Prep athletic director and senior admission counsellor Nigel White has made Upper Canada College his second home for the past 25 years, and he was honoured for his distinguished service to the school by being the lone inductee into its “Quarter-Century Club” at a ceremony held on May 9.
This is White’s acceptance speech:
“It is a privilege and honour for me to share my thoughts with you tonight as the newest member of the ‘Quarter-Century Club.’
“I have attended many Quarter-Century dinners, not quite 25, but pretty close. I have enjoyed them all. I have always been impressed by and interested in the speeches. Many were incredibly thoughtful, others extremely insightful. I was really hoping to share this day with at least one other ‘Quarter-Century Club’ inductee so that that trend could continue. Alas, for you and me — no such luck.
“I was fortunate enough to introduce Chantal Kenny at her ‘Quarter-Century Club’ induction and remembered that her speech was excellent, so I asked for her advice. She had a few words of wisdom for me.
“Number one: Keep it to 10 minutes or less. And then she said, ‘Actually, if you are the only inductee, you can probably go for longer.’ Well, my response to that was absolute panic. I can’t fill10 minutes. So her sage advice was: ‘Well then, you better speak slowly.
“Her only other advice was: ‘Whatever you do, don’t read a PowerPoint, and don’t start by reading the mission of athletics.
“Well that put me in more of a panic because reading the mission was always my favourite start to any speech. In all seriousness, I will not start with the mission, even though the mission is something of which I am proud, and I probably won’t fill my allotted 10 minutes.
“My message is simple and straightforward. I am up here tonight filled with gratitude.
“I am grateful to my parents that instilled in me the value and importance of doing good work and working hard. I think teaching is good work.
“I am grateful to Hamish Simpson, who 25 years ago offered me a job. I was working at the time in the Northwest Territories as a teacher in the small hamlet of Fort Liard. I very much enjoyed my time there and learned many things that are still incredibly valuable to me today.
“Thankfully, the administration at the time did not require a minimum of five years of teaching experience, experience in teaching IB curriculum and advanced degrees, because I had none of those things. Hamish Simpson, the headmaster of the Prep, Mark Hord, the head of PE, and Doug MacDougall, the head of the math department, spoke to me over the phone while I sat in my small kitchen overlooking the Liard River for about 15 minutes and then offered me a job as a Grade 5 form master (now called form teacher or adviser), teaching math, science and physical education. I accepted that offer, so thank you Hamish.
“I am grateful to my students. I have had too many fabulous students to count. Math geniuses that have gone on to become engineers, science whizzes that have gone on to become doctors and, yes, athletes that have gone on to play in the NHL. Yes it is true: I coached Max Domi in Grade 4 on the U10 basketball team. He was good, but not my best player. I feel personally responsible for driving him away from the sport of basketball and therefore indirectly responsible for his entire NHL career.
“In all seriousness though, most of the students that I have been fortunate enough to teach have been full of energy, insights, hopes, dreams, desires and passions. They inspire us to work hard. Their energy gives us energy and their passions and dreams become ours.
“As I was writing this speech I was thinking about many of the students that I have taught over the years and how many are related to teachers in this room: Henry Perren, Geordie Love, Connor Bullock, a couple of Fishers, a couple of Babits’, a couple of Turners, a couple more Perrens, four Powers, and the list goes on. I really have enjoyed everyday. So thank you to my students. Oh yeah, I even got to teach my own son Cameron, which brings me to another group of people that I am very grateful to: my colleagues.
“I am grateful to my hard-working colleagues. They have shown me every day the value of good teaching. They have inspired me to try to keep learning and growing as a professional. They have encouraged me to be my best. A special thank you to all the teachers here that taught Cameron (which was not an easy job), and a very special thanks to all of the teachers here who coached him. I know that UCC is a special place for him and that is in no small part because of many of the teachers and coaches that he had here.
“I need to make special mention of my colleagues in the athletic department. With these teachers I have shared more than a big part of my career, but a big part of my life (probably too big). We have shared stories about wives, kids and parents through wonderful times and some difficult ones, and they have been nothing but fantastically supportive, using humour, thoughtfulness and wisdom to help put many things into perspective. Thanks guys — Bully, Evans, MacKay, Beaudoin, Perren.
“I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work in many different areas at the College. As a classroom teacher teaching math, science, physical education and health; as the head of the phys-ed department; athletic director; and most recently senior admission counsellor. Each role has allowed me to connect with different people at the school and has allowed me insight into all aspects. I have been a teacher, a coach, an administrator, a prospective parent of UCC, a parent and now a parent of a graduate. I am proud of what I have done and hope I can continue to contribute in a positive way, but I have one more group to thank.
“As a father and husband, I am immensely grateful for my family. There were times, especially in the early days, when I didn’t come home until 8 p.m. and I was usually at work at 7 a.m. There have been many, many Saturdays and weekends away from home coaching and running tournaments and, without their support, I would not be able to do the job I love. Thank you.
“Lastly, one word about my passion. CIearly athletics is important to me, as I happily support Cameron going to Ottawa to play a second year of junior hockey and in telling Emma tonight to play her varsity soccer game — or as much of it as she could without being late for dinner. I’m pretty sure there is still dirt on her knees. I should also mention that to get to the soccer game she had to drive straight from the airport after arriving back from volleyball nationals in Edmonton. Congrats on the gold medal, by the way.
“I have been fortunate enough to work in the field of athletics for well over 25 years. My coaching days started in high school, continued in university, then at the Arctic Winter Games, then in communities leagues like North Toronto and Leaside, and of course here at UCC. Many may disagree with me, but I can’t think of anywhere where real life lessons and character are taught more often.
“The disappointment of not being selected for a team. The resilience, work ethic, commitment and dedication one develops when really working at achieving a goal. There is no question that lessons are learned every day on the fields, rinks, pools, courts, diamonds, gyms and pitches on this campus. Most of the lessons are not easy, but difficult lessons are the most important. They are taught by an amazing group of people here: our coaches. It is always a pleasure to work with such a dedicated group of people.
“Thank you for the honour of allowing me to be a member of such a distinguished group of people: the ‘Quarter-Century Club’ members. It is an honour that I accept with gratitude and pride.”