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Massey Foundation

Vincent Massey (BA 1910 UC)

Through the Massey Foundation, Vincent Massey created institutions that shaped the University of Toronto for generations of students and have influenced global scholarship across a range of disciplines.

In the 19th century, businessman Hart Massey grew the company founded by his father into agricultural equipment giant Massey-Harris Ltd. After Hart’s death in 1896, his family established the Massey Foundation to distribute the funds he set aside for charity.

Commissioned by the Massey family and gifted to the University by the Massey Foundation, Hart House was one of the foundation’s early signature projects. Hart Massey’s grandson Vincent Massey (BA 1910 UC) and his wife Alice Massey felt strongly about creating a spirit of collegiality among the University’s fiercely independent colleges. Alice was head of the women students’ hostel at the University and they both envisioned a community centre where students could come together to share in cultural, artistic, and recreational pursuits.

Vincent named the building for his grandfather Hart and chose architect Henry Sproatt, one of the last North American masters of the Gothic form, along with engineer Ernest Rolph, to design it. Hart House opened on Remembrance Day in 1919, and Vincent and Alice Massey continued to support its founding vision by funding Hart House Theatre, the Hart House String Quartet, and the Hart House Viols.

In 1959, the Massey Foundation gave $2 million to establish Massey College, a unique graduate residence that would operate independently from the University but in close partnership with it, providing a vibrant, academic meeting place for students, faculty members, visiting scholars and other esteemed guests. Since that time, Massey College has exceeded its original vision, welcoming thousands of members and guests, from poets to policy-makers, who all speak to an identity that is both globally engaged and uniquely Canadian.

Generations of students continue to feel the impact of the Massey Foundation and the vision of Vincent and Alice Massey. In addition to a remarkable career in public service as a diplomat, federal cabinet member, U of T chancellor, and the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada, Vincent Massey’s legacy as a passionate champion of the arts and education is evident throughout the social and academic fabric of the University.