Victoria University, Toronto

Coordinates: 43°40′1″N 79°23′31″W / 43.66694°N 79.39194°W / 43.66694; -79.39194
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Victoria University
Former names
Upper Canada Academy (1836–1841)
Victoria College (1841–1884)
Abeunt studia in mores
Motto in English
Studies pass into character
TypePublic federated university
EstablishedOctober 12, 1836; 187 years ago (1836-10-12)
AffiliationUniversity of Toronto
Religious affiliation
United Church of Canada
formerly Methodist (1836–1925)
EndowmentC$544.2 million (2022)[1]
ChancellorNick Saul
PresidentRhonda N. McEwen
PrincipalAngela Esterhammer (Victoria College), HyeRan Kim-Cragg (Emmanuel College)
Undergraduates3,475 (2021)[2]
Colors   Scarlet and gold

Victoria University is a federated university, which forms part of the wider University of Toronto. The school was founded in 1836 by the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada as a nonsectarian literary institution.[3][4][5][6] From 1841 to 1890, Victoria operated as an independent degree-granting university, before federating with the University of Toronto in 1890, relocating from Cobourg to Toronto.[7][8]

The school consists of two academic colleges:

Victoria is situated in the northeastern part of the University of Toronto campus, adjacent to the University of 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, the university 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).

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.[6] The school officially opened to male and female students on October 12, 1836, with Matthew Richey as principal.[10] 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.[11]

Victoria University formed in 1884 with the merger of Victoria College and Albert College in Belleville. In 1890, due to financial and geographic difficulties, 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.

Old Vic in Toronto, 1900

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.

Emmanuel College, Victoria University

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.[12]

Two bronze plaques on either side of the South 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.[13]

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.[14]

Sites and architecture[edit]

Old Vic in 2021

Victoria University borders Queen's Park, northeast of the University of Toronto's main campus alongside St. Michael's College. The Victoria College Building, colloquially called Old Vic, is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style, built in 1891. The architect was W. G. Storm, who died shortly after its completion. The campus is centred on the main quadrangle of Victoria, outlined by the Upper and Lower Houses of Burwash Hall.

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 the University of St. Michael's College.

E.J. Pratt Library is the main library of Victoria University.[15] 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]


Annesley Hall

Victoria College is well-known for its historic residence buildings and tight-knit residence community.

  • Annesley Hall is the oldest residence building at Victoria College, built in 1903 and renovated in 1988. It is a National Historic Site of Canada located across from the Royal Ontario Museum. Annesley Hall remains an all-female residence – the first university residence built specifically for women in Canada.[16]
  • Window of Emmanuel College
    Burwash Hall was constructed in 1913, originally known as "the men's residences". 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 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: 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 main 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. Before the 1995 renovations, the entire building was male, but co-ed living was slowly introduced with Gate House being the last to convert in 2007.[17]
    Burwash Hall
  • Margaret Addison Hall was built in 1959 as an extension of women's residence rooms. It converted to co-ed in the 1990s and features seven floors with communal washrooms.
  • Rowell Jackman Hall is the newest of the residence buildings, constructed in 1993. It features an apartment-style residence with each room divided into four suites with a common area. Rowell Jackman Hall is named after Mary Rowell Jackman, whose son Hal Jackman made a substantial donation to the project. It stands just east of Burwash Hall on Charles St. and is west of St. Michael's College's Loretto College. Before Rowell Jackman Hall was built, the site was home to a parking lot and the historic Stephenson House.
  • Stephenson House was a community involvement residence at Victoria University from 1939–2010, but has since become defunct. The House hosted ten undergraduate students per year, self-governed and self-regulating with a separate application and selection process. It last functioned as a residence in the 2009–2010 academic year.


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.[18]

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.

The E.J. Pratt Library is the main library in the Victoria University Library system, which operates under the wider University of Toronto Libraries system. 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.[15] The library also hosts rich archival special collections from notable alumni and faculty, historical figures, specific literary collections and Canadiana.[19] The library also oversees Victoria University's institutional archives.[20]

The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies and its respective library collection 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.

Emmanuel College Library is the theological library of the Victoria University Library system, also operating under the wider University of Toronto Libraries system. The library is noted for its beauty and is a frequented spot by theological and undergraduate students alike, hosting a sizable theological collection specializing in spiritual care, worship, homiletics, biblical studies, and the Methodist tradition, among others. Special collections and rare books in Emmanuel's collection are held and can be viewed at E.J. Pratt Library.[21]

The E.J. Pratt Library

Student life[edit]

Inside Burwash Dining Hall

Clubs and Levies[edit]

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),[22] the Environmental Fashion Show, Vic Dance and the Victoria College Chorus.[23]

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:[24]

  • 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.
Isabel Bader Theatre

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.[25]


The undergraduate academic programs of Victoria College include Literary Studies, Semiotics and Communication Theory, Renaissance Studies, and the Vic Concurrent Teacher Education Program (developed in conjunction with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). Other academic offerings of note include the first-year undergraduate programs Vic One and Vic First Pathways.[26]

The Vic One program, launched in 2003, is an academic opportunity for first-year students at the University of Toronto to build communication and leadership skills in a small classroom setting.[27] Applications typically open in December for any student who is applying to the University for enrolment in the following September.[28] The Vic One program supplements a student's primary program of study in the form of weekly small group seminars and guest lectures from professors, visiting artists, writers, ambassadors and other public figures.[29] Enrolment in each academic stream is limited to 25 students, with a maximum of 250 students in the program each year.[28] The eight streams are:

  1. Chambers (Commerce, Economics, & Policy) – Named for Margaret Chambers (Vic 3T8), founding member of The Co-operators.
  2. Education (Education & Society) – Originally named Ryerson, for the first principal of Victoria College, Egerton Ryerson. The name of the program was changed in September 2019 due to Ryerson's involvement with the residential school system in Canada.
  3. Frye (Literature & the Humanities) – Named for Victoria University principal, chancellor and student, Northrop Frye (Vic 3T3), a Canadian literary critic and theorist.
  4. Gooch (Philosophy & Ethical Citizenship) – Named for Victoria University president, Paul W. Gooch, a Canadian philosopher and founding member of the Vic One program.
  5. Jewison (Creative Arts & Society) – Named for Norman Jewison (Vic 4T9), a Canadian film director and producer.
  6. Pearson (History, Politics & Social Sciences) – Named for Lester B. Pearson (Vic 1T9), former Prime Minister of Canada.
  7. Schawlow (Physical & Mathematical Sciences) – Named for Arthur Leonard Schawlow (Vic 4T1), American physicist and Nobel Prize winner.
  8. Stowe-Gullen (Life Sciences) – Named for Augusta Stowe-Gullen (Vic 1883), the first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school.

The 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.

Through Emmanuel College, Victoria University also offers theological postgraduate options in the ecumenical tradition of the United Church of Canada, which are developed in close conjunction with the wider Toronto School of Theology. The most popular offering at Emmanuel is the Master of Divinity, which is undertaken by prospective ordinands to ministry of Word and Sacrament. Other offerings at Emmanuel include master's degrees in pastoral studies, sacred music, general theological studies, and more. Doctoral study in theological studies is also offered.[30]

Board of Regents[edit]

The Board of Regents is the governing body of Victoria University. The Board appoints the Chancellor, the President, the College Principals, the officers of the University, and appoints and promotes the teaching staff of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges.[31]

The 37 members of the Board of Regents include students (6), faculty (8), Victoria College alumni (1), Emmanuel College alumni (2), United Church appointees (13), ex-officio (4) and discretionary (3).[31]

Term Chair[32]
1884 - 1914 Albert Carman (Vic 1855)
1914 - 1928 Samuel Dwight Chown (Vic 1877)
1928 - 1933 Newton Wesley Rowell
1933 - 1934 Alfred Ernest Ames
1934 - 1942 James Russell Lovett Starr (Vic 1887)
1942 - 1951 Wilfrid Crossen James (Vic 1T6)
1951 - 1958 Leopold Macaulay (Vic 1T1)
1958 - 1962 Henry Eden Langford (Vic 2T8)
1962 - 1971 Ralph Shaw Mills (Vic 2T5)
1971 - 1974 Frederick Arthur Wansbrough (Vic 2T8)
1974 - 1978 Donald Walker McGibbon (Vic 3T2)
1978 - 1982 G. Dennis Lane (Vic 5T5)
1982 - 1985 Henry Jonathon Sissons (Vic 3T7)
1985 - 1989 David Walter Pretty (Vic 4T7)
1989 - 1992 Ruth Marion (Manning) Alexander (Vic 5T0)
1992 - 1995 Paul Wesley Fox (Vic 4T4)
1995 - 1998 Richard P.K. Cousland (Vic 5T4)
1998 - 2001 Elizabeth (Eastlake) Vosburgh (Vic 6T8)
2001 - 2004 David E. Clark (Vic 7T1)
2004 - 2007 Frank Mills (Vic 6T8)
2007 - 2010 Murray Corlett (Vic 6T1)
2010 - 2014 Paul Huyer (Vic 8T1)
2014 - 2018 John Field (Vic 7T8)
2018 - 2021 Lisa Khoo (Vic 8T9)
2021 - Cynthia Crysler (Vic 9T0)


Principal[7][8] President[7][8] Chancellor[33]
Upper Canada Academy


Matthew Richey (1836–1840)
Jesse B. Hurlburt (1840–1841)
Victoria College


Egerton Ryerson (1841–1847)
Alexander MacNab (1847–1849) Matthew Richey (1849–1850)
John Wilson (1849–1850) Egerton Ryerson (1850–1854)
Samuel S. Nelles (1850–1884) Samuel S. Nelles (1854–1884)
Victoria University


Samuel S. Nelles (1884–1887)
Nathaneal Burwash (1887–1912)
Richard Pinch Bowles (1913–1930)
Edward Wilson Wallace (1930–1932)
Walter Theodore Brown (1932–1941) Edward Wilson Wallace (1932–1941)
Harold Bennett (1941–1959) Walter Theodore Brown (1941–1944)
H. Northrop Frye (1959–1966) Walter Theodore Brown (1944–1949) Alexander Charles Spencer (1944–1951)
John Edwin Hodgetts (1967–1970) Harold Bennett (1949–1950) Lester Bowles Pearson (1952–1959)
John Mercel Robson (1971–1976) Arthur Bruce Barbour Moore (1950–1970) Louis Orville Breithaupt (1959–1960)
Gordon Lincoln Keyes (1976–1981) John Edwin Hodgetts (1970–1972) H. Northrop Frye (1978–1991)
Alexandra Ferguson Johnston (1981–1991) Goldwin S. French (1973–1987) Sang-Chul Lee (1992–1998)
William J. Callahan (1991–2000) Eva Milada Kushner (1987–1994) Kenneth D. Taylor (1998–2004)
David B. Cook (2000–2012) Roseann Runte (1994–2001) Norman Frederick Jewison (2004–2010)
Angela Esterhammer (2012–) Paul W. Gooch (2001–2015) Wendy Marion Cecil (2010–2017)
William R. Robins (2015–2022) Carole (Goss) Taylor (2017–2020)
Rhonda N. McEwen (2022–) Nick Saul (2020–)

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Victoria University : Financial Statements : April 30, 2022" (PDF). Retrieved Sep 18, 2023.
  2. ^ Liang, Xuelun (2021). 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. pp. 35–41.
  4. ^ Victoria University Act, 1951, S.O. 1951, c. 119.
  5. ^ Royal Charter of Incorporation granted by King William the Fourth to ministers of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Upper Canada for an "Academy of Learning".
  6. ^ a b Burwash, Nathaneal (1927). History of Victoria College. Toronto: Victoria College Press. p. 41.
  7. ^ a b c Sissons, C. B. (1952). A History of Victoria University. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  8. ^ a b c Burwash, Nathaneal (1927). History of Victoria College. Toronto: Victoria College Press.
  9. ^ "About Emmanuel » Emmanuel College". Retrieved 2023-10-27.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  12. ^ Rynor, F. Michah (2001). "Royal Gems". UofT Magazine (Winter 2001). Toronto: University of Toronto. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  13. ^ "DHH - Memorials Details Search Results". Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  14. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (27 November 2008). "Link to this page". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  15. ^ a b "About the Library | About Us | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Taylor, Bill (2007-12-19). "Party's over at U of T residence". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
  18. ^ "Senate Powers and By-Laws". Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  19. ^ "Special Collections | Collections | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  20. ^ "About the Archives | Archives | E.J. Pratt Library". Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  21. ^ "About Us | Emmanuel College Library". Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  22. ^ "The Boundary". The Varsity. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  23. ^ "VUSAC – CLUBS". Victoria-university. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  24. ^ "VUSAC". Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  25. ^ "Despite cuts and critics, Bob carries on". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  26. ^ "Academic Programs". Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
  27. ^ "#UofTGrad2016: Oxford-bound grad found time to do nearly everything at U of T". University of Toronto News. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  28. ^ a b "Vic One » Victoria College". Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  29. ^ "A Rhodes Scholar and student leader, U of T grad Ikran Jama brought her community into the classroom". University of Toronto News. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  30. ^ "Academic Programs » Emmanuel College". Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  31. ^ a b "Board of Regents » Victoria University". Retrieved 2022-03-04.
  32. ^ "Board of Regents » Victoria University". Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  33. ^ "Victoria University Chancellor » Victoria University". Retrieved 2021-09-30.
  34. ^ Peacock, Jim (May 3, 1958). "Writing Is His Hobby". Lethbridge Herald. Lethbridge, Alberta. p. 4.Free access icon

Further reading[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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