September 18, 2001
and Honorary Degree Recipient Ernie Coombs
Trent University students, staff, and officials took a moment to remember actor and children's entertainer, Ernie Coombs, who died on September 18. Mr. Coombs, known to generations of Canadians as "Mr. Dressup," received an honorary degree from Trent University in June for the contributions he made to Canadian society as a children's entertainer.
Trent University President Bonnie Patterson expressed her sorrow at the news: "The university was proud to have had such an outstanding Canadian accept an honorary degree," she said. "We are enormously saddened by the death of someone who has likely touched the child inside just about every one of us."
Trent University's Chancellor Peter Gzowski was in touch with the university today over the death of his good friend Mr. Coombs. "He was as decent a man as I ever met," Mr. Gzowski said. "I had the pleasure of traveling with him a number of times because he gave of his time for literacy and traveled with me to raise money. Everywhere we went people expressed their love for him. Everyone young and old always wanted to have a picture taken with Mr. Dressup. He was the same in private as he was in public-sweet, funny, and kind to the core. I'm pleased that Trent had an occasion to honour him."
Mr. Coombs, delighted children for 30 years host of the popular CBC TV show "Mr. Dressup." He retired in 1996, but continued entertaining through public appearances and in the theatre. He is the author of five musical albums for children and co-author of three children's books. He was the national spokesperson for Save the Children/Canada.
Mr. Coombs began his career in theatre working as a set designer, technician and painter. While on a visit to the CBC with Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) he was offered his own show. Originally called Butternut Square (after his wife's childcare centre), the show soon evolved to become Mr. Dressup.
His outstanding work in children's television was widely recognized. He was the 1994 recipient of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's prestigious Earle Grey Award for a body of work in television. In 1996 he was awarded a Gemini for best performance in a children's program and later the same year received the Children's Award from the Alliance for Children and Television. He holds a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Children's Broadcast Institute. Coombs received the Order of Canada in 1996.
In his address to graduates during Trent's
convocation ceremony, Mr. Coombs passed on a few words of advice:
"Keep an open mind, and an open heart. Don't take life too
seriously - it doesn't last forever, you know. And may I remind
you for the last time - keep your crayons sharp, your sticky
tape untangled, and always put the top back on your markers!"
Distribution: Peterborough, Regional