Trinity College, Toronto

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University of Trinity College
Latin: Collegium Sacrosanctæ Trinitatis
Motto Met’agona stephanos (Greek)
Motto in English
After the contest, the crown[1]
Established August 2, 1851[2]
Type College of the University of Toronto[2]
Affiliation Anglican Communion
Endowment C$33 million[3]
Chancellor Bill Graham
Provost Mayo Moran
Undergraduates 1,820[4]
Postgraduates 138[4]
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Campus Urban
Affiliations AUCC, ATS

Trinity College is a college of the University of Toronto, founded in 1851 by Bishop John Strachan. Trinity was intended by Strachan as a college of strong Anglican alignment, after the University of Toronto severed its ties with the Church of England. In 1904, Trinity joined the university as a member of its collegiate federation.

Trinity College presently consists of a secular undergraduate section and a postgraduate divinity school that is part of the Toronto School of Theology. Reflecting its English heritage, the college emulates Oxbridge traditions as the wearing of gowns at dinner, a chapel choir that includes choral scholars, and college scarves and blazers.


John Strachan

Bishop John Strachan, an Anglican priest and Archdeacon of York, received a royal charter from King George IV in 1827 to establish King's College in Upper Canada. The colonial college was effectively controlled by the Church of England and members of the elite Family Compact.[5] In 1849, over strong opposition from Strachan, Reformists took control of the college and secularized it to become the University of Toronto.[5] Incensed by this decision, Strachan immediately began raising funds for the creation of Trinity College, a private institution based on strong Anglican lines.

Working with Kivas Tully, Charles Barry Cleveland superintended many of their important architectural works in eastern Canada including the Trinity College campus at the University of Toronto.[6] The building featured Gothic Revival design. The cornerstone was laid on April 30, 1851.[7] Trinity was incorporated as an independent university on 2 August 1851,[8] and a charter was granted by Queen Victoria the following year.[9] The Cameron property on Queen Street in western Toronto was purchased for £2,000, and the college opened to students at the site on January 15, 1852.[5]

The original Gothic Revival Trinity College, circa 1852 by architect Kivas Tully

Beginning in 1837, representatives of the United Church of England and Ireland in Upper Canada met with the Society for Propagation of the Gospel to solicit support for fellowships to enable the education of local clergy.[10] With a guarantee of support, in 1841 Bishop Strachan requested his chaplains, the Rev. Henry James Grasett and the Rev. Henry Scadding of St. James' Cathedral, and the Rev. Alexander Neil Bethune, then Rector of Cobourg, to prepare a plan for a systematic course in theology for those to be admitted to Holy Orders.[10] On January 10, 1842 the first lecture was given at the Diocesan Theological Institute in Cobourg. In 1852, teaching was transferred to Toronto in the new Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College.[10] Trinity College absorbed the Diocesan Theological Institute in Cobourg in 1852.[9]

Trinity College gradually expanded its teaching beyond arts and divinity, and by the end of the 19th century its scope had included medicine, law, music, pharmacy and dentistry. The college admitted its first female students in 1884, and St. Hilda's College was created in 1888 as the women's college of Trinity.[11][12] With Strachan's death in 1867, efforts could begin to unite Trinity College with the University of Toronto.[13]

After taking office in 1900, provost Thomas C. S. Macklem supported joining the college with the University of Toronto.[14] The matter became hotly contested when Trinity's medical faculty merged with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1903.[14] After what Macklem described as a "long-drawn and bitter" series of debates, the college voted 121 to 73 in favour of federation with the University of Toronto.[13][14][15] The university made a concession to allow Trinity to administer its own examination in religious subjects, which required the university to remove the restriction from its governing charter.[14]

Members of faculty at Trinity College in 1904, at the time of federation with the University of Toronto

On October 1, 1904, Trinity became part of the University of Toronto and relinquished to the university its authority to grant degrees in subjects other than theology. It became clear that the relocation of Trinity closer to the university was necessary, and the college abandoned plans for a northward expansion at its Queen Street site.[16] The college acquired its present property near Queen's Park at the university grounds in 1913, but construction of the new college buildings, modeled after the original buildings by Kivas Tully,[17] was not completed until 1925 due to World War I.[18] The former site of the college became Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the place of longstanding institutions and traditions within the college community underwent changes initiated by internal and external parties. Episkopon, a society based in the college since 1858, was officially dissociated from Trinity in 1992.[19] In 2004, the college board of trustees voted narrowly in favour of ending Trinity's long practice of same-sex residency, and beginning in 2005 large portions of Trinity's residences became home to both men and women, although still separated by houses or wings.

On 30 April 2002 Canada Post issued 'University of Trinity College, 1852-2002' as part of the Canadian Universities series. The stamp was based on a design by Steven Slipp, based on photographs by James Steeves and on an illustration by Bonnie Ross. The 48¢ stamps are perforated 13.5 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Canada Limited.[20]

Buildings and environs

Main building of Trinity College, southern facade on Hoskin Avenue
St. Hilda's College, by architect Eden Smith

Trinity College is centrally located on Hoskin Avenue within the University of Toronto, directly north of Wycliffe College and to the west of Queen's Park. The southern wing of main building, with its cornerstone laid by Bishop James Fielding Sweeny, was completed in 1925 by Darling and Pearson, the architectural firm that also designed the university's Convocation Hall and Varsity Arena.[21] The predominant Jacobethan architectural style is particularly apparent in the roofline and the stone towers, while Tudor Revival is featured in the Angel's Roost tower. Architects George and Moorhouse oversaw a major expansion of the college in 1941, immediately prior to war-time restrictions on building materials.[18] The expansion comprises the west academic wing, containing many of the college's public rooms, and the east residence wing.[22] The college's north wing was built in 1961 by architects Somerville, McMurrich and Oxley, thereby completely enclosing the college quadrangle.

Strachan Hall is the largest component of the western wing, serving as the central dining hall for students residing in the main building, and the venue of all regular formal High Table dinners, now regularly held on Friday evenings.[23] Adorning the walls of the Strachan Hall are portraits of important figures in the history of the college. The largest portraits, which hang from the north wall, are of Bishop Strachan and George Whitaker, the college's first provost from 1852 to 1880.[21][24] Hanging on the front wall prominently behind the High Table is a large mediaeval tapestry, believed to have been woven in Flanders in the fourteenth century to depict the coming of the Queen of Sheba to the court of King Solomon.[21]

Near Strachan Hall in the western wing, the Junior Common Room is used by student organisations including the Trinity College Literary Institute whose coat of arms adorns the mantle, and the Trinity College James Bond Society. It is a place of socializing by undergraduate, meetings and informal studying. A large portrait of C. Allan Ashley, a professor of the college, hangs to the left of the entrance.[21]

The quadrangle of Trinity College
Details of the main tower

The Trinity quadrangle has long been a focal point of student life at the college.[25] The site was once home to the largest outdoor Shakespeare festival in the country. In the summer of 2007, the quadrangle was renovated with funds from an anonymous donor.[26] The quadrangle design features footpaths and patterns based on the Greek letter Chi, representing Christ, writ large in intricate flagstones.[27]

The Trinity College Chapel was built with funds donated by Gerald Larkin, who headed the Salada Tea Company from 1922 to 1957. It was designed in the modified perpendicular Gothic style by renowned English architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who was responsible for the Liverpool Cathedral and the ubiquitous red telephone boxes seen throughout Britain.[28] The chapel extends 100 feet (30 m) to the reredos and is 47 feet (14 m) high at the vault bosses.[21] Using only stone, brick and cement, Italian stonemasons employed ancient building methods; the only steel in the construction is in the hidden girders supporting the slate roof, with the exterior walls being sandstone.

In the chapel a memorial tablet in Indiana limestone designed by the late Allan George, F.R.A.I.C. 15 feet high and about 8 feet wide is dedicated to the members of Trinity College who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.[29] A number of bronze memorial plaques honour alumni who died during the First World War: Lieutenant Paul Brooks Clarke (class of 1918) of the 124th who was killed in action near Zonnebeke October 28, 1917;[30] Robert Alexander Rankine Campbell, Henry Stuart Hayes, Gordon MC Michael Matheson, Reginald Prinsep Wilkins;[31] Captain Charles Edward Courselles Jones, Royal Warwishire Regiment KIA July 4, 1916.[32] John Materly (class of 1913)[33] On the wall outside the entrance to the chapel, a memorial Triptych illuminated manuscript in three frames is an Honour Roll erected by Trinity College in 1942 which is dedicated to approximately 1000 men and women of Trinity College who served and those who died while serving their country; An artist, Jack McNie, completed the lettering by hand.[34]

St. Hilda's College was built in 1938 at its present site west of the main building and the chapel. It used to be a women-only residence until 2005, and has since been turned into a mixed residence.[22][35] George and Moorhouse built St. Hilda's College in the Georgian style that was heavily favoured at the time, albeit with some embellishments, particularly the rounding of pediments.[22]


The clock over the main entrance to Strachan Hall

Trinity consists of an undergraduate Faculty of Arts that is part of the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science, and a postgraduate Faculty of Divinity that is part of the Toronto School of Theology.[36] Undergraduates are admitted to Trinity in line with a common framework established by the University of Toronto, which sets the general principles and procedures for admission observed by its colleges. The college has about 1700 undergraduate students, with a first-year enrollment limited to about 400 students.[37] From 2005-06 to 2009-10, Trinity's first-year class had an Ontario secondary school academic average of 90.9 percent.[38][39] The student body is diverse with nearly 25 percent of undergraduates coming from 60 countries outside Canada.[40]

The Faculty of Arts offers undergraduate major programs in immunology, international relations, and ethics, society, and law to students at the university. Associated with the latter two is an academic program called Trinity One. Admission to the Trinity One program is separate from that of the college itself, with enrollment limited to 25 students per stream.[41] At least one prominent professor teaches in each stream; for example, Robert Bothwell in the International Relations stream Mark Kingwell in Ethics, Society, and Law. Noted author Margaret MacMillan taught in the International Relations stream for the first two years of the program, prior to her departure for Oxford.[41] The International Relations program benefits from the presence of the Munk School of Global Affairs where Janice Stein, a prominent Canadian academic, is the current Director. The Munk School also houses notable research centres, like the Centre for South Asian Studies (a constitutive until of the Asian Institute, that hosts academic and public events focused on critical global questions of law and activism; histories and contemporary configurations of the sacred and secular; political economy and cultures of capitalism; media, technology and the public sphere.

Graham Library

Book plate, c. 1905, used by the Trinity College Library for most of the 20th century
John W. Graham Library

The John W. Graham Library traces its origins to 1828, when John Strachan secured a collection of some four hundred books from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to stock the library of the fledgling King's College. The modern Graham Library is located in Devonshire House, which also contains the Munk School of Global Affairs, occupying a heritage building renewed for the 21st-century, with 200,000 volumes, convenient technological resources, and fine study spaces. The Library serves primarily Trinity's undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science, the graduate Divinity students and faculty of Trinity and Wycliffe Colleges, and the greater University of Toronto and Anglican Church communities who seek our resources. Subject strengths reflect the academic programs and interests of the two colleges: international relations, ethics, literature in English, philosophy, theology, Anglican church history, biblical studies.

Divinity school

The Anglican seminary remains active in college life, with worship services held twelve times weekly in the chapel.[42] The 140 graduate students enrolled in Trinity's Faculty of Divinity may take courses at other colleges of the Toronto School of Theology. At the basic degree level, Trinity offers several Master of Divinity programs - a basic program, a "collaborative learning" model with self-directed study components, and an honours programme, which includes a thesis. For students not seeking Holy Orders, a Master of Theological Studies is offered. At the advanced degree level, students may pursue the Master of Arts in Theology, the Master of Theology, the Doctor of Theology and the Doctor of Ministry. A PhD in Theology can be earned through the University of St. Michael's College. Applicants to the ThM must hold an MDiv. Students can also enroll jointly in the MDiv and MA. Non-degree programmes are also offered. The Diploma in Ministry is intended for aspirants to Holy Orders who hold an academic degree in theology rather than an MDiv. The Diploma or Certificate in Ministry for Church Musicians explores the intersection of sacred music and theology. The Licentiate of Theology (LTh) allows non-degree students to complete the equivalent of two years' full-time theological study, with or without a previous undergraduate degree. The Faculty of Divinity of the University of Trinity College's Arms and Badge were registered with the Canadian Heraldic Authority.[43]

Student life

Attendance at a Lit debate

Trinity College enjoys a rich student life, with multiple college events held on a weekly basis. Trinity students hold two black tie balls annually, and continue to celebrate British holidays including Guy Fawkes day and Robbie Burns day.

The Trinity College Literary Institute ("the Lit") is an arts and debating society that holds weekly meetings. The Lit actually pre-dates Trinity College itself, having been moved there from the Diocesan Theological Institute in 1852.[citation needed] A typical meeting usually includes a satirical debates on a humorous topic, updates on college news, and satirical poetry from the Poet Laureate. While the meetings are typically crass student affairs, sitting provosts, distinguished alumni and sitting chaplains have been known to attend and even debate on occasion. Beyond weekly meetings, the Lit organises other events including the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire, Oktoberfest, Chess in the Quad, Robbie Burns and Bubbly. A "serious debate" is held annually, and convenes a competitive debating committee that sends teams to tournaments of the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate.

Formal dances are held twice annually at Trinity. The Saints Ball is held annually in the fall semester around November at St. Hilda's College, and the Conversat ball is held at Trinity College in the Winter semester. Traditionally, the Saint's Ball was hosted by Women of College in their residence, while Conversat was hosted by Men of College in theirs. While the residences have been desegregated since 2005, the tradition remains that the Women of College ask the men (or other women) to Saints, and the men ask the women (or other men) to Conversat. At Saints, the Women of College are responsible for buying their date's ticket and drinks for the night, and at Conversat, the same is expected of the Men of College. When someone has been asked to either Saints or Conversat, it is considered in poor taste to refuse them without a prior engagement.

Trinity students publish a newspaper called Salterrae (Latin, meaning The Salt of the Earth) which was founded as Trinlight in 1981. The annual yearbook is Stephanos (Greek, meaning Crown). There is also a bi-annual journal of students' short stories, photographs and poetry, called the Trinity University Review; it was first published in 1880 as Rouge et Noir (French, meaning Red and Black).[23]

The Trinity College Dramatic Society (TCDS) was established in 1892,[citation needed] and since 1927 has put on at least one full-length production each year. In some years,[when?] an additional two or three short plays have also been produced. The TCDS used Hart House as a performance venue from 1921 until 1979, when the George Ignatieff Theatre (GIT) was constructed at Trinity.[44] While most productions are now in the GIT, plays have also been staged in other rooms at Trinity and outside in the quadrangle, most notably the annual Shakespeare in the Quad production - a continuation of the oldest outdoor Shakespeare festival in Canada.

The Trinity College James Bond Society was founded in 1997 to promote the appreciation of James Bond. Each year, the Society holds several pre-dinner receptions where martinis are served Bond-style: shaken, not stirred; after dinner, a Bond movie is shown. Black tie is the required dress at all James Bond Society events.

Student government

At Trinity, the final student government authority is the Trinity College Meeting (TCM), a direct democracy body in which all students have equal standing (conditional on the wearing of gowns at meetings). The TCM directly governs major policy questions and the allocation of student funds, but also convenes committees responsible for specific topics. As well, the TCM delegates responsibility for daily affairs to eight student Heads, following annual elections. There are two Heads of College, two Heads of Arts (social), two Heads of Non-Residents and two Heads of Divinity; in each case, one Head is female and one male.

Chapel choir

The Trinity College Chapel Choir, which grew out of the Trinity Choral Club established in the 1890s,[5] consists of about 30 singers of mixed voice, selected by audition. Trinity College awards choral scholarships to roughly one third of the choir, tenable for private voice coaching, from an endowment of $125,000.[45] Since the construction of the Chapel in 1955, the Chapel Choir has sung an Evensong service every Wednesday night during term, in the tradition of Oxford and Cambridge choral foundations.[45] The Chapel Choir sings from the loft at the rear of the chapel, approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) above the main chapel floor, where the Casavant pipe organ is also located. Accompaniment is provided by the Bevan Organ Scholar, typically an undergraduate music student, who is appointed for three years and paid from a $100,000 endowment.[45] A Director of Music conducts the choir, mentors the organ scholar, and occasionally plays the organ during services. Since 2006, the Director of Music has been John Tuttle, who is also Professor of Organ at the Faculty of Music, Choirmaster and Organist at St. Thomas's Anglican Church, and conducted the Exultate Chamber Singers until his retirement in 2010.[46]

Residential life

Doors to Strachan Hall in winter

Trinity is one of the few colleges that continues the tradition of Formal Hall during the academic year; High Table dinners are usually held after Evensong on Wednesdays. Before the meal, one of the Student Heads or another positioned member of college (in order of precedence determined by seniority) is responsible for saying the Latin grace: Quae hodie sumpturi sumus, benedicat Deus, per Iesum Christum Dominum Nostrum. Amen. (May God bless what we are about to receive this day, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.) Formal Hall is marked by the enforcement of a number of regulations known as “Strachan Hall Etiquette”. The most evident of these is the dress code, of which Trinity’s distinctive academic gowns are the essential element for all men and women of college. In addition to the wearing of the gown, men are required to wear a jacket, collared shirt, long pants and a tie, as well as close-toed shoes. If a man of college has had the honour of being "poored out", he is then permitted to wear his tie tied on the remains of his gown. For women of college, the dress code consists of a similar prohibition on open-toed shoes as well as a prohibition on short skirts and track pants. Although the dress code may look like an unnecessary burden to the casual observer, many students feel that it and other formalities lend a special atmosphere to the dinners that is not found in the rest of the university.[47]

This dress code and other points of etiquette are enforced by the second-year students, led by the heads of second year. The second year students act as “deputies of the hall” and are in charge of enforcing the dress code as well as maintaining discipline during the meal. Any student in violation of the dress code will not be allowed to enter the hall until they are dressed appropriately; this regulation is relaxed for non-resident students. The second year students also have the authority to physically eject any student who causes a ruckus during the meal.

In parody of the college’s Oxbridge traditions, the first year students will occasionally disrupt the formality of the meal by hurling buns at their fellow undergraduates. When this occurs, it is the job of the second years to eject all offending first years, or occasionally fellow upper years, from the hall. This is generally done with much struggle, however with little injury to any of the parties concerned. As the artillery is traditionally limited to simple bread rolls, no significant damage results from these incidents.[citation needed]

Traditions and lore

Students departing from the annual Christmas dinner in Strachan Hall

Until 1993, weekday dinners at Trinity College were punctuated by the tradition of "Poorings Out". This tradition was a tongue-in-cheek way of imposing "discipline" on errant male members of college. The name "Pooring out" relates to the "poor" behaviour of the targeted student. Often spurious or humorous reasons would be given for a pooring out. Under this tradition, members of second year would attempt to expel an "errant" student from the dining hall during the first 15 minutes of dinner. The targeted student would lie across the dinner table, and was usually defended by three fellow students who linked together to form a strong a defensive shell over the table and on top of the targeted student. Upon a publicly announced "call" as to the alleged transgression, the assembled members of second year would stampede from their seats to the defenders, where they were given one minute to pull the targeted student off the table. On the rare occasion that a defence did prevail for more than one minute, the defendant was permitted to leave the dining hall on his own feet. Otherwise, the head of second year (or delegate) would drag the defendant out of the hall.[citation needed]

In 1992 a campaign was organised against poorings out by a vocal minority of students who claimed victimisation. College authorities banned poorings out on the basis of legal liability in 1993. Rather than simply disappearing, the tradition of the pooring out has merely evolved to suit the contemporary climate. Today, pooring out is an honour generally reserved for students elected to prominent positions in the college, particularly the Student Heads. Both men and women may now be poored out; however the actual practice is most often gender segregated. For example, a man of college is defended by men and poored out by men, while a woman of college is defended by women and poored out by women. On account of the administration’s aforementioned hostility to the practice, they are no longer supposed to take place on college grounds and are absolutely forbidden in Strachan hall. However, their actual form has changed little. The student selected to be poored out lies across a table while three of his fellow students lie across him to defend him. The assemblage is then rushed by the upper year students, who shred the gown of the person, while removing his or her defenders. Once a student has been poored out, they wear the remains of their gown bound as a sash. The gown is never to be washed, mended or sewn and must be worn in its original state as a sign of pride for the experiences of the student whilst at Trinity.[citation needed]

Episkopon is a controversial secret society at Trinity College, with a male branch founded in 1858[citation needed] and a female branch[48] founded in 1899.[citation needed]

Trinity College is believed by many to be the setting of Robertson Davies’ novel The Rebel Angels.[49] Evidence includes the similarities between Trinity and the fictional College described in the text;[examples needed] the fact that Davies taught at Trinity for 20 years while living across the street at Massey College;[citation needed] and that a picture of Trinity's central tower is prominently featured on the cover of the novel's first edition.

The Trinity College campus has served as the filming set for scenes in many movies and television series, including Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Skulls, Tommy Boy, Moonlight and Valentino, Class of '96, TekWar, and Ararat and also Relic Hunter.[citation needed]

Chancellors and provosts

Chancellors of Trinity College

  1. Sir John Beverley Robinson 1852 to 1863
  2. The Hon. John Hillyard Cameron 1863 to 1877
  3. The Hon. George William Allan 1877 to 1901
  4. Christopher Robinson 1902 to 1905
  5. John A. Worrell 1914 to 1927
  6. Gerard B. Strathy 1954 to 1963
  7. Richard C. Berkinshaw 1964 to 1970
  8. The Most Rev’d Howard Hewlett Clark 1971 to 1982
  9. The Rt. Rev’d Robert Lowther Seaborn 1982 to 1990
  10. The Rt. Rev’d John Charles Bothwell 1991 to 2003
  11. The Hon. Michael Wilson 2003 to 2007
  12. The Hon. Bill Graham 2007 to present

Provosts of Trinity College

  1. George Whitaker 1851 to 1881
  2. Charles W. E. Body 1881 to 1894
  3. Edward A. Welch 1895 to 1899
  4. Thomas C. S. Macklem 1900 to 1921
  5. Charles Allen Seager 1921 to 1926
  6. Francis H. Cosgrave 1926 to 1945
  7. Reginald S. K. Seeley 1945 to 1957
  8. Derwyn R. G. Owen 1957 to 1972
  9. George Ignatieff 1972 to 1978
  10. F. Kenneth Hare 1979 to 1986
  11. Robert H. Painter 1986 to 1996
  12. William Thomas Delworth 1996 to 2002
  13. Margaret Olwen MacMillan 2002 to 2007
  14. Andy Orchard 2007 to 2013
  15. Mayo Moran 2014 to present


Trinity has graduated notable academics including theologian William Robinson Clark, Michael Ignatieff and former Trinity provost Margaret MacMillan, numerous politicians including the aforementioned Michael Ignatieff, his father George Ignatieff, former leader of the opposition and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, now Trinity Chancellor Bill Graham, former leader of the New Democratic Party Ed Broadbent, and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as well as numerous notable diplomats including former Trinity Chancellor and Canadian Ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson. Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister, attended Trinity for one year. To the field of business, Trinity has contributed Ted Rogers, president and CEO of Rogers Communications, and Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion. To the arts, Trinity has contributed poets Archibald Lampman and Dorothy Livesay, architect Frank Darling, and filmmaker Atom Egoyan. Numerous high-ranking officials in the Anglican Church are also former Trinity students, including Andrew Hutchison, retired Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.[50] Thirty-five graduates of Trinity having been awarded Rhodes Scholarships.[51][52]


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Further reading

External links