Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2020 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize SMUS postmaster Tony Cordle.
“Sixteen, seventeen-year-olds, they need a bit of room, they need to fall down. Otherwise, when they fall down at 30, they won’t know what to do.” Tony Cordle’s reclining on a worn wooden bench, in the shade of a tree on campus, clad in a black short-sleeve Hawaiian shirt with a birds of paradise print.
Tony’s first contact with SMUS was in 1985. At the time, Tony lived in Grand Prairie, Alberta with his wife, who was a nurse, and their two kids. They had emigrated from Wales in 1985, as there were huge incentives for nurses in Alberta. He was visiting Victoria later that year with the British Columbia Cricket Association and the Victoria District Cricket Association, which were both trying to woo Tony to Victoria and get involved in local cricket. SMUS was the only school on Vancouver Island that played. Before coming to Canada, Tony was a former Barbadian first-class cricketer who played in England for Glamorgan. In 1979, he was named Player of the Year. In short, he is a cricket legend. When asked about his time playing cricket, Tony brushes it off, “I don’t want to talk about that. … You can Google it.” When they met, then-Headmaster John Schaffter said, “If you come back to live (in Victoria), we have a job for you here.”
The Cordles moved to Victoria the next year and John Schaffter remained true to his word; Tony became part of the school’s physical education program, working with Cliff Yorath. During the day, Tony shared various field hockey skills, and in the evenings, he taught cricket. When not coaching sport, Tony worked with grounds staff, mowed the lawn and got to know the kids. His palpable depth of integrity balanced with a terrific sense of humour drew students. Tony commanded great respect, especially from the athletes, but also from students who were having challenges and those who just wanted a dependable grown-up in their school day. “There were so many great kids; so many really funny kids, too,” he reflects.
Tony’s work spanned running the tuck shop and managing the Campus Shop, working with the grounds team, along with ongoing cricket, soccer, rugby and basketball coaching. “I’ve always looked at SMUS as a place of learning, and I have tried to learn something every day.” Over the last few years, Tony visited each campus daily, distributing mail, important documents and packages.
His son Jeremy also attended SMUS. It was “good to see him grow up and really enjoying the things that he excelled at. In those days sport meant a lot to the school.” Jeremy went on to play wing for Team Canada rugby before taking off as an entrepreneur with his partner Alana.
Tony noticed several shifts in the school over his more than 33 years. He reflects that the diversity on campus has evolved, adding that he’s also seen the meaning of success change since his early days at SMUS. “At first, they expected every kid to be a doctor or a lawyer. I have often said to kids, ‘There is something out there for you, something with your name on it. And you will get it; it is out there, and it is yours.’” Now, there is more of a focus on each student’s individual strengths.
Singing has always been important to Tony, and he got involved in singing with the kids in chapel under the direction of music teacher Mary Humphries. His voice is stunning, and he has sung at many SMUS event, alumni’s weddings, and even performed a marriage for one. He also sings in a band with four SMUS alumni parents, which he says makes is feel very special. The bonds formed at school have resulted in strong friendships over the years. Tony admits, “I never thought that students would become lifelong friends.” He has been significant to many students, and he says that he had not expected that.
Now retired, Tony misses chatting and singing with the students, but he’s taking time to relax and spend time with family. He’s part of a choir that sings classics from the ‘60s to the ‘90s, and he’s drawn to the truth in many of the lyrics. Citing “The Impossible Dream” as one musical example, Tony shares, “I spent most of my time at the school striving to reach the unreachable stuff. I have learned here to do that. More so than anything else, you are dreaming and reaching every day a higher goal or to be better than people may view you as being. Uphold the standard you set for yourself.”