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By Ken Andrews, Former Executive Director, University Advancement

Everyone has his or her own Huron story.  Here is mine.

In 1976, freshly off the train from Toronto to pursue an M.A. in history at Western, I found myself living in a small size, large-rent house with a group of frosh near Oxford and Wharncliffe.  By the end of September, the fridge’s contents hadn’t changed much since O-week;  it was, above all, a beer fridge and, despite all the fun, I didn’t want to crash and burn.  I decided to decamp.

My friend Michael Parke-Taylor’s father was Dean of Theology at Huron.  Dr. Geoffrey Parke-Taylor kindly passed on my name to Don Cox, the Warden, who had a double room available which I shared with a law student.  I’ll always be grateful to both Don and Dean Parke-Taylor.

Back in the ‘70s, O’Neil Residence - as it was then called - was male-only before becoming co-ed in the 1990s.  O’Neil comprised a heady mix of first-year students (about 50% or so) together with upper-year students, theology students, graduate students, and students in professional school.  Female students lived at Hellmuth and Brough, and other theology students were at Seager Hall (now Benson).  Principal John Morden and his family lived in the yellow house now known as Cronyn House on the north side of the property, while Don Cox lived with his family in what is now Young House.  The Head of Maintenance lived in the Yellow Cottage while the Assistant Head of Maintenance lived in a bungalow approximately where the tunnel to Western now enters.  When Don named me Sub-warden of O’Neil Residence in 1980-81, with John Plouffe as Head Don, help was never too far away.

Residence life for many is the time of one’s life, and for me that was certainly true.  Among my memories (as with so many other alumni):  

•    pounding down the stairs to the refectory at 5 p.m. in what some days (particularly when hip-of-beef was being served) resembled a stampede;  
•    lingering over breakfast, lunch and dinner in the refectory as so many did, often sipping ice cream from the freezer, and frequently in conversation with Fr Tom Harris or Bert Finney;  
•    tasty and plentiful food, which I have always thought was under-rated at Huron;  
•    Sunday chapel services;
•    floor parties in the Appleyard Room;  and
•    ball hockey on the parking lot – not pick-up, but a veritable 12-team league complete with organized schedules and games jammed with dozens of spectators at playoff time.  I still have my jerseys, but the welts from frozen orange balls courtesy of somebody’s slap shot have mercifully subsided (I think.)   

I made many friends in residence who remain friends to this day (and indeed with Fraz, Gary and Peter, we take in an NHL game ever year.)  And in my office I keep a table and chairs rescued from the old refectory, not least because they’re so durable.

Through the years Huron has meant a great deal to me personally in many ways, in addition to my two years in residence and one year as Sub-warden.  In 1981 my wife Martha and I were married in the Chapel by The Revd Dr. Douglas Leighton, with Dr. George Black at the organ.  I volunteered for the Huron Alumni Association and was honoured to serve as President from 1992-94 while working at London Life.  From 1995-98, I served on the Executive Board thanks to the invitation of Janet Caskey, the chair.  

More recently, our daughters Claire and Louise had the privilege of pursuing their education at Huron, majoring in English and graduating in 2007 and 2010 respectively.  All four of us – including my wife Martha when she was at Althouse -  loved studying in the Silcox Memorial Library, and together we have established a library endowment as have many others to support the Library’s annual purchase of books, periodicals and databases.

Since 1998 I have served in my current position, retiring this summer.  I have been privileged to work with four exceptionally gifted Principals:  David Bevan, Ramona Lumpkin, Trish Fulton, and Stephen McClatchie (and before them, Principals John Morden and Charles Jago in different capacities), together with the extraordinary faculty and staff including, most recently, Kristina Stankevich, Karen Otto, and Nicole Dorssers in the Advancement office.  The dedication of Huron faculty and staff to Huron students and alumni is legendary.

I have been privileged as well to work with extraordinarily committed volunteers who serve the Alumni Association, Foundation, Executive Board, Corporation, and  US Foundation including, most recently, chairs Sandra Datars Bere, Rick Lucas, Don Letton, Bishop Bob Bennett, and Michael Whiteside, as well as former Alumni, Foundation, Capital Campaign, and Golf Committee chairs including Ann Kennedy Kedwell, Beverley Paterson Wood, Gail Varey, Sheldon Aaron, Jeff Aarssen, Peter Fullerton, Rea Godbold, Barry Grant,  Kelly Hansen, Peter Kedwell, John Leitch, Darcy McKeough, Bill Simpson, Stuart Smith, and Keith Sumner.  

Thank you to Huron’s many volunteers and supporters for the leadership which you so generously offer and for the high standards in which you take pride in your commitment to the Huron community.  Every gesture, every outreach, every extended hand makes such a positive difference and speaks to the vitality of the alumni community who are foundational to Huron.

For many of us, the distinct advantage which Huron offers was perhaps best recognized and celebrated when Maclean’s magazine and the Globe and Mail finally included Huron in their annual university surveys.  

The results confirmed what we have always known and prided ourselves on at Huron:  that Huron ranks at or near the top of Canadian university institutions in categories such as faculty-student interaction, supportive campus environment, class size, quality of teaching, and (my own favourite), “If you could start over, would you go to the institution you are now attending” (third in Canada.)

What has always impressed me about Huron students – and continues when they become alumni – is how ambitiously well-rounded they lead their lives.  That was my impression soon after moving to O’Neil Residence in the fall of 1976, and it has always stayed with me.  Huron students generally know how to get it right – striking a balance between academics, community, and a passion for the future – which is impressive indeed.  

The Huron experience certainly fosters that, both inside and outside the classroom.  In my role as Executive Director of University Advancement with a focus on alumni relations, fundraising, and the Foundation, I constantly am moved and impressed by what a remarkably accomplished group of alumni – some 8,300 or so – we have at Huron.  As Miss Ridley told me more than once, “They have all done so well.”  And Miss Ridley was a large part of the reason why, as so many alumni attest.  Huron alumni remained her continuing pride and source of satisfaction.

Indeed, one only has to look at the range of professions and careers in which Huron arts and social science and theology alumni are engaged and thrive, no matter in which discipline they majored.  That Huron “provides an engaging and challenging educational experience that gives our student a distinct advantage throughout their entire lives” is as much an objective fact about Huron alumni accomplishments as it is a strategic direction statement.

The abiding joy of my position is the opportunity to work with alumni and friends who believe in the value of a Huron university education, want to provide opportunities for others as they themselves benefited earlier in their lives, and who appreciate how individuals can make a positive difference in the lives and well-being of others.  In that respect I have come to know and, most of all, admire many hundreds of alumni and friends whose gifts help Huron offer the distinctive educational experience for which it is known.   Over the past 16 years, I have been privileged to work as Executive Director with alumni and friends who have contributed $21.5 million to support Huron students and the distinctive educational experience which Huron offers.  During this time, the assets of the Foundation have increased from $5.2 million to $18.6 million as a result of donations to endowments and investment income.  Thank you for your generosity and belief in Huron.

Huron alumni contribute to the school’s well-being in countless ways in addition to their gifts, from referring a neighbour or a friend to Huron who is considering university, to volunteering to serve on a committee or board, to offering career advice to a Huron student, to helping reach out to fellow alumni to promote a special event.  I have come to know alumni primarily in person but many others over the phone, through email or other correspondence.  Everyone’s relationship to Huron is unique.  Many alumni – particularly those far away – I have never met but feel I know almost as well as others through their passion for Huron and what it has meant in their lives.

While Huron has changed over the years in some ways – in terms of course curriculum, expanded facilities, and student support programs, for example – at its core Huron remains the special place I have always known, one committed, at its best, to providing students with an opportunity to pursue an educational experience in which they can excel and make the most of their potential, and to realize the best in themselves in a personal, supportive community environment.  

In reflecting on what Huron has meant to me personally over the years, I am moved by the positive and indeed profound difference which you have made in my own life, for which I shall always be grateful.  I have been privileged to know hundreds of extraordinarily accomplished and caring people.  What’s more, I know that Huron’s best days are ahead as each succeeding generation of Huron administration, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, through their dedication and passion, build on the contributions of those before them.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve and to be part of the Huron community.