Meet the unstoppable driving force, the man behind the campaign, who makes it happen: Jim Fleck ― philanthropist, entrepreneur, educator and Renaissance man, supporter of the arts and ardent advocate for his alma matter.
He is the man synonymous with the Building the Future campaign, the Campaign Chair that brought the entire UTS community together to make it such a success. Throughout the campaign, Jim’s mantra “give ‘til it feels good” and his unforgettable personality kept the momentum growing, as he reminded everyone that it’s truly “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this kind of difference.”
He is the young man who loved UTS so much, that when his family moved to Oshawa in the 1940s, he commuted three hours a day in his last year of high school (pre-Highway 401) so he could continue at the school. The boy who had originally come to UTS in 1944 for Grade 9 because he heard it had a shorter school day had changed ― now he made the journey for the academic rigour and the sheer joy of learning alongside his intellectually curious peers.
A lifetime later, he is the man who intervened when the very future of UTS as we knew it hung in the balance ― the school’s vital affiliation with the University of Toronto and its home on the campus was up in the air. Jim, who had been Chair of the UTS Board since 2013, went to work to show what UTS means, and why it matters.
“Because of his stature with the leadership group of U of T, they listened,” says UTS Principal Rosemary Evans. A recipient of the Companion of the Order of Canada, Jim had taught at Harvard Business School and other institutions including U of T’s Rotman School, and held high-ranking government positions like CEO of the Office of the Premier of Ontario and Secretary of Cabinet in Ontario. He also holds degrees from the University of Western Ontario and Harvard University and an honorary degree from U of T.
Jim was instrumental in securing the Affiliation Agreement with U of T in 2015, which saved the UTS we all knew and loved.
“I deeply believe UTS is important to this city and this country,” says Jim. “Our students become leaders who consistently break ground with bold new ideas in fields ranging from teaching to technology to the creation of an equitable, inclusive society. They’re Rhodes Scholars and Orders of Canada, Olympians and Nobel Laureates. They shape the world with their ideas, and make it a better place, and it all starts here at UTS.”
Securing the future was just the beginning, because now we had to build it ― the agreement required UTS to raise an unprecedented $60 million to redevelop the school facilities.
Jim was undaunted. “UTS has not undertaken a task of this magnitude since its founding in 1910 and nothing of the kind will likely be undertaken again in the lifetime of current alumni, or even the lifetime of our current students,” he wrote in his 2016 article for The Root, “A School in Search of Founders.”
A lifetime of philanthropy brought him to this moment as Building the Future Campaign Chair – Fleck and his wife Margaret, who passed away last year, were ardent supporters of so many causes, with her focus on social issues and he being a passionate supporter of the arts and education. Jim knew how to give, understood deeply what UTS means, and could inspire others to give more.
Jim’s call for Founders was answered unequivocally ― UTS is honoured to have 20 Founders (including Jim himself), with Jim having played a direct role in engaging and securing most of these Founders. He also took an active role on the Project Steering Committee, guiding construction of the renewed facility.
Jim bridges many worlds, with far too many accomplishments to mention. He founded Fleck Manufacturing Inc. in 1954, which grew to 3,000 employees in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and he was Chairman of ATI Technologies, Alias Research and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He also chaired Business for the Arts, and was a founder of the Canadian Arts Summit, bringing together the 50 largest visual and performing arts organizations in Canada to network, share best practices and form a lobby group. So many corporate and non-profit boards and non-profits benefited from his contributions, ranging from the Canadian Museum of History to Harbourfront Foundation, and more.
No matter how much he achieved, and how far he went, Jim kept the UTS connection burning bright with his incredible dedication to his Class of ’49, by hosting reunions and other gatherings, even attending via videoconference from Florida.
“The real definition of philanthropy is the love of humanity, and Jim really embodies that,” says Martha Drake, Executive Director, Advancement. “He rejoices in his experiences. When you have his support, he’s all in.”
He recalls wandering the halls before the Building the Future campaign started, thinking the school hadn’t changed in more than 100 years and feeling almost apologetic towards the students, who were so gifted and dedicated. They deserved better. Now, with this campaign, UTS students and the community will have a facility they can be proud of, as excellent as the students themselves.
“I went into this campaign on the basis that it just had to happen,” says Jim. “And it has. This school has so much unrealized potential. Now we can realize it.”
For the man who urged the UTS community to “give ‘til it feels good” – it feels really good now!
The Building the Future campaign is a resounding success. We’ve done it together, but we couldn’t have done it without you, Jim.
Thank you, Jim Fleck C.C. ’49, P ’72. You’ve built the future, and delivered a legacy that will live on in the lives of UTS students for more than a century to come, in everything they achieve for our city and our world.