Three alumni honoured for outstanding achievements

Learn about the 2020 recipients of UCC’s Old Boy of Distinction, Young Old Boy of Distinction, and John D. Stevenson awards, celebrating notable grads who exemplify the College’s values.  
James Arthur ’62, Old Boy of Distinction Award

James Arthur, the Ted Mossman Chair in Mathematics at the University of Toronto, became enamoured of math during his days at UCC.
 
“By my last year, I was really excited about it and decided it was what I wanted to do as a
career,” he says.

Arthur, who is also a winner of the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, traces his career successes back to the College.

“I was fortunate to go to UCC,” he says. “I got a really great foundation. The masters were by and large original thinkers and pretty passionate about what they were teaching. Most of my classmates were imbued with a sense of passion for what they do in life. It was infectious. You learn that attitude.”

Arthur’s father and brother attended UCC, as did both his sons. He keeps in touch with his classmates and considers them to be close friends.

“We have memories that go way back,” Arthur says. “I have a lot of happy memories. There was a sense of irreverence among the boys, and some of their jokes and pranks, while not always amusing to the long-suffering masters, are still funny to us today.”

He is thrilled receive the Old Boy of Distinction Award, and, along with the other award recipients, will attend the College’s signature Founder’s Dinner event on February 12 to receive it.  

Arthur says, “So many very distinguished people went to UCC, so to be singled out is quite an honour.”

Allen Champagne ’11, Young Old Boy of Distinction Award

As a teen from Lachine, a low-income neighbourhood in Montréal, Champagne attended the College for Years 11 and 12. He acknowledges that the opportunities presented by a UCC education changed his life.

“It provided a micro-environment where success is the standard and if you believe in the process, you will succeed.”

He arrived knowing minimal English, but boarding with a roommate from Atlanta who spoke no French — the two have since formed an enduring bond —  and taking International Baccalaureate science classes spurred him to learn quickly as he went along.

Excelling on the football field, Champagne used the lessons learned there to strive for other successes, first at UCC, then at the University of North Carolina as a prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholar, then at graduate and now medical school at Queen’s, where he aspires to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“Football is all about grit,” he says. “You just have to keep pushing. Luckily, the IB Programme allows people to fail — and keep learning — along the way. I understood that it was just part of the process.”

Today, as a PhD graduate in neuroscience and a medical student, Champagne conducts head injury research for football teams across the country, heads the startup Elite NeuroKinetix and still finds time to mentor student-athletes in UCC’s Lang Scholars program.

“I try to provide them with feedback and wisdom that’s applicable to their daily lives,” Champagne says. “I tell them that if they want to be great, there’s no question that they can. UCC offers solutions to find your inner amazingness. You just have to be willing to do the work and listen to what others have to say. In the end, it’s all about your legacy, both on and off the field.”

Christopher Cottier ’70, John D. Stevenson Award for volunteer service to the College
 
Chris Cottier was born in South Africa, but his family left for Northern Ireland when Nelson Mandela was jailed by the government. There, he attended a spartan boarding school before his family moved to Canada and Cottier transferred to UCC in Year 9. The difference between schools was night and day.
 
“UCC was a magical place to spend five years,” he says. “There were fantastic things like an indoor swimming pool, and I made wonderful friends.
 
“I was an athletic kid and there were lots of extracurricular activities. Rugby was a big part of life in South Africa and UCC was one of the few schools that offered it, so I felt at home.”
 
Cottier was inspired by one of his teachers, Roger Allen, to study mathematics in university, and he went on to earn an advanced degree in finance, which set Cottier on his career path, “so [Allen] was rather influential.”
 
Meanwhile, Cottier exhibited a commitment to service while at the College as the founding president of Interact, a club focused on making a difference in the city’s higher-needs neighbourhoods. Today, service is still a big part of his life, both to rugby, his sporting passion, and to UCC. He has served as the Vancouver branch president for more than 40 years and is a mentor and global ambassador for the school. Each year, he helps to organize a gathering for alumni on the west coast.
 
“I phone 200 people and just listen,” he says. “I get into some remarkable conversations. I invite people to come and meet in person. I’m building school ties and seeing if I can put alumni in touch with each other again. UCC is a big, extended brotherhood. We’re brothers at school and after we leave.”
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