Red Robes at U of T: The Massey Gown Run 2016

You might have seen, read or heard about people running costume races dressed in tutus, high heels, or even superhero costumes. But have you ever heard of people running in GOWNS? And no, I don't mean your typical wedding or evening wear: we're talking formal, flowy Graduation Day-style gowns.

This year on October 22nd, the annual Massey Gown Run took place at Massey College in downtown Toronto. The Massey Gown Run features participants running, walking and strolling for 5km around U of T's downtown campus neighborhood in their striking scarlet gowns. 

You're probably thinking- why gowns? Lengthy and loose, graduation gowns would normally be the last option of clothing you'd pick to a run.

But here's the reason behind it: when we look at gowns, we think of things like students, school, graduation ceremonies and education. That's what the organizers at Massey College wanted to represent when they chose to wear gowns to the annual fundraising Run.

The gowns represent the College's exemplary scholars, while the color red symbolizes their passion and endless quest for knowledge. The gowns themselves are donated by local manufacturer Gaspard Clothing annually.


All proceeds from the Massey College Gown Run go towards funding a program called Scholars at Risk. It has been 17 years since Massey College first brought the Scholars at Risk program to campus in 1999, making it their community’s mission to help fund scholars who have migrated to Canada after experiencing political instability in their home countries. 

These students did not get a chance to pursue their academics and passions because of political disruption. They are the underlying reason for the establishment of the Scholars at Risk program. 

                                                              Running in gowns. Running as scholars. Running to support scholars.


The ultimate goal for Scholars at Risk at Massey is to raise a total funding sum of one million dollars, divided up into one hundred bursaries, each valued ten thousand dollars for the program. U of T's President Meric Gertler also offered to fund up to five hundred thousand dollars, along with funds raised from the Gown Run to match the program's target funds. These bursaries are expected to be distributed in ten years' time.

The Scholars at Risk program has helped changed students' lives in unimaginable and impactful ways. 

“Without the program, I might be cleaning houses instead of research,” commented PhD student Farai Gonzo in an interview with the Toronto Star. Gonzo fled imprisonment and torture in her hometown in Zimbabwe and is now pursuing a PhD at U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

Many such scholars who received aid from Scholars at Risk intend to give back to the community in many ways, including joining the Gown Run themselves with other Massey graduates and staff to show their support. One such previous Scholar at Risk, Alex Sodiqov, did exactly that.

Sodiqov, now doing his PhD at U of T, attended the Massey Gown Run with his family of three, which he relayed as his way of showing support for what the program has done for him.

“[It] really helps you integrate into academic life.” Sodiqov told the Toronto Star.

This year, the Scholars at Risk program awared bursaries to three students from Zimbabwe, Syria and Gaza, giving them then necessary resources to continue or complete their studies and prepare them for their new lives in Canada. 


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