Symons, Thomas Henry Bull

Thomas Henry Bull Symons, teacher, historian, university president, author (b at Toronto 30 May 1929). He was educated at U of T, Oxford and the Sorbonne. As an academic and administrator he has played many roles. He was founding president of Trent University (1961-72), and founding vice-president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1978-84). He is perhaps best known as chairman of the Commission on Canadian Studies (1972-84).

As author of To Know Ourselves: The Report of the Commission on Canadian Studies (1975), he alerted Canadians and Canadian universities to the importance of teaching and research about Canada, its prospects, problems and circumstances. That report, and the challenges contained in it, are balanced by Symons's concern that Canadians participate in the wider scholarly world, both through contributions about Canada and by a willingness to learn about, and be open to, the perspectives of others.

His view of the importance of a Canadian presence on the wider international academic stage is demonstrated by international service, which has included work with the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Student Mobility (1982-), chairmanship of the Int Board of United World Colleges (1980- ) and chairmanship of the Assn of Commonwealth Universities (1971-72).

Not only a theoretician but a practitioner, Symons has advised the provincial government of Ontario as the chairman of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (1975-78), for example, and the federal government as a member of the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee (1979-82) and as chairman of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board (1986- ). He was also chairman of the Policy Advisory Committee to R.L. Stanfield (1968-75).

His publications, articles, reviews and monographs on a host of topics include Life Together: A Report on Human Rights in Ontario (1977), with Rosalie Abella et al, and Some Questions of Balance: Human Resources, Higher Education and Canadian Studies (1984), with James E. Page. As well, he contributed to Ontario Universities: Access, Operations and Funding (ed D.W. Conklin and T.J. Courchene, 1985).

Symons is a fellow of the Royal Soc of Canada, Officer of the Order of Canada (1976), and holder of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal and of the Canadian Centennial medal as well as many other honours. (See also Canadian Studies.)