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G. Raymond Chang: The students’ chancellor

G. Raymond Chang sits in the chancellor's chair during convocation. (Photograph Courtesy of Toronto Metropolitan University Archives)

G. Raymond Chang (Photograph Courtesy of Toronto Metropolitan University Archives)

G. Raymond Chang, OC, OJ (1948-2014) was beloved by students, faculty and staff at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). He served as the university’s third chancellor from 2006 to 2012 and, within the TMU community, ranged from philanthropist to friend, from mentor to life-long learner.

“Ray loved the whole spirit” of TMU, recalls his wife, Donette Chin-Loy Chang, an alumna of TMU (Journalism ’78). It was she who encouraged Chang to further engage, and together they formed a deep relationship with the university. She said, “it felt like coming home,” and subsequently it would become home for him. 

President and Vice-Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi said, “Ray was always asking ‘how can we make things better?’ He believed that the answer was often ‘education,’ leading him and his family to make a historic gift to lifelong learning — naming our continuing education faculty ‘The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.’” The objective of their gift was “to build the capacity of adult learners so that they, in turn, could make a positive impact on their communities.”

According to Brigette Chang, Ray’s daughter, “My father was a firm believer that education was the great equalizer.” Growing up, she remembers him working during the day and studying at night. Feeling fortunate for what he had achieved, he saw it as his responsibility to invest back into the community. 

In 2003, the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at TMU was named in recognition of a $5 million gift from the Chang family. The school stands as a symbol of his enduring legacy — a legacy defined by the genuine curiosity and care he showed for those he met and inspired, especially students. 

TMU, said Chang, “prepares you not only for a job and a career, but also for life.”

Over the past two decades, The Chang School has established itself as one of Canada’s leading providers of university-based adult education. This achievement is in no small part due to the incredible generosity of Ray and the Chang family. TMU is grateful to have his good name on this special place for lifelong learning.

During his tenure as chancellor, Chang made a promise to support students and he kept that promise. He participated in 95 convocations and awarded nearly 30,000 degrees and diplomas. In addition, he met with students in the classroom every week; in fact, his first class was dance. Students remember him as someone who made them feel comfortable and at ease in his presence.

G. Raymond Chang pulls down his sunglasses as he tours Toronto Metropolitan University.

“We are counting on you to draw on the knowledge and skills you have gained at [TMU] — transform them into ideas and actions that bring prosperity, peace and happiness,” he told students. “But whatever you do, or wherever you go, I challenge you [to] make a difference.”

A legend on Bay Street and beyond

“Legendary” is a word that surfaces when Chang is remembered by those who spent time with him at work, in philanthropy and, of course at TMU, where he also served on the Board of Governors from 2001 to 2006.

He was born and raised in Jamaica, of Chinese heritage, and often described himself as “Jamaican by birth, Hakka Chinese by heritage and Canadian by choice.” Chang’s first job was working and learning to sell in his parents’ Kingston bakery at age 13. He arrived in Canada in 1967, completed his degree in electrical engineering, then obtained the CPA designation. Later, as one of the original founders of CI Financial, which would grow to become Canada’s second largest publicly traded fund company during his tenure, he became known as a gentle giant of Bay Street.

In recognition of his achievements and leadership in business and philanthropy, which transformed entire communities in Canada, the Caribbean and beyond, Chang was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014, following his appointment to the Order of Jamaica in 2011. For his generosity, which largely impacted health care and education, the Toronto chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals named him Outstanding Philanthropist of 2012. Given his preference to donate anonymously, the exact amount of Chang’s donations to the community will never be known — but his impact is felt nationally and globally. In addition to TMU, he and his family have also supported University Health Network hospitals, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of the West Indies (UWI). And for his extraordinary leadership, both TMU and UWI awarded him honorary doctoral degrees.