Established in 2017, the Old Boy and Young Old Boy of Distinction Awards are among UCC’s highest honours, designed to recognize the achievements of the school’s most illustrious alumni. This year, the school will celebrate the accomplishments of Jason Rabinovitch ’04 and William P. Wilder ’40 and Jason Rabinovitch '04 at Founder’s Dinner on Feb. 11.
There’s good reason UCC’s arena and Prep library are named for William P. Wilder ’40, this year’s Old Boy of Distinction Award recipient. The list of Wilder’s accomplishments is long and varied and only hints at the true extent of his legacy. “I can think of no Old Boy alive today who has the combination of breadth, depth and tenure of service to society and UCC as Bill,” says Innes van Nostrand ’82 in his nomination. “The presence of the Wilder name on so many institutions, especially in Toronto, is testimony to an impact that is among the greatest by anyone in the last few decades.”
Wilder left McGill in his second year to join the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve and served as on officer on a Royal Navy destroyer in the English Channel in 1942. After the war, he completed his degree, earned his master’s at Harvard Business School, and became a leader in the business community, eventually as president of Wood Gundy. Over the years, Wilder became increasingly active in public policy, serving as an advisor to numerous companies, government and not-for-profit institutions. Meanwhile, his philanthropic streak is legend.
Wilder ran the E.W. Bickle Foundation (named for his father-in-law) for decades and is a significant donor to many arts, church, military and industry causes, as well as an advisor, fundraiser and board member for many esteemed organizations. Wilder is a recipient of the 2017 Order of Canada and this year was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest honour for military merit (see p. TK).
“When one looks at the purpose of any great national school, it must be focused on the development of people who will lead society and the nation,” van Nostrand says. “At the core, it requires a combination of competency—the skills and abilities to be highly successful—as well as the development of the kind of character infused by a sense of civic duty, selflessness and generosity. Without question, UCC would not be the place it is today without the role Bill Wilder has played as an Old Boy champion over the last 70 years.”
UCC’s Young Old Boy of Distinction Award
As this year’s Young Old Boy of Distinction, Rabinovitch will be recognized not only for the significant contributions he has made in the field of space science since graduating from UCC, but also for upholding the principles and values of the College in his dedication to community service and mentorship.
Rabinovitch earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Yale, then completed two master’s degrees,as well as a PhD in aeronautics. He’s currently a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he has worked on everything from the Mars Helicopter to supersonic parachute deployments for space missions. He regularly shares his passion for science by giving talks in schools (including at UCC), mentoring students and co-leading the Caltech Space Challenge, an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to design a space exploration mission.
Stephen Robinson ’04 met Rabinovitch at the Prep school, where the two discovered that they were born on the same day. They’ve been friends ever since. “As long as I can remember, Jason has been a leader in his many social groups; at school, on the rink, and in the sailboat,” Robinson says in his nomination. “At Caltech, and now at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Jason is often sent as a representative to all manner of events. In this role, Jason explores ideas with other scientists and engineers, educates the public and inspires the dreams of the future generations. Jason followed his own dreams to a career in space science and his sincere enthusiasm for the work is infectious.”