Returning to his roots

Former federal cabinet minister David Collenette (BA Hons. ’69, MA ’04) is now a Distinguished Fellow in the Department of Political Science at Glendon College. His appointment took effect at the start of the 2004-2005 academic term.

Right: David Collenette

Collenette has served in the federal cabinet under three prime ministers (Pierre Elliot Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien) in a number of portfolios, including transport, national defence, veterans’ affairs and multiculturalism. Collenette, who was first elected in 1974, served for 20 years in the House of Commons and did not seek re-election in the June 28, 2004, election.

Collenette is the first graduate of York University to have held the positions of member of Parliament and member of the federal cabinet. He was appointed minister of transport in 1997, and was the minister responsible for the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, his portfolio included a number of government corporations, such as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint. For close to 30 years, he served on numerous government committees and held a variety of responsibilities.

Since taking office as Glendon’s principal five years ago, Kenneth McRoberts (a political science professor himself) has maintained a continuous, positive working relationship with Collenette on a number of projects, conferences and Glendon events.

“Over the years, we have built an excellent rapport,” said Collenette, “and when I decided to leave politics in January [2004], Principal McRoberts invited me to come to Glendon and offer the benefit of my experience to currently enrolled students.”

The arrangement means that Collenette will have a presence at Glendon at least one day a week during the 2004-2005 academic year. He has committed to giving eight lectures during this period, as well as a public symposium in the field of international securities, to be held in November, featuring an international guest speaker – with a specific topic to be announced shortly.

“I want to be in evidence for the students; my office in York Hall will be open to them. This provides me with a renewed opportunity to give back to my university,” said Collenette.

How does it feel to be back as an official member of Glendon? “This is a homecoming for me and a source of great pleasure. I have a particular affection for this college, the locus of so many ‘firsts’ as I reached adulthood. This is where I became fluently bilingual, and where I developed my focus of interest,” he said. 

“Some of the most exciting personalities of the political scene of the ’60s in addition to the ’70s – among them René Levesque and Lester Pearson – came to Glendon during my studies here. I identify strongly with Glendon’s goals and ideals and admire the beauty of the campus and the facilities and opportunities it presents to every member of the Glendon community,” said Collenette.

This article was submitted to YFile by Marika Kemeny, communications officer for Glendon College.