Upper Canada College has added 141 Old Boys to its ranks.
Graduating members of the school’s 10 houses, many of them supported by family members and friends who packed the Hewitt Athletic Centre, were recognized at a May 25 ceremony that marked a major transition in their lives.
English teacher and UCC poet laureate Julian Bauld marked the occasion by writing and reciting a send-off poem titled “Last Class” that honoured the young men’s journeys.
A wide variety of academic prizes and extracurricular awards were handed out to deserving recipients who put in countless hours of hard work to earn such distinctions, while all of the graduates were presented with diplomas and Old Boy ties.
But perhaps the most inspirational part of the afternoon ceremony was James Lutz’s valedictory address, which he opened by paying tribute to head of the Prep and Upper Schools Don Kawasoe and teacher, senior development officer and coach Dave Shaw, both of whom are leaving UCC at the end of this school year.
Lutz acknowledged the efforts and sacrifices of parents in helping their sons achieve a UCC education and praised the school’s teachers for having such a powerful impact on the learning experience while also acting as mentors, coaches and friends. He also made sure not to leave out the “unsung heroes” of the College, including housekeeping, Aramark employees, the grounds crew, facilities representatives, advancement and administrative staff, and members of the university counselling office.
The prefect and Wedd’s House resident defended UCC being an all-male school, saying that “each of us is made into a stronger individual by the dynamics of this group.”
Lutz talked about the opportunities and challenges presented by UCC, citing international trips, being able to dedicate yourself to whatever passion drives you, and encouraging you to get out of your comfort zone.
“Varsity rugby players direct plays, artists run hurdles, all without anyone batting an eye,” he said.
Lutz also praised UCC’s international component, which adds to its uniqueness, and the boarding faculty who’ve contributed to the maturing process of boarders as they live away from their parents.
The three-year UCC student ended with a flourish, concluding his address with this:
“Graduating and leaving means encapsulating the past and dismissing fears in order to take on something new. I want all of you to take your past with you, but also our collective UCC spirit. Bring the energy and dedication of the whole class. Bring the emotion of our friendships and victories. Take what you’ve been taught here and use it effectively. You’ve seen what Old Boys have done, and now you have the chance to surpass them. Good luck.”
The grads exited the tastefully decorated gym after the ceremony to enjoy food, drinks and farewells in the Massey Quadrangle, where a statue of UCC founder Sir John Colborne looked down and silently reminded them that they’ll never walk alone.
Have a look at the leaving class ceremony program and these photos from the event, along with the full text of James Lutz’s valedictory address below:
James Lutz, valedictory address
Thank you Principal Dr. Jim Power, Head of the Prep and Upper Schools Mr. Don Kawasoe, Chairman of the Board Mr. Andy Burgess, Association Council President Mr. Alexander Younger and teacher, coach and Senior Development Officer Mr. David Shaw.
I’d like to say a few words about Mr. Shaw and Mr. Kawasoe, as they both will be leaving UCC next year. Mr. Shaw, you were one of the first people I met at UCC. You interviewed me and my brother when we first applied to the College and I’d like to thank you for not scaring either of us off. I’ve only heard praise about you, whether it’s coming from Admissions, various teachers or the varsity football team. All the best next year at Crescent School.
Mr. Kawasoe, you’ve also been an influence on my career here since my beginning. Your initiation to UCC was much earlier. Arriving in 1980 as a Prep School teacher, you’ve been bleeding blue for an incredible 35 years. If I had known you when you were a form master or basketball coach, your admirable nature would shine through regardless. Your engagement and support of the kids is clear-cut: I don’t think there’s been a sports game on this campus that you haven’t attended. It’s been an honour to have known you for the past few years, and I hope that you have a wonderful retirement.
One approach to delivering on the honor I have been given to address you today would be to stroll down memory lane and recount some of the most vibrant episodes from our experiences. But looking back on our collective UCC experience is pretty daunting. It would be difficult to condense it into one speech, and many of the most vivid anecdotes which come to mind may be better shared at the reception — after we have gotten our diplomas.
So rather than look back, I wanted to try and focus some of the things we’ll be bringing along with us for the rest of our lives. There’s going to be a time soon when each of us will be boxing up our belongings and moving on to the next important place in our life, perhaps to a distant university. We will be packing our bags, literally.
Along with this physical move, each of us will also move to the next phase of our life. And on a metaphorical level we need to prepare properly for this trip, too. The truly good news is that by attending this school, we will already have invaluable belongings packed that will assist us along the way. In many cases, our bags are already packed.
The most obvious thing we’ll be taking with us is our education. Parents, I can safely say that the money, time and hard work put into the past two IB years will pay off in our university life and well beyond. I remember when UCC was first explaining the IB program to us back in Foundation Year. Looking back, I think that if graduates conducted that meeting, it would have streamlined the conversation. They would say, “Yes, my eyes are droopy because I re-learned a unit last night that needs 50 in-class hours to be taught, according to the IBO. Yes, there are peripheral IB assignments like the EE and Group 4 project that you’ll have to complete. No, I still have no idea what the Group 4 project is.”
But then you’d hear the seniors say that this workload does come with a silver lining. We’ve written 20-page papers and essays on maths; some kids wind up in university faced with these completely foreign assignments, with no ability to keep up. We’ll probably have these moments too, but this is where our school will have pulled through in the best way possible: We know how to learn and how to achieve under great pressures.
I remember sitting in Mr. Bauld’s classroom this year when he told us we’d need to write poems with strict meter and rhyme scheme. My class is more of a STEM-oriented bunch, and I could feel the trepidation in the air when we’d been slyly recruited to help fill the remaining pages of Quiddity this year. But then on the due date, Mr. Bauld chose to read aloud some of the class’ work, and the substance and fluidity of the works impressed even our teacher. Nobody shied away or took the assignment for a B, even though it was not the vocational focal point of many students in the class. This plasticity, being able to work out of your comfort zone and still pull through, is just one of the qualities we’ve gained at UCC.
I want to also thank the faculty that have been the engines of our educations, the teachers. Every single one of you has made an impact on our learning experience, and you deserve recognition for being such amazing people. To all the UCC teachers, Prep or Upper School, science or humanities, reserved or bombastic, you have made our time here. You go above and beyond what teaching requires, being mentors, coaches and friends to so many. You’ve helped us to grow our technical capacity and disciplinary skills, if you will, and because of that our bags are definitely packed.
A second amazing quality of UCC is its ability to instil kids with character. It’s really impressive that by 18, we can speak with poise and eloquence to just about anyone. Our Model UN team remained undefeated this year at some of the best conferences in North America and student-driven initiatives such as the World Affairs Conference have grown to unbelievable levels of maturity and significance. When Edward Snowden extolled the quality of our student-generated questions regarding international privacy and politics, it should make you stop and think about what’s being said. He contended that the quality of our queries was better than those he had fielded from members of Parliament and Congress. While they might not be too hard to beat these days, it’s a reality check that we’re a notch above most teenagers.
In our UCC careers, most of us have also found compassion, adaptability and self-confidence. These are the kind of qualities that pervade UCC boys, well after the lessons and labs are forgotten. Outside of these halls, it’s going to be difficult to find a group of guys that can embody these same qualities. I know you might be afraid to have different peers even –gasp- girls in your classes, but you will be ready for it.
The boys-only nature of our school sometimes gets a bad rep, which is understandable. Testosterone oozes, sometimes uncontrollably, breeding competitive behaviour. But this hasn’t detracted from the camaraderie within sports teams or academics. We work together, sweat together and chirp each other in the best way possible. Each of us is made into a stronger individual by the dynamics of this group. Take your diplomas proud of the resiliency and amity evident in our class. Our character traits are already packed for any journey ahead of us.
The third thing I believe we have is experience. Is that a little bold for high school? Probably. But there are distinctive opportunities we’ve been given over recent years that we will remember long into the future. My three years at the college were full of foreign activities, turned into run-of-the-mill events. Before coming to UCC, I had never been asked to sing, debate or play cricket. I had never heard of a school that would send kids to California, New York and even China to participate in competitions. We’ve participated in whatever we’ve wanted to, with students that share voracity for engagement. Coaches Club heads and team captains have shown leadership that brings out the best in every participant. Most of you probably haven’t been to assembly since the first term, but students go up every week, showcasing their teams and ideas to the entire school. UCC has encouraged us to get engaged and devote ourselves to our activities, and that’s one of the reasons why our programs are so successful. Many of us even extend beyond one extracurricular facet. Varsity rugby players direct plays, artists run hurdles, all without anyone batting an eye.
Another part of what has made UCC one-of-a-kind is its international component. The boarding houses welcome kids from the other side of the world, whose experiences open boys up to culture and personalities they’d never otherwise appreciate. UCC would have been muted if everyone shared the same background and interests. As a day-boy turned boarder, I have to thank my parents for ditching, um, trusting me to live alone for two years while they head back to the US. Dr. Baxter, Mr. Beaudoin and the rest of the boarding faculty, thanks for being the perfect balance of caring, engaging and overlooking. You’ve helped me and countless others to mature sensibly. To my Wedd’s boys, thanks for making the past two years so much fun. You guys have been there every day, September to June, being the best brotherhood I could ask for. Thanks for helping me improve my mandarin and house soccer skills. I think that while we’ve grown immensely close together, the boarding houses have left an imprint on the rest of the school community, ensuring that UCC is more enriched than it was when they first arrived. This cycle of unique opportunities, continuously strengthened by UCC’s community, is another aspect I’ll dearly miss.
So here we are; our foot halfway in the door to our next journeys. We have the necessary equipment to strive in any environment thanks to this wonderful upbringing. UCC is unique because the opportunities are so varied, accessible and enjoyable. There have been lows, when strong marks seemed unachievable and the workload too intense. But these are the times that we’ve come together as friends the most. I’m really going to miss that aspect of this tight-knit group, and I hope it does not fade when we attend different schools. Learn from the experiences you’ve had at this place, and keep your head held high through any future troubles.
Parents, thank you for giving us the privilege to attend UCC. We’ve taken advantage of the opportunities, risen to the many, many challenges, and remembered every wonderful moment spent at this College. Without your support and love, we might not have made our way through it, but you’ve been there every step of the way.
To all the unsung heroes of UCC, thank you. Housekeeping, Aramark staff, grounds crew and facilities, you’ve been there every time boarders or day boys have needed you. Advancement and the administrative staff, this place would stop in its tracks without you. I also have to thank Ms. Berndsen and the UCO for their persistent support to each and every graduating student. You’ve all been so immensely helpful.
I’m amazed that my three years have gone by so quickly and I’m sure you all share the same surprise. I’m really sad that I won’t be able to bang on the pews with you all another time. It’s dreadful to think that soon, we’ll be making decisions entirely independently. But graduating and leaving means encapsulating the past and dismissing fears, in order to take on something new. I want all of you to take your past with you, but also our collective UCC spirit. Bring the energy and dedication of the whole class. Bring the emotion of our friendships and victories. Take what you’ve been taught here and use it effectively. You’ve seen what Old Boys have done, and now you have the chance to surpass them. Good luck