When Michael Symonds (BMath ’00) talks about finding study space on the sixth floor of the Math and Computer building, it sounds like he’s letting you in on a secret. “There’s about a thousand doors,” he says, “and if you’re a student, you kind of know the four that are unlocked.”

Math 3 Atrium

He’s speaking at a 50th anniversary event for the Faculty of Mathematics. A proud alumnus, Michael was enrolled in Actuarial Science in the 1990s. It was a challenging program with academic and professional components. In his first year, he was one of 120 students. By the time he graduated in 2000, his stream — which started with roughly half of his first-year class — was down to six people.

“Back then you had course work, you had professional exams, you were always moving for co-op — it was really running the gauntlet,” says Michael. “So the six of us actually bonded. We worked hard together and supported each other.

“It didn’t hurt that we didn’t really have to compete for jobs!”

Michael graduated at the top of his class and moved to the US to work in the financial sector. He wanted to pay tribute to his friends and their experience at Waterloo, so with his classmates Deep Patel (BMath ’00) and Craig Doughty (BMath ’00) — and with a contribution from his employer’s matching gift program — he supported a new study space in Mathematics 3 (M3).

“I just loved the idea of having a memento of our time here,” he says, “and also getting the band back together a little bit. Life intervenes, you don’t see each other as much, so I thought, let’s come together, rekindle things.”

“We’re really happy to be able to give this gift,” adds Deep. “Hopefully future generations can have the experience that we had together.”

Michael says that the new study area is much nicer than the rooms he and his friends used to haunt twenty years ago.

“I know the space is going to be well used,” says Craig. “It’s beautiful and we’re proud to be part of it.”  

Michael Symonds, Deep Patel, and Craig Doughty

The new room is one example of student facilities supported by Waterloo donors. Another is the Bruce White Atrium, which sits two floors below the study space in M3. Alumnus and donor John Hele (BMath ’80) named it in honour of his high school math teacher, a man who also had a profound impact on Michael.

“Part of what I learned in Bruce’s class was when you have a hard problem, you get up on the blackboard and you just go,” he says. “You work together and find a solution, and that’s what we were able to do here. It was a great experience for me personally. I’m thrilled that we were able to do this.”