Victoria University, Toronto


Victoria University
Former names
Upper Canada Academy (1836–1841)
Victoria College (1841–1884)
MottoAbeunt studia in mores
Motto in English
Studies pass into character
EstablishedOctober 12, 1836; 185 years ago (1836-10-12)
Parent institution
University of Toronto
EndowmentC$506.7 million[1]
ChancellorNick Saul
PresidentWilliam R. Robins
PrincipalAngela Esterhammer (Victoria College), Michelle Voss Roberts (Emmanuel College)

Victoria University is a college of the University of Toronto, founded in 1836 and named in honour of Queen Victoria. It is commonly called Victoria College, informally Vic, after the original academic component that now forms its undergraduate division. Since 1928, Victoria College has retained secular studies in the liberal arts and sciences while Emmanuel College has functioned as its postgraduate theological college. Victoria operated as an independent institution until its federation with the University of Toronto in 1890, relocating from Cobourg to Toronto.

Victoria is situated in the northeastern part of the university campus, adjacent to St. Michael's College and Queen's Park. Among its residential halls is Annesley Hall, a National Historic Site of Canada. A major centre for Reformation and Renaissance studies, Victoria is home to international scholarly projects and holdings devoted to pre-Puritan English drama and the works of Desiderius Erasmus.


Upper Canada Academy in Cobourg, 1863 (Victoria University Archives).
Old Vic in Toronto, 1900

Victoria College was founded as the Upper Canada Academy by the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1831, a church committee decided to locate the academy on four acres (1.6 hectares) of land in Cobourg, Ontario, east of Toronto, because of its central location in a large town and access by land and water. In 1836, Egerton Ryerson received a royal charter for the institution from King William IV in England, while the Upper Canadian government was hesitant to provide a charter to a Methodist institution. This was the first charter ever granted by the British Government to a Nonconformist body for an educational institution.[3] The school officially opened to male and female students on October 12, 1836, with Ryerson as the first president and Matthew Richey as principal.[4] Although the school taught a variety of liberal arts subjects, it also functioned as an unofficial Methodist seminary. In 1841, it was incorporated as Victoria College, named in honour of Queen Victoria, and finally received a charter from the Upper Canadian Legislature.[5]

John Harper (architect) designed Victoria University Medical College (1871-2), Gerrard Street East at Sackville Street, Toronto which was demolished.[6]

Victoria University was formed in 1884 when Victoria College and Albert University federated with each other. In 1890, Victoria University federated with the University of Toronto. In 1892, Victoria University moved from Cobourg to its current campus on Queen's Park Crescent, south of Bloor Street (at Charles Street West), in Toronto.

A plaque was erected at 100 University Avenue at the intersection with College Street in Cobourg, Ontario.

Victoria College The cornerstone of this building was laid June 7, 1832, and teaching began in 1836. First operated under a royal charter by the Wesleyan Methodists as Upper Canada Academy, in 1841 it obtained a provincial charter under the name of Victoria College, giving it power to grant degrees. Victoria's first president was the Reverend Egerton Ryerson, newspaper editor and founder of Ontario's present educational system. In 1890 the college federated with the University of Toronto and, in 1892, left Cobourg.

Burwash Hall, 1926

James Loudon, a former president of the federated universities, had prohibited dancing at the University of Toronto until 1896. However, dancing at Victoria was not officially permissible until thirty years later, in 1926.

King George V gifted to Victoria College a silver cup used by Queen Victoria when she was a child and the Royal Standard that had flown at Osborne House and was draped on the coffin of the Queen when she died there in 1901.[7]

Two bronze plaques on either side of the outside door of Victoria College were erected as memorials dedicated to the students of Victoria College who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. The WWI list of honour was erected by the Alumni and Alumnae Associations on October 13, 1923, while the WWII list of honour was erected by the Board of Regents.[8]

In 1928, the independent Union College federated with the theology department of Victoria College, and became Emmanuel College.

On the old Ontario strand for piano by Joyce Belyea was published for the Victoria College Music Club between 1946 and 1948 by the J.H. Peel Music Pub. Co. in Toronto.[9]

Sites and architecture

The main quadrangle of Victoria College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Victoria College is somewhat separated from the rest of the University of Toronto geographically, bordering Queen's Park, and being located on the eastern portion of the campus along with St. Michael's College. The main building, Old Vic, an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style, was built in 1891. The architect was W. G. Storm, who died shortly after completion. The campus is centred on the main quadrangle of Victoria, outlined by the upper and lower houses of Burwash Hall.

The oldest residence building at Victoria is Annesley Hall. Built in 1903 and renovated in 1988, it is a National Historic Site of Canada located across from the Royal Ontario Museum. Annesley Hall was the first residence built specifically for women in Canada.

Old Vic in 2021
Gate House as viewed from the Victoria Quad.

Burwash Hall is the second oldest of the residence buildings at Victoria. Construction began in 1911 and was completed in 1913. It was named after Nathanael Burwash, a former president of Victoria. The building is an extravagant Neo-Gothic work with turrets, gargoyles, and battlements. The architect was Henry Sproatt.

The building is divided between the large dining hall in the northwest and the student residence proper. The residence area is divided into two sections. The Upper Houses, built in 1913, consist of four houses: North House, Middle House, Gate House, and South House. The Lower Houses were built in 1931 and were originally intended to house theology students at Emmanuel College, whose current building was opened the same year. First House, Nelles House, Caven House, Bowles-Gandier House are now mostly home to undergraduate arts and science students. The latter two are mostly reserved for students in the Vic One Programme.

Toronto University 2007 003.JPG

To the west the Upper Houses look out on the Vic Quad and the main Victoria College building across it. West of the Lower Houses is the new Lester B. Pearson Garden of Peace and International Understanding and the E.J. Pratt Library beyond it. From the eastern side of the building, the Upper Houses look out at Rowell Jackman Hall and the Lower Houses see the St. Michael's College residence of Elmsley. The only exceptions are the view from Gate House's tower that looks down St. Mary's Street and the view from the south side of Bowles-Gandier house, which looks upon the main quadrangle of St. Michael's University College.

Rowell Jackman Hall, is the newest of Vic's residences, having been completed in 1993. It is named after Mary Rowell Jackman whose son Hal Jackman made a substantial donation to the project. It stands just to the east of Burwash Hall on Charles St. and is west of St. Michael's College Loretto College. Before Rowell Jackman Hall was built, the site was home to a parking lot and the historic Stephenson House. Prior to construction Stephenson House was moved to a new location further east on Charles St. The building's construction caused some controversy as it greatly disrupted life in Burwash.

Margaret Addison Hall is a seven-floor co-ed residence across Charles St. from Burwash Hall, between the Goldring Student Centre and the Victoria sports field.

E.J. Pratt Library is the main library of Victoria University.[10] It was built in 1961 and is located at the south end of the quadrangle. The site of the library and the adjacent Northrop Frye Building was originally on the route of Queen's Park Crescent. The road was pushed south into Queen's Park to make way for the new buildings.[citation needed]

Academics and organization

Northrop Frye Hall

Victoria University is governed bicamerally by the Victoria University Board of Regents and the Victoria University Senate. These bodies are represented by faculty, administrators, elected students and alumni. The colleges are governed by the Victoria College Council and Emmanuel College Council. College councils are represented by faculty, administrators and elected and appointed students. Victoria's governing charter was most recently amended in 1981, with the enactment of the Victoria University Act.[11]

Victoria is presently the wealthiest college at the University of Toronto by net assets. In part this has been because of alumni donations, but much of the growth is specifically due to the rapidly increasing value of Victoria's large real estate holdings in downtown Toronto. Today, the college has a securities portfolio worth approximately $78 million and a real estate portfolio worth $80 million.[citation needed][12]

The E.J. Pratt Library is the main library for Victoria College. The collection of approximately 250,000 volumes is geared towards the undergraduate programs at Vic and contains mainly humanities texts with a focus on History, English, Philosophy.[10] The library also hosts rich archival special collections from notable alumni and faculty, historical figures, specific literary collections and Canadiana.[13] The library also oversees Victoria University's institutional archives.[14] The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies is located within the E.J. Pratt Library. Its holdings fall into three main categories: rare books, most of which were printed before 1700 (currently about 4,000 titles), modern books and microforms (several thousand microfiches and reels). The library contains primary and secondary materials relating to virtually every aspect of the Renaissance and Reformation. In particular, it houses the Erasmus collection, one of the richest resources in North America for the study of works written or edited by the great Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. The collection holds a substantial number of pre-1700 editions of his works, including the Novum Instrumentum of 1516.

The E.J. Pratt Library

The academic programs of the college include Literary Studies, Semiotics and Communication Theory, Renaissance Studies, the Vic Concurrent Teacher Education Program (developed in conjunction with OISE/UT) and the first-year undergraduate programs Vic One and Vic First Pathways.[15]

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) is a research and teaching centre in Victoria University devoted to the study of the period from approximately 1350 to 1700. The CRRS supervises an undergraduate program in Renaissance Studies, organizes lectures and seminars, and maintains an active series of publications. The centre also offers undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowships. From 1976 to 2009, the performance history research and publishing project Records of Early English Drama (REED) was based at Victoria University.

Student life

Inside the dining hall of Burwash Hall
The former Wymilwood building (now part of the Goldring Student Centre)

Campus life for Victoria students is active and varied. Victoria College has levy receivers, student organizations that directly receive a fixed amount of funding from students every year, as well as clubs whose funding are overseen by the Victoria University Students' Administrative Council (VUSAC). Prominent clubs include The Boundary (the college's satire paper),[16] the Environmental Fashion Show, Vic Dance and the Victoria College Chorus.[17]

Levy receivers are students groups with special status based on providing an essential service for student life, and levy heads are also assessor members in VUSAC. Victoria's eleven levy receivers are:[18]

  • Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal.
  • Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS), which runs at least four shows per year[citation needed] (a fall show, a winter show, a submission to the University of Toronto Drama Festival, and a musical)
  • The Strand, Vic's student-run newspaper that is distributed fortnightly across the University of Toronto's downtown campus.
  • Victoria College Athletics Association (VCAA), which provides students with a chance to participate and compete in intramural sports.
  • The Cat's Eye, a student lounge in the Goldring Student Centre building that is often used to hold events.
  • WUSC, which sponsors a student from a developing country to come to the University of Toronto.
  • Caffiends, Vic's student-run fair trade organic cafe.
  • VicPride!, an LGBTQ organization that strives to create a safe space at Victoria.
  • Student Projects, a fund available to students to finance projects that will enrich student life.
  • VicXposure, a photography group offering workshops, equipment rentals and darkroom use.
  • VISA, the Victoria International Students Association.

Victoria is also home to the Isabel Bader Theatre, opened in March 2001. During the past few years the theatre has been used as a lecture hall for University of Toronto students, an active learning space for Victoria University students groups, numerous concerts, film screenings, conferences, and theatrical productions, including the annual sophomore tradition launched in 1872, The Bob Comedy Revue, each written, directed, produced and performed by students such as Lester B. Pearson, Norman Jewison, E. J. Pratt, Northrop Frye, and Margaret Atwood.[19]

Residential halls and houses

Annesley Hall is the all-female residence at Victoria College. Annesley Hall is the first university residence built for women in Canada.[20]

Burwash Hall residences consist of the Upper and Lower Houses, each type differing slightly in their layout. The Upper Houses were gutted and renovated in 1995. The Lower Houses have only been partially upgraded. Before the renovations the entire building was all male, but now every house in Burwash is co-ed.

Gate House is one of the four Upper Houses of Burwash Hall. Until 2007, when Victoria administration made it co-ed, Gate House was one of the last remaining all-male residence building in the University of Toronto.[21] The Gate House emblem is the Phoenix, visible in the bottom-right corner of the Victoria College insignia. Gate House, with the rest of Upper Burwash, opened in 1913 and has held students every year since then except 1995, when it was renovated.[22] Gate House has three floors which house 28 students.

The eight storey Rowell Jackman Hall building is an apartment style residence with each floor divided into a number of suites. The interior is ascetic: a combination of plastic runners and gray linoleum tile. When it was completed Rowell Jackman Hall was mainly home to upper years and graduate students. Today it only houses undergrads and has a considerable number of first years, except for International House, which continues to house a number of upper years.

Stephenson House

Stephenson House was a community involvement residence at Victoria University and hosted ten undergraduate students per year. Stephenson House was self-governed and self-regulating with a separate application and selection process. It last functioned as a residence in the 2009–2010 academic year.

Burwash Dining Hall

The Burwash Dining Hall holds some 250 students and sixteen large tables. Hanging on the western wall is Queen Victoria's burial flag, given to the college soon after her death. Under the flag is the high table where the professors and college administration lunch. Historically, the Upper Houses each had their own table. Gate sat in the southwest corner, Middle sat in the far northeast, South sat in the table to the west of Middle, while North sat to the west of the southeast corner. The only lower house to have had a designated table was Caven, in the northwest corner beside the Alumni table. (Note that prior to the 1995 renovations, some of these houses, particularly North and Caven, 'traditionally' sat elsewhere)



  • Matthew Richey (1836 - 1840)
  • Jesse Hurlburt (1840 - 1841)
  • Egerton Ryerson (1841 - 1847)
  • Alexander MacNab (1847 - 1849)
  • John Wilson (1849 - 1850)
  • Samuel S. Nelles (1850 - 1884)
  • Edward Wilson Wallace (1930 - 1932)
  • Walter Theodore Brown (1932 - 1941)
  • Harold Bennett (1941 - 1959)
  • H. Northrop Frye (1959 - 1966)
  • John Edwin Hodgetts (1967 - 1970)
  • John Mercel Robson (1971 - 1976)
  • Gordon Lincoln Keyes (1976 - 1981)
  • Alexandra Ferguson Johnston (1981 - 1991)
  • William J. Callahan (1991 - 2000)
  • David B. Cook (2000 - 2012)
  • Angela Esterhammer (2012 - )


  • Matthew Richey (1849 - 1850)
  • Egerton Ryerson (1850 - 1854)
  • Samuel S. Nelles (1854 - 1887)
  • Nathaneal Burwash (1887 - 1912)
  • Richard Pinch Bowles (1913 - 1930)
  • Edward Wilson Wallace (1930 - 1941)
  • Walter Theodore Brown (1941 - 1949)
  • Harold Bennett (1949 - 1950)
  • Arthur Bruce Barbour Moore (1950 - 1970)
  • John Edwin Hodgetts (1970 - 1972)
  • Goldwin S. French (1973 - 1987)
  • Eva Milada Kushner (1987 - 1994)
  • Roseann Runte (1994 - 2001)
  • Paul W. Gooch (2001 - 2015)
  • William R. Robins (2015 - 2021)


Notable alumni and faculty

Famous Victoria alumni include Margaret Atwood, Lester B. Pearson, Don Harron, and Donald Sutherland.


"Ceremonial Figure" (1964) by Sorel Etrog, inside Northrop Frye Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
  1. ^ "Victoria University : Financial Statements : April 30, 2019" (PDF). Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  2. ^ Pask-Aubé, Corinne (2016). University of Toronto Facts and Figures (PDF). Office of Government, Institutional and Community Relations.
  3. ^ Burwash, Nathaneal (1927). History of Victoria College. Toronto: Victoria College Press. p. 41.
  4. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook #6466 of 'The Intellectual Development of the Canadian People, A historical review' by John George Bourinot, House of Commons, Ottawa, February 17th, 1881
  5. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Rynor, F. Michah (2001). "Royal Gems". UofT Magazine. Toronto: University of Toronto (Winter 2001). Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (27 November 2008). "Link to this page". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  10. ^ a b "About the Library | About Us | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2018-12-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ University of Victoria. (2020. Statement of Financial Information.
  13. ^ "Special Collections | Collections | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  14. ^ "About the Archives | Archives | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-04-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "The Boundary". The Varsity. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  17. ^ "VUSAC – CLUBS". Victoria-university. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  18. ^ "VUSAC". Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  19. ^ "Despite cuts and critics, Bob carries on". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  20. ^ "Annesley Hall National Historic Site of Canada". Canada's Historic Places. Parks Canada. Retrieved 2012-08-22. Annesley Hall was designated a national historic site because it is a particularly good example of the Queen Anne Revival style, as expressed in institutional architecture. Designed by architect G. M. Miller, and built in 1902-1903, Annesley Hall was the first purpose-built women's residence on a Canadian university campus.
  21. ^ Taylor, Bill (2007-12-19). "Party's over at U of T residence". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
  22. ^ Houghton, Sarah (2003-03-12). "One Hundred Years of Architecture". The Strand. Archived from the original on 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  23. ^ a b Burwash, Nathaneal (1927). History of Victoria College. Toronto: Victoria College Press.
  24. ^ "Victoria University Chancellor » Victoria University". Retrieved 2021-09-30.
  25. ^ Peacock, Jim (May 3, 1958). "Writing Is His Hobby". Lethbridge Herald. Lethbridge, Alberta. p. 4.Free to read

Further reading

  • Martin L. Friedland The University of Toronto: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press © 2002)
  • Neil Semple Faithful Intellect: Samuel S. Nelles And Victoria University (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, September 1, 2004)
  • C. B. Sissons A History of Victoria University. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952.

External links

Coordinates: 43°40′1″N 79°23′31″W / 43.66694°N 79.39194°W / 43.66694; -79.39194

  • Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  • Archival papers of William James Callahan, President of Victoria College (1991-2000), held at the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services