What’s in a name?

Ever wondered how the buildings at Ryerson got their names? The Ryersonian did some digging to find out more about the people behind them.

Eric Palin Hall


Eric Palin was an English-born educator who helped renovate the building that now carries his name. Palin worked as a Canadian National Railways apprentice electrician for 21 years, and later trained radar technicians in the military, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

He was involved with Ryerson from its early beginnings as an education institution, and served as the director of several programs.

In 1944, he developed the School of Electronics, which later became part of the then-Ryerson Institute. Before retiring in 1968, he also served as an assistant superintendent and associate director at the university. Palin died in 1971.

George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre


George Vari was a Canadian engineer, real estate developer and philanthropist who donated $5 million to the university in 2005. Born in Hungary, Vari sought refuge in Canada after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, as mentioned in his obituary in the Globe and Mail.

He made endowments to various local universities in addition to building a successful career developing real estate around the world. Vari was also known for his work on Montparnasse Tower — the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011. He died in 2010 at age 87.


Heaslip House


William Heaslip co-founded one of the country’s largest retail chains, Grafton Group, and served as its CEO and chairman until his retirement in 1992.

He had a great interest in education and donated to scholarship programs at many universities across Canada, including the University of Toronto, University of Prince Edward Island, and University of British Columbia. He also gave donations to many arts, social services and health institutions before he died in 2006, according to his obituary in the National Post.

Jorgenson Hall

Fred Jorgenson was the second president of Ryerson. During his tenure, he allowed students to form an academic council; his administration also stopped enforcing the campus dress code after students protested against it. His role at the school was described in the book Serving Society’s Needs: A History of Ryerson Polytechnic University.

The size of the campus doubled under Jorgenson’s leadership: the school acquired about 60 buildings. One of the most significant building purchases during this time was the O’Keefe Brewing Co., which was rumoured to have a tunnel connecting it to the campus. Although Jorgenson led the university through a period of huge transition, he left the school after just three years in 1969.

Kerr Hall


Howard Kerr was the first president of the Ryerson Institute of Technology. When he established Ryerson as a technical institution in 1948, he envisioned a form of practical education for the workforce, where education would adapt to the changing needs of society.

Politicians at the time were skeptical that there was a demand for this type of education, and the school and Kerr were given five years to prove themselves, as described in Stagg’s history of Ryerson. As a result, Kerr introduced strict rules to create a professional image for Ryerson. He introduced a formal dress code, forbade drinking on campus and implemented strict standards for attendance.

At the peak of Ryerson’s demand, there were 4,000 registrants per year in the mid-1950s. Kerr was president for 18 years until he retired in 1966 at age 65. According to the school, Kerr died 18 years later in 1984.

Mattamy Athletic Centre


Also known as the building that used to hold the Maple Leaf Gardens, the building was renovated after a $15 million donation from developer Peter Gilgan, the man behind Mattamy Homes. The name Mattamy comes from the names of his two children, Matt and Amy, according to a 2012 blog by TVO’s Steve Paikin.

Oakham House

Oakham House

This building was designed and named by prominent 19th-century architect William Thomas. After the house was constructed in 1848, Thomas resided and worked there until his death in 1860, according to an article by Sarah Virag in the Ryerson University Archives and Special Collections.

The house was then sold to John McGee, a relative of Thomas D’Arcy McGee — one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation. In 1899, the home was purchased by the city. It served as a residence for disadvantaged young men until Ryerson purchased, renovated and re-opened it in 1960 as a male student residence.

O’Keefe House

O'Keefe House

This residence is the former mansion of Eugene O’Keefe, the founder of the O’Keefe Brewery Co. of Toronto. It was built in 1875, and he owned and lived in the home until he died at age 85 in 1913, according to the official website of O’Keefe House. His company’s nearby brewhouse was also eventually purchased by Ryerson University. It now serves as the image arts building.

Pitman Hall

Pitman Hall

Walter Pitman was Ryerson’s fourth president, serving from 1975 to 1980, according to Stagg’s history of Ryerson. Before that, he worked as a federal MP, an Ontario MPP and the director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. At Ryerson, he taught a course in history, which was considered unusual for a school president.

Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Studies in Community Health

Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Studies in Community Health

Sally Horsfall Eaton is a registered nurse and philanthropist. In 1982, she was the founding executive director of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. She is married to John Craig Eaton, the great-grandson of Timothy Eaton and a former chairman of the Eaton’s retail chain, according to an article in the Globe and Mail published on March 24, 2011.

Along with her husband, Eaton played a key role in the establishment of the building for which she is named. She was named the first chancellor of George Brown College in 2012.

Ted Rogers School of Management and the Rogers Communications Centre

Ted Rogers School of Management

Ted Rogers Jr. left behind a legacy as the president and CEO of Rogers Communications, a company he developed into a media conglomerate. In 2007, he and his wife Loretta gave $15 million to Ryerson’s business school, according to the Ted Rogers School of Management’s website. Rogers died in 2008. At the time of his death, he was the fourth-richest person in Canada, said a 2008 article in Forbes.

Rogers Communication Centre

The Rogers Communication Centre is named after his father, Edward Samuel “Ted” Rogers Sr.. The elder Rogers founded the radio station CFRB before his death in 1939 at only 38 years old, according to IEEE Canada.

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