Join us as we celebrate where we’ve come from, what Rotman Commerce is today, and where we’re excited to be heading next – together.

Join us as we celebrate where we’ve come from, what Rotman Commerce is today, and where we’re excited to be heading next – together.

Message from our Deans

One woman on the
Faculty of Arts & Science Dean Melanie Woodin (left); Rotman School of Management Dean Susan Christoffersen (right)
100 years. A remarkable milestone in our ever-evolving history.

On the sunny day of June 6, 1924, the first graduates – a group of seven – of the University of Toronto’s undergraduate business program now known as Rotman Commerce walked across the stage at Convocation Hall and received their diplomas.  

While Rotman Commerce has never stopped growing and evolving to keep pace with change, we can draw a solid line from that first handful of graduates to the multifaceted Rotman Commerce of today. The purpose that guides us is not so different from the one expressed decades ago by Charles Allen Ashley, who led the program from 1934 to 1952: “…to turn out graduates who can expect to apply themselves with success to the task of learning a business quickly, of becoming good citizens, and of living a full life.” 

As we celebrate this milestone, we are grateful to our community for making Rotman Commerce what it is today and for helping us shape our tomorrow. A community that has grown more diverse and globally connected. One that delivers an innovative and unique academic experience combining the world-renowned breadth and depth of expertise of both the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science and the Rotman School of Management. An alumni network that collectively shares insights, provides mentorship and invests in a new generation. A group of leaders, changemakers and innovators who champion Rotman Commerce as an organization that leads the way.  

Together, we celebrate a century of building the future.   

Susan Christoffersen
Dean, Rotman School of Management                                                                

Melanie Woodin
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science

The tenets that bring us together

Within the unique plethora of perspectives that may be found in the past one hundred years, there are four key throughlines that stand out as tying our collective efforts together – our long history of keeping pace with change; the many ways we connect our network to opportunity; our diverse and growing community; and the continued momentum that’s propelling us into the future. 

Growing community

Our community is more inclusive than ever, welcoming people of diverse identities and points of view. But all graduates, past and present, have made the same journey from uncertainty to understanding to rewarding collaboration. We share the pride that comes through tackling challenges together and applying what we’ve learned in the world.

A diverse group of people standing together and smiling.
Students dressed in graduation gowns walking in a line with a group of people on the right cheering them on with black inflatable noisemakers.

Transforming tomorrow

Our centenary is a chance to look back and see where we’ve come from, celebrating the milestones of progress. But it’s equally a celebration of where we are today – and how we’ll continue building and gaining momentum to create an even better tomorrow.

Connecting opportunities

A top-ranked commerce program integrated with a leading business school and the arts and science faculty of a respected global university – at the heart of Canada’s commercial and financial capital – these are the dimensions of opportunity that connect Rotman Commerce to the world and shape the unique quality of education we deliver.

An intersection on St. George Street with many pedestrians in the foreground and a tall building in the background.
Two people wearing pink Rotman Commerce shirts and holding a paper between them that says ‘#RCWIB Fashion’.

Building for change

Change doesn’t just happen. It’s something you build toward, grounding bold moves in proven approaches and time-tested insights. This is what our graduates have been doing for a century. And it’s how those who follow them will continue building the future.

Our Stories

Explore some of the stories that have made Rotman Commerce what is today and will shape where we are going tomorrow. Check back often as we share our stories through this year of celebration. 

Our Community

Click on the images to read this month's reflections from our community.

Share your memories

Students in a dragon boat

My 1992 dragon boat adventure

When I started at RC in the early ’90s, the Dragon Boat Club appealed to me but I was hesitant to join. The others all seemed like…

Jane Smith, BCom ’95

Two people seated

I met my wife at RC

This is the first picture of us together. I met her one night at a study session and I liked her immediately. I found it hard to concentrate…

Jagmeet Singh, BCom ’79

Students holding a Let's Go Commerce sign at a game

What about you?

All-night study sesh? The game you never thought you’d win? That time when you got your first internship?

Share your memories of Rotman Commerce! Whether you’re an 8T5 or a 2T5, tell us about your favourite experience, class, professor, spot on campus, moment from a student group or any special recollection. 

Ready for fame? Your contribution may appear on our website and social.

Our History

Explore our history and learn how Rotman Commerce got its start, evolved to keep pace with society’s changes, and transformed into what it is today. 

1888
It all began with political economy

William Ashley (later to become Sir William Ashley) is appointed the University’s first Professor of Political Economy and Constitutional History, a move that indicated the institution’s burgeoning interest in teaching economics and finance.

William Ashley (courtesy University of Birmingham)
1892
Economist takes the lead

James Mavor—an economist, economic historian and professor of political economy—is appointed as the successor to William Ashley.

1892 letter informing James Mavor of his appointment. (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)

 

1901
Industry asks for more

James Mavor introduces the first formal post-secondary recognition of commerce at U of T, creating a two-year diploma course in the subject at the request of the Toronto Board of Trade and the Canadian Manufacturer’s Association.

Mavor's description of the program outline. (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1909
Once, it was a BA

Students at the University can now enroll in a four-year honours course in Commerce and Finance, culminating in a Bachelor of Arts degree.

1920
Birth of the U of T BCom
New Commerce Course has lured twenty-five frosh.

The Bachelor of Commerce degree is established and 25 students enroll. The program falls under both the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Political Economy.

1920 The Varsity article (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1920
Our first home
Black and white photo with large group of people with the front row sitting in chairs and the two back rows standing. They are standing in front of a building with a front porch.

The program’s first home is Baldwin House (now known as Cumberland House) on 33 St. George Street. Baldwin House was home to the Political Economy Department and all Commerce classes and Commerce Club activities were held in this building.

The Political Economy faculty in front of Baldwin House in 1933.
 (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1920
The beginning of student life
Black and white photo of a group of men in suits standing by steps outside of a building.

The Commerce Club is formed as the official representative organization of the new course in Commerce. Over the next five decades, the Commerce Club plays a central role in Commerce student life, but it wasn’t until 1957 that women were admitted as members.

The first Commerce Club 1920 (courtesy archive.org)
1924
The first graduates

On June 6, 1924, the first University of Toronto students to earn Bachelor of Commerce degrees receive their diplomas at Convocation Hall – seven graduates in total (six men and one woman).

1924 class composite ( courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1926
Once a leader, always a leader
Black and white photo of a group of men in suits.

Gilbert Jackson (pictured front row, second from the left) becomes the first Director of the Commerce & Finance course. Jackson later served as the first economist for the Bank of Nova Scotia, before becoming Advisor to the Governors of the Bank of England.

Commerce Club executive members 1930 (courtesy archive.org)
1927
Exponential growth for Commerce

The Commerce program becomes the largest course in the Arts Department, growing from seven graduates to nearly 100 in just four years.

1927 The Varsity article (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1929
Lean years begin
Depression party for the financiers Royal York will stage "Bargain-Price" Dance Exams cancelled for it.

The American stock market crash signals the beginning of the Great Depression in Canada. The impacts of the economic slump are felt by educational institutions across the nation, including the Commerce program. The depression also had a significant impact on student life, with many student organizations scaling back on the number and size of campus events.

1933 The Varsity article (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1930
Women's Commerce Club is formed
Black and white photo of a group of women looking at camera.

Ten years after the male-exclusive Commerce Club was introduced, women in the program, wanting to have the same opportunities as their male colleagues, form the Women’s Commerce Club.

Members of the Women's Commerce Club in 1934
(courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1930
Beginning a tradition of support

The First Commerce and Finance scholarship is established. The S.R. Parsons scholarship was gifted to the student W.G. French by S.R. Parsons, Esq. at a value of $250.

1933
A springboard for ideas
The Commerce Journal Published by The University of Toronto Commerce Club March 1933

The Commerce Club publishes its first issue of the Commerce Journal during the height of the Great Depression.

First edition of the Commerce Journal
(courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1933
Moving on up
Black and white photo of a large brick building with steeples.

The Commerce program outgrows Baldwin House and moves to the Economics Building at 273 Bloor St. West (now the Royal Conservatory of Music).

The Economics Building in 1953 
(courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1939
“We shall fight on the beaches…”
August 19, 1945. Pte A.W Buie. Lat.Can.Para.Bn. Niagara on the Lake My dear Buie: I was very glad to hear that you were safely back in Canada, and that you hope to return to the University to complete the course you interrupted to join the army. As you know, the year begins on September 25, and I hope that you will be free by then, as you will otherwise be at some disadvantage in the course. I do not know what steps should be taken, but if you wish me to write officially to your Commanding Officer urging your quick release, I shall be happy to do this. Your sincerely, CAA

WWII has a significant impact on the Commerce program, as many faculty, staff and students temporarily leave the University to enlist.  Many Commerce program staff and faculty work hard to support Commerce students serving in the army overseas.

In this 1945 letter addressed to a Commerce student serving in the army, Charles Allan Ashley offers to write a letter to their Commanding Officer to ensure that the student can return to their studies in time for the beginning of the semester. (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1943
Law meets Commerce
Black and white photo of a group of people in party attire.

The Commerce Club partners with the Law Club to host the first annual Bar and Business Ball at Casa Loma, marking the first dance to be held as a co-operative venture between two different programs at the University of Toronto.

Commerce Club Bar and Business Ball, 1945 
(courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1948
Another kind of homecoming

Many soldiers came back after World War II to finish their degree. In 1943 the number of Commerce graduates had dwindled to only 34 but by 1948 it grew to 119.

1957
Door opens for women

37 years after the Commerce Club's founding, women students are admitted.

1957
Exchange program takes flight
A group of students in front of a landed airplane

The Commerce Club begins organizing an exchange program between the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan.

In 1960, Commerce Club members were flown down to Ann Arbor in a private plane by the heir of Henry Ford.
(courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1962
Moving into modernism
Black and white photo of concrete building.

The program moves from the Economics Building to the newly built Sidney Smith Hall.

Sidney Smith Hall, 1962 (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1967
New student leadership

The Commerce Students’ Association (CSA) is formed as a means for student representation after the Commerce program leaves the Political Economy Course Union. The CSA helps to create course evaluations and oversee curriculum changes and committees.

1970
Farewell to the Commerce Club

The Commerce Club is disbanded due to the lack of student interest and participation, and the Commerce Students’ Association takes over student life on behalf of the Commerce student body.

1971
Accounting at the forefront

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO) changes its mandate to specify that all future chartered accountants must be university graduates. This leads to a rise in program enrollment.

1977
Connecting to career pathways
Black and white photo of person talking to a group of students with sign behind them that reads FACS Day.

The Commerce Students’ Association holds its first FACS Day, an event for students to learn more about career opportunities in accounting, finance and marketing while meeting with representatives from major firms and companies across Canada. The CSA, and later the Rotman Commerce Accounting Society, continued to hold FACS Day through to the mid-2000s.

FACS Day, 1996 
1980
Commerce consultants
Black and white photo of man sitting in office with computer next to him.

ComGroup Consultants is launched at the University of Toronto with the help of Professor George Leonidas, then director of the Commerce program. Though a university-wide organisation, the firm also gave Commerce students the opportunity to gain valuable experience while providing consulting services to small business community. The firm served as a precursor to the present-day consulting group Consult for Impact.

Kevin Casey, a fourth year Commerce student, at work for ComGroup Consultants in 1986 (courtesy University of Toronto Archives)
1982
The best of two faculties

The Department of Political Economy is dissolved, and the Department of Economics and Department of Political Science are established. The Faculty of Management now accepts the responsibility for staffing and teaching all courses in the Commerce and Finance programs that do not fall within the Faculty of Arts & Science. An agreement in 1992 makes official that the Commerce program is jointly offered by both faculties, which remains to this day.

1995
On the move again
Concrete sign that reads Joseph L. Rotman School of Management.

The program moves from Sidney Smith Hall to the Joseph L. Rotman Centre for Management.

Rotman School of Management (courtesy Rotman School of Management)
1997
Showing our colours
Group of people from the back wearing convocation regalia.

After 72 years of graduating exclusively with their college, Commerce students may now choose to graduate with the Commerce program or with their college. The graduation regalia for Commerce is assigned its own hood colour of orange and white - the colours of both the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Faculty of Management.

Rotman Commerce regalia on display at the 2022 convocation
2003
Pride in Commerce, Commerce for pride
Group of people standing and smiling holding rainbow pride flags.

Queers in Commerce is established as the first equity-related group in the Commerce program. It was rebranded in 2008 as Queers in Rotman Commerce and again in 2011 as the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance (RCPA).

Members of RCPA at the 2018 Toronto Pride Parade
(courtesy RCPA Facebook page)
2004
New space at a vibrant Toronto intersection

The Commerce program secures space for its Career Centre on the lower level of Woodsworth College at 321 Bloor Street. Two years later, the rest of the program’s administration also relocates to the main floor of Woodsworth College residence and completely vacates its space at the Rotman School of Management.

2008
A benefactor’s gift

The Commerce program announces its new name – Rotman Commerce – thanks to a $2.5 million gift from Sandra and Joseph L. Rotman.

Joseph Rotman (courtesy Rotman School of Management)
2009
A meeting ground
Group of people sitting listening to person standing at the front of the room.

Rotman Commerce works with Woodsworth College to transform the former “drill hall” at 119 St. George St. to a common events and study area known as Kruger Hall.

RC students in Kruger Hall, 2023
2009
Empowering women in business
A group of women standing below a large banner that reads ‘Rotman Commerce Women In Business’.

Rotman Commerce Women in Business (RCWIB) is founded to assist the professional and personal development of Rotman Commerce students and promote initiatives and opportunities for women in business.

The first RCWIB executive team in 2009 (courtesy RCWIB Facebook page)
2012
One of our own becomes chancellor
Man sitting on a desk wearing formal university regalia.

The Honourable Michael Wilson (BCom ’59), former Canadian ambassador to the United States and federal Minister of Finance, becomes U of T’s 33rd chancellor.

The Honourable Michael Wilson
(courtesy Univeristy of Toronto Office of the Chancellor)
2016
Creating a community within a community
A group of people dressed in differently coloured shirts that read ‘Rotman Commerce Houses’ or ‘RC’.

The Rotman Commerce House System is established to foster a greater sense of community. Students are randomly assigned to one of five houses – Bedford, Devonshire, Galbraith, Harbord or Madison.

RC House Captains, 2023
2018
Preparing students for startup success
Group of people standing in front of letters balloons the read LYBI.

The inaugural Launch Your Big Idea (LYBI)  student pitch competition is held. Supporting budding entrepreneurs in gaining the necessary training and resources to prepare for startup success, the program offers a chance to pitch an idea and win seed funding. Several alumni of the program have gone on to launch successful start-ups.

LYBI, 2023 (courtesy Rotman Commerce Entrepreneurship Organization & Rotman Commerce Sales Group )
2019
The importance of visibility
Group of people standing in front a screen that reads Black Career Conference 2023.

The inaugural Black Career Conference (BCC), the first of its kind at U of T, is spearheaded by a group of Rotman Commerce students.  The BCC, now organized by Black Rotman Commerce, brings together hundreds of Black students, graduates and entrepreneurs to learn from industry professionals and each other.

Black Career Conference, 2023
2019
Fostering professionalism

The Centre for Professional Skills (CPS) is launched. CPS works to embed professional skill development throughout the curriculum across all four years of the RC degree, via teamwork initiatives, writing and presentation coaching, and more to support students in becoming engaging communicators and successful collaborators.

2021
Two female deans
One woman on the

Professor Susan Christoffersen is appointed Dean of the Rotman School of Management. Alongside Professor Melanie Woodin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, this marks the first time in the Rotman Commerce’s history that we are led by two female deans.

Melanie Woodin (left) & Susan Christoffersen (right)
2023
Our community today

There is no greater indication of just how much our program has evolved than the diversity of our student body. Today, we are proud to support over 3,300 students representing 78 countries - over half of which are female and over one-third are international. These exceptional young people will soon join an alumni network of 17,700 graduates based around the world.

2024
The 100th Rotman Commerce class graduates!

Our Community

Celebrating some of the many individuals who have shaped Rotman Commerce into what it is today. 

John Smith
Class of 2007

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Prince Owusu
Class of 2019

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Linh Tran-Nguyen
Class of 2012

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Adam Carnegie
Class of 1989

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Julia Stones
Class of 2003

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Mohair Abdullah
Class of 2007

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Our Future

A new home welcomes a new era for Rotman Commerce

Photo of new building
Rotman Commerce future home | Preliminary Design | View from Devonshire

As we continue to grow and welcome the best and brightest into our program each year, one critical gap remains: a physical home for our community to call its own.

For the first time in our hundred-year history, we will soon have a dedicated space on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. This signifies a transformative moment in our growth: the creation of a central meeting place that brings together our diverse community of learners and leaders under one roof that will engender spontaneous discussions, cross-disciplinary interactions, and a shared sense of purpose vital to nurturing camaraderie and collaboration.

This new multistorey structure will be situated beside the Goldring Centre on Devonshire near the Rotman School of Management. Classrooms, student activity spaces (including study rooms, social lounges, designated areas for student clubs, and spaces for silent reflection), support units such as Academic and Career Services, Student Life and the Centre for Professional Skills, a large event space, a café on the ground floor, and more will be housed in this state-of-the-art building.

With an open concept, warm wood tones and natural light throughout, our new space will serve as an inclusive, inspiring, and inviting meeting ground that brings our community together for generations to come. 

To our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and friends – we look forward to welcoming you home.

Events

This interactive and dynamic exercise will bring together alumni and current students to experience the power of our network and the rewards of paying it forward.

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