A lifelong supporter of U of T students, retired economics professor John W. L. Winder hopes to do “tremendous good“ with a scholarship bequest.

Posted on May 14, 2018

Retired University of Toronto economics professor John W. L. Winder can trace the start of his decades-long career back to a single choice he made as a small-town Ontario high school student in 1950—where to study for his undergraduate degree. “My decision to come to U of T was a last-minute one,” Winder explains. “I almost went to another university in Toronto, but my sister thankfully talked me out of that.”

In the end, however, the offer of a generous entrance scholarship from University College made Winder’s choice clear. Though the award was one of the many U of T hands out to deserving students in need each year, Winder says it changed his life, both personally and academically.

“To this day I’m grateful to UC for taking me in because I couldn’t have afforded it on my own,” Winder says. “I moved into residence and right away met fantastic people, people who became friends for life.”

Winder forged deep bonds with generations of talented U of T students

The scholarship also helped propel Winder to academic success. As a gifted student of commerce and finance, Winder’s undergraduate education saw him complete a master’s degree at U of T and later, a PhD at economics powerhouse the University of Chicago, home to future Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and George Stigler. “Milton would holiday at a cottage in Windermere, Ontario, and he once asked me if the town was named after me,” Winder recalls, laughing.

I owe everything I’ve got to the University of Toronto, from wonderful friends to my education to my line of work. To me, giving back was the obvious thing to do.

After he finished in Chicago, Winder took a job teaching at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph before returning to U of T to teach economics in 1962, where he stayed for the next 31 years. There, he taught generations of talented U of T students, helping them the same way the University once helped him. “I loved teaching at U of T,” Winder says. “The students were fantastic and always great to be with.”

Throughout his career, however, Winder never forgot UC’s generosity in helping him to take the first step toward his calling as a professor, introducing him to some of his lifelong friends, and providing him with a memorable and rewarding university experience. “I owe everything I’ve got to the University of Toronto, from wonderful friends I made to my education to my line of work,” Winder says. “To me, giving back to U of T was the obvious thing to do.”

The professor’s bequest will support two student scholarships

That’s why Professor Winder first supported the UC and Rotman Commerce annual funds, to help other students pursue their dreams at U of T. In recent years, he has also established awards in his name at the Department of Economics and at Rotman Commerce, and he created a bequest that will not only support his current Economics award but will establish an entrance scholarship at University College as well.

“I couldn’t have come to the University of Toronto without financial support, and I want to help ensure other students in need can enjoy the same experiences and advantages I had,” he says.

Winder adds that setting up the scholarship and bequest was both simple and rewarding. “I wish I had got it underway earlier. I found the process of setting up gifts at the University of Toronto to be very good and helpful. U of T stands out in this respect, and their approach is fantastic.”

Winder also hopes his giving might inspire others to think of U of T when it comes to gift planning. “I think a lot of people give to a lot of worthy causes and there is satisfaction in doing that. But they might not think of U of T as a possibility,” Winder says. “I think they should, because it can do tremendous good.” That includes helping promising students take their critical first step on the road to lifelong success.


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