Donor Profiles

peter taylor spire donor
Photo by Andrew Carroll

From an early age, Peter Taylor knew he had an academic bent and that he would spend his life in a university. Queen’s seemed the natural choice and the discovery, in his undergraduate years, of the wonderful Kingston environment, served to confirm that decision.

He entered the math and physics program at Queen’s, followed that with his graduate work in mathematics, and then returned to Queen’s in 1969 “to be part of the tremendous growth of the university system in the wake of the huge scientific and technological developments that had just put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.”.

His interests gravitated to the mathematical modeling Of animal behavior, particularly cooperation and conflict. More recently his attention has shifted toward psychology and human behavior in an area known as
evolutionary game theory. Another active focus of Peter’s work is the development of sophisticated activities for the high school math curriculum, and today, he spends much of his time working with teachers and students in the classroom.

Peter became involved with Sydenham St. United Church (now called The Spire) in 1982 when he and his wife, Judith bought a house across the street. “It was a pleasure to be able to look out at such a magnificent building.”

A short four years later, the associate minister at the church, asked if Peter would be interested in taking on a senior Sunday school class. He agreed and spent the year with the teens reading books including The Snow Goose, The Shepherd and A Time for Judas.

“This last book confronted us with some serious moral questions and we wrote a play called The Trial of Judas Iscariotand the class performed it as part of the 1987 Palm Sunday Service. They were in fact a remarkable group of young folks. Today, the Cantabile Choir is a significant feature of my life and its concerts are major events at The Spire.”

Peter views the Spire as leading the way in its  imaginative response to a number Of closely related cultural shifts that are being felt in the schools and in the community. “It’s a privilege to be in a position to offer support to this fine movement.”

“Community is the key ingredient
of the kind of wise, nurturing, cultural change
I imagine we might manage to achieve.”

He adds: “Community is the key ingredient of the kind Of wise, nurturing, cultural change I imagine we might manage to achieve. Many organizations, large and small, perhaps particularly those dedicated to the arts, will benefit from the new structure being developed at The Spire. And that in turn benefits us all.”

ruth wilson ian casson spire donors

The Spire (formerly Sydenham Street United Church) is undergoing a metamorphosis, expanding from a traditional place of worship to a hub of inclusivity and community. To achieve this grand vision, a campaign is underway to raise $1.5 million. As of August, 2017, nearly $700,000 has been raised from people who know the value of The Spire and what this place gives to Kingston.

Dr. Ruth Wilson and Dr. Ian Casson are two such donors who believe in the importance of keeping this downtown space alive for the whole community.

Ruth and Ian are professors of family medicine at Queen’s University. They moved to Kingston with their five children in 1989 after years of providing medical care in Northern Ontario.

“We knew a bit about Kingston,” Ruth said. “My parents had been ministers at Chalmers United Church so we had traveled from the north to visit. We were very happy to make the move here and joined Sydenham Street United Church for its active children and youth programs.”

As members of the church community, Ruth and Ian know just how heavily the building is used. This iconic piece of downtown offers space to many different groups including the Cantabile Choirs, the Kingston Film Festival, Beyond Classrooms, Reelout, numerous self-help groups and others. Between 1,000 and 1,200 individuals a week come through the doors of the church.

“We’re faced with an aging congregation that has diminishing needs for the available space and it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to sustain the cost of maintaining the building,” Ruth said. “It was very important to find a way to allow the community to continue to use the space so Ian and I were delighted to find out about this campaign and the unique management model the congregation adopted.”

The model Dr. Wilson is referring to has become the foundation for the new life of The Spire. Construction on an elevator and additional washrooms is already underway to make the church fully accessible and available to anyone who would like to use the space whether it be for offices, performances or yoga classes.

“It’s important to have not only a safe space,
but to say to people ‘you, in particular,
are welcome here’.”

Ruth believes that The Spire is a great gift for the community. She is proud to be part of an affirming congregation that actively welcomes the LGBTQ community.

“It’s important to have not only a safe space, but to say to people ‘you, in particular, are welcome here’.”

She adds that keeping this inclusive space available for future generations is a very good thing to do.