On February 9, UTM students, faculty, and staff gathered in the lobby outside the RAWC to surprise the mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion, with a birthday surprise.
McCallion, who was born in Port Daniel, Québec in 1921, celebrates her 90th birthday on February 14.
The UTM community, including Deep Saini, the vice-president and principal of UTM, gathered on the steps outside the RAWC at 3:30 p.m. and awaited the mayor’s arrival at 4. No one was let in on the surprises planned for the mayor.
In an email to the UTM community, Saini wrote, “What do you get when you combine hundreds of people, birthday wishes, and U of T Mississauga’s biggest champion? Our very own ‘Happy Birthday’ celebration for Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion’s 90th birthday! Expect the unexpected!”
“Running one of Canada’s largest cities can’t be an easy job, so just be patient,” joked the emcee of the event when the time showed 4:05 p.m. and McCallion had not yet arrived.
McCallion was not let in on the birthday plan. She was asked to come to UTM and enter through the doors of the RAWC. When she did so, everyone in attendance yelled “Happy Birthday!” followed by a round of applause for Mississauga’s longest-serving mayor.
A banner with the words “Happy 90th Birthday” was signed by those in attendance and held up by Residence Life students for McCallion’s arrival. A choir made up of UTM students walked through the tightly packed crowd on the stairs and sang a song in Swahili, the official language of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” in unison while confetti was thrown down from the RAWC track. Students working out in the gym stopped to look down at the celebration.
McCallion was taken by surprise and stood by the entrance to the doors with a grin from ear to ear.
“This is completely unexpected. It’s such an unusual surprise,” said McCallion. “This will be one of the highlights of my birthday celebration. This university is very special to me. It’s something I’ve worked hard to establish. You are all a gem in the heart of the city.”
“Happy birthday to you,” said Saini. “The song sung by the choir is the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer for your long and happy life. We look forward to celebrating your 100th birthday here at UTM.”
Saini expressed his gratitude to the mayor for the time she’s put into the UTM campus. “This is your family. You’ve been a patron to us for so many years.”
McCallion began her career as the mayor of Mississauga in November 1978, and after 33 years in office, she is the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history. In June last year, she was elected for her 12th consecutive term.
On June 7, 2010, U of T conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws on Mayor McCallion during UTM’s convocation in recognition of her contributions to public life.
“I hope you folks will live to be 90 too. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” concluded McCallion before cutting the cake.
The celebration continued with cake, drinks, and chatter.