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Making the World a Better Place

A photograph of John E. Trent sitting in a chair

Many Old Boys are hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly what their time at St. Andrews did for their lives, but not John Trent '53. John may hold the record for the length of his SAC career - 11 years, from Kindergarten to Grade 13. It would have been longer had he not skipped two grades. His accomplishments as a university professor in Ottawa, as a manager of academic organizations and as a social activist are without parallel in the Old Boy community. As a sampling, he is former Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Ottawa, former Secretary General of the International Political Science Association, and founding Vice President of the Academic Council on the United Nations system. "In international life I was very much appreciated as a Canadian. We are well known for not seeing things only in black and white, for appreciating other peoples, for being even-handed, fair and open. For me, much of that came from St. Andrew's."

"In 11 years at St. Andrew's I was never mistreated, either by peers or teachers. I got a great education in justice and fair play. Even when we were caned it was done justly, and we knew exactly why it was being done. So all my life I've worked to overcome injustice. In my day, SAC was a Presbyterian school, yet there were many other religions and cultures represented there, and there was always great general respect for all. On sports teams and in the Cadet Corps we learned how to work within the team or group. These are elements of St. Andrew's that have served me my whole life. The fact that I was able to be longterm Secretary General of an international organization I attribute directly to my time at St. Andrew's."

After leaving St. Andrew's at age 16, John entered the business world at his father's bidding. Then came a degree from Harvard, followed by five years as a public relations consultant. At that point he realized business was not his passion. He decided academia was to be his calling and in his late 20s enrolled at the University of Montreal. He embraced bilingualism to the extent that today he is on the senior cultural institution in Quebec for promoting the French language and is a Past President of the Société Québécoise de Science Politique. His current focus is on United Nations reform and reform of the Canadian electoral system, so even well into 'retirement' he has his hands full. He has just published a new book on Modernizing the United Nations System (2007, Barbara Budrich publishers). Says John, "Reform of any kind is like pushing a giant boulder up hill. You just have to keep working at it."

And work at it he has, with teaching, public forums, interest groups, radio, television, and writing. "A huge focus in my life has been the unity of Canada. My contribution to the fact that Canada is still together as a country has taken 30 years of my time," - clearly the subject of a story in itself. John and his life partner Colette live in the Gatineau Hills in Quebec. They have four grown children.