Bold Strokes

Katie Underwood
From the new Wellbeing issue of UCC's Old Times alumni magazine, meet gifted grad Dane Halkiw from the Class of 2019.
Long before Dane Halkiw was a multitalented artist receiving standing ovations at UCC piano performances, he was a tween eyeing the ivories in frustration. "A lot of people quit around that age, and my teacher said maybe piano just wasn't for me," recalls Halkiw. "But I just buckled down; I saw it as motivation."

From his early piano lessons to his recent fourth-place finish at this year's World Junior Rowing Championships in Tokyo, Halkiw credits much of his early determination to succeed to his time at UCC, which he attended from Year 7 through graduation in May. "The atmosphere at UCC was definitely conducive to achievement, and there are a lot of high achievers there," he says. "Most importantly, whether it be art or rowing, UCC really set the foundations for me to build on all my passions."

Reed Jeffrey, Halkiw's former physics teacher and volleyball coach, noticed his unique growth mindset early on. "I remember at practice, when we were approaching a tryout period, Dane would press and prod me about what he needed to work on," says Jeffrey. Halkiw notes that in Year 7, his athletic prowess was less than stellar and he didn't make any of the teams he tried out for. But that didn't prevent him from trying out, again and again. "He was very conscious of my coaching tips and how to apply them," Jeffrey says. "By the end of the year, he was our go-to guy as a middle-hitter." Jeffrey, who once commissioned Halkiw to paint a modern likeness of a lifeguard station near his home in Toronto, says his former student's dogged approach extends to many settings, whether artistic, athletic or academic. "Even in physics class, he had an appreciation for different ways to solve problems, especially in elegant, clever ways," Jeffrey says. "It's that creativity coupled with a hard-work ethic that I would attribute to his success." 

Halkiw quips that while he doesn't necessarily "come across as the most artistic person" ("probably because of my clothes," he says), his lifelong passion for drawing informed his decision to pursue an architecture degree at UC Berkeley. He is also one of the school's elite 16 freshman rowing recruits. Though Halkiw admits the transition from being a "big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond" is slightly intimidating, true to form, noticing the gap between where he is and where he wants to be only serves to redirect his focus inward. "I just keep pushing myself further and further," he says. "I don't need to look to other people to know what I'm capable of. It's less about paying attention to my surroundings and more about what's going on internally." 

Rowing for Canada was definitely a highlight in his career thus far, but Halkiw is quick to point out that his sense of accomplishment doesn't hinge on any singular passion. Still, he admits his gaols include qualifying for the Olympics and possibly exhibiting his art, if he can find the time. This inexhaustible drive is a quality he sees reflected in one of his idols, the late legendary Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. "He was a madman," admits Halkiw, "but to him, second was never good enough, so he pushed himself to the limit. Even with my art, I always get to a place where I think, 'Man this is terrible.' But I know that if I keep doing my lines and strokes, I'll get to where I want to be."
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