Tom Delworth was an accomplished and exemplary Canadian who made outstanding contributions to public policy and education in this country. Tom began his career as a Canadian diplomat and, after many years of distinguished service, pursued a second career as a teacher and educational leader at the University of Toronto and Carleton University. He played a unique role in bridging the worlds of diplomacy and ideas. This was seen in Tom’s connection to the universities and as an educator, but also in his special roles in the creation of non-governmental institutions for the advancement of Canadian interests in international affairs.
Together with British Columbian lawyer and businessman John Bruk, Tom was a driving force behind the creation of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada during the period he served as Assistant Undersecretary for Asia-Pacific Affairs (1978-82) in what was then called the Department of External Affairs. As Canada looked across the Pacific to a region that was increasingly economically dynamic, politically important, and that was also poorly understood, he and a few others recognized that it was necessary to make a serious commitment to trade and investment in the region. There was clearly an urgent need to develop greater competence and expertise to engage Canada in the region as well as establishing a greater Canadian presence.
The seeds for the Asia Pacific Foundation, which was established by an act of Parliament on June 3, 1984, were planted in 1979 by the Asia Pacific Bureau of External Affairs, which Tom headed. Under his leadership, the Bureau conducted a series of studies on what other countries were doing to expand their Asia-Pacific relationships. (The Asia Society in New York was a model that was looked at closely. In Australia a foundation focusing on Japan and another on China were also in operation.) Eventually, the Bureau recommended to Cabinet that Canada should look to establishing its own institution, but only after the public and private sector could be mobilized across the country in support of such a venture. The collective response proved to be overwhelmingly positive and the Foundation was established some years later as an independent resource.
The Asia Pacific Foundation has not only come to symbolize Canada’s commitment to the region, but the breadth of vision incorporated into the Foundation’s mandate and it’s independent status have made it distinctive among Canadian institutions. The bold and inspired leadership provided by Tom Delworth and his colleagues in the Department of External Affairs was absolutely critical to bringing the Foundation into existence.
Less well known was Tom’s later work in the mid-1990s in helping create and then lead in its formative period the Canadian member committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP). CSCAP was the most ambitious of the track-two security dialogues that gained momentum in Asia after the end of the Cold War. Tom worked with a group of Canadian professors including David Dewitt, Paul Evans, and Brian Job in organizing national conferences that led to the creation of an infrastructure for connecting Canadian academics, business people, and government officials into a new dialogue. Along with Paul Evans, he was founding co-chair of the Canadian member committee of CSCAP that recruited a high-level membership and oversaw Canadian participation in regional meetings. These meetings supplemented and spurred activities at the formal governmental level including the ASEAN Regional Forum and what later came to be known as the Six Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.
Many of Tom’s colleagues have remarked about his outstanding accomplishments in the public service at pivotal moments in international relations. They included his role as Canada’s Ambassador to Indonesia during the early years of the Suharto government as it undertook a major, national development strategy requiring substantial levels of external assistance and investment from key donor countries like Canada; his leadership as the head of the Canadian delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, introducing key human rights provisions into the Helsinki Final Act which proved to be not only a major breakthrough in East-West relations, but also accelerated the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; and the important advice and support he gave to Germany’s leaders as Canada’s Ambassador (1988-1992) during the difficult years of German unification following the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
In his later academic role, Tom was noted for his outstanding service and inspiration to countless students at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University (where he also taught a course), and Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. During his tenure as Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto (1996-2002), he tutored and lectured hundreds of undergraduates in his highly popular courses on international diplomacy and Canadian foreign policy, influencing many of them to pursue careers in public life. His graduate courses at the Paterson School (2002-2005) were equally popular. Many of his students commented on the profound impact Tom Delworth had on their personal, intellectual, and professional development and above the deep personal interest he took in their careers long after they had graduated.
Tom was also the visionary leader behind the establishment of the Munk Centre for International Studies and Graham Library at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Using the networks and personal ties he had forged during his foreign service career (including his longstanding personal relationship with Peter Munk), he personally spearheaded a fund-raising campaign that raised almost $20 million for these two ventures. The Munk Centre today owes much of its success and prominence on the national an international stage to Tom’s energy, drive, foresight, and leadership. For his outstanding contribution to Trinity College, he was awarded the College’s highest honor and appointed Honorary Fellow.
Tom’s own philanthropic contributions bear special mention. He inspired a major bursary award at the University of Toronto for especially needy and gifted students. These awards of up to $5000 (15 in total) are awarded annually to heavily indebted students so that they can continue to pursue their studies. As Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Opera Lyre in Ottawa, Tom gave generously in both time and treasure to this venture.
Canada has many public servants and career diplomats who have contributed much to Canada’s future but there are precious few who have made the remarkable contribution that Tom Delworth did to so many different fields of endeavour. He was truly an exceptional Canadian--a visionary in every sense of the word, but one who did not trumpet his own horn or draw attention to himself. But above all, he was in the finest Canadian tradition as a builder of institutions.
Paul Evans is Professor, Institute of Asian Research and Liu Institute for Global Issues and former co-CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
Fen Osler Hampson is Chancellor’s Professor and former Director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University.