Joyce Sowby’s three-part bequest honours an interesting life

Sep 7, 2023
Joyce Sowby and four men look quizzically at an open binder.
Joyce Sowby with the Trinity College Music Committee in 1950, where she launched a new record club.

Leafing back through issues of The Varsity from the late 1940s, you see Joyce Sowby’s name—then Joyce Rous—over and over.

Founding a women’s field hockey league. Problem-solving for Trinity College’s music committee. Travelling to Quebec on a French exchange. Enthusing about how students love to buy books. And winning an honour award for contributing notably to undergraduate life.

Sowby (BA 1950 TRIN, BLS 1951, MLS 1972) always had multiple passions and a love of new ideas. Seven decades later, she has left a bequest that reflects not only her many interests, but also her zest for the cutting edge. It’s a gift that honours her full life.

A love for college life, a lifelong proud alum

A student at Trinity College from 1946 to 1950, Sowby lived in the St. Hilda’s College residence. Part of her bequest goes to Trinity’s General Endowment and St. Hilda’s Trust, supporting the immersive collegiate atmosphere that helps students learn who they are—and what they will be.

There were years when she would work well into the night and fall asleep curled up in the volunteer room!

The gift not only honours Sowby’s active involvement as an undergraduate, but her decades of service as an alumna. She was her Class Rep for nearly 20 years, and then became the Trinity Book Sale’s most extraordinary volunteer. Until her 90s, she rallied helpers and sorted books. “There were years when she would work well into the night and fall asleep curled up in the volunteer room!” Kathy Girvin (BA 1968 TRIN, BEd 1970) told

There were years when she would work well into the night and fall asleep curled up in the volunteer room!

Exciting new projects in support of libraries

Sowby also earned a bachelor’s of library science from U of T’s Library School, now the Faculty of Information. She soon landed a position at the university’s Scarborough College and worked there for 13 years, with her can-do spirit finding new outlets. In 1968–69, in charge during the chief librarian’s leave, she launched new projects: Sunday afternoon hours, full-time photocopy service, a handbook, a new orientation program and more study carrels.

Joyce Sowby smiling

Joyce Sowby at graduation in 1950.

The second part of her bequest honours this part of her life—unrestricted gifts to the Faculty of Information and the UTSC Library. Both have directed the funds to priority projects on the cutting edge. At the iSchool, her gift supports the GLAM Incubator, where galleries, libraries, archives and museums test innovative programs with the help of students. At UTSC, her generosity now supports the Sophia Hilton Storytelling Fellowship, in which students explore new ways of storytelling and generate material for the library’s collection.

Joyce Sowby smiling

Joyce Sowby at graduation in 1950.

Forever interested in new ideas

A firm believer in life-long learning, Sowby earned two more degrees: a Master of Library Science at U of T and an MA in art history at Queen’s University. She went on to work as a librarian in Nova Scotia, and later enjoyed a retirement filled with reading, art, travel, friends and volunteering at her church, among other activities.

The final part of her bequest expressed her dedication to excellence. Proud of U of T’s top rankings, she left unrestricted funds to the University in general.

Joyce Sowby died on Jan. 5, 2022 at 94. Her legacy is as generous as her heart was—and as forward-looking.

If you would like to find out more about how to donate through your will, please visit the gift planning website or reach out to Michelle Osborne at