Top marks

Highest academic honours go to Ben Swan ’20, who has earned the Grant Medal, the Governor General’s Medal, and is recognized as Head Boy for last year’s graduating class.
"I feel very fortunate," Swan says. "There were so many fantastic students in my year."

The Grant Medal is awarded to the student earning the highest IB point total in his cohort – in Swan’s case, a perfect 45 score. The Governor General’s Medal denotes the highest Ontario Secondary School Diploma average in all Grade 11 and 12 courses. 

"Ben is truly deserving of recognition, not only for his impressive academic outcomes at the end of last year, but for his leadership of learning while at the College," says Dr. Julia Kinnear, academic dean. "As a community we recognize that learning is a journey rather than a destination and that we truly live this value when we adopt a learner mindset in all we do: being curious, persistent, collaborative, and open to feedback and other perspectives — regardless of outcome or accomplishment. Ben exemplified these fine qualities as a student here, in his individual studies and in his leadership of the student community as the academic steward." 

Given the altered circumstances surrounding the pandemic, Swan decided to postpone his university career and take a gap year. He’s currently working as an intern with LEAP – Pecaut Centre for Social Impact, a not-for-profit organization that works to accelerate the impact of social ventures by supporting and mentoring those with "identifiable impact potential and extraordinary leadership."

"I’m loving it," says Swan. "It’s been quite a transition. I feel as if I’ve skipped university and gone straight to working in the real world."

Fortunately, university is merely postponed, and in the fall Swan will be heading abroad to attend the University of Oxford to study history. Oxford wasn’t in his original post-secondary plans, but his UCC counsellor saw it as a good fit for him and urged him to apply. Once he was accepted, "It was too good an offer to turn down," Swan says.

An Oxford undergraduate degree is very specialized, Swan notes. As a history major, he’ll be focused on that subject only – and at an incredible place to do so, with centuries of significant events and locations right at his fingertips. For the former co-head of the history club, it is, as Shakespeare might say, "the stuff that dreams are made on."

"The term structure is very different from a Canadian university," Swan says. "We have eight weeks on and eight weeks off, so I’ll have a lot of time to explore. It’s quite exciting."

Swan isn’t ready to speculate on where life will take him after his undergraduate career. At UCC, he followed a broad range of interests: baseball, squash, creative writing and history, while serving in the academic steward role and as head of Academic Council.

"Pigeonholing myself at this point doesn’t seem wise," he says. "There have been so many new opportunities created in the last 30 years that we could never have imagined; new avenues of thinking are always being created."

For now, he’s simply working hard and enjoying his achievements.

"I loved UCC and I miss it already," Swan says. "These are lovely honours."

Given his record, they are undoubtedly the first of many.
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