Top U of T scholar athletes celebrated at Academic Excellence Breakfast


Varsity Blues celebrated 202 top U of T scholar athletes with an academic excellence breakfast and award ceremony on November 15 at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

An award ceremony scheduled to start at 7:30 in the morning may sound daunting to the uninitiated, but for the 202 University of Toronto student athletes being recognized at the Varsity Blues academic excellence breakfast on November 15, the early hour was no deterrent.

“I’m an early riser, so it wasn’t too bad,” said track and field athlete Rachel Jewett, who was being honoured for the fifth time. “We do all our training in the evening, but I like to get all my work done in the morning, so that I can have time for my training,” said Jewett, who is in her second year of graduate studies at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, specializing in sport psychology research.

Swimmer Josh Gold has morning practice five days a week from 6:30 a.m., so he wasn’t fazed by the early ceremony either.

“Balancing daily practices with studying is something we’ve done all our lives, all through high school,” said Gold, who is in his third year of a double major in Peace and Conflict Studies and European Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

“I found it a lot easier at the University actually because the schedule is a lot more flexible. Our coaches expect us to be students first.”

Top students, in fact. The annual ceremony, now in its seventh year, honours student athletes, who earned an 80% average or higher in all courses in the previous academic year while competing on a Varsity team.

Professor Ira Jacobs, Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, congratulated the award recipients on successfully representing the University of Toronto with their Blues uniforms.

“Those of us who work in this institution know how difficult it is and the kinds of skills, training and experiences that are required to be as successful as you are,” said Jacobs.

An expert in the biological processes that happen in the body as a result of acute exercise and physical training, Jacobs talked about the growing body of knowledge about the effects of exercise on cognition, the ability to learn and emotional well-being.

“You may not have intentionally known all that when you decided to combine your academic and sport experience, but I’d like to congratulate you on taking the initiative to do so,” said Jacobs.

Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr noted the award recipients represented all the Arts and Science colleges on the St. George campus, the University of Toronto Mississauga and the University of Toronto Scarborough, all professional faculties and the School of Graduate Studies, demonstrating the depth and breadth of talent at the University of Toronto.

“I am in absolute awe of your grit, your discipline and your mental capacity to do what you do every day, getting up early in the morning, having weekend games and practices, and still doing all of your exams and assignments.”

Recalling a quote by landscape artist J.M.W. Turner, who said the only secret to his success was "damn hard work," Regehr said she thought that exemplified student athletes who have to do incredibly hard work every day. Adding a quote from Winston Churchill, who said success is not final, failure is not fatal, and the courage to continue is what counts, she concluded her speech by thanking the award recipients for their “damn hard work and the courage to continue.”

Closing off the speeches was Beth Ali, Executive Director of KPE Co-Curricular Athletics & Physical Activity Programs, who spoke of her pride in the student athletes and thanked all the coaches, medical team and staff for the support they provide.

“It takes a village to raise this group up and we have lots of people who are dedicated to their success,” said Ali.

Following the speeches the students were presented with a certificate of academic excellence and a pin: enamel for first-time winners, bronze for second, silver for third and a diamond pin for anyone earning this award four or more times during their intercollegiate career. Fastptich sensation Danielle Ridout received a quadruple diamond pint, representing the eight times she has achieved this result.

This was followed with the announcement of this year’s winners of the Top-Scholar Award, given annually to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS)/Ontario University Athletic (OUA) male and female students who have excelled both academically and athletically during the previous academic year.

Men's soccer captain and architecture major Lukas MacNaughton and women's volleyball standout and kinesiology major Denise Wooding  were celebrated as the CIS sport top scholar athletes. Blues lacrosse star and a master's student of laboratory medicine and pathobiology Mitch De Snoo and women's golf champion and PhD student of sociology Laura Upenieks earned the OUA top scholar athlete awards.

MacNaughton and Upenieks also earned a scholarship from the Provost’s office.