2019 Friend of the Faculty Impact Award recipient: Neil Smiley

Meet Neil Smiley

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Neil Smiley
Neil Smiley, Partner, Fasken Martineau (BES 1984, Urban & Regional Planning)

A quiet but loyal champion of the School of Planning, Neil Smiley is part of the engine that drives the University of Waterloo Planning Alumni of Toronto (UWPAT).

From humble beginnings in 1989, UWPAT has grown and flourished, hosting an annual industry dinner widely considered the preeminent, ‘must-attend’ event -- and indeed, attended by up to 1,000 people each year. Run exclusively by volunteers, the non-profit organization works to support the School of Planning through financial assistance and advocacy.

After completing his planning degree in 1984, Neil studied law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, following a brief stint working as a planner. Today, he is a successful lawyer and partner with Fasken, where he specializes in complex real estate transactions, planning and development.

Counting himself lucky to have had people in his life encouraging him to pursue his educational and career goals, Neil now wants to do the same for others. He is particularly passionate about “conveying to students how valuable the planning program and the acquired skill set will be to their personal development. No professional goal,” he says, “be it conventional or unconventional, is unattainable.”

Looking back over his time at Waterloo, Neil says the bonds he formed with former classmates have endured the test of time and have helped shape him as a legal professional.

“What stands out for me was the number of group projects, teamed with people from such diverse educational backgrounds and cultures, where together we overcame these challenges and expanded our inner capabilities. In many ways, it is those common experiences that we draw on in our daily lives that foster the relationships that we continue to share today.”

UWPAT activities have provided fertile ground to help maintain many of those relationships. Over the years, more than 125 alumni and faculty have served on the UWPAT committee. Neil himself has been involved in a variety of capacities for 20 years. As trusted counsel, he assisted with regularizing UWPAT’s organizational structure, with its Federal reporting requirements and with its compliance with not-for-profit legislation.  In addition to serving as emcee for the annual dinner, Neil hosts an annual “Planning Lunch” at Fasken's, where the School of Planning receives prominence through the participation of UWPAT members and our Professors.  With Neil’s support, UWPAT has funded more than 30 Planner in Residence positions and nearly 140 student scholarships over its history.

A humble person who would normally shy away from accolades, Neil is nonetheless a proud alumnus and as such, his desire to stay connected with the school and his fellow graduates comes naturally. “Giving back to the School of Planning over the years has not been so terribly conscious, but rather instinctive,” he notes, “particularly when influenced by the fond memories of my School of Planning days and by other like-minded alumni who continue to lend their support to the School.”

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