Merit and admissions at Upper Canada College

By Chantal Kenny

Congratulations! I am delighted to inform you that our Admission Committee was unanimous in its decision to invite Johnny to take his place in the Upper Canada College graduating Class of 2015. “PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT,” our school motto, is quite fitting with its message to your son: Let him who has earned it, bear the reward. Starting in September 2013, Johnny has a great future ahead of him…

This is how the good news offer letter begins. Sadly, two other versions exist: the disappointing wait list and denied letters. The latter two outcomes speak to difficult decisions within highly selective candidate pools.

The notion of selectivity into the world’s finest educational institutions has been challenged by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Alfie Kohn. Their findings quietly gnaw at me. Who merits the educational opportunity of a lifetime is a debatable matter. Are the boys whom we deny less able and less talented? Are Old Boys more successful for having been accepted, as opposed to boys whom we denied or others who chose a different educational path? Today, UCC has never been more committed to accessibility and its generous financial assistance program allows us to look further and deeper for the most deserving students who would otherwise not be able to attend. This initiative is as much about efforts to broaden applicant pools as it is about addressing barriers that might otherwise keep families from considering UCC.

Parents often want to know what we seek in prospective students (will my boy have what it takes?) while students typically want to know what we offer (will I find what I want?). Successful applicants present strong academic credentials and character; co-curricular involvement; leadership; and a diversity of backgrounds. And it is fair to say that none of us can predict what a student will be like, and we don’t get it right one hundred percent of the time. Other factors – like social skills and creativity – are just as important. These qualities, like teamwork and engagement, can’t be measured as easily as academic proficiency but boys who show a combination of these characteristics are the most deserving. (Side note: intellectual achievement alone, is not the highest standard of merit we value.)

With or without the need for financial assistance, truth is, we identify far more mission appropriate students than we can accommodate. That’s our challenge. Another challenge will be to continue to identify students whose academic record, on the surface, may not fairly represent the contribution they would make at UCC and beyond given we recognize standardized tests results, for instance, are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. In our current enrolment model, we have room to admit approximately one-third of our applicants, which begs the question: so who deserves to make the cut? Staying true to the purpose of our founder Sir John Colborne in 1829, we continue to aim towards the meritocracy evoked by our motto.

Chantal Kenny is Executive Director of Admission at Upper Canada College. Her son François graduated this past June (UCC class of ’12).

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A look at Mottos – Vocabulum Inquirerer

By Fraser McKee

A careful look at UCC’s motto – Palmam qui meruit ferat – causes one to rethink exactly what it means – or what the Founding Fathers intended it to mean.  The usually accepted translation from the Latin is “Give the prize to he who deserves it.”  But is this a cautionary note to the Principal and Board to only award prizes – or selection as Stewards or Prefects, etc. – to those who genuinely merit them?  Long and satisfactory performance is not enough.  And must all agree on the interpretation of “merit”?  Or is this a cautionary note to students that the prizes will only be going to those who strive to merit them?  Maybe, best of all, it is both interpretations, fulfilling a double purpose in a single phrase.  I rather suspect that Admiral Lord Nelson, with the same motto, and a tendency to vainness and ambition, selected it Ex post facto!

Mottos can indeed have a multitude of meanings, interpretations, in some cases. Others are clearly just a statement of fact:  Canada’s  A mari ad mare – From sea to sea.  Or the Royal Marines’ Per mare per terram – By sea (and) by land.  Some are simply an historical statement, more or less of fact: Gibraltar’s Nulli expurgnabilis hosti  –Conquered by no enemy,  although no doubt the Spanish would take exception to that claim established by the British.  Or maybe Panama’s rather clever motto:  Pro mundi beneficio  –  For the benefit of the world.  True enough when it was selected.  This one, in turn, causes us to consider whether it would apply in the Suez Canal’s case when Egypt blocked their Canal in 1956.  Pro Egyptius benificio maybe, and even that’s dubious!  Thus mottos often just open door to historical debates as to justification.

Others look to the future of the body selecting the motto:  Carpent  tua poma nepotes  –Your descendants will pick your fruit,  the motto of Monteria, Columbia;  or the Presbyterian Church’s rather vague biblical reference – Nec tamen consumebatur  –  a reference to the burning bush that Moses saw that was never consumed (in Exodus),  presumably inferring that the Church will never be “consumed.”  Another that described what was desirable in its members was  Velox Versutus Vigilans –  the motto of the Army’s Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (and other Royal Signals) –  Speed Accuracy and Watchfulness – inspirational, one hopes.  Others are more personal for individuals – like the Prince of Wales’ Ich Dien  – I serve.  Although in this case, there are arguments it comes not from the Black Prince in 1346, but from the Welsh  Eich dyn – Behold the man,  a supposed statement of Edward I when presenting his new-born son to the Welsh after his promise their future leader would not speak English!  True enough.  The same applies in other non-Latin mottos, such as the 48th Highlanders’  Gaelic  Dileas gu brath – Faithful forever – a good motto selected in 1893 when the Regiment was formed.  Or maybe the Fraser Clan motto – Je suis pret – I am ready.  Both are, in their way, open ended, a commitment – to something.

A few do not, from the outside, seem very inspirational:  the Catholic seminarians’ usual motto of  Obedientia tutior  –  Obedience is the (safer) path.  Even Clan Ross’s Spem successus alit  – Success nourishes hope.  Others are simply a clever and in their way entertaining use of words:  Juncti sed non uncti –  Together, but not scrambled –  the motto of the Spanish Air Force aerobatic team!  The odd one is well known to many of us, albeit of very dubious Latin:  Ne illigitimus carborundum – Don’t let the bastards wear you down!!  It was in common use in my days in the early 1940’s, at least 65 years ago!

It’s a fascinating study, and one might even consider looking into factually why some mottos were chosen.  A few are hard to determine what they mean: Clan Dundas’s Essayes – presumably from the French “Try?”  Seems a not very inspirational motto.  Maybe there’s a story here.  This might be where the Internet can help.  Or a research challenge.

Fraser McKee (UCC Class of 1943) was in the Cadet Corps at UCC, and rose to Drill Sergeant. In 1943, he decided he’d go into the Navy. He did his Sub-Lieutenant’s courses at HMCS King’s at Halifax, went to sea in an Algerine Escort, and came back to Toronto when released from active service in March of 1946. Mr. McKee rejoined the Naval Reserve, and then retired in 1975 from the Navy as a Commander. He was chairman of the Sea Cadets for Ontario, and Ontario President of the Navy League, and National President of the Navy League. He was Executive Director of the Navy League, and then retired. He is the author of seven books, all on Navy history or Merchant Navy history. His eighth book, a naval novel about the Arctic, will be out this year.

Meruitus Palmam – Meriting the Palm

By Fraser McKee

The title of the project of course implies that awards, or rewards, should be merited by well done endeavors, by using one’s skills – physical, mental, leadership and so on –  to merit the attention.  Maybe even factual rewards or advancement.  The College’s Latin motto exemplifies this very concept: Palmam qui meruit ferat – more or less “Give the prize to he (or she) who merits it.”

It is also the family motto of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who would certainly seemed to have merited some sort of award by his both dedication to being the best possible naval officer of his time, by his string of very real successes, and the great affection his crews had for him.  Assuredly deserving of a Palmam from his countrymen’s viewpoint, and the more critical and knowledgeable Lords of the Admiralty.   He captured enemy ships, successfully defended Allied countries such as The Two Sicilies, and won three notable battles – at the Nile, at Copenhagen and at Trafalgar in 1805 – through his own unusual tactics and leadership

One could argue reasonably that some of these battles, notably at Copenhagen, were fought for somewhat reprehensible political reasons.  That rather minor naval country, Denmark, at the time was inclined to join in support of France’s Napoleon.  The British, rather naturally, strongly objected to this, being then at war, more or less, with France.  That doesn’t detract from Nelson’s deserving of the Palm for his outstanding naval enterprises, at the behest of his government.  Nor does his equally well known liaison with Emma Lady Hamilton, which was even approved of by her then husband, the elderly diplomat Sir William Hamilton.  Thus the Palm of not only promotion but wide approbation would be considered awarded for the skill that he displayed in his assigned profession – naval leadership. For that alone, he warrants adopting the motto.

But then the very phrase “To those who deserve it” tends to draw to mind all too many occasions of rewarded palms going to those who in even a narrow sense did not deserve it.  Too often awards of one sort or another have gone for simply loyally adhering to a party line, or for long service of no great moment.  While I happen to be a strong supporter of the concept of the Canadian Senate as a body “of sober second thought” (and I have appeared before a couple of its Committees, so know whereof I speak), it is probably, for many Canadians, seen as the ultimate reward for too many citizens who very questionably did not really “deserve it.”  For simply following a leader unquestionably., or making large donations in his cause.  Meruit?  Hardly.

To continue with the naval parallel simply because I am quite familiar with it, a case could assuredly be made concerning an advancement that was not really earned in the job – the appointment of Vice Admiral Clarence Jones to being Chief of the Naval Staff in 1944.  Technically Jones was competent.  He’d joined the Navy as a lad, worked his way up through the ranks during the lean years of the 1920’s and ’30s, commanded a destroyer or two and held various staff appointments.  What more could one ask, for promotion to head of the Navy, particularly in wartime.  Well, it turns out in careful examination, quite a bit more.  And very much connected with the job of running such an organization.  For Jones had almost no “man management” abilities.  He was from early on striving too obviously to advance himself, at the expense of those just above him for sure, arranging to move ahead in the promotion lists of one very much competent contemporary by some now unknown nefarious means.  As he became more senior, his lack of ability to “get on” with many of those around and under him became notorious.  He issued orders without leadership, was abrupt and rude.  If you crossed him, you were dead.  He studiously catered to his Minister of the Naval Service, right or wrong.  He appointed juniors to circumvent the normal lines of responsibility to report back clandestinely on those reporting to the ones by-passed.  He denounced his subordinates for failures without giving them a chance to defend their even defensible positions.  A pretty thoroughly disliked person, whether technically qualified or not. To be given the palm of the top naval ranking officer as deserving of it?  It would appear to be the very antithesis of the intent of the motto.

So obviously the key word in these examples is “merit.”  The awarded Palm is simply a wider recognition of merit, not, as some recipients tend to flaunt, the end in itself.  This, of course, then opens a very real problem file:  “Merit” in whose eyes?  If a politician is supported in everything he does, right or wrong, or such a supporter raises funds to ensure that politician can run a machine-like election campaign and the efforts are successful, then in that politician’s eyes, he merits whatever seems fitting, and maybe a few questionable activities can be excused in the greater good achieved.  But in that politician’s opponent’s eyes, there may be very little merit.  In fact the “questionable activities” would tend to be dominant, and little merit seen.  The same is true for awards given for such subjective accomplishments as in the arts.  One man’s marvelous painting or sculpture (Edward Munch’s “The Scream” and Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans come to mind!) is another’s terrible daub or waste of money.   So we are left with the assessment that merit lies in the eye of the beholder, not, too often, in genuine or widely accepted deserving actions, agreed upon by all.  And is that necessarily bad?

It will be almost impossible to arrive at an entirely acceptable definition of merit, for the scales of measurement are too variable, and people who do the measuring themselves too variable.  But then there is no doubt that the motto itself can stand as a goal to be striven for – Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.

Fraser McKee (UCC Class of 1943) was in the Cadet Corps at UCC, and rose to Drill Sergeant. In 1943, he decided he’d go into the Navy. He did his Sub-Lieutenant’s courses at HMCS King’s at Halifax, went to sea in an Algerine Escort, and came back to Toronto when released from active service in March of 1946. Mr. McKee rejoined the Naval Reserve, and then retired in 1975 from the Navy as a Commander. He was chairman of the Sea Cadets for Ontario, and Ontario President of the Navy League, and National President of the Navy League. He was Executive Director of the Navy League, and then retired. He is the author of seven books, all on Navy history or Merchant Navy history. His eighth book, a naval novel about the Arctic, will be out this year.

A question of character and value

By Mark Laidlaw

If to be meritorious is to be deserving of praise, then what does one do to be meritorious and is it context-dependent?  Throughout this discussion, “merit” has been used synonymously with “reward” whereas others, with whom I tend to agree, see “merit” as a more virtuous quality.

Adam de Pencier, Head of Trafalgar Castle School, discusses the Olympic competitive motto of “citius, altius, fortius” (faster, higher, stronger) as the criteria for athletic merit, but it seems that even the International Olympic Committee does not live by those criteria alone.  We have all heard of disgraced athletes being stripped of their titles, medals, and rewards because of performance-enhancing drugs or because of cheating through other methods.  Clearly, there is at least one more criterion by which the IOC judges merit: one must achieve his or her results through fair means.

Another criterion that is far more difficult to measure, but which has also been employed by the IOC, is that of character.  Does one deserve to win—or rather, does one deserve praise—strictly because he or she has fairly gone faster, higher, or stronger than his or her competitors?  Again, it seems not.  At the 2012 London Olympics, a number of athletes, including Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou, were banned for racist or otherwise offensive comments.  German rower Nadja Drygalla was also sent home early (though she was allowed to compete) because of allegations that her boyfriend was involved with a neo-Nazi group.  Despite the fact that these athletes had not broken any rules of competition, nor had they unfairly achieved any result, the IOC and the German Olympic federation decided on moral grounds that these athletes did not deserve praise or the opportunity to compete for the Olympic title.

Much like the IOC, I admit that I have a very tough time watching such athletes as Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, or Allen Iverson earn lucrative professional sport contracts because their behaviours are rude and insulting, while their characters are, at best, objectionable.  To me, they do not deserve to be rewarded for behaving in such a way.  That, however, moves into the area of justice and is perhaps a different branch of the same topic.  In the context of sport alone, yes, they deserve their contracts because they are phenomenal athletes.  When taken into a more general context of social justice and societal value, I would argue that they do not deserve praise.

Lincoln Caylor, member of the Board of Directors of Youth Employment Services, stated that “there must be goodness for there to be merit” and I agree with that statement.  Unfortunately, if we are to consider merit strictly as reward, then one cannot argue with awarding championships or prizes—or merit—to such flawed characters as the aforementioned athletes.  Is that, however, the true meaning of merit?  Do they merit praise?  Have they earned their merits?  I would argue that merit is more of a societal and personal opinion or quality that includes an element of virtuousness.  One can fail and still be meritorious.  One can succeed while not meriting any praise whatsoever.  To me, merit requires that the person receiving praise add some value to his endeavour.  Does an athlete make his sport better?  Does a CEO make his organization better?  Does a Prime Minister make his country better?  If one succeeds but does not add value, then what is the point?  I believe that there is no merit in that.

Merit is not earned through performance alone, but also requires effort, class, respect, desire, and purpose.  I admit that these are qualities that are personal and mutable, but they are important factors to consider.  I believe that this is why the story of the underdog is often so alluring.  We perceive that underdogs require more effort, more stern character, and a more inspired performance in order to succeed and are therefore more meritorious than favourites.  To the viewer, if a favourite wins, it is because of a higher skill level, not because of their focus or tenacity.  Little is considered about the amount of work that the favourite had to put in to become the favourite.  I believe that merit is best described by former NCAA basketball coach John Wooden, who said, “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”  If, given the same opportunities, anyone could accomplish what I did, then there is little merit.  If, however, I exerted extra effort and accomplished what others couldn’t, then I have indeed merited praise.  Canadian rower Jake Wetzel, after finishing second at the 2004 Olympic Games by 0.08 seconds in what was one of the greatest races ever, said, “We went up against legends and we almost did it.”  He knew that his silver medal carried with it a lot of merit.

In my opinion, the true meaning of Upper Canada College’s  motto of “palmam qui merit ferat” (“Let he who merited the palm bear it”) is not the simple IOC mandate of “faster, higher, stronger”.  It is not a results-based, cause-and-effect, cut-off line that states “if you achieve this standard, then you deserve praise”.  To me, the true meaning is much closer to the modernized “may the best man win”.  Assuming “man” to mean “person”, not strictly male, I stress that the qualifying factor is to be “the best man”, which is as much a question of character as it is of performance. This is the “goodness” to which Mr. Caylor referred.  It is a quality that Upper Canada College stresses through its “do good and do well” mentality and is a reminder that we must earn, through our daily actions, the rewards that we receive.

There is a scene at the conclusion of Steve Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan during which many men are killed trying to get a young private (Private Ryan), whose brothers had all been killed in the war, back home to his family.  In the scene, Captain Miller is mortally wounded. As Private Ryan tends to him, the Captain pulls him close and says to him, “Earn this”.  Being born into privilege, as much of us at UCC have been, is not in any way meritorious and does not in itself deserve any praise at all.  That is not to say that we are not meritorious people, but it is to say that we still must merit our rewards.  We do not have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, or the strongest, but we must use our privileges to add value to society and to those around us.  We must be examples of hard work and positive impact. We must earn what we have been given; we must merit the palm.

 Mark Laidlaw (UCC ’03) spent seven years as a coxswain on the Canadian National Rowing Team from 2005-2011. He currently works as a web publisher for the Ontario Medical Association.

Merit and the highest bar of a profession

By John Voudouris

As a university teacher for over 21 years, merit personally signifies that one has EARNED the HIGHEST standard in his or her field with recognition.  This high standard or merit is able to further advance the person’s particular profession in a most productive manner as to improve and better the human condition that will be left behind for the generations to follow.

John Voudouris, DDS, DOrth, MScD is a UCC father. Dr. Voudouris teaches at the University of University of Toronto’ Discipline of Orthodontics and at New York University’s Division of Biological Sciences.

Merit vs. reflected pride in your children

By Philip Seeman, OC, MD

I’d like to be able to say that merit is always rewarded, that the worthy are recognized and that success inevitably follows upon hard work. This is the ideal but, in this life, success, however defined, is distributed more or less randomly. Good health depends more on genetic inheritance than on judicious life style. Abstinence helps, but where is the merit in a joyless life? Financial rewards depend more on family wealth and whom you happen to know than on your own creativity and effort. Having gone to a high school such as Upper Canada College is a plus to be sure.  There is definite merit in having chosen to go there. Marital happiness depends on luck, where and when you happen to have been hanging out when a potential partner appeared on the scene. Discernment has little to do with it. Beauty and charm, the reasons you fall in love, contribute very little to marital contentment. Fame, at best ephemeral, is always capricious. Skill, talent, and industry all contribute but, in the end, whether they bring you fame or not is anybody’s guess.

How about reflected pride, the joy of seeing our children succeed? Does the achievement of our children depend on our parenting strategies, our love, our nurturance? Maybe not. It has been shown that children whose fathers die young do best in life, achieve the most prominence. Where is merit in all this?

Ah, but there is another life, a life after death when our disembodied souls will surely attain their just reward. Or be transplanted in the next reincarnation into peacocks.

Philip Seeman, OC, B.Sc. & MD (McGill), PhD (Rockefeller), D.Sc. (Toronto) is the father of Neil Seeman (UCC ’88). His Nobel-nominated work between 1964 and 1974 on the membrane actions of drugs led him to the discovery of the antipsychotic receptor, now re-named the dopamine D2 receptor. This research forms the experimental basis for the dopamine hypothesis of how the brain reacts to stimuli.

This I believe

By Matthew Hacker-Teper

Over Christmas, I went to New York City with my family.  We had great time, eating, skating and site-seeing our way through the city.  At the very end of the trip, we needed a taxi back to Newark Airport.  We were picked up by one of the thousands of taxis in New York; you know the kind: yellow on the outside, black vinyl upholstery on the inside, video embedded into the back of the passenger seat and driven by someone born somewhere other than New York City.

On this day, our driver was particularly engaging. He had come to New York within the past year, from Camaroon. He has a brother and sister-in-law in Vancouver and is planning to visit them when he has the money. In the meantime, he is going to school to finish his training as a petroleum engineer. He has to drive at least 30 hours per week to be able to afford his food, rent and tuition so he operates his taxi 15 hours a day, two days per week. On the other days, he goes to school and studies. He shares an apartment in Manhattan because, although the rent is a bit higher than in the boroughs, it saves on transportation costs and time to and from the city. He is fluent in English and French. Taxi driving is a means to an end, to a career as an engineer.

I never asked our driver what his name was; but as I sat on the plane ride home, I couldn’t help but think about his story. He embodied what I believe:

I believe in hard work. There is no substitute, and it will almost always be rewarded. The best way to jump from a 5 to a 6, to build your resumé, or to make that next team is to work hard. Hard work is never a bad choice because, even if it does not lead to the original intended goal, it will always be respected and recognized. This is because hard work implies passion, effort and motivation, all of which are drivers of success.  It is hard to define hard work; how much work is enough?  I am not sure I can say how much work constitutes hard work but I believe it has something to do with always doing your best, always going that extra mile, feeling like you have given all that you have to give to the task at hand.  I believe that if you really work hard, good things will come to you.

I believe that, in order to be your best, you have to put yourself into the best situation for the task at hand – whether that means immigrating to a foreign country in search of a better education, or leaving your friends for an hour to study. That usually means making choices, some of which are not easy. I believe in making the right choices even if that means going against popular beliefs or community pressures. I believe in making the choices that allow you to be and to become your best.

I believe in being like that Cameroonian taxi driver – in working hard and in making good choices to be the best you can be.

Matthew Hacker-Teper is an IB2 (Grade 12) student and academic steward at Upper Canada College.  He is the co-chair of the World Affairs Conference and plays in the senior wind ensemble.  He is also a peer tutor and a member of the entrepreneurial club.  Matthew’s passions in school are science, math and economics.  He hopes to study medicine and one day become a doctor.

The power of will

By Jim Power

Next to the local gymnasium, there is a billboard featuring an impeccably toned torso with the caption, “There are some things Santa can’t give you.” (I’d like you to think that I was the featured model, but even if you believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, that might be a bridge too far!)

The advertisement underlines a most basic premise: the cause and effect of life. If you want to get in top physical condition, you have to work at it. Good intentions just aren’t enough.

A few years ago, I coached a UCC basketball team, and we were chock full of talented players: we could dribble, pass, shoot, and run with the best of them. The one thing that we couldn’t do, though, (and I confess I couldn’t figure out how to coach this) was dive for loose balls. We played hard, but we just  weren’t inclined to “bite the wood.”

The problem with a loose ball is that you can’t send your best buddy, your nanny, or even Uncle Charlie in to get it for you. You have to leave your feet. You have to do it instinctively. And you have to do it yourself.

What prompts a sane person to dive on an unforgiving slab of hardwood in order to grab a leather ball? It has to take more than just desire, because a lot of folks would like to have the ball. No, what makes someone leave his feet is the combination of passion and will.

Before my wife and I were married, we attended a retreat, and I can remember only one piece of advice from that event three decades ago:  “Marriage is a decision of the mind, and a commitment of the will.” (An aside: There have been plenty of times when my wife has given me a look that suggests, “This is definitely a ‘commitment of the will’ kind of day for me.” And all I can say is that I’m glad she attended that retreat!)

UCC’s motto, “Let he who merited the palm bear it” taps into the importance of the power of will, and emphasizes the necessity of digging deep within yourself to do the task at hand, regardless of the odds or risk – to follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It!”

No, life isn’t always fair. Effort doesn’t come with a 100 per cent money back guarantee. Sometimes you’ll work hard and not attain a desired result. In general, though, effort extended through a distance is the best way to merit the palm, and it’s the only way to get a loose ball.

Appointed in 2004, Dr. Jim Power is the 18th Principal at Upper Canada College, a leading independent boys school in Toronto. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., he has a Bachelor’s degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, a Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Boston College, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Boston University. He also attended Columbia University on a Klingenstein Visiting Heads Fellowship.  Dr. Power started his career in independent schools in New England and taught at both the elementary and high school levels. For 11 years — and preceding his move to UCC and to Canada — he was Head of Georgetown Preparatory School, a boys’ school in North Bethesda, Md.

Merit and acts of gentle words

By Mary Seeman

“Let He Who Merits The Palm Possess It”. I’ve been thinking about what the palm of victory is when applied to life. Say you define palm as your impact on the world and ask yourself the question: Had I not been born, would anyone have been worse off? When I think back, my parents would have had one less mouth to feed while escaping war-torn Europe. My brother would have been tickled to be an only child. My three best childhood friends, I think, would have been slightly different people had I not been around, so I think I had an impact on them. The boys I liked in High School didn’t know I existed anyway, so no difference there. My husband would have married someone else who, I hope, would have treated him well. He’s a good man and would have elicited good treatment no matter who the wife was. My children and grandchildren would not have existed, at least, not in the form I know them by. The students whom I encouraged over the years would presumably have been encouraged by someone else and would have been just as successful as they currently are. My patients? Every so often I meet one of them by accident on the street and they tell me they still remember my words and how those words dramatically impacted their lives. I ask them what those wonderfully wise words were and they say something like: “You told me to take a week off work.” “You told me to try harder.” I suspect that’s my impact, trite words.

But who’s to say what’s trite and what’s profound?

Mary Seeman, OC, MD, ScD, Professor Emerita at the University of Toronto, is the mother of Neil Seeman (UCC ’88) and one of the world’s leaders in women’s mental health, having practiced psychiatry for 50 years.

Merit without accolades

By Brian Conacher

I went to Upper Canada College in Toronto for high school. The school’s coat of arms bore the Latin phrase, “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat” which translates to “Let him bear the palm who has deserved it”. This was a living motto for me during and since I went to UCC. The privilege of attending a private school like UCC does not mean it’s an automatic entitlement to success. In addition to a responsibility for improving the greater good of society as a result of the opportunities afforded through this school experience, success must be earned and deserved, thus ‘merited’.

The dictionary defines “merit” in several ways. But they all include a reward, honour, praise or gratitude as recognition for some worthy or deserving deed(s). But the deed must be achieved prior to the recognition of merit. Too often in today’s complex and troubled society, some people seek the merit before the deed. As the UCC motto says, “Let him bear the palm who has deserved it”. And I would say, only to those who truly deserve it. In the perfect world, to me, real merit if from action without accolades; what you do when no one is watching.

Brian K. Conacher (UCC ’61) was a Member of the 1967 Stanley CupToronto Maple Leafs and the 1964 OlympicCanadian hockey team.He later joined the Indianapolis Racers and Edmonton Oilers as general manager. He was the manager of Maple Leaf Gardens until 1998. Conacher also held the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.