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11.19.18 – John and Myrna Daniels Scholars look to the future at November luncheon

Avi Odenheimer always wanted to find a way to thank John and Myrna Daniels for making it possible for him to complete his education. On November 12, he had an opportunity to express his gratitude in person at the John and Myrna Daniels Scholars Luncheon hosted by the Daniels Faculty.

After enjoying a warm lunch and remarks from fellow students, Dean Richard Sommer, and David Palmer, Vice President, Advancement, Odenheimer presented Mr. and Mrs. Daniels with a watercolour painting he created of the Daniels Building — “the building they worked so hard to make possible,” he says, crediting the historic gifts Mr. and Mrs. Daniels made towards the revitalization of the Faculty’s new home at One Spadina Crescent.

Avi Odenheimer presents his drawing of the Daniels Building to John H. Daniels | Photo by John Hyrnyk

With his wife completing her PhD at the University of Toronto, Odenheimer says it would not have been possible for him to study at the Daniels Faculty without Mr. and Mrs. Daniels’ support. The third year Master of Architecture student is one of 81 talented students who, since 2008, have received John and Myrna Daniels Scholars Awards, established 10 years ago thanks to a $5-million gift from the couple to create an endowment that provides financial aid to high achieving graduate students in need.

Current John and Myrna Daniels Scholar Bahia Marks, who spoke at the luncheon, said the award is supporting her goal to better understand the role that architecture can play in addressing inequality through community-led design of the built environment. During her childhood in Apartheid and Post-Apartheid South Africa, Marks says she witnessed extreme wealth and poverty at a young age.

Bahia Marks makes remarks at the John and Myrna Daniels Scholars Luncheon

“What struck me most at the age of 10 was how the quality of housing was related to economic status and race,” she said. “I was really looking for a school that would allow me to learn the skills, attitudes, and qualities of an architect; the role of housing in society; and how to empower youth to contribute to the betterment of their neighborhoods.”

Though only in her first semester of studies, Marks has already connected with a youth program based in Toronto’s St. James Town and Regent Park neighbourhoods, where she hopes to empower a younger generation to be active community builders. At the same time, she is throwing herself into studio work, learning from her colleagues and professors.

John and Myrna Daniels Scholars with John and Myrna Daniels; Dean Richard Sommer; and former Scholar David Freedman, associate, Foster + Parners

The establishment of The John and Myrna Daniels Scholars Awards is but one part of Mr. and Mrs. Daniels legacy of support. In 2008, they made a historic gift of $14-million — $5 million of which went towards graduate student awards, and $9 million of which was a key catalyst in the expansion of the Faculty’s new home. It was in recognition of this gift that the name of the Faculty was changed to the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. In 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Daniels made an additional gift of $10-million towards the Faculty’s capital campaign to revitalize One Spadina Crescent, an award-winning building where both graduate and undergraduate students at the Daniels Faculty study today. They joined by Toronto architects, alumni, and business leaders who have also generously supported the capital campaign.

Front row, left to right: David Palmer, Vice President, Advancement; John H. Daniels; Myrna Daniels; Dean Richard Sommer
Back row, left to right: Jacqueline Raaflaub, Director of Advancement, Daniels Faculty;  Tom Dutton, The Daniels Corporation; Jim Aird and Christine Mattear, John and Myrna Daniels Foundation

At the luncheon on November 12, a new gift announcement was made: an additional $6-mllion from the John and Myrna Daniels Foundation to establish the John and Myrna Daniels Foundation Opportunity Awards, which benefit both graduate and undergraduate students studying architecture, landscape architecture, visual studies, and urban design at the Daniels Faculty.

This latest gift brings Mr. and Mrs. Daniels total support to a remarkable $30 million.

For Odenheimer the award does more than provide valuable financial assistance. It also inspires his work.

“Knowing that someone has invested in my degree has pushed me to work much harder than I would normally,” he says. “It has provided an added purpose and meaning to my studies. I know that I will continue in the spirit of Mr. and Mrs. Daniels and their foundation. I perceive this scholarship not as a donation but as an investment, which I plan to return back to the community in the form of my future architectural work.”

All photos by John Hryniuk