Lost and Found: University College’s Revitalization uncovers a 30-year-old mystery
In 1987, Suzanne Rochford was a fourth-year Engineering student living in a single dorm room at U of T’s Knox College residence.
Knox was a welcoming and friendly environment. Students came and went; it was common practice to leave dorm rooms open.
Rochford felt at home in the residence, describing it as having “a wonderful community culture.”
One morning, Rochford left her room and walked down the hallway to the washrooms before preparing to leave the residence. She was planning to go to the bank and cash her Canada Savings Bonds to help pay university fees. The bonds had been worth $2000 “a huge amount of money for a student, especially 30 years ago,” said Rochford. It was money she needed.
She had placed the bonds in her purse on her dorm room dresser before she left her room and walked down the hall.
When she came back the purse wasn’t there. Within a five-minute stretch, gone were her savings bonds, bank card, birth certificate, a Simpsons department store card (her first credit card), and a coupon for ‘one free hug.’ A favourite silver necklace was also missing.
Panicked, she reported the incident, and a notice was issued to all residents. The purse and its contents, however, were never found.
The incident left its mark. It was an intrusion, not just personally, but one that impacted the residence’s “community culture.”
It was also an enormous hassle for an already busy student. Rochford had to visit each government and bank office in person to fill out paperwork for replacements.
Flash-forward to 2018
In January, 2018, University College embarked on its revitalization project, a massive undertaking to rejuvenate and update the historic building. Demolition crews began removing the building’s old plaster and drywall in East and West Halls, and Croft Chapter house.
While working, a crew member came across an object peeking out of drywall. As he continued to remove the debris, he discovered that the object was a purse. It was in perfect condition and full of personal contents.
The crew member immediately advised management and the purse was delivered to UC Alumni Relations Officer, Mike Henry. The contents of the purse made it easy to identify the owner.
On February 5, 2018, Suzanne Rochford received an email from Henry titled ‘Purse Found at University College, U of T.’
Rochford was floored. “When I received the email and read the first few lines, I thought it might be a scam,” said Rochford. “But as I continued to read there was far too much very specific detail for a scam.”
She then called out to her husband, “hey do you remember when my purse was stolen from my residence room? I just got an email that they found it – 30 years later! I can’t believe it.”
Henry and Rochford continued their discussion, each of them equally amazed at the discovery. She recounted the event and Henry described the items still in the purse: the savings bonds, the birth certificate, Simpson’s card and free hug coupon.
Thirty years later, Rochford’s purse was returned with its contents, which had become somewhat of a time capsule of another lifetime.