ONTARIO ALUMNI DINNER – OCTOBER 29TH, 2004 REPORT

The second annual dinner in the present cycle saw a return to the old haunt of The Albany Club. This proved to be a popular move, perhaps as the general ambiance is so reminiscent of Commons, but on an improved gastronomic basis. As last year, special thanks are due to John Cary for taking care of the detailed arrangements with the club and for his excellent choice of menu and wines, and also to Bill McConnell for arranging the venue.

About 60 attendees were entertained by a variety of speakers presenting the toasts and the main speaker, Professor Sean Freyne, Director of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies at Trinity. John Payne began the proceedings with the toast to Canada. Bill Jermyn then gave the toast to Ireland by asking “What is Ireland?”. He delivered an eclectic answer calling forth everything from the Celts, snakes, and Vikings and on to a modern Ireland of banks and insurance companies and a multinational future. Peter Hearn again obliged by saying the graces.

The main meal, a very good rack of lamb, was followed by the toast to Trinity given by Elizabeth Grove-White. Elizabeth was the instigator and facilitator of Ontario Alumni functions in the 1980s. She now lives in Victoria, BC and by luck and design found herself in Toronto on the right night. She talked about the intellectual fibre and history of the university and its need to catch up and change for survival. It took 300 years to catch up to women, so it was particularly fitting that Elizabeth proposed the toast because 2004 was the 100th anniversary of women in Trinity – marked by the publication of a book called “A Danger to the Men”.

Sean Freyne discussed the need for the planned changes for Trinity in terms of a bottom up operation involving government funding, a coherent approach and rationalization. He then went on to describe some of the Department of Theology’s work in classics and theology and the meeting of the cultures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Mediterranean, and how classics and the Bible never met. He touched on the large collection of religious books in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin and the past as the key to the future. He finished by discussing the sense of the university in the 21st century.

The evening was closed by Jimmy Smyth’s thanks to Sean Freyne, comprising an historical retrospective of Dublin and Trinity then and now. Between 1900 and 1935 there was rebuilding but the place looked much the same - the Dublin of James Joyce. Even by 1946 there were no changes, a life of O’Neill’s and lectures, and pints of Guinness on the ceiling. Now the college is so big and confronted with changes in funding, Irish society and the global situation. Are the humanities being marginalized? There is a breaking free of the shackles of the past and breaking the stereotype of Irish life. Jimmy mused on the nature of the university as the storekeeper of knowledge, the master craftsman, and its role in the global village.

Altogether an evening where the food for thought was every bit as good as the food on the table and which for a few stalwarts, Sean Freyne included, ended some time later in P.J.O’Brien around the corner.

John Payne

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