O.C., LL.D. (Hon)
Tenth Chancellor (2009-2013)
Born on the One Arrow reserve in Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, Tom left school at the age of 15 and spent seven years living on the back streets of Winnipeg. This experience built the foundation of his character - tenacity, leadership, determination to succeed and an altruistic capacity to care for others.
As a singer and songwriter, Tom has recorded 14 albums, two of which have received Juno nominations. His rich bass baritone is recognizable to music fans and concertgoers across the country. Tom is also an award-winning actor. Fans of the CBC hit television series North of 60 will know him as Chief Peter Kenidi, a role he portrayed for six seasons. From Shining Time Station to Star Trek to Law & Order, Tom is no stranger to film and notes his favourites - three North of 60 movies, The Diviners, Grizzly Falls, Mee-Shee The Water Giant and Skinwalkers. Tom’s gifted voice can also be heard narrating television projects such as Life & Times, The Snow Eater and Great Canadian Rivers.
Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000 for his music and humanitarian work, Tom is well known to Canadians as an accomplished musician and actor dedicated to helping the less fortunate. At the 2007 Junos, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) bestowed Tom with the Humanitarian Award in recognition for his positive contributions to the social landscape of Canada. The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television also presented Tom with their prestigious Humanitarian Award at the 2007 Geminis. Tom received the Queen’s Jubilee medal in 2002 and Centennial Medals from Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2005. Time Magazine named him one of Canada’s best activists and Honorary Degrees have been conferred upon him from the University of Alberta, Laurentian, Winnipeg, Victoria, Trent, Lakehead, Calgary, Lethbridge and Regina.
When Tom was working on North of 60, fellow cast member Mervin Good Eagle committed suicide. His tragic and untimely death exposed Tom to the devastating effects of suicide in Aboriginal communities. His response was to create and initiate the Dreamcatcher Tour. After a dozen years, 170 urban and reserve locations across Canada have benefited from Tom’s workshops, music, and overall messages of empowerment.
One of Tom's prime motivators is his drive to end hunger. He has applied his musical and entrepreneurial gifts to his Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series and his newly launched Singing for Supper and Swinging for Supper Tours. After 17 years, The Huron Carole was retired under the fanfare of featuring a vast array of Canadian artists who, along with Tom and his band, played from Victoria to St. John's at the height of the Christmas season. Singing for Supper carries on his annual Christmas tradition, with over 20 concerts performed in churches and community halls from coast to coast. Swinging for Supper matches Tom’s love of golf and live music – events raising money and awareness for food banks and agencies meeting the needs of at-risk youth. Tom’s passion for travel across Canada forged his commitment to tour with Canadian Pacific Railway’s fundraiser The Holiday Train from 1999 to 2003. From that experience he produced 2 compilation CDs and along with The Huron Carole and Singing and Swinging for Supper has raised over $5M dollars for food banks and family agencies across the country.
Tom has a unique way of uniting people to create change and this instinct prevails despite all odds. The Vigil, a post-9/11 concert fundraiser held September 12, 2001, engaged Canadian Country Music industry professionals, raising money for the Red Cross and marking the first of many similar events around the globe. Tom spearheaded and hosted the CBC Newsworld coverage of Say Hay, an Alberta event that raised $1.8M for drought-stricken prairie farmers. And in 2003, Tom collaborated with Calgary-based industries to create Beef Relief in aid of cattle ranchers devastated by border closures. Combined cash and beef contributions for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank topped the $600,000 mark. Moved by increasing issues surrounding global food insecurity and homelessness, Tom’s next foray in elevating the quality of life for Canadians is the manufacturing of affordable housing.