Osgoode launches building campaign to raise $20 million

Osgoode Hall Law School officially launched The Building Osgoode Campaign – the largest campaign in the history of legal education in Ontario – at its annual Dean’s Alumni Reception last night.

More than 300 Osgoode alumni, donors and friends crowded into the Design Exchange on Bay Street to celebrate the public launch of the campaign. The goal is to raise $20 million for the renovation and expansion of the law school’s building as well as for programs and student financial aid.

The evening began with greetings from York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden and was followed by award presentations to six outstanding alumni: Roy McMurtry (LLB ’58), Award of Excellence; Terence Hunter (LLB ’72), Dianne Martin Medal for Social Justice through Law; and Mary Louise Dickson (LLB ’64), Verlyn Francis (LLB ’95), Mark Persaud (LLB ’91, LLM ’01) and Mahesh Uttamchandani (LLB ’97), Gold Key Awards.

Jack Diamond of Diamond + Schmitt Architects Inc. showed a video of his design for a bright, spacious new building, expected to be completed by 2010. The Toronto-based architectural firm designed Toronto’s new opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, as well the York Student Centre, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Architecture and the Award of Excellence from Canadian Architect.

Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan then acknowledged some of the major gifts made so far to The Building Osgoode Campaign.

Monahan said almost $6 million in early commitments have already been pledged toward the cost of the building renovation, including a $2.5-million gift from businessman and philanthropist Ignat Kaneff (right). "This is an important moment in Osgoode’s 118-year history as we rise to the challenge of creating an inspiring new learning environment for a new generation of lawyers," Monahan said. "Ignat Kaneff’s generosity and the other early pledges are fantastic contributions that demonstrate great leadership and set an example for others to follow."

Kaneff is founder of Kaneff Properties Limited, which has been building family homes, multi-residential and high-rise units since 1956. Other holdings of the Brampton-based Kaneff Group of Companies include retail commercial plazas, office buildings, gas retail outlets and six Ontario golf courses.

Other important campaign gifts to date include a $1-million contribution from publisher Canada Law Book toward the creation of a Rare Book Room in the law school’s library; $750,000 from Toronto-based firm Goodmans LLP for a new student cafeteria and lounge; and $500,000 from Markham developer Rudy Bratty (LLB ’57). Osgoode students, faculty and staff have also demonstrated their support for the campaign with donations of $70,000 from the Legal & Literary Society student government and approximately $250,000 from faculty and staff. In addition, York University has pledged substantial support.

Above: Law students raised $70,000 for the new building

"We are appealing now to our alumni in particular to contribute to this campaign, so we can break ground in the spring of 2008 and get this historic transformation of the law school under way," Monahan said. "By improving the physical environment in which our students learn, Osgoode will ensure its place among the best law schools in the world."

The law school moved from Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto – now the home of the Ontario Court of Appeal – into its current premises on York’s Keele campus in 1969. Over the years as the faculty and student body have expanded, Osgoode’s building has been criticized for its lack of space and natural light.

Diamond’s new building design for Osgoode is about light, space and functionality. It is also about student engagement and bridging the old and the new. The centerpiece of the future building is an atrium that will serve as the living room or common area for the law school, uniting student space, faculty offices and the library. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring and be completed by 2010.

The Building Osgoode Campaign is the latest in a series of ambitious initiatives rooted in the law school’s 2006-2010 Strategic Plan and undertaken to improve the student experience. Other recent initiatives include creating two endowed Chairs, revamping the school’s admissions policy and first-year curriculum, developing a joint degree with New York University School of Law, and becoming home to the new Law Commission of Ontario.

For more information, visit The Building Osgoode Campaign Web site.