Give peace a chance: Allan Rock, U of O presidentPublished on April 15, 2011

  • The character of the home is defined in the front entrance, which leads to the kitchen, where Allan prepares tea. Canadian flag artist Charles Pachter's work draws the eye up the original and well-preserved staircase. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • In Allan's home, office books and memorabilia serve as meaningful decor. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • The third-floor staircase leads to the fitness room; on the way, Sir Winston Churchill offers an inspirational message. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • A colonial chair came from Allan's parents' home; the books are collections of political memoires and biographies from Canada and the United States. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Allan Rock, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

The bravest thing that Allan Rock, current President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, has done was to run for Parliament in 1993 after a successful twenty-year career in litigation law. Yet, one of his more memorable moments was singing with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.


A dedicated father of four - Jason (37), Lauren (25), Andrew and Stephen (23) - Allan credits his parents for instilling in him that the greatest happiness and fulfillment in life comes from service to others and giving back to your country.

His biggest achievement and best life decision was marrying Debby Hanscom, a lawyer who works in the community to advance causes she supports. They enjoy travelling to new places with their children and look forward to their next adventure. 

In his role at the University of Ottawa, Allan promotes an ethic of volunteerism and commitment to service and hopes that the graduates look back on their university years as the best of their lives.

After surgery for prostate cancer ten years ago, Allan is more appreciative of his health and considers stamina and endurance to be his greatest strengths. He now makes the most of every moment and wishes he could dial back the clock and be twenty-one again . . .

At his downtown home, appropriately located with a view of the Museum of Nature, the man with an affinity for culture and the natural world shared his thoughts with Ottawa At Home.


Who has inspired you? My parents lived lives of real commitment and service to family and to Canada, and they showed this in everything they did. Mr. Trudeau was a great leader with a clear vision for the country. I was twenty when Mr. Chrétien entered Cabinet and twenty years later, after he held various government portfolios, I had the privilege of working for him. 

You invited John Lennon to your 1970 peace conference. What was he like? He was a very relaxed, warm, genuine, down-to-earth person and didn't act like a rock and roll star. He was deeply committed to his ideology of pacifism and peaceful solutions to the world's problems. After dinner I drove him and Yoko Ono to Parliament Hill and then to 24 Sussex to see if Mr. Trudeau was there. A Beatles song came on the radio and he asked me to turn it up so that we could all sing along together. 

How do you see Canada's role in the world? Canada has a great reputation at the world table and a unique role to play as we have so much to offer to make a contribution that few countries can do. We are well respected and our voice is listened to. We act out of interest for others, not self-interest, and we have a responsibility to give back. I support an activist foreign policy that looks energetically for solutions to world issues. We should use our political capital to engage more fully to try and find these solutions.

Which part of your distinguished career have you most enjoyed? I loved being a courtroom litigation lawyer for twenty years. My ten years in cabinet were deeply rewarding and it was a privilege to work for Mr. Chrétien. Sitting behind the Canada plate at the UN was a special thrill. And now I get to work at one of Canada's leading universities. I consider myself very fortunate and I have loved everything I have done. When I leave one job and go to the next, I look back wistfully for a moment, and then I look forward with excitement to all the challenges ahead.

Why is Ottawa an ideal city for a world-class university? We have the geographic endowment right in the heart of the nation's capital, within walking distance of Parliament Hill and next to national institutions, art galleries, museums, and federal government research facilities. As one of the country's largest top-ranked research universities, the University of Ottawa is Canada's university. We reflect the essential elements of this country - bilingualism, openness to others, and diversity.

What challenges do today's youth face? It is a very complex, unstable and challenging world - and the information explosion makes so much immediately available - that interpreting it in a useful way is difficult. People are drowning in information and thirsting for knowledge. Stability and long-term peace won't be achieved until the unfairness between the global south and global north are resolved. Environmental challenges and the consequences of climate change are also important concerns. 


Allan's Favourites


Book: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Author: Charles Dickens

City: Ottawa

Exercise: Running

Restaurant: The Whalesbone Oyster House

Movie: The Godfather

Drink: Red wine

Vacation spot: Kauai, Hawaii

Music: Jazz

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate

Food: Red meat

Sport to watch and play: Tennis

Pastime: Reading

Musical instrument: Violin



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