Calgary

SMUS-Views-Bob

It never fails. Technology overflows our briefcases, desks, pockets, and dangles from our ears. But it is a risky thing to depend on. For instance, I always download my presentations to my own laptop; I never trust them to networks or the “cloud”. I have seen too many people having to improvise like an amateur when a very professional Powerpoint or Prezi waits for them inside the technology, if only they could get at it.

While my current crisis is low-tech, hi-tech has a role in it: I have been in Calgary, fully equipped with my iPhone and iPad, both of which change time zones seamlessly, without my intervention. For some reason, though, this morning one of these devices had switched back to Victoria time. I was deluded into enjoying an hour’s extra time, extra time in fact not available to me, and I didn’t realize I didn’t have that time until I checked my watch and panic set in. The consequence was that I left my car keys in my hotel room.

I only realized this mistake when I got onto the plane. Taking out my iPhone – with which I now had a pretty ambivalent relationship – I was able to get hold of my wife, Joan, who endures my mistakes – hi-tech or low-tech – with the sort of patient smile that says “I’m not really adding these occasions up, you know…”  But I play it safe, and make a note to thank her in some overboard way. So keys will be waiting at the airport.

It was during my frantic phone call to my wife, my saviour, from my seat on the plane, that I was interrupted to make way for the passenger sitting by the window. A crowded flight, I got up and offered to lift her bag up to the overhead bin.

“Mr. Snowden?”

It turns out my seatmate was a past SMUS parent. We settled in to catch up. I mentioned I had gone to Calgary to visit one of our more generous alumni, Mr. Hugh McGillivray, who has donated over $1 million to scholarship endowment and several hundred thousand more to our digital archives project (so that alum and School family members anywhere can have access to the School’s history). In return, she told me her stories. All of her children – three sons and one daughter – went through SMUS, and she is grateful for that fact, as are they.  It so happens that I have crossed paths with all of them in the past few years, mainly at alumni events, but also in places as exotic as a yoga studio. The daughter, Jennifer, went to Harvard, and is now in Santiago, Chile after several years of Management Consulting in Boston. Two of Jennifer’s brothers also went to Harvard, while the other preferred to stay closer to home before succumbing to the tug of the wider world. These three sons are now spread out among New York,  Tokyo and London, England.

I will now tie these threads together for any reader who has had the patience to read this far. Our school’s network is powerful, built on a rich experience of varied excellence that is nurtured at SMUS in Victoria, but which flowers in the rest of the world. I go to Calgary to thank an alum from further back than these recent grads, but who believes in the future of the school enough to make it possible – through the perpetual agency of our endowment fund – for significant numbers of current and future students to attend a school they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend, and become the alum whose parents might end up sitting down with a future Head of School. When I repay my wife for her trouble and my stupidity, at least I will have the consolation of knowing that the bouquet of flowers or sparkling bauble (!?) is the final punctuation of this larger moving story.

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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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