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Four decades in Oshawa

Trent University marks 40 years in the city

Trent University

Regional chair Roger Anderson speaks to a crowd of alumni and current students of Trent University’s Oshawa campus, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

It appears you can find a fellow Trent alumnus anywhere – even on a business trip to China.

Representatives from the Region of Durham – along with other members of the academic and business communities – were in China in 2013 to drum up business. One of the stops the delegation made was to Hong Kong Baptist University, where a new agreement was to be signed between it and Trent University.

An employee of the region, chief administrative officer Garry Cubitt, was on hand.

“Gary and I were just there as observers and we were going to sit in the background, drink coffee and smile when they took pictures. So, Trent (University) walks in, they meet the guests that are meeting us, and then Gary walks in,” Roger Anderson, Durham’s regional chair, told the audience at a recent gala. “And this gentleman walks in, and this gentleman looks up. Gary looks over at him. They look back and forth at each other. Then all of a sudden, Gary’s hugging this person that I’ve never seen before, and I don’t think anyone there from Trent had seen before. And it’s like they’re family.”

That man was Justin Chiu, a former Trent student and now one of the executive directors of CK Hutchinson Holdings, a multi-billion dollar property owner, and the namesake of the Justin Chiu International Scholarship.

“It turns out that because they were alumni, they had this instant bond and you never forget it.”

That was one of many stories told by guests and students past and present at the 40th-anniversary celebration of Trent’s presence in Durham Region.

Humble starts

Trent’s first foray into Durham came in 1974, when the Peterborough-based university started offering night classes at the Eastdale Collegiate and Vocational Institute on Harmony Road. Three years later, it would move to the Durham College campus.

It wasn’t until the last decade of the century that Trent expanded its Durham offerings beyond nighttime courses.

“In the 1990s, Trent began offering full-time university programming and day-time courses, the first to do this in Durham,” says Jennine Hurl-Eamon, an associate history professor and the chair of Trent University Durham’s 40th anniversary committee.

Five years ago saw the opening of the current Durham campus for Trent, located just south of the corner of Thornton and King streets where it shares spaces with the Oshawa Civic Recreation Complex.

“This is the first time that we had a building that was exclusively for Trent University Durham students,” says Hurl-Eamon. “It’s really wonderful to walk down the hall and know the people you were looking at were Trent people. So it’s only really been in the last four and a half years that we’ve been able to have that experience, where we could connect our identity to a place.”

That place, through the years, has been in Oshawa – a place Mayor John Henry told the audience at the anniversary celebration is a great example of what higher learning is all about.

“Those eyes (on the students) that come into the school, the first year when you start, and these young people walk through the door with this dream of an amazing education. And they come to Oshawa to have that,” Henry said. “And they meet the professors for the first time, and they see the spark in their eyes. They see the light. Then they know they can direct that young person to go some place.”

Henry added that Trent’s work greatly helps make Oshawa “one of the greatest places in Canada to live, work, play and learn.”