Trent University celebrated the 90th birthday of founding president Professor Thomas H.B. Symons on Saturday. More than 400 guests gathered in the University athletics complex including students, alumni, faculty, friends, family and community leaders. Notable attendees included Ontario Lieutenant Governor, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, Selwyn Mayor Andy Mitchell, Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones, MPP Dave Smith and MP Maryam Monsef.
The event was made possible through the generosity of TD Insurance, as well as the support of the Trent University Alumni Association and the following university departments: Athletics, Conference Services, External Relations and Advancement, Facilities Management, Parking & Security, Print Shop, and Marketing & Communications.
Lee Hays ’91, director of Alumni Engagement and Services, spoke to the success of the evening.
“Looking around the room on Saturday, you saw lifelong friends, former colleagues, family, alumni, and community leaders who have all benefited from Tom Symons’ legacy. It was a privilege to open the doors at Trent University to say thank you to Professor Symons and celebrate his milestone 90th birthday.”
Chair of the THB Symons 90th Birthday Celebration committee, Stu Butts ’65, used a metaphor of a honey bee to honour the birthday celebrant.
“We are mindful of the impact that THB has had, not just on Trent University, and not just on Peterborough, but on the world community, and universities and educational institutions everywhere. As a scholar, educator, instigator, collaborator, pollinator, and friend, Tom has brought life and sustenance to an untold number of associations, organizations, institutions, and endeavours. We are proud of the fact that we have been able to keep our bee at Trent, in Peterborough, while at the same time sharing him with the world.”
Speaking of the Trent community, Mr. Butts “Today there are 53,000 of us currently, 9,000 in training, and together with an estimated 3,000 teaching and support staff, some 66,000 people have sipped the nectar, eaten the pollen and the honey that has been propagated on these fields and we have sustained and honoured our bee.”
Prof. Symons was born in Toronto in 1929 to First World War flying ace Harry Lutz Symons and Dorothy Bull, daughter of the financier and historian William Perkins Bull.
In 1961, Prof. Symons was approached by a committee of Peterborough citizens who asked the industrious and well-liked scholar to create a university for the city. He accepted the daunting challenge and became the founding president of what would be Trent University. His vision for Trent as a fully-formed, collegiate university brought the institution to life and has sustained it for more than 50 years. Today, Trent’s dynamic and evolving college system reinforces the vision Professor Symons had of a place where everyone would know everyone else and all members of the community would intermingle and interact.
Learn more about our founding president with a full-length bio, highlights of his legacy and a photo gallery.