revisit its earlier conclusion.[55] The determination was boarding should be retained, but, only if it, among other requirements, housed no less than 60 students, the facilities were improved (work that took place through the summers of 2013 and 2014[56]), and boarders be drawn from across the country.[57]

Campus and facilities

UCC's Upper School on a snowy winter morning

Toronto campus

Upper Canada College occupies an open, 17 hectare (43 acre)[3][58] campus in Deer Park, near the major intersection of Avenue Road and St. Clair Avenue, in the residential neighbourhood of Forest Hill. There are 15 buildings on the site:[59] The main structure (the Upper School), constructed between 1959 and 1960, central on the campus, and with a dominant clock tower, houses the secondary school component of the college, in a quadrangle form. Laidlaw Hall, the principal assembly hall, featuring a full theatre stage and a pipe organ, is attached to the west end of the Upper School and, at the other end, is the Memorial Wing, the school's main infirmary.[60] Closing the north end of the main quadrangle (which is the location of the statue of the Lord Seaton, installed in 1934[61]) is one building, built in 1932, that contains the two boarding houses, as well as two private residences for the associated boarding masters,[41] adjacent to which is the school chapel, donated by Governor General Vincent Massey.[62] Satellite to this complex are townhouse-style residences for masters and their families; the residence of the college's principal, Grant House, built in 1917; and a small, two-storey cricket pavilion, inaugurated by Governor General Raymond Hnatyshyn. The Preparatory School, part of which was designed by Eden Smith, is at the south-west corner of the campus, near which is a home for the Prep headmaster and a small gatehouse.

The main gates of Upper Canada College, at the head of Avenue Road; directly through the gates is the residence of the Prep headmaster
The Upper School, with Laidlaw Hall at far left and the Rogers Tower, right of centre

The athletic facilities include an indoor pool and three gymnasiums, as well as, around the campus, the William P. Wilder sports complex (containing an NHL and an Olympic sized hockey rink, one of only four in Ontario[63]), a sports activity bubble, tennis courts, a sports court, a running track, and nine regulation sized sports fields. The two major fields of the Upper School are called Commons and Lords, after, respectively, the British House of Commons and House of Lords, and one of the main central fields is known as the Oval (covered in winter by a bubble). In the summer of 2006, the latter, along with the encompassing running track, was renovated, with the grass replaced by a partially synthetic astroturf/grass hybrid and the track paved with a rubber turf. Several meters below the field, geothermal pipes were laid to provide alternative energy heating for both the Upper School and the adjacent sports complex. A number of these facilities are the result of a decade long, $90 million capital building campaign launched in the 1990s. Still planned are an Olympic-standard, 50-metre swimming pool; a new racquet centre for squash, badminton, and tennis; a rowing centre; the expansion of both the Prep and Upper School academic buildings; and an expansion of the archives.

The Ontario Heritage Trust, a non-profit agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture, erected three plaques outlining UCC's presence and history in Toronto. One is on the north-east corner of 20 Duncan Street (the only existing building from the college's original campus), the second at the south-east corner of 212 King Street West, and one at the main entrance of the current campus at 200 Lonsdale Road. (An additional plaque that mentions Upper Canada College stands in Clarence Square, commemorating Alexander Dunn, an Old Boy who received Canada's first Victoria Cross.)

Norval campus

Upper Canada College owns and maintains an outdoor educational facility near the town of Norval, Ontario, on 420 acres (170 ha)[3] of property on the Credit River.[64] The land was used by First Nations as camping and hunting grounds and Huron and Iroquois travelled along the Credit to Lake Ontario to trade with Europeans. By the early 19th century, the land supported farming; many remnants of this use remain, including apple orchards and artifacts, some of which were unearthed by students during simulated archaeological digs.[65]

Norval's main purpose is to teach college students about the natural environment, sustainability, and ecosystems through outdoor learning programs,[66] some in conjunction with Outward Bound Canada.[67] It is staffed by five full-time teachers, a superintendent, and cooks and housekeepers.[68] Throughout the school year, entire classes, houses, or portions of certain grades will have a several day stay at Norval and other Ontario schools use the property and its facilities during the weeks when UCC students are not in residence.[68] Norval also hosts an open house each season, with the spring Maple Madness focusing on the site's traditional maple syrup manufacturing,[69] as well as cross-country skiing in winter and pumpkin carving in the autumn.[68]

Littlejohn Bridge over the Credit River as it passes through UCC's Norval property

The land was purchased in 1913,[40] at a time when the city of Toronto was quickly growing around the college's Deer Park campus and the trustees were considering moving the school to a new location. Plans for buildings were drawn up by an architectural firm. However, due to the outbreak of the First World War and then the depression, the move was fully abandoned in the 1930s.[17] The college first attempted to sell the land in 1928 and again in 1935, but found no buyers.[70] Eventually, the property was developed into an outdoor education centre for UCC students and community. Beginning in 1913, an annual picnic was held at Norval, the first being catered by the King Edward Hotel. As the land had originally been cleared for agricultural use, much of the site was open field until over 700,000 seedlings were planted by staff and students through the 1940s,[71] followed by the creation of an arboretum in 1962.[70] The first bunk house was built in the 1930s and augmented in 1967 by another, larger residence and dining building known as Stephen House,[17] which won a Massey Medal for excellence in architecture for the designer, Blake Millar.[41] Stephen House contains a classroom and laboratory, in addition to the residential spaces for students and staff. There is also a bungalow-style residence for the property caretaker and in 2003 several log cabins were built for writing retreats.

Into the 2000s, the school came under criticism for keeping the entirety of the increasingly taxed Norval property while so little of it was actually used; this argument has gained increased credence in light of the consistent yearly tuition hikes and mounting legal costs. Despite repeated assertions that the college had no intention of selling the property, citing not only rapidly increasing land value, but also an intention to hold it in order to prevent industrial development on land that contains a variety of wildlife, including spotted deer and hares, UCC sold a small portion of the acreage in 2007 to help cover costs related to the 2003 class action lawsuit brought against the school by former students.[72][73] In 2011, the Norval Long-Range Planning Committee recommended that Norval's facilities should be expanded to allow for more overnight students and co-educational use.[68]

Tuition, scholarships, and assets

The Victoria Cross awarded in 1900 and presented in 1901 by Prince George, Duke of York (later King George V), to UCC Old Boy Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn and in UCC's possession, though on permanent loan to the Canadian War Museum

Upper Canada College is Canada's wealthiest independent school,[74][75] having an endowment of more than $40 million (CAD).[2] As of 2013, tuition fees range from $29,150 to $32,150 CAD (not including a $8,500 initial registration fee, books and uniform) for day-boy students and $52,010 to $58,510 for boarding (not including a $5,000 initial registration fee). An additional $500 technology fee is levied on all students in the Upper School, which covers the costs of a MacBook Air laptop computer, the associated software, and technological support.[76] According to the school, less than 2% of the Canadian population can afford the full cost of attending the school.[77] The institution has strict admissions standards, accepting approximately 25% of all applicants.[78] The college began a fundraising campaign in 2012 to obtain $100 million for scholarships; a donation of $11 million was received, the largest single gift in Canadian independent school history.[79] In 2013, UCC disbursed $3.7 million in financial aid to its students. Only students in grade five and above are eligible for this assistance. 15% of students at UCC receive financial assistance. The school plans to increase this to 20% in 2015.[79][80]

Besides its own archives containing records that outline the history of Upper Canada, the province of Ontario, and the city of Toronto dating back to the mid-19th century,[81] the college also has a notable collection of artwork, antiques, and war medals. This includes the Order of Canada insignia presented to Robertson Davies, Foster Hewitt, Charles Band, and Arnold Smith,[82] plus Canada's first Victoria Cross, awarded in 1854 to Old Boy Alexander Roberts Dunn, and the Victoria Cross given, and ceremonial sword belonging,[33] to Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn;[82] the valour medals were given to the Canadian War Museum on permanent loan on 17 May 2006.[83] In the college's chapel, itself decorated with works by Canadian artists, is an altar made of marble from parts of St. Paul's Cathedral, in London, England, that were damaged in the Blitz and donated by Dean of St. Paul's Walter Robert Matthews. On this is an altar cloth made from a piece of that which was used for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.[62] Held is an American flag that flew atop one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Further, the school holds works by Thoreau MacDonald and a collection of original paintings from the Group of Seven (though several were auctioned by the college in an effort to pay for the lawsuits it faced in 2004);[84][85] an original Stephen Leacock essay, titled Why Boys Leave Home—A Talk on Camping, donated in 2005 and published for the first time in The Globe and Mail;[86] and the original manuscript of Robertson Davies' work The Mask of Aesop, which he wrote in 1952 specifically for the Prep's 50th anniversary.[82] Also in UCC's possession is a chair owned by Sir John A. Macdonald and another that once belonged to George Airey Kirkpatrick.[87]

Government, faculty, and staff

Upper Canada College is incorporated under an act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and administered by a 17-member Board of Governors as a public trust,[4] with the current chair of the board being Russ Higgins, a principal of MacPherson Builders ltd. Somerset Entertainment.[88] The board, whose members are appointed and elected from alumni, parents of students past and present, and the wider UCC community, selects the college's principal, who serves for five years,[89] managing the school's annual operation and heading an executive committee composed of vice-principals, department heads, and administration staff.[90] There are also a number of other committees for advancement, finance and audit, governance and nominating, human resources, long range planning, property, and senior management review.[91] Additionally, the UCC Foundation, a registered charity in Ontario since 1962 and run by a board of trustees, manages the school's endowment. Honorary trustees include David R. Beatty, John Craig Eaton II, Hans Michael Jebsen, Michael MacMillan, Kelly and Michael Meighen, Richard M. Thomson, Galen Weston, and Michael Wilson.[92]

There are 129 faculty members in total, of whom 12 possess doctorates, 40 hold master's degrees,[93] and 20% are International Baccalaureate examiners.[94] 17 faculty members reside on the campus.[95] The student-to-teacher ratio is 18:1 in the lower grades and 19:1 in the upper grades.[96]


Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, UCC's Visitor since 1955

Sir John Colborne served informally as Upper Canada College's first visitor. When the post was created in 1833, the Bishop of York was named as the occupant, ex officio. Four years later, an act of the Upper Canada legislature outlined that the Visitors of UCC would be the judges of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench. The role was then transferred in 1850 to the Governor General of the Province of Canada, on behalf of Queen Victoria,[97][98] until Confederation, after which the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario acted as Visitor.[99] However, it was later felt the provincial viceroy was connected too much to politics and the office of Visitor was not mentioned in the 1901 act that altered the government of UCC.[98]

Victoria's great-grandson, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor), was in 1920 appointed as Upper Canada College's official Visitor, at the Prince's request.[100] The College Times wrote then:

It will be a great pleasure to all to hear that the HRH the Prince of Wales has expressed a wish to be given the fine old English title of Visitor of this school. HRH met so many "Old Boys" while [fighting in World War I] that when he made his visit to Canada last year he instituted special inquiries about the previous history of the College. Finding that the title existed, he has thus honored us by becoming "Visitor of Upper Canada College".... The gracious offer of the Prince, places the position on a still higher plane, and it makes us all feel a lot prouder of the grand old College to which we belong.[101]

Maintaining a connection with the Canadian Royal Family, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (husband of Edward VIII's niece, Queen Elizabeth II), was in 1955 appointed Visitor of UCC. He subsequently visited the college five times,[100] aided two fundraising campaigns, and gave items to the school, such as a signed cricket bat.[102]

In May 2012, the Upper Canada College Monarchist League conducted a poll and submitted to the Board of Governors a report outlining how 71% of students surveyed (91% of those in Year One) approved of another member of the Royal Family to act as UCC's visitor upon the resignation or demise of the Duke of Edinburgh. It was recommended that the next person to occupy the post be non-partisan and of a young age, so as to be likely to serve for a number of decades, as the Duke of Edinburgh has done. The most widely supported figure was Prince Philip's grandson, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.[100]

Student body

UCC is a non-denominational school with approximately 1,000 day students and 88 boarders; Senior Kindergarten to Grade Seven students, approximately 400 boys,[103] attend the Preparatory School (the Prep), after which a boy may move on to the Upper School, which consists of Grades Eight to Twelve. The Upper School years are known as follows:

While Prep students are divided into forms, UCC, like several other schools in the Commonwealth of Nations, divides its Upper School students into houses.[104] The house system was first adopted in 1923, consisting of only four houses until the late 1930s, after which the number increased the present ten. Eight of these—Bremner's, Howard's, Jackson's, Martland's, McHugh's, Mowbray's, Orr's, and Scadding's—are for day students and the remaining two—Seaton's and Wedd's—are for boarders.[104][105] The houses compete in an annual intramural competition for the Prefects' Cup and the boarders also take part in weekend events and trips with boarders from neighbouring girls' schools.[106]

The Parkin Building, part of the Prep School, which houses Kindergarten through Grade Seven

Martland's was named for John "Gentle" Martland, a master at the College who was most well known for his reform of the boarding houses, making them into something more than simple residences. He toned down the rigid study regimes, cold dormitories, bland menus, and bullying, fostering instead more tolerating discipline, swift punishment for serious offenders, the occasional feast, and organised recreation.[107] Wedd's is the one the oldest of the ten houses at UCC and is named for William Wedd, formerly first classical master.[108]

The Upper School building from inside the Massey Quadrangle; at centre is the Prince of Wales doors, once reserved for the exclusive use of stewards

The school's student government, created in 1892 and known as the Board of Stewards,[109][110] represents the students at events, such as Association Day and Hockey Night, and relays their wishes, during times of change or concern, to the upper administration. The group comprises 17 elected members of the Leaving Class:[105] one steward for each house (the heads of houses) plus seven—the Head Steward and six stewards with portfolio—chosen by the majority of the whole student body.[111] In addition to the stewards, students can enter the prefects program, requiring them to show leadership through their senior years in order to be awarded the title of Prefect upon graduation, the highest recognition UCC offers "for citizenship and leadership."[111]

Though Upper Canada College has accepted ethnic minorities since the first black student (Peter Gallego, the son of a former American slave) enrolled in 1831[112] and First Nations boys, such as Francis Assikinack (son of the Ojibwe leader Jean-Baptiste Assiginack) in 1840,[113] their representation within the student body was initially disproportionate to the same within the city's population[114] and the school developed a reputation as a "WASP bastion".[14] Michael Ignatieff considered the school's ethnic makeup during his time there, between 1959 and 1965, reflective of the culture of Toronto in general; according to him, "basically Tory, Anglican and fantastically patrician."[115] Peter C. Newman, who attended UCC a decade before Ignatieff, and himself Jewish, said anti-semitism was "virtually non-existent."[116] According to school historian Richard Howard, UCC transformed its culture during the 1970s, as it began to offer assistance to the less affluent and made attempts to attract boys from visible minorities, becoming what he called "a small United Nations" that echoed Toronto's emerging ethnic variety (today, students from over 20 different countries and regions attend UCC),[117][118] though, as recently as 1990, there were references in College Times editorials to anti-semitism and sexism.[119][120] These aspects of college life came to light in 1994, through James T. Fitzgerald's book Old Boys, which published some alumni's recollections of the school. The college took the criticisms seriously, hiring one of its critics to help open UCC to the broader community.[121] The decision to reverse the 2007 plan to eliminate boarding was made in part because of boarding's inherent ability to allow students from around the world to attend UCC.[14] The college's expansion of financial aid beginning in 2012 was intended to socioeconomically diversify the student body.[14]


Upper Canada College educates boys from Senior Kindergarten through to Grade Twelve. Graduates receive both the Ontario Secondary School Diploma and the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma; UCC adopted the IB program in 1996 and the entire curriculum is today guided by the non-governmental organization. French, language, mathematics, science, outdoor education, physical education, the arts, and more are covered during a boy's years in the Prep School and, once boys move to the Upper School in Year One (Grade Eight), they begin university preparation through a liberal arts program.[122] The courseload includes mathematics, history, geography, science, English, civics, and the dramatic, visual, and musical arts, as well as computer science.[123] Aiding both student and teachers is the Wernham West Centre for Learning, the most comprehensive and endowed secondary school learning facility in Canada.[124] Created in 2002 as a department pertaining to the refinement of academic skills and assisting the students with learning disabilities, its primary focus is to facilitate improved learning skills and abilities, as well as accommodate for students with particular learning disabilities.[125]

Extracurricular activities

Participation in extracurricular activities is encouraged at Upper Canada College; all Grade Nine students are automatically enrolled in The Duke of Edinburgh's Award program and all students must complete 150 hours of other extracurricular commitments, with an equal division between arts, athletics, and community service (what the IB calls CAS: creativity, action, service),[126][127] prior to graduation.[110]

Arts and athletics

Upper Canada College runs a variety of extracurricular theatre programs, ranging in scope and scale, from musicals to Shakespeare, with at least one large-scale and one small-scale production each year. Smaller, student written and run plays are also produced. The theatre program, which includes all aspects of production, is run in conjunction with Bishop Strachan School, a nearby girls' private school.[128] Various bands and music groups that practice extra-curricularly are also supported by the college, including a wind ensemble, concert band, stage band, string ensemble, jazz ensemble, and singers.[129] These groups compete in festivals at different levels and also organize fundraising concerts.[130] UCC has, and still does, develop sports rivalries with other boys' schools in Ontario.

The William P. Wilder Sports Complex, an arena housing one NHL and one Olympic sized hockey rink

Sports teams run by UCC include baseball, basketball, cricket, football, golf, hockey, rowing, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, squash, Swimming, track and field, tennis, and volleyball.[131][132][133] Some teams are purely intramural, but 45 interscholastic teams compete in the CISAA and OFSAA and regularly place high in the standings at national and international competitions,[131][134] such as the Head of the Charles Regatta.[135]


The World Affairs Conference is Canada's oldest student run conference, begun in 1983 and organized in conjunction with Branksome Hall since the late 1980s. Held annually, it is attended by over 750 international students from 20 schools.[136] Past speakers have included Ralph Nader, Stephen Lewis, Michael Ignatieff, Susan Faludi, Gwynne Dyer, Thomas Homer-Dixon,[137] and Edward Snowden,[138][139] all of whom have spoken on a variety of topics including human rights, gender issues, justice, globalization, and health ethics.[140] Also in conjunction with other schools, UCC runs the Ontario Model Parliament (OMP), a simulation of a provincial parliament that has taken place each year since 1986, when it was founded by UCC teacher Paul Bennett,[141] and is composed of two events: an Elections Day at UCC, followed by a three-day simulation that takes place in the legislative chamber at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. UCC students make up the entirety of the Executive Committee that organizes and runs the model parliament,[142] however 200 students from high schools around the province participate.[141] Past Elections Day speakers have included Art Eggleton, John Tory, John Aimers, Bob Rae, and Rex Murphy.

The logo of UCC's Green School program

The UCC Green School is an environmental organization composed of student, teachers, and faculty, through which UCC has planted and maintained an educational organic garden, reduced landfill waste and water consumption, and implemented a program of purchasing renewable resources for renovations.[143] The Green School has won awards from the City of Toronto and the National Audubon Society.[144]


The College maintains and administers its own publishing company, the UCC Press, which produces all school publications. It also once printed professional texts, novels, and histories, such as those by Robert Lowell, but the UCC Press today prints the majority of school-related publications—newspaper, alumni magazines, financial reports, etc.—save for the College Times. UCC provides several publications, most of which are written, directed, and printed by students.

The College Times is UCC's yearbook and is the oldest school publication in Canada, having been issued without fail since it was founded by John Ross Robertson, then a student at UCC, in September 1857.[145] The first editions were written by Robertson and fellow pupils and printed on presses at The Globe, the predecessor newspaper of the present The Globe and Mail.[146] Past editors include Robertson Davies, Michael Ignatieff,[147] and Stephen Leacock. Issued more regularly, Old Times is the school's alumni magazine, which reports on the lives of Old Boys, and highlights recent and upcoming events.

Serials for the student body include The Blazer, the college humour newspaper; Quiddity, the school's annual arts and literature publication, which showcases students' creative work; The Blue Page, a one-page weekly publication of letters to the editor expressing opinions on any relevant issue; and Convergence, the school's award winning student newspaper.[148] In addition, BluesTV was a student-led, school television network that started in 2007 and aired multimedia, slideshows of pictures from various school events, as well as promotional material created for the college. BluesTV became a subsidiary of the Media Association in 2009, fostering the operation of a live-announcement submission and display system.

Community service

Upper Canada College encourages students to engage in voluntary community service.[149] In relation to this, the college runs the Horizons program, in which local underprivileged children are tutored in music, digital media, and academics twice a week by current UCC students.[149] Further, each year, usually for two to four weeks during Spring Break, UCC also organises trips for 15 to 20 of its Upper School students to various developing countries where they take part in community building services such as constructing schools, wells and homes, or aiding in conservation work. Students have ventured to places like Venezuela, El Salvador, Kenya,[150] and China.[149][151]


Every year the school plans and runs several on or off-site events, some of which are open only to students in certain years, while others to the entire student population, alumni, and their respective friends and family. These events are intended to serve a variety of purposes—promoting school spirit, for enjoyment, fund raising or philanthropic causes—and many are organized by the Upper Canada College Association, with the help of parent and student volunteers.

Association Day is analogous to UCC's homecoming. Held since 1979, A-Day, as it is informally known, constitutes the school's largest annual event, taking place over the last weekend of September and culminating on the Saturday with a large festival, including competitive matches for all fall sports teams and the Association Dinner for Old Boys celebrating their five-year incremental class reunions.[152] Later in the academic year is the Founder's Dinner, a formal event that has been held for more than a century. It typically takes place on the Thursday night before the third weekend in January, which is made a special long weekend for students as a commemoration of Sir John Colborne's birthday.[153] Another regular event is the UCC Gala, a black tie dinner and silent auction organized every three or four years in May.[154]

The Royal York Hotel, frequently the location of the Battalion Ball

Two secondary school student dances take place in the calendar year: The Battalion Ball originated out of the At Home, a UCC community-wide event similar to a modern homecoming and first held in 1887. The revival of the UCC Rifle Corps in 1891 resulted in students attending the At Home in their cadet uniforms and, by 1897, a dance was added to the festivities in the evening, known as the Rifle Corps Dance. By 1931, the dance became the Battalion Ball, after the Rifle Corps was renamed the UCC Cadet Battalion, and, in 1971, the colloquial nickname The Batt was devised, which later developed into "Batt Ball". The event was held off-campus for the first time in 1975, at the King Edward Hotel, and, after 1976, when the Cadet Corps was disbanded, school uniforms replaced military attire, rock bands played, and Batt Ball became more of a spring prom. Today, Batt Ball is reserved for students in grades 11 and 12, held at venues such as the Royal York Hotel or Arcadian Court, with attire being tuxedo for boys and evening gown or cocktail dress for girls, and music is provided by DJs.[155] The Stewards' Dance is UCC's fall semi-formal and is typically fashioned around costume party themes such as "Great Couples in History". The dance takes place in late October and is administrated by the Board of Stewards for all students in grades 11 and above.

Various sporting events occur annually: Hockey Night has been held by the college since 1933 as an evening where the First Hockey team would play a feature game against one of UCC's rival schools in competition for the Foster Hewitt Victory Trophy.[41] The game was held at Maple Leaf Gardens, thanks to the generosity of the arena's builder, Conn Smythe, and its (as well as the then Toronto Maple Leafs) owner, Harold Ballard,[156] both themselves Old Boys. After the closing of The Gardens in 2000, the event was moved to the Air Canada Centre and then the Ricoh Coliseum. Over the decades other games were added to the roster, including a game involving the school's Junior Varsity team, the final game of the house hockey tournament, and a game between Havergal College and Bishop Strachan School. By the early 1990s, pleasure skating and Prep School games had been added to the evening's schedule. Further, the Terry Fox Run is one of Upper Canada College's most successful events; the school is an official site for the run, acting as the start and end point, as well as part of the course, which ventures throughout Toronto's Belt-Line. UCC's Terry Fox Run is also the largest site and has raised the most money in the world since 2000.[157] The Prep Games Day is an annual held event at the junior school.


Upper Canada College is a member of the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario (CIS), the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) Board, the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) and an associate member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the International Boys' School Coalition (IBSC), the Toronto Boys' School Coalition (TBSC), and the college principal is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) in the UK.[40][158] Along with St. Andrew's College, Ridley College, and Trinity College School, UCC also remains one of the Little Big Four, an athletic association of Ontario independent boys' schools established in the 19th century.

Though Bishop Strachan School (BSS) is located only two blocks from UCC, it is not UCC's sister school. UCC students do, however, work on joint projects with students of other nearby girls' schools, including BSS, St. Clement's School, Havergal College, and Branksome Hall.

The school had, between 2008 and 2009, a relationship with an Ontario Junior Hockey League team, the Upper Canada Hockey Club, though the team and the school were not directly affiliated.

UCC community


The college states that almost every UCC graduate, known as an Old Boy, goes on to post-secondary schooling, though some will take a sabbatical;[159] Peterson's reported in 2010 that of 150 graduating students, 143 went on to college or university.[160] The graduate community consists of over 6,000 Old Boys around the world and,[134] though the career paths of the college's alumni are varied, UCC has a reputation for educating many of Canada's powerful, elite, and wealthy.[3][13][15][161]

The school has produced six lieutenant governors, four premiers, seven chief justices, and four Mayors of Toronto. At least 17 graduates have been appointed to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, 25 have been named Rhodes Scholars,[162] five have been named Loran Scholars,[3][159][163] 10 are Olympic medallists, and at least 13 have been accepted as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. No less than 41 have been inducted into the Order of Canada since the honour's inception in 1967 and 11 into the Order of Ontario.

UCC Association

The Upper Canada College Old Boys' Association is a non-profit organization established in 1891, on the day of the closure of the college's Russell Square campus. The name was changed in 1969 to the Upper Canada College Association,[41] when the association expanded its mandate to include parents, faculty, staff and friends of the college in matters relating to UCC, such as governance and advancement.[164] Specific programs are also run by the association, including those that permit recent graduates to volunteer as mentors to students,[165] and Old Boy reunions are set up around the world by the association's fifteen branches outside of Toronto: Calgary, Halifax, Kingston, London, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver in Canada; Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco in the United States; London in the United Kingdom; Hong Kong in China; and Budapest in Hungary.[166]

A 29-person board of directors, referred to as the Association Council, meets three times a year to discuss matters facing the college and plan association events; 21 of those on the council are elected by members of the association at its annual meeting, while the remaining eight are ex-officio.[164] Four of the 17 members of the college's board of governors come from the association board, including the President of the Association, and serve on the larger body for a three-year period.

Noted faculty

Stephen Leacock, who taught at Upper Canada College in the late 1800s

Faculty have included:

Arms, motto, and crest

Upper Canada College's motto is palmam qui meruit ferat, meaning "let he who merited the palm bear it,"[1] and was derived from the poem by John Jortin titled Ad Ventos—ante A.D. MDCCXXVII ("To the Winds—Before 1727"). The words, attached to the arms of Lord Nelson in 1797,[181] were first used in relation to UCC in 1833, as part of an emblem stamped on the inside of books given as prizes, showing the phrase written on a ribbon tying together two laurel leaves around the school's name. Around 1850, a crown replaced the school's name; John Ross Robertson stated this was at the insistence of Henry Scadding, who argued in favour of its use because the school had both been founded by a lieutenant governor and was at first a Royal Grammar School.[182] The crown originally used was that of King George IV.[183]

In 1889, Scadding produced the design for the insignia which can still be seen over the doors to Laidlaw Hall at the college's Upper School. L.C. Kerslake described this crest in 1956:

The small wreath, crossed anchor and sword in the centre of the crest are found in Lord Nelson's coat of arms.

The open book in the upper left corner is symbolic of education which is the primary function of any school. The quadrant-shaped figure in the upper right corner is a section of the standard of St. George and signifies the school's connection with England and Great Britain, the native land of the founder, Lord Seaton.
Technically speaking, the crown should not be included in the crest, as the school was not instituted by royal charter. However, loyalty to the Crown is one of the fundamental traditions of UCC and is certain to endure as long as the school itself.

The cornua copiae just above the motto stands for the fullness of school life which is one of the distinctive marks of UCC.

This complex design, known as Scadding's Device,[184] which was just the Seal of Upper Canada as authorised in 1820 with the college's motto and palm branches applied, was never widely used.[17] Instead, the simple crown between laurel leaves tied with a ribbon bearing the school motto became the standard crest, though its appearance changed throughout the decades in reflection of current tastes.

UCC's crest from 1916 to 1931

It was not until the mid-1970s, as the college approached its sesquicentennial, that consideration was given to having the crest authorised by the College of Arms, then the heraldic authority for Canada, and the Armoral Bearings Committee was established to oversee the project. A petition was thereafter submitted to the Earl Marshal in 1981.[183] The Board of Governors insisted that the school's traditional crest be incorporated into the forthcoming achievement; however, as the crest includes a royal crown, it was necessary to obtain the Canadian monarch's personal permission to use it officially. This was done via the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, then John Black Aird (himself a UCC Old Boy), and Queen Elizabeth II consented to the request, making UCC the only institution of its kind in the Commonwealth of Nations to have the royal crown in its arms.[184]

The letters patent granting Upper Canada College its heraldic standard (top left), coat of arms (centre left), and badge (lower left)

The letters patent granting UCC its armorial achievements, including a heraldic standard, were issued on 4 January 1985, the 155th anniversary of the college's first day of classes.[185] The traditional crest became the school's badge. However, as text and figures are normally not included in such emblems, the motto was omitted, but the King of Arms made an exception to the rules by allowing the retention of the date 1829.[185] The symbol also became the crest of the school's new arms, though here with the number 1829 also absent, since, per heraldic rules, the royal crown must sit directly on the helmet. The escutcheon of the arms shows two deer's heads in the chief—one being the crest of the arms of the Lord Seaton and the other taken from the arms of Bishop John Strachan, the first chairman of the board of governors—while, below a line of division embattled as in Seaton's achievement, is the aforementioned Scadding's Device surmounted by another royal crown. The shield is supported by, on the left, a master in academic gown and, at right, a student in cricket uniform, both styled on such figures in the mid-19th century.[184] These devices were in 2005 registered with the Canadian Heraldic Authority.[186]

In media

In the 2006 film Bon Cop, Bad Cop, the main character of Martin Ward (Colm Feore) is a graduate of Upper Canada College.[187] The school is also mentioned in Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion as an institution into which the wealthy in Rosedale, Toronto, wished to enroll their eldest sons.[188]

UCC was a filming location for the 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer[189] and was the focus of episode eight of season nine of the Rogers Television show Structures.[190][191]

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