Celebrating Waterloo connections
Deborah Wang (MArch ’15) and William Elsworthy’s (MArch ’15) gift recognizes their personal and professional relationship with Waterloo — and will help architecture students launch their careers.
Deborah Wang (MArch ’15) and William Elsworthy’s (MArch ’15) gift recognizes their personal and professional relationship with Waterloo — and will help architecture students launch their careers.By Joanne Wallace Office of Advancement
You could call architecture alums Deborah Wang (MArch ’15) and William Elsworthy (MArch ’15) a real-life power couple … specifically in the realm of Canadian design and architecture.
Will is an associate at chic Toronto architectural studio Superkül, while Deborah is artistic director and co-founder of DesignTO, a non-profit that produces Canada’s leading annual design festival. Both have resumes crammed with some of the most impressive building and design projects in Canada.
The couple’s connection to UWaterloo is deep and wide, and starts with the fact that they met here.
“We’d both come to Waterloo to study architecture as undergrads, and were thrilled to be at the best architecture school in the country,” says Deborah, who was brought up in a creative, artistic family in Toronto.
The couple became fast friends, and began dating after their undergraduate studies, when both stepped away from school to gain field experience. Nevertheless, their Waterloo connection continued to deepen during this time, which saw Will working extensively on the Perimeter Institute’s Stephen Hawking Centre, and Deborah involved in designing the Quantum-Nano Centre.
“Will grew up in Waterloo and his parents still live not far from campus. It’s nice for them to be able to walk past a building their son helped create,” says Deborah.
During this time Deborah also expanded her interest in contemporary art, and completed a Master of Fine Art at OCAD University. She also developed her professional life as an artist, educator, and curator, and eventually founded DesignTO, first known as the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. This event – which began as a small collection of design exhibitions in Toronto – is now approaching its 12th year as Canada’s largest annual design festival.
After marrying in 2009, Will and Deborah returned to Waterloo to begin graduate studies in architecture. Deborah admits it was a good thing they finished three months apart, since they both won the prestigious RAIC (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada) Student Medal — Will in 2015 and Deborah in 2016. “It would have been terrible to compete with your spouse for it,” she laughs.
This deep connection made Waterloo top of mind when Will and Deborah sat down to write their wills last year.
DEBORAH WANG (MARCH '15)
We wanted to support Waterloo because it’s such a part of who we are.
“We wanted to leave part of our estate to charity, and Waterloo was a natural choice for us. It was a challenging, exciting place to be – it brought out the best in both of us, and encouraged us to pursue academic work that we found both enriching and fulfilling,” says Deborah. “We wanted to support that, because it’s such a part of who we are.”
Once they’d decided, it was a simple matter of telling their lawyer their wishes. “It was so easy,” says Deborah. “Our lawyer did it all, and we can add to the bequest or change it any time we want.”
She also points out they didn’t have to specify an amount. “We just called Joanne Stewart in the Office of Advancement, and told her we’d decided to include Waterloo in our estate plans,” says Deborah. “Joanne called us back right away, and worked with us to shape an idea that really spoke to our personal experience at Waterloo.”
For now, the couple’s gift will support a financial prize to accompany the RAIC medal – which, although prestigious, does not carry a financial component. “We know how amazing it felt to win that prize,” remembers Deborah. “But we also know how helpful it is to have a little financial boost to get your career started.”
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.