Post Date and Author: 
- by  Su Byron
Bob Freedman has devoted his legal career to representing indigenous groups in Canada. He is equally devoted to New College.
Bob Freedman (left) with partner Grant Monck (right)
Bob Freedman (left) with partner Grant Monck (right)

Freedman serves on the New College Alumni Association board of directors as a member of the executive committee, and sits on its Legacy Advisory Council. He’s also a long-standing philanthropist. What animates this ongoing commitment?

As Freedman sees it, New College played a critical role in his life. He is just returning the compliment and paying it forward to the next generation of the College’s students.

The legacy began with personal connection.

“I went to a suburban high school in Toronto with over 2,000 students,” Freedman said. “I often felt lost in the crowd. My New College experience was completely the opposite. There were only around 150 students in my entering class. This gave me an opportunity to map out my own educational path and to connect on a personal level with students and professors.”

How would he describe a typical New College student? Freedman says there’s no such thing.

“New College was—and remains—a community of individuals,” Freedman said. “The students are unique. Like myself, they might have been lost souls in large, impersonal universities with huge student bodies. But New College valued our individuality, and it gave us a place to come together. The result was personal growth.”

Freedman is quick to add that New College (which he attended from 1983 to 1987, majoring in sociology) combined emotional support with intellectual rigor.

After New College, he went on to receive an additional three advanced degrees (a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor of laws degree from Queen’s University, and a master of laws degree from the University of Virginia). He has been a lawyer in Canada for nearly three decades, representing First Nation clients on treaty negotiations, land claims, and negotiations with government and industry (mainly pipelines, oil and gas, water and related issues).

“My New College professors taught me how to think critically, how to think outside the box and how to formulate questions,” Freedman said. “These intellectual skills have served me well. I carry them forward in my personal and professional life. When dealing with the problems faced by my clients, I ask myself, ‘How can I use my New College training and curiosity to approach their issues?’”

Freedman describes New College as an “island of intellectual adventure in a sea of increasing standardized, rote education.” And, because New College played such an important part in his life, it’s critical to him that he offers new students the same pathway. That’s why he gives back and urges other alumni to do the same.

“New College provides a place for students who march to different drummers,” Freedman said. “It’s up to the alumni to make sure it continues to make a difference in the lives of students to come.”

Su Byron is the communications specialist for the New College Foundation.