Thomas Symons, prominent supporter of Confederation Centre, dies at 91

Thomas H. B. Symons, founder of the Symons Medal lecture series at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, has died at the age of 91.

‘Tom has left a profound impact’

Thomas Symons at the 2019 Symons lecture at Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. (Louise Vessey/Confederation Centre)

Thomas H. B. Symons, founder of the Symons Medal lecture series at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, has died at the age of 91.

Symons first came to P.E.I. when he was a student at the University of Toronto, hitchhiking to the east coast for a summer visit in 1946.

He became a regular summer visitor and champion of the Island, and in particular of Confederation Centre. He joined the board in 1986 and founded the Symons Medal in 2004.

"Tom has left a profound impact on Confederation Centre of the Arts through his efforts to promote the Centre nationally," said Confederation Centre CEO Steve Bellamy in a news release.

"We are very proud to have received decades of support and attention from Tom."

The winner of the Symons Medal, which is awarded annually, gives a speech from the mainstage at Confederation Centre. Recipients have included Prince Charles, David Suzuki, and Margaret MacMillan.

Symons's legacy will live on through the lecture series, Bellamy said.

Time at the beach

Symons would spend a few weeks every year at Shaw's Hotel, where he was first taken in as a hitchhiking student in need of a bed.

Robbie Shaw, current owner of the hotel, whose father provided that bed in 1946, said Symons loved the Island and his time at the hotel, with its proximity to Brackley Beach in P.E.I. National Park.

"He absolutely loved P.E.I., to sit out on a deck on his cottage and see his friends that he developed and made here at the hotel and on P.E.I.," Shaw told CBC's Island Morning.

"It was something that he looked forward to on a yearly basis. In his latter years, his daughter Mary said it was one of the things that kept him going, looking forward to a trip to P.E.I."

Symons also left his mark in Ontario, as the founding president of Trent University in Ontario,

Symons died on New Years Day. The family is asking for donations to the THB Symons Trust for Canadian Studies or the Symons Trust of Confederation Centre of the Arts in his memory.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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