Photo: Trent USelf declared “visionary” and “band-aid guy” Tom Jackson has been Trent University’s Chancellor since 2009. This means that he has been the head of the university; attending various fundraising events as ambassador, being an ex officio member of the Board of Governors and the Senate, as well as conferring degrees upon Trent grads. But at the final convocation ceremony of this year, June 7th 2012, the Senate hopes that Tom will hand over his titular duties to another.

“We expect the Chancellor to be involved in fundraising for the university. By having money themselves or by opening doors with their connections,” says vice-Chancellor and President of Trent University, Dr. S.E. Franklin, at the President’s Student Open Forum held at The Ceilie. “The nominations are open until the end of the year” and “we expect to have the successful nomination going to Senate in March.” It is quite the process to actually nominate someone for Chancellor, but Steven assures that “anybody can nominate somebody.”

The Senate just approved a two page profile outlining the ideal Chancellor. According to the profile, qualifications include a “[s]trong and highly positive public presence and profile,” and “[i]ntegrity and [a] commitment to inclusiveness,” The profile also mentions that it is “desirable” that the new Chancellor have some kind of pre-established relationship to the university (alumna/alumnus, honorary degree recipient, former board member).

“Tom Jackson is well respected across many different communities,” says Franklin. Because Tom is based out of Calgary, he and Franklin made an agreement that he would visit campus at least four times a year. Franklin noted that the advantage to having a Chancellor out of province was that Tom was able to attend events across the country on behalf of the university. Both Franklin and the Senate hope that the new Chancellor will live locally and be able to attend Trent’s upcoming 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Tom Jackson spoke to Arthur before inspiring the students of Business Ethics and Corporations. He spoke fondly of his Trent experience and relayed some of the things he saw at Trent that he hasn’t seen anywhere else. When it comes to teaching, he learned “how much care beyond the text is required” to teach at Trent and how teaching has to “extend beyond the walls.” As a university as a whole he saw Trent as “charming and warm,” going in a “conscientious direction” when it comes to emphasizing “stewardship.” These are traits that are commonly associated with Tom himself. He hopes that when students graduate from Trent they realize that we all need help and that their education has helped them, so they in turn can help. After his term as Chancellor, Tom is going to spend more time developing flood filters and hydrofilters. He is developing a series of filters that will filter waste water into potable water at 200 gallons per minute–a testament to his diverse portfolio.

“That always happens, I have no idea what I’m going to say,” he confesses as he enters the lecture hall, full of eager students. After a list of his accomplishments and degrees are read aloud, he takes a long pause before saying: “If you have been anywhere I have been, then you know that I love you.” This salutation often makes students uncomfortable, but Jackson requires all to know his motivation up front. This chief virtue seems to be what he turns to when considering any decision, including business decisions. He assures the class that “there is nothing wrong with making good money, doing good things.”

He spoke about his attempts to leave the world a better place and his time as a misfit, the former a direct corollary of the latter. “We don’t manage misfits very well in our society,” he says as he tells the tales of when he was living on the streets of Winnipeg, where he grew up. More than just a night of being hungry on the street, Tom Jackson was once addicted to drugs, but now is addicted to saving lives. For Tom, this switch to philanthropy was “such a rush, [he] was so high.” He described himself as a “band-aid guy” because he looks for immediate, tangible solutions to problems instead of focusing on systemic change as evinced by his water filters and his massive contributions to food banks across the country.

We know Tom as Chancellor by his list of achievements, but it is his experience on the streets that have have allowed him to develop the passionate sense of stewardship that Trent strongly identifies with. The Senate may find a Chancellor who is closer to campus, and let us hope they find one as inspiring as Tom Jackson.