Scholarship

SMUS-Views-Bob

Last Saturday in the Business Section of the Globe and Mail, the School and one of its alumni, Hugh McGillivray, were featured. Here is the link to the article, one of a series about philanthropy in Canada: enjoy the read!

In the most recent edition of School Ties, I wrote a short piece about scholarship, ruminating on how the word resonates differently in different contexts. Scholarship, of course, is different from “scholarships.” I was interested in cutting through the thorny underbrush that has thickened around the word as people took to using the word to talk, for instance, about “athletic scholarships” – this use of the term hardly invites an ironic lift of the eyebrow these days, the transfer of intellectual recognition to physical prowess now an accepted notion. Changes in usage are not all bad, either: scholarships used to be awarded, more or less as prizes, to those who had achieved a certain excellence; now, in most circumstances, they are given to students who do, yes, possess qualities an institution values but who also, at the same time, demonstrate financial need. To me, this is a good thing, even though it deviates from the original definition of “scholarships.”

My thoughts about scholarship and scholarships aren’t a nostalgic lament for the corruption of language – although there are plenty of occasions when I do bemoan the use of jargon and other violations of the language of Shakespeare; what many – even non-anglophones – describe as a language that is at the same time one of the most serviceable, organic and beautiful in the world. Knowingly, therefore, at SMUS, we do stretch the liberties that are commonly taken with the word “scholarships”: yes, they are nearly all given to worthy students who otherwise would not be able to attend the school.

Which brings me back to Hugh McGillivray. I first met Hugh (as I first met Bill Redpath, who died three years ago and left the school over $800,000 in his estate to establish similar scholarships) at a gathering at our house, Reynolds House, on Alumni Weekend. A reader might smile to know that you are never sure of the tone of conversations at these gatherings – how much will the talk be about past deeds (or, more likely, misdeeds); how much will the talk be words of affection for old friends; or how much will it be nostalgia for a gone time, and awe at the transformation from the modest school of 200 during the 40s, 50s and 60s to the thriving school of 925 that exists today. But on the occasion I first met Hugh, he mentioned he wanted to make a donation to help some kids who were good all-rounders, who weren’t just bookish but who also had something else to give the school, on the playing field or the stage or the dorm.

To all those who are associated with SMUS today, this strikes a chord: we have an essential purpose comprised of twinned themes, to pursue academic success in an environment where the character and self also grow. We educate the whole person, and that’s what our “scholarships” and our SMUS education are about. Hugh’s original gift has swelled from $40,000 to $1.4 million, and now supports a number of students who are “Timmis Scholars” – young men and women who, in their individual and personal way, add their qualities to a school which they wouldn’t be able to attend without this support. We hope and expect all of our students to add their special qualities to this community that is theirs – if we didn’t value these qualities, these students and their families wouldn’t come here, as if finding a home where their individual gifts could not only dwell but thrive. One of Hugh’s favourite phrases is “give back” – a phrase inspired by a t-shirt designed by Shun Kinoshita ’09 when he was a student here. As Winston Churchill said, “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Thanks, Hugh.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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