Pitt Meadows, and remembering

SMUS-Views-Bob

You know you are no longer in Vancouver when you are enveloped in the scent of horse farms, that combination of hay and manure, as I was when I got out of my car. Clearly – because there is evidence of it – this relatively flat plain on either side of the Pitt River where it flows into the Fraser – was once entirely farmland. The Fraser eventually spreads its delta around Steveston and the Vancouver Airport; Vancouver in return is spreading its suburbanization like a reverse delta into places like Pitt Meadows. Driving to Pitt Meadows (and a little further, to Maple Ridge, where, one imagines, a ridge of some sort starts the ascent of terrain toward the mountains) from the airport your trip is a little bit like the winding trip food takes through the body: you twist back and forth through the intestines of old working Vancouver, all along the Fraser, through New Westminster (once the capital of British Columbia) and out onto the Highway 1. At the airport the rental car agent was pleased with himself when he told me I was getting a Mustang Coupe instead of the usual Hyundai, so this is the car in which I made my way. Such a car: all that potential energy sitting wasted under the hood in the sluggish traffic. In another decade an envious group of teenage friends might have gathered to watch me emerge from this flashy car; as it was a couple of my colleagues, Heads of other schools in BC, simply smiled and raised their eyebrows. Midlife, they were probably thinking.

For these two days I am in Pitt Meadows at one of our three meetings of the year of the Independent Schools Association of BC (ISABC). It is a two-day meeting because the first day includes both Board Chairs and heads. Our Board Chair, David Angus, gets the prize for coming the furthest: he lives in Edmonton, and his dedication to our school brings him regularly and faithfully not only to his duties as Chair of our Board, but also to these gatherings to which Board Chairs also get invited. We remark occasionally that SMUS is in David’s blood; twenty-three members of his extended family, including him, have attended the school. Vivat, for sure. Our first day, yesterday, was a workshop on Governance – hence the invitation to Board Chairs. Good governance is crucial, requires significant attention and discipline, and is unexciting, unless your focus is on the school and those rewards, as it has to be. Today I will be meeting with my colleagues to discuss a number of things, especially the topic of how we nurture leadership in the staff of our schools.

Now I must get in the Mustang Coupe and see how many envious stares I can elicit on my way to the site of our meeting, about a kilometre distant. Travel of nearly any type is tedious and dreary: hotels, rental cars, taxis, and airports. You have to find the charm in it where you can: Pitt Meadows and Mustangs.

It was looking out over one of the fields of horses that I learned of the passing away on Tuesday of our former Drama teacher, David Gauthier. David retired last year, and while he did not want a fuss made, many people spoke of his passion and dedication to shows of a quality rarely seen on the high school stage. He gave of himself fully and completely in the pursuit of his theatrical vision, and his memory will remain clearly etched in the memories of the students he touched. He found great satisfaction in working in a School where theatre and drama had a proud place, and he let his gratitude be known through his work and his words. One of his favorite places was the School Library, and few people know that he he donated the two framed Shakespeare plays on the mezzanine floor because he loved the library so much and found it a friendly, warm place. I am fortunate to have such placid surroundings in which to compose and share these thoughts, and to encourage the fond memory of David Gauthier.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden is Head of School at St. Michaels University School.

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