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Derek Allen

(Ontario & Magdalen 1969) (19 June 1947 - 27 April 2023)

We are terribly saddened to let you know of the death of Professor Derek Allen, Trinity’s long-serving Dean of Arts & Vice-Provost and Honorary Fellow, and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. We are all reeling from the sudden loss of someone so important to the Trinity community.

For 60 years, Derek was at the heart of the Trinity community — first, as an outstanding undergraduate student and alumnus (Class of 1969), and then as a professor and as a key college administrator. He was a highly respected philosopher (and wickedly intelligent about most everything!), and a consummate academic administrator.

But Derek was so much more than this. He was a wonderful role model, kind human being and friend to so many in our community. In his quiet but resolute ways, he enriched the students’ academic experience and always put students first. He was unfailingly wise and generous as a colleague and mentor, both at Trinity and in the wider University of Toronto community. And as a long-time donor and a prominent member of the Salterrae Society, Derek was always a leader in encouraging support for the College so that the unique Trinity experience could extend to future generations. Even long after his “retirement,” Derek continued to play a crucial role at the college, teaching in the programs, supporting various committees and, in ways too numerous to list, making Trinity a better place.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions, in 2019, Derek received the highest honour that Trinity College bestows upon an individual — an Honorary Fellowship. As the citation said, the fellowship was in recognition of his long and distinguished career as an esteemed academic leader, a respected colleague, and a generous mentor to students at both Trinity College and the University of Toronto.

Professor John Duncan, who worked closely with Derek at Trinity for 15 years, shares this reflection:

“Derek was an incredibly kind-hearted person — fundamentally gracious and supportive of all those around him. Derek had a deep and abiding love for the academic mission. Trinity was his academic home for more than six decades. From his student days to a 16-year term as Dean of Arts and Vice-Provost, his love for the college, its people and its programs of study was always evident. He believed in higher education, and he worked tirelessly to make it the best it could be at Trinity. Derek was an incredibly sharp and clear thinker, writer and speaker, and a master of organization. In some ways, he was unassuming, and yet his presence was always felt because he was genuinely supportive of others. And because he was an academic, he made a huge difference in the lives of students, staff and faculty over the many decades of his career. He cared for each of us, and we are better because of him. He was and is widely loved and respected, and he will be sorely missed.”

Although many of you may already know about Derek’s contributions to Trinity, you may not be aware of his larger impact on academe — so I wanted to share these highlights from his biography:

Professor Emeritus Derek Allen, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, graduated from the University of Toronto in 1969 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and History, a Rhodes Scholarship (Ontario), and a Governor General’s Medal for the highest standing in the Humanities in Trinity College’s graduating class. He earned two graduate degrees at the University of Oxford, including a D.Phil. in Philosophy. From 1996-2012, he served as Trinity’s Vice-Provost and Dean of Arts, and was responsible for the growth of the College’s excellent academic programs. He has received five teaching awards, including an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations award for an outstanding contribution to university teaching and a 3M National Teaching Fellowship Award in recognition of teaching excellence and educational leadership. In 2013, he received the Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award for “a faculty member who has served the University of Toronto with distinction in multiple leadership capacities in diverse spheres over many years.”

Trinity College has been profoundly shaped by Derek Allen and we will not be the same without him. He will be deeply missed.