Even before the current building went up in 1981, Seneca’s Jane Campus was “a beehive of activity.” According to The President’s Bulletin dated December 1980, three English as a Second Language classes formed much of the daytime activity while the evenings were filled with real-estate classes, courses for the Electrical Contractors Association and community groups “stretching the campus walls to capacity.”
In the same bulletin, it was also noted that many countries of the world were represented “in this fine group of adults and the campus has a distinct personality of its own.”
While Jane has since become a destination for students interested in tool design, computer numerical control, and metals machining trades such as tool and die maker and mould maker, the campus has not changed much over the years.
Talk to anyone who has called Jane their home campus, the words they use to describe it are “friendly,” “family-like” and “small.” Indeed, the close-knit group of employees there bring each other treats just because, and the front office is as much a place where students come to ask questions as it is a place where people gather to share a laugh or two.
“I loved it as soon as I got here in 2004,” said Professor Mark Khani, Program Co-ordinator, Mechanical Engineering Technician (Tool Design), and Jane’s first contract faculty hire. “We are so close to the students, everyone knows everyone by first name.”
After 38 years on Beverly Hills Drive in Toronto’s west end, where the Seneca-branded red building is visible from Highway 401, students, employees and alumni bade farewell to Jane last night, marking the end of an era.
Starting May, machines will be moved to the new Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) building at Newnham Campus in preparation for advanced manufacturing programs being offered there this fall.
In a way, it’s a homecoming, said Romel Cipriani, Chair, School of Electronics & Mechanical Engineering Technology.
“The old manpower training program at Newnham about general machinery was the first program at Jane,” he said. “It was a retraining for mature learners.”
Cipriani first came to Jane in 1999 as a student in the Mechanical Techniques (Tool and Die/Mould Making) program. After graduation, he worked in the industry before returning to Jane in 2005 as a nighttime math teacher.
“The campus community at Jane is very unique,” Cipriani said. “We are always in the trenches with the students, trying to attend to their many needs.”
For example, there are no student advisers at Jane and the four full-time faculty, three full-time support staff as well as about a dozen or so part-time employees have all gone out of their way to help about 190 students across four programs.
They’ve had fun together, too. For more than 10 years, employees at Jane played a “machine jeopardy” with students at the end of term in December.
“We are hoping to continue with some of our traditions once we are at CITE,” Cipriani said. “The students are looking forward to moving to Newnham, where they’ll no longer be isolated. The employees are looking forward to it as well, but they’ll miss their old home.”
Khani agrees. Asked what he’ll miss the most about Jane, he mused thoughtfully and chuckled, “The Pho and the Caribbean restaurants and $8 haircut.” But all jokes aside, “It’s the people,” he said. “We are moving to a big place and people will be scattered a bit. We’ll have to get used to that.”
And the fact that the Jane family will lose a couple of its longtime members.
Rose D’Urzo, who has been the face of the Jane front office for the last 18 years, will be retiring at the end of May. Widely referred to as a mother figure on campus, D’Urzo has been the go-to person for not just students but also fellow co-workers.
“I’ve had many wonderful memories here,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve had.”
Also retiring in June is John MacDonald, the first and last custodian at Jane.
MacDonald, pictured second right in the top photo dated May 1981, began working at Seneca in October 1980. He was one of the first employees hired at Jane. The day before the official sod-turning ceremony on March 9, 1981, he was asked to dig a hole in the ground for the next day’s photo-op with Dr. Bette Stephenson, then minister of Education and minister of Colleges and Universities.
“She was very nice,” MacDonald recalled. “She asked if I could hold her purse while she turned the sod with a shovel.”
Having been there from the beginning, MacDonald said he’s honoured to be the one to close the door on Jane.
“It’s been a ride,” he said.
Check out our photo gallery of the Jane Campus Farewell.