Stompin' Tom leaves guitar at home for U of T convocation

TORONTO (CP) - Forget Sudbury Saturday Night. On a Toronto Monday afternoon, the question was, would Stompin' Tom Connors bring his guitar to the University of Toronto when he received an honorary doctor of laws degree?

Alas, he didn't. But he did wear his trademark black cowboy hat, making Monday's ceremony less a graduation of architecture, education and music students and more of a hoedown.

Wendy Cecil-Cockwell, chair of the governing council, who introduced Connors, and academic board chairperson John Mayhall, who conferred the degree upon him, wore cowboy boots.

University president Robert Prichard called Connors, 64, "a Canadian cultural icon ... a great Canadian symbol."

Before her speech, Cecil-Cockwell told the audience: "Just give this a listen ... and clap along." It was a recording of Connors' 1960s hit Cross Canada.

He stood up and stomped along, sending the place into the sort of frenzy you'd expect in a hazy bar at the end of a long, boozy show. Cecil-Cockwell hailed his "musical portraits" of Canada for raising the nation's consciousness of itself.

"Bud the Spud delivering his P.E.I. potatoes to the terminal dock in Toronto. This, too, is education and it's important."

An emotional Connors, who in 1993 also received an honorary doctorate of laws from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, got a standing ovation and a lot of foot-stomping, too, as he signed, with a flourish, the register of honorary degree recipients.

"It's wonderful that the University of Toronto would give a feller like me a degree like this," he said. "I was brought up with very, very little opportunity for education or a good job or anything else ... there's an awful lot of people out there in the country today who were brought up the very same way.

"I hope that those people will see what's happened to me today and they'll say to themselves, 'Damn it, if Stompin' Tom can do it, we can do it too."'

© The Canadian Press, 2000

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