Remembering educator Terence Bredin, 1929-2020

"He made a positive impact on us all. In some ways, we are who we are because of him. Requiescet in pace." - Bruce Shirreff '70
“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 LeCerfwho 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. 

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  • Robert MacKenzie
    This was a great teacher. As one of the only black students at the school, he treated me with dignity. Robert MacKenzie, LL.B. (Manch.)
  • Grant Linney
    UCC, of course, has its own Latin motto. As senior teacher at The Norval Outdoor School for 8 years, I thought we should have one too. And, so, I was directed to the renowned Mr. Bredin. "Terrence, is there any chance that you could provide a translation for 'Caution: May contain traces of nuts.'?" His grin was visible all the way to Norval. And, "CAVE: Ne quid quid nucis continuator" was quietly emblazoned on some staff fleece jackets, as well as a T-shirt that was sent to Terence with our gratitude.
  • Derek Poon
    Terence welcomed me as a rookie teacher when I moved into the PE office across from his classroom In 1984. We hit it off instantly and our friendship never wavered. He will be missed but his legend will live on forever. RIP my friend.
  • Walter 'Jim' Langton III
    I had Mr. Bredin for history one year, and it was memorable. I recall he stressed there was no such thing as a bad question (except perhaps the one not asked). He encouraged participation and drew all in the class into the discussions. He taught at a measured pace, and was thoughtful in his answers, though sometimes cryptic. One day someone asked "what did you do in World War II (not realizing he was a teen in school); Mr. Bredin reflected for a few moments and quietly responded at a measured pace, "well, I'll tell you this....I did not lose a tank." It took us several days to figure out this was a reference to another legendary master who had lost his tank in Normandy in 1944! W. Jim Langston '78
  • Tom Matthews
    When I joined the UCC faculty in the mid-80s, Terrence already was a legend. Even though I wasn’t a Latin scholar and knew nothing about cricket, he welcomed me warmly and continued to be a kind and supportive colleague for my entire time at the College. Yes: he was eccentric, but he loved the boys and UCC, and he added a richness to the landscape that I really valued. Having come from the world of post-secondary education, I learned much from Terence about independent schools and their traditions. He was a good colleague.
  • Lucan Gregory
    It saddens me to learn this. The thing I will remember most about Mr. Bredin is his wickedly dry sense of humour. Many is the morning I found myself sitting in his classroom after being late for Assembly. The problem in -- once you got to know how that went -- it was more interesting to spend time in Mr. Bredin's room than in the Assembly Hall itself. He had this very old 'laughing track' record , and every once in a while he'd just start playing it, while being deadpan serious. There we were, sitting trying to keep a straight face after having been late, and this was the funniest thing ever. I remember those times well. He will be missed.
  • Tim Parker
    I am saddened to hear of this. He was one of my favourite masters at the College. Corpus Joannis redit nunc in pulveram! (John Brown's body). Also, not only Latin newsletters and crossword puzzles, but I fondly remember Latin cricket in class, where the "bowler" delivered a question, complete with the runup, and the batsman answered, with runs being awarded by TPO'D. Also, who could forget being required to hand in their water pistols at the start of class and then retrieving them at the end o class! Bredin made learning fun and always interesting. He will be missed. Tim Parker ('72)
  • Ashley Beales
    It has been many years since I have enjoyed one of Mr. Bredin's pre-game inspirational speeches, but they were truly unforgettable. Dressed in a toga, and armed with a wooden sword and shield, he would berate us in Latin and English, all while our competitors would stand by slack jawed, unsure of what to make of this strange man. He brought much needed levity and he was our best cheerleader. Thank you Mr. Bredin. You will be greatly missed.
  • Scott Sullivan
    I had the privilege to be coached by Mr. Bredin (TPOD) in soccer, Classics soccer. To avoid running afoul of the referees, we were instructed to swear in Latin. Calls of "Corvos!" [to the crows] soon rang out across the pitch. To this day, I call it out in pickup games. Thank you, for the language lesson, and the lessons of life. Scott Sullivan '87
  • Rob Prichard
    Let me add my name to those grateful for Terry's teaching and inspiration. He ranked with the very best of UCC and his encouragement and support ever since meant a great deal. He was a fine man and will be missed.
  • Ben Bradshaw
    I recall one morning in grade 12 or 13 pulling into the perfect parking spot right next to the side entrance to the assembly hall with 1 minute to spare before assembly, only to see Mr. Bredin hiding in a Toyota Tercel right next to the magically open spot with his finger pointing at me. Through those black rim glasses, he glared, and with a hint of a smile, shouted "Bradshaw. I've caught you!"
  • Neil Seeman
    "A reprint" from the website. RIP May 30, 2020 My condolences to the family of this wonderful and very special man. Thank you for enabling him to touch my life. Here are three immediate memories of Mr. Bredin: 1. When I was 15, I enjoyed Latin but it took me a while to grasp it. Eventually I received a good grade and he wrote on my report card, "egregious". My mother told me this might not be such a great word since in everyday speech we associate it negatively. So I asked Mr. Bredin about that. He took me aside and looked me in the eyes after educating me about the root of the word in Latin. He said, "Neil, you are 'out of the flock - egregious'. Never forget that. Be your own man." 2. One day Mr. Bredin didn't let me in to Laidlaw Hall because I did not have my top button done up. I received a detention and threat of Saturday gating. I was an idiot and found a rarefied third-tier science article suggesting (with weak evidence, but some) that tying one's top button can lead to chronic migraine. So I showed it to Mr. Bredin. He laughed uproariously. He showed it around to the other boys and said, "this is weak evidence Neil, but it is evidence. So you get a pass." The lesson was that you need to bring evidence when you take a moral stand, which I suppose mine was for a teenage boy. So he let me not wear my top button for the rest of the year. I know that he was letting me make the right decision in the end... so I then ensured that I always did wear my top button under my tie. 3. The Fall of the Roman Empire debate. This was an annual classic. I really struggled with public speaking. The better debaters did well. He gave me the win since he told all the boys that I was the only one whose summation made grammatical sense despite mine being a weak argument (I blamed the barbarians) - and I recall I used the word "depredations", which he said was an excellent and under-used word. He taught with authenticity and taught me that authenticity to oneself is core to living a virtuous life. What a great man. RIP Neil Seeman (UCC class of '88)
  • John (Ed) Bawden
    He was a wonderful housemaster.
  • Tom Sharpe
    As a new teacher at UCC in 1996, many people made me feel welcome. Many. But two older, somewhat eccentric gentlemen stood out in their ability to make me feel important, special every time we had a chance to talk. Johnny McGrath listened like I mattered and spoke from the heart. He still does. Terence, "Tetentius!", was something else. He was a sage who began many conversations by reciting all he knew about my name and lineage. He always made me smile; he always taught me something new, once posting a full-page, hand-draw illustration of the various meanings and etymology of the term, "diligence". That I remember a diligence is a horse-drawn stagecoach is testament to his unique ability to tell fascinating stories. More importantly though, we remember the way people make us feel more than what they say and Terentius always left me feeling like a better person for having known him.
  • Premek Hamr
    Coach was a legend! I will never forget sharing a hotel room with him as a first year rookie coach at CAIS 2000 in Stanstead! "Keep it on the Island!" coach, always....I will never forget you.
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