Andrew Long remembers returning to Stephen House at Norval with his feet sopping wet, after walking upstream with classmates to map one of the nearby creeks that emptied into the Credit River.
The students initially spent an hour creating a small map of the creek, but their teacher was convinced that the creek was much longer. He took “our group back to the creek and we spent several hours walking upstream to figure out where it originated. It was a worthy adventure and taught us a valuable lesson about how thorough our work could be,” says Long, a regular donor to Norval who owns and runs a Whistler-based company that organizes corporate scavenger hunts worldwide as teambuilding exercises.
“I didn’t realize it at the time – Norval was a just a fun place to go – but the learning done there is about more than just school. The experience of being outdoors and active builds a lot of soft skills that are important for people to have, such as leadership, resourcefulness and problem solving. The outdoors is such a great place to learn from experience.
“The reason I give to UCC is a way of staying connected with the school and giving back to the next generation of students to make sure they also have a really positive experience. I’m good at a lot of different things and part of that is because I was so encouraged [at UCC] to do all of those things. It made me into quite a well-rounded person.”
UCC students Taylor and Shane Watt are twins. At their third birthday party, 20 friends brought two gifts each. Shocked by the pile of 40 gifts, parents Ellen and Graeme decided that going forward the boys would select a charity and ask their friends to donate, rather than receiving gifts for themselves.
“It’s one of our core family values, to help others,” says Ellen. “We didn’t want the boys to grow up with the expectation they’re entitled to 40 presents for every birthday.”
That’s the reason why the Watt family, whose boys entered the College in 2013, have already made five gifts to the College — to the College Priority Fund, to the renovation of the Intermediate Division, and to the tennis court bubble.
“We’re always looking for ways in which our charitable gifts can make the most impact for the most people,” says Ellen. “And we’re big proponents of modelling behavior to our children; education is paramount.”
Above all, says Ellen, it’s about character development. “We see UCC as our partner in helping us to develop and instil our core family value of helping others over the next few years and beyond.”
The kids are alright. Need proof? Look no further than Taylor Harris ’09 whose gift in support of financial assistance makes him the youngest leadership donor to Upper Canada College.
“I benefitted hugely from my student experience at UCC,” says Harris. “The purpose of my gift is to help other boys, from all walks of life, access the same full range of opportunities at the College.” Harris has chosen to direct his donation to endow a student experience fund. It will provide the families of boys receiving financial assistance with additional help to cover the extra costs of a UCC education. These will include fees associated with field trips and co-curricular activities — participation in which Harris touts as an integral part of his experience at the College.
“The College gave me so many outlets to develop different passions and interests through co- curricular activities,” says Harris. “While what I learned in the classroom was important, my most valued UCC experiences were my times participating in varsity sports, playing in school bands and organizing a student-led musical. I believe all boys at the College should be able to participate equally in life at the College, which is why I’m making this gift.”
When a memorial scholarship was created in the name of Jonny Wookey ’08, who died tragically in 2012, Graham Cowan immediately asked that his annual donation be directed to it.
“He embodied every positive characteristic Upper Canada College wants to instil in his graduates,” Cowan says. “In my first year at the Upper School, Jonny definitely contributed to making it a more inviting place; even though he was two years ahead of me, he always took the time to have a chat in the halls.”
“It was an easy choice to switch my giving to that scholarship. I’ll probably keep doing so as long as it’s alive.”
Cowan, too, embodies the UCC ideal of a well-rounded person. He was captain of the UCC squash team in Grade 12 and continued to compete in the sport at Western University while studying business.
During that time, Lindsay Tarvit, UCC’s associate director of alumni relations, introduced him to a vice-president from PricewaterhouseCoopers, who recruited Cowan upon graduation. He now works for the professional-services powerhouse as a senior associate, consulting on purchasing and supply chain management.
Cowan first begin donating to his alma mater during his final year at university.
“I believe I should donate a percentage of what I earn and it’s the least I could do for UCC,” he says. “I can’t speak highly enough of the direction the school is going in terms of funding high-potential students who couldn’t otherwise afford UCC. It’s great that the school is going outside of Forest Hill and providing opportunities.
“With the scholarships and financial aid, it makes me prouder to be an Old Boy every year.”
Cowan keeps in touch with UCC through the alumni network and still counts many of his classmates as good friends.
“Our ongoing relationship shows what kind of people there are at UCC,” he says.
Not more than 15 minutes after Ross Durant ’51 walked in the door from his honeymoon, the phone rang. He answered the call and found himself talking to James Coulton, his former housemaster and science teacher at Upper Canada College, who was phoning to recruit Durant to teach Sunday school at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto.
“He said, ‘Ross, you’re going to teach Sunday school for the next three years and you don’t have an option,’ ” Durant recounts. “I did teach Sunday school, and now, one of my students is the church’s treasurer, so it must have worked out all right.”
Durant’s fond relationship with Coulton and his family lasted long after the student graduated and went on to Queen’s University and a successful career running the family insurance business and working as a financial advisor. The close family connection endures, even though the former teacher has passed away.
“My relationship with Jim Coulton is what prompted me to donate to UCC,” says Durant, who has been contributing to the College annually since 1990. “He was the head of Mowbray’s and that’s where they put me when I came to UCC, very fortunately.”
Durant began making donations to UCC in response to a solicitation and “it just became a constant thing.” He donates to the College Priority Fund because “the College knows best what to do with my money.”
He looks back with affection on his UCC years, noting that he “got into trouble and had good times.”