ONTARIO ALUMNI DINNER – NOVEMBER 21, 2014
This was the twelfth annual dinner and the eighth one at the National Club. At 29 attendees, numbers were down from previous years, due to the absence of many of our stalwarts and possibly the later date than usual. However, it was pleasing to see two new younger alumni, Andrijana Dzever and Samara Kraus, and it is hoped that the trend will continue.
The program began as usual with a reception where people could meet and chat informally and with our guest speaker, Nick Sparrow, Director of Development of Trinity Foundation. The dinner began with an introduction by John Payne reporting on the events of the year.
Just as few weeks ago, Les Colhoun died at 94 after being in failing health for some time. He was the founder of this group many years ago and was responsible for the early dinners which had a certain notoriety for a good time in keeping with Trinity traditions. Les was born in Toronto, went to school in Northern Ireland and was a Legal Science Scholar at Trinity, elected in 1948. He was subsequently awarded an honorary LLD degree on July 6, 1984 to add to his B.A., M.A. and LL.B. Steadily rising through the ranks, he became Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of the National Trust Company and director of several other companies. Over the years, he was involved with many local organizations and charities including the Ontario Heart Foundation where he was President, and the Governing Council of the University of Toronto. He was also instrumental in raising a great deal of money for Trinity. When the Alumni group was reactivated in 2003, Les was there to lend support and advice, which were both needed and appreciated. Heather, his wife, is also a Trinity law graduate and we were very pleased to see her at the dinner and the alumni group extends its sympathies to her and its appreciation for all that Les did to support the group and the College.
Last year Bill McConnell’s wife, Ann, who was a regular attendee at the dinner, could not attend due to ill health and she died three months ago. She led a full and interesting life working in television in the UK before emigrating to Canada where she joined the executive group of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Montreal and travelled the world as a result. She loved tennis and our group has held receptions at Toronto Lawn Tennis Club where she was a member. After retirement she graduated with an honours degree from the Ontario College of Art and Design and she was a talented artist and exhibited many works. The group’s sympathy goes out to Bill for his loss.
The year had a very busy period in the spring with the rebranding issue, which brought out some strong feelings and opinions. In April, John Payne and John Cary were in Dublin and had meetings at the Alumni Office and also with the Registrar, to discuss the concerns and hear the College’s view. It was apparent that there was more to the story than appeared in the newspapers. However, it now appears, based on a recent article in the Irish Times, that rebranding has been shelved for the time being to allow focus on the College’s five year strategy.
It was at this time that we met Nick Sparrow and the continuing good support and encouragement from Aoife Keogh and Amy Brodigan at the Alumni Office was instrumental in getting Nick over here for the dinner.
The Alumni Office asked us to participate in the International Welcome Programme which connects Trinity students who are abroad on an exchange with Trinity alumni who currently reside in that region. The purpose is to provide students with support in their year abroad, advising them on the new culture and where practicable, providing networking opportunities. This year we had three students in the Toronto area and it was very encouraging that we had no shortage of local alumni willing to help them along.
For St. Patrick’s Day we were invited to have a joint pub night with the Oxford and Cambridge Group who welcome our participation at many of their events. One of our members, Alan Louthe, is Chair of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Society.
The group maintains strong connections with The International University Clubs of Toronto which continues to offer numerous interesting events during the year through several of its constituent members. These dates are circulated to our group and details are posted on the website. Thanks go to Bruce Buttimore for managing our website, monitoring our LinkedIn Group and taking the lead in coordinating our efforts with the International Group. We also receive the regular newsletters and other information from the Irish Embassy in Ottawa and these are posted on our website.
The committee remains the same and thanks are due to John Cary for acting as Treasurer and for handling all the detailed arrangements with the National Club and to Bill McConnell and Bruce Buttimore for help with the general organization.
The toast to Canada was given by John Payne, followed by the toast to Ireland by Brian Henderson. Ray Wiley said the graces and Kevin Harraher set a record for the longest toast to Trinity, which set the stage for our guest speaker.
Our guest speaker this year was Nick Sparrow, Director of Development of Trinity Foundation where he has been for the last 14 years. The Foundation is an independent charity responsible for the development and alumni relations activities of the College with targets to fundraise over €20M per annum and to increase alumni giving. Nick is responsible for the philanthropic fundraising activities of the College, and articulating and communicating the University's value and relevance and, in so doing, securing support to achieve Trinity's mission. He works with the University academics to develop research, education and outreach programmes, and secures private funding and other support for these projects - primarily from individuals, companies and foundations, and manages long term relationships with the private sector to support the University's strategic plan.
In his remarks, Nick stressed the importance of the alumni and mentioned Denis Burkitt, one of the medical school’s most remarkable graduates who wrote “Attitudes are more important than abilities, Motives are more important than methods, Character is more important than cleverness, And the Heart takes precedence over the head.” Nick continued by mentioning many new areas and initiatives that Trinity is pursuing. These included being a leader in educational thinking; the science gallery on Pearse Street where art and science collide which has gone on to create a worldwide brand; a Master’s course in Chinese Studies; courses for people with intellectual disability and, online open courses where approximately 18,000 signed up for the first history course and about 12,000 finished it. The have been research successes with Trinity receiving more than 50% of the Irish Government funding as well as having active working relationships with many companies. Some fields of research interest include, ALS genes, a longitudinal study of aging which has the best database in the world, biosciences, dementia research and the Hello Brain website. Moreover, there are the new Long Room Hub for Arts and Humanities research, a new drama facility and a new business school plus plans for an Engineering, Environment and Energy (E3) Institute.
Nick went on to note the new frieze in the Dining Hall recognizing significant donors to the College which begins with Elizabeth I and now has 73 names. He touched on the rebranding which was not official and was prematurely disclosed while still at discussion stage. He described the Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2019 which has 9 goals, 36 actions and 200 programmes. His remarks had begun with a comment about Denis Burkitt and concluded with a note that there is now a Burkitt medal for cancer research.
There was the customary question period at the end and a thank you by John Payne who presented a gift of a Canadian novel to Nick to complement his interest in modern novels.