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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
Student Newspaper Since 1880

Trinity provost departs for prestigious Oxford post

By Simon Bredin
Published: 4:11 am, 1 April 2013
Vol CXXXIII, No. 21 under

Trinity provost Andy Orchard will end his term as the college’s top-ranking administrator early to accept a prestigious post at Oxford University beginning in the fall.

Orchard, who was initially appointed provost in September 2007 and was re-appointed to a second term in 2012, announced his decision to accept the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship in Anglo-Saxon based out of Pembroke College in Oxford.

The professorship was established in 1795 and has previously been held by scholars such as J.R.R. Tolkein. It is, Orchard says, the only job for which he would leave Trinity.

“I was very, very pleased and proud to be appointed to a second term. It’s a slightly deflating thing to have served one year of my second term and then be lured elsewhere,” said Orchard. “Some of the plans that I had will evolve.”

Those plans include a handful of ambitious projects that Orchard hopes his successor will take up, including the expansion of Trinity’s archives and the construction of a new residential wing of St. Hilda’s, one of the college’s residency buildings.

Orchard has presided over a sea change in the ranks of the college’s senior administration, replacing eight of 11 positions “of the major people who do all the work — as opposed to the provost, who sits around and talks to undergraduates.”

“I leave the place in safe hands,” said Orchard in a departing interview with The Varsity.

He arrived at the University of Toronto 12 years ago from Cambridge, lured by the largest graduate program in medieval studies, with its reputation for academic rigor and the compulsory study of Latin. He was also attracted by the “amazing” Dictionary of Old English, which has extensive access to rare manuscripts.

And though he came for academe, he stayed for the college he now leads. Years ago, hitching a drive home from his fellow Latinist and former dean of arts Chris McDonough, the two passed Trinity’s impressive frontal façade.

“What college is that?” asked Orchard at the time. Trinity, said McDonough. “Would you like to become a fellow?” he asked.

“Twelve years later, and here we are,” said Orchard, gesturing around a spacious office adjacent to his home in the college, where he has lived during his time as provost with his wife, Clare Orchard, and their two children.

Orchard has greatly endeared himself to students, delivering provostial addresses partially in Latin while poking fun at the college’s rivals, and speaking regularly at the college’s satirical debate society, the Lit. He also hosted popular “Beer and Beowulf” evenings, where students solved Anglo-Saxon riddles together and waded through difficult pronunciations of Old English poetry.

As provost, he has continued to teach a small number of graduate and undergraduate students, the latter primarily through his popular 199y class entitled “Raiders, Traders, and Invaders.”

“I’m trying to convince everyone that Vikings are actually shy, sensitive antique dealers tragically misunderstood,” he says, only half-jokingly, glancing towards a fearsome-looking horned helmet on a nearby bookshelf.

“That’s a class that I’ll certainly miss. There’s not the opportunity for that kind of a class in the more traditional atmosphere at Cambridge,” he reflects.

There will be an interim provost appointed during the search for Orchard’s successor.

In the meantime, the college prepares to bid a fond farewell to its leader. It is scouting artists, and in Strachan Hall, the canvases of Orchard’s 13 forbearers have been inched closer together, leaving just enough room for the portrait to come.