Thomas Symons, 1929-2021

Symons ACU Council Meeting

The ACU community is saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Thomas H B Symons, a leading figure in Commonwealth higher education and a champion of international cooperation.

As founding President of Trent University, Canada, Professor Symons served as Chair of the ACU Council from 1971-1972. His time on Council spanned nearly two decades, including a period as Honorary Treasurer from 1974-1987. During this time, he chaired the ACU’s 75th anniversary appeal, which raised over two million pounds (double its target) to fund fellowships for university academic and professional staff. He also gave his name to the Symons Award, which honours individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the ACU or to higher education in the Commonwealth. Since it was established in 1973, 39 people have received the award, a bronze medal designed by the Canadian sculptor Dora de Pédery-Hunt.

Professor Symons was also instrumental in instigating the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), one of the most prestigious scholarship schemes in the world. At the behest of Dr Sidney Smith (then President of the University of Toronto who went on to become Secretary of State for External Affairs), Professor Symons drafted a proposal for a scheme that was established in 1959 as the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan – an international framework through which countries of the Commonwealth can offer university scholarships and fellowships to citizens of other member states. He maintained his involvement with the CSFP throughout its history, including serving on the management committee of the CSFP endowment fund, established in 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the scheme by creating scholarships hosted in low and middle countries, now known as Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships.

Professor Symons passed away on 1 January 2021. Visit the Trent University tribute website

Image: A meeting of the ACU Council in May 1972, hosted by Professor Thomas Symons (front row, fourth from right) at Trent University, Canada