Campus builder: Former UTM CAO Paul Donoghue to be honoured at upcoming Alumni Awards of Distinction

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 10:14am
Sharon Aschaiek

As the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) prepares to host its 2021 Alumni Awards of Distinction event online on June 2, among those it will honour is a top administrator who played a pivotal role in helping the campus adapt to change and achieve greater ambitions over the first half of this century.

Paul Donoghue served as chief administrative officer (CAO) of UTM for 11 years during two periods of significant growth. He was first hired in 2001 to help the campus prepare for the doubling enrolment of students to start in 2003, due to the elimination of OAC (Grade 13) in Ontario. He guided the planning and development of new construction that resulted in major buildings such as the $70 million, three-storey Instructional Centre; the four-storey, 200-bed Erindale Hall Residence; and the four-storey, 10,500-sq.-m. Communication, Culture and Technology Building.

In 2004, Donoghue left UTM to pursue an administrative leadership role at the American University in Cairo. He was wooed back to UTM in 2009 by then principal Ian Orchard to again serve as CAO. For eight years, Donoghue oversaw everything from business planning, finances, HR and facilities management to IT, campus police, grounds maintenance, housekeeping, and occupational health and safety.

Three men and a woman in white construction hard hats and reflective orange and yellow vests standing at a railing at an unidentified construction site. On one hat is wrttien UTM and on the other is University of Toronto with the crest
Paul Donoghue (second from left) guided the planning and development of growth on campus. (File photo)

Under Donoghue’s leadership, UTM continued to expand to better serve the needs of its steadily growing student population, as well as its faculty and staff. During his eight-year tenure, UTM saw the opening of more new buildings, including, notably, the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex, which houses the Mississauga Academy of Medicine; and the Innovation Complex, a 6,300-sq.-m. hub for teaching, research, administration and social activities.

Throughout, Donoghue paid careful attention to environmental sustainability, including protecting UTM’s 222 acres of protected greenbelt acreage, and maintaining the collegial character of the campus. He influenced UTM to shift construction practice so that after 2006, all large academic and research capital projects have been built to LEED minimum standard.

“The amount of new builds plus renovations of existing spaces was just staggering and really quite remarkable, and there were many staff members who worked behind the scenes with me to make it all happen,” recalls Donoghue, a resident of Burlington who retired after leaving UTM in 2017. “With all of the building design, what was always in the back of my mind was, how does this fit with and maintain what we see as UTM — our strong sense of community, and the surrounding bucolic green setting.”

Orchard, who served as principal of UTM from 2002 to 2010, recalls how, when Donoghue returned to campus in 2009, he pushed for a new and innovative step towards energy efficiency in the Instructional Centre, the building he helped plan that was nearing completion.

“Construction was already underway, but he could not understand why we had not decided to use heating and cooling through pipes buried in the ground. And he insisted it was the right way. So we changed the project, and put geothermal underground beneath the adjacent football field, which will now exist in perpetuity,” he says. “Paul was all about excellence and attention to detail. He had a fabulous sense of humour, and at the right time, and he was also forthright, forceful and authoritative, so we struck a nice balance of leadership styles.”

Donoghue will be joined at the Alumni Awards of Distinction event by Claire Carver-Dias, who is being awarded the J. Tuzo Wilson Distinguished Alumni Award. Carver-Dias is a former elite synchronized swimmer and a current business coach, published author and lecturer at UTM’s Department of Management, and Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology. The recipient of this year’s Desmond Parker Outstanding Young Alumni Award is entrepreneur, author and women’s rights advocate Samra Zafar.

Registration is open for the 2021 Alumni Awards of Distinction, which will take place on June 2 from 6 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. EDT via YouTube Live.