What Vanessa Grant loves most about our building transformation is how the new Withrow Auditorium will provide a stage for students to “do their best.” A UTS Foundation Board Director and a lawyer, she also trained as a mezzo soprano opera singer, and says UTS music students are doing really remarkable work. “They are just so talented! The spring Nocturne concert was like listening to students at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music perform. The other thing I really love about the Auditorium is how we can dedicate a seat to friends and family of the school who once sat in the audience.”
Through the Take Your Seat initiative, she has dedicated one in memory of her parents, Roy and Joyce Grant, “who spent so much time sitting in those seats watching me perform.”
She’s also joining forces with fellow UTS classmates to launch a group campaign to purchase another seat – balcony, front row centre! – and create an award in memory of Dr. Norah Maier, a renowned education leader and English teacher at UTS for 22 years, who passed away in Austria this June at age 81.
When Vanessa was a young opera singer at UTS, she asked Dr. Maier if she could play the First Fairy role as a song in Maier’s renowned production of the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The answer was yes! “Dr. Maier created opportunities where there weren’t and saw possibility, even where it was not that apparent.”
Dr. Maier wasn’t the only one. Vanessa’s time at UTS abounded with extraordinary teachers and experiences. She rode the GO Train from Oakville with Rikki Mangrum ’80, who came from Hamilton, and on the way home, Rikki would practice the oboe and Vanessa the flute for music class, taught by the beloved John Fautley.
“UTS gave me great gifts,” she says. “It gave me the gift of academic excellence and it gave me the gift of confidence to go out to the world and embrace opportunities.”
When she joined UTS, it was the second year of girls attending the school, and now one of the highlights of her professional volunteer experiences was working on the First Girls’ Initiative, led by Monica Biringer ’78 and Susy Opler ’79. “I’ll never forget walking into a boardroom at Monica’s law firm, and there were all my colleagues, and such an energy in that room. We wanted to make something happen and commemorate a very significant milestone in the life of UTS.” The amount of funding they were able to raise together was remarkable she says, but what she enjoyed most was connecting with those marvelous women and hearing the stories about how UTS changed their lives.
Another great joy is serving as a Director on the UTS Foundation Board and helping to manage the assets that provide bursaries and scholarships for students. “Our students are our future,” she says. “Finances should not be a barrier to attending UTS. The only thing students need is academic merit and we are very proud to support that.”