“He was almost a cult figure among the students,” says fellow former faculty member Bernard LeCerf. “They were very fond of him and loved his eccentricity, wit and creativity.”
Terence Patrick O’Donelan Bredin joined Upper Canada College in 1959 to teach classics and ancient history, and to serve as assistant housemaster for McHugh’s. Bredin hailed from England and had attended the renowned Harrow School, and later graduated from Corpus Christi College at Oxford University with a degree in classics. After his compulsory service in the British Army, Bredin accepted teaching positions at schools near and far: Yorkshire, South Africa and the Isle of Wight, before coming to Canada. He met his wife, the former Elizabeth James, at UCC, where she was assisting in the infirmary, and settled into Canadian life. They had three children: Mary, Helen and Robin ’82.
“You will often hear alumni say of Mr. Bredin, ‘He WAS UCC!’” says Theo Caldwell ’91, who remained close to the former head of classics until his death last week.
“Not only was he ubiquitous at the school, but his energy and enthusiasm embodied what was best about the College. That proclamation sums up what he brought to UCC and what we, his students, took out into the world: Show up, do your best, help out, and have some fun.”
Not only did Bredin teach classics and ancient history, where he was often known as Terentius,he coached soccer, cricket, rugby and the downhill skiing team, always willing to lend a hand wherever he was needed. He also became housemaster of Martland’s and, later, senior master. He retired in 1995, but frequently returned to campus for events.
Derek Sasveld ’88, who established the Terence P. O'D. Bredin Scholarship Fund in 2016, saw him as a kind of teacher that was rare in the Canadian school landscape and all the more precious because of it.
Says Sasveld, “He came from a very different background. He grew up in London during the Second World War and went through the British public school system. It was a luxury to have someone like him around. He gave us the benefit of a lifetime of experience."
Bredin certainly had a unique approach to teaching – one full of anecdotes, as Caldwell recalls from his first UCC Latin class. There was no talk of ancient languages; the lecture of the day centred around the British navy’s defeat of the powerful Spanish Armada 400 years earlier, told with passion and verve.
“What Mr. Bredin chose to impart that first day reflected his attitude toward teaching: Tell the boys what is important, instruct them on what is great, round out their knowledge of the world in ways that matter,” Caldwell says.
Sasveld says, “What he discussed still resonates with me, and I can still decline first declension nouns in Latin more than 20 years later. He brought a lot to the table that was memorable.”
LeCerf, who taught French and served as head of the Middle Division before retiring in 2014, got to know Bredin through staff meetings and events, and a shared love of languages and soccer.
“We had coaching, the arts and having fun in common,” says LeCerf, who kept in touch with Bredin after his retirement. “He once invited us to lunch on the Ides of March and arrived wearing laurels and a toga.”
Notes Caldwell, “It was impossible to attend UCC during my era and not know Mr. Bredin. Indeed, I knew of him years before arriving at the Upper School; he was a mythic figure.”
Along with teaching his students Latin and Greek, says Caldwell, Bredin imparted his high standards, making it clear that “there is no excuse for doing less than my best, for accepting less than I might have achieved. Perfection might be unattainable, but one’s best effort is not.”
Sasveld was pleased to name a scholarship in Bredin’s honour, believing that the educator’s unflagging devotion to UCC deserves to be honoured.
"Mr. Bredin was fully engaged with the College; teaching us was a large part of his life,” Sasveld says. "A part of Terence Bredin became part of UCC and he will be remembered for a long time."
Those wishing to make a Canadian gift to the Terence P. O'D. Bredin Scholarship Fund can do so here. International and U.S. gifts can be made here.