Canadian lawyer and influential business leader John A. Tory’s legacy lives on through the accomplishments of the three inaugural John A. Tory JD/MBA Scholars, who were awarded the honour this fall.
Generously donated by the Tory family, the gift pays tribute to the two pillars that were at the core of John’s life – business and law. This transformative gift supports the University’s sought-after JD/MBA Program, which combines business and law education to prepare leaders with the knowledge, skills and insights needed to make a global impact.
Part of the gift will support a new annual lecture that will bring together students, scholars and professionals to explore new approaches, legislation and trends in tax law. The first John A. Tory Lecture will be held in 2024.
The John A. Tory JD/MBA Scholars, awarded to students who embody the multidisciplinary excellence and integrity John was continuously recognized for, will support needs-based bursaries for recipients from the Faculty of Law and provide scholarship support for students in the joint program at the Rotman School of Management.
We are pleased to introduce this year’s recipients: the inaugural John A. Tory JD/MBA Scholars.
Nancy Chen, JD/MBA ’25
Faculty of Law recipient
After being born into a family from a rural village in China, Nancy Chen has spent her whole life yearning to learn more about how the world operates on a larger scale. That is why when she was considering law school, influenced by her father’s work as a paralegal, moving to the big city was a no-brainer; “it was U of T or nothing,” quoted Chen.
Throughout her undergraduate studies in biochemistry, Chen was introduced to how law interacts with science – the practice of bringing products to market through legal compliance, advertising and marketing. Her interest in this led her to pursue law and further expanded her understanding of how the world works. Though she recalls starting off her first year in law with a science background felt a bit like jumping into deep water, making the switch to the JD/MBA program in her second year felt much more like even terrain. For many of her colleagues, the study of business was unfamiliar territory, and it felt like everyone was starting on the same playing field.
Now in her third year of the JD/MBA Program, Chen doesn’t have concrete plans for her career post-graduation but instead plans to continue leveraging both sides of her education to help guide her goals. “I was originally interested in corporate law, but now, putting on my business hat, I’m also interested in exploring what a career in private equity would look like,” said Chen.
As one of the award’s inaugural recipients from the Faculty of Law, Chen is extremely grateful for the ability to transfer some of the mental energy that once went towards worrying about her finances to excelling in her studies and participating in extracurriculars. While she was a teaching assistant last year for supplemental income, she is happy to instead focus on her volunteerism and work as a peer mentor in the University of Toronto’s peer mental health support program and as a senior editor on IPilogue (an online review focusing on intellectual property and technology law).
Damien Deng, JD/MBA ’25
Faculty of Law recipient
Damien Deng came to U of T with big goals for himself. After recognizing during his undergraduate degree in finance and data science that quantitative research and standardized testing came naturally, he challenged himself to expand his horizons and pursue a degree that focused more on qualitative studies. While still determining what this would entail, he figured the University’s renowned law degree program would present him with a wide array of options for his future career.
After being introduced to the JD/MBA Program in his first year, he began reaching out to the program’s closely connected network of alums, who he recalls were all very receptive to speaking to a potential student. “I have always been interested in building a career in New York and talking to some of the JD/MBA graduates in the city gave me some great insight and inspired me to look at the advantage that the joint program would give me in such a competitive market,” said Deng.
Deng has since switched to the JD/MBA and is now in his third year of the program, a decision that he says is continuously reinforced by the high calibre of his peers. Upon completing the program, he hopes to start a career in the financial capital of the world, New York, working in corporate law. This dream of his was reaffirmed when he got the chance to visit New York in October 2022 as part of an experiential learning opportunity and showed him what his life could look like one day, said Deng.
Building on his gratitude for the unique offerings of the program, Deng also expressed sincere gratitude to the Tory family for their support of his academic pursuits. As with many first-generation students, his parents cannot support him in the financial undertaking of his degree, and support such as this bursary helps alleviate some of the financial stress associated with tuition fees. The aid also allows him to focus more intentionally on career development, such as his role as governance counsel and chief returning officer for Rotman’s Graduate Business Council (GBC), where he can put into practice his classroom learnings for the betterment of Rotman and U of T.
C.J. Yoannou, JD/MBA ’26
Rotman School of Management recipient
C.J. Yoannou initially intended to study economics in his undergrad before becoming enchanted by the analytical reasoning and argumentative logic of philosophy; he now finds his life coming full circle as a second-year student in the JD/MBA Program. “There was always something in the back of my mind drawing me toward economics and finance, and now I’m finally getting that with the MBA,” shared Yoannou.
But the MBA program wasn’t always part of the plan either. After spending many years studying the intersections of philosophy, politics and economics, Yoannou returned home to Toronto to pursue his JD. Like many of his classmates, he enrolled in the JD/MBA after being introduced to the unique program in his first year.
With two prior degrees from two different countries, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the finest education existed right in his backyard. He credits his high-performing peers and stimulating professors for providing an unparalleled academic experience.
He is currently involved on campus as an associate editor for the U of T Faculty of Law Review, as well as the vice president of the alumni network for the JD/MBA Students’ Association. Building on the association’s mission to facilitate social and networking opportunities for its students, his role is to establish and oversee a mentorship program, pairing the program’s alumni with current students.
Reflecting on his involvement, Yoannou recognizes his ability to succeed, specifically in the JD/MBA Program, is primarily thanks to the Tory family and their creation of these awards. “I wasn’t always sure this program would be feasible for me,” he shared. “The nature of this program requires your full attention and doesn’t leave time for a job on the side to help pay tuition. I’m very aware, and very grateful that this scholarship made the financial calculations positive.”
With over two years still left in his degree, Yoannou’s primary goal is to become well-versed in both legal and financial analysis. At the moment, he aspires to work in transactional corporate law following graduation and hopes that the MBA will equip him with the knowledge and confidence to understand future clients' needs and interests.
The combined JD/MBA Program is part of a long-standing collaboration between the Faculty of Law and the Rotman School of Management in both research and teaching. The program enables students who are interested in the many ways in which the law interacts with the business world to combine graduate training in management with their law degree.
Written by Cialyn Carson