John Rae graduated from Queen’s in 1967 and it’s left him with a condition that has infected him for more than four decades. He has a serious case of tricolour spirit.
“I have wonderful attachment to Queen’s. One of its greatest assets is the Queen’s spirit. It’s a powerful force and there is no known cure for it. It helps the university accomplish great things of enduring value,” says John, a former editor of the Queen’s Journal.
John’s tireless work for his alma mater has earned him this year’s John Orr Award, the highest tribute given by the Toronto Branch of the Queen's University Alumni Association. He will be honoured at a black tie dinner held on November 16 at the Fairmont Royal York.
It’s that love for his university that has seen him volunteer and give back in many different ways – everything from serving as a member and chair of the Board of Trustees, helping with fundraising campaigns (including being on the cabinet of the current Initiative Campaign), as well as supporting projects such as the Queen’s Centre and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.
“I am humbled and honoured. I looked at what Mr. Orr accomplished in his life and to be thought of as worthy of that is very special,” says John of John Orr, MD’23, who taught at Queen’s for four decades and was president of the alumni association.
John’s first job after graduating from Queen’s was Executive Assistant to a young MP (and future prime minister) named Jean Chrétien. The two would forge a strong partnership and mutual respect. John Rae was the chairman for Mr. Chrétien’s 1984 and 1990 leadership campaigns, and coordinated the Liberal Party’s national campaigns in the 1993, 1997, and 2000 federal elections.
Aside from politics, John is a big believer in education and health. It is the reason he is involved with both the Queen’s Initiative Campaign and the fundraising campaign for the new McGill University health centre. John gets involved with his community because he doesn’t believe in sitting on the sidelines – he likes to be on the field of play.
Politics runs in John’s family – his brother, Bob, is the former premier of Ontario and ex-Liberal Party leader. But John never considered running for MP.
“I had different objectives in my life. And one MP in the family is probably enough,” says John. “I am a great believer in the importance of politics. If you look at any major change in history, it’s come through politics. I regard politics and public service as a noble pursuit. Democracies are challenges, but compared to the alternative, they are exemplary.”