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The organizer: Mitch Frazer

The pitch: Raising $1-million

The cause: Ontario Tech University

When Mitch Frazer was approached about becoming the chancellor of Ontario Tech University last year, he was initially reluctant to take on what he saw as a largely symbolic position.

Mr. Frazer, 51, wanted to play a more active role beyond simply handing out degrees during convocation. “I said, ‘I am willing to do this if I could be the students’ chancellor,’” he recalled from his home in Toronto where he’s chair of the pensions and employment practice at the law firm Torys. The university agreed and Mr. Frazer was formally appointed on May 1, 2020.

By then the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the country hard and university students were losing part-time jobs and internships. “The biggest thing students needed because of the pandemic was money,” he said.

Mr. Frazer stepped in with a pledge to raise $1-million to support student bursaries and scholarships. One of his first fundraising events was the Chancellor’s Challenge, a 7.2-kilometre run that represents the distance between the university’s two campuses in Oshawa.

Mr. Frazer couldn’t hold the run live because of the pandemic, so he promised to run or walk 7.2 kilometres every day from Family Day on Feb. 15 to March 14, the university’s annual Pi Day of Giving when several fundraising activities take place (March 14 is 3.14, or pi). He covered 380 kilometres and raised $62,000. More donations have come in and Mr. Frazer has raised $170,000 toward the $1-million target. He’s hoping to make the Chancellor’s Challenge run an annual event and plans are in place to hold it next year.

“This run is really about having members of the community step up and support this cause,” he said.

Ontario Tech is less than 20 years old and Mr. Frazer has been impressed with its innovative programs. “There’s a certain vibrancy that I’ve never experienced before,” he said. “The students here, they know that this university is going to change their lives.” As for taking the post as chancellor, Mr. Frazer said he had no regrets. “I’ve done a lot of volunteer work. This is the best volunteer job ever.”

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