Lifers's Dinner MC - Mr Steve Cowie

Sunday, July 19, 2020 -

The following was delivered at the Lifers’ Dinner in late May, 2020.

Everyone: Please have a beverage with you for toasts during the celebration.  

Good evening and welcome students, staff and special guests (Marius and Andrea Felix) to the 28th Annual Lifer’s Celebration. It is an honour to serve as your MC tonight. I would like to begin by considering the term “Lifer”.  I use the term “celebration” because Lifer connotes to me a harsh prison sentence, roughly equivalent to being chained to a rock and having a vulture gnaw at your intestines for eternity. I remind you also that your class is part of the “asterisk” era of students who have served for four years, but also includes “Superlifers” of five year terms.  

You fortunate people are part of the “Sunny Ways” or “Bud Lite” era of Mr. Patel. In these challenging times Mr. Patel and his Covid team have had to step up and find ways to make our experience in the final term a positive and meaningful one. We thank Mr. Patel and his team for their splendid efforts under difficult circumstances. When the going gets tough, the tough get out their “secret sauce”. Indeed, being the remarkably intrepid character that he is, Mr. Patel has found time during the pandemic to indulge some of his other passions beyond education. A secret gourmet cook specializing in exotic curry dishes, Mr. Patel has set up his own restaurant, with takeout only, in order to altruistically serve the community while staying safe. The restaurant is called Karma and there are no menus - you get what you deserve.

Of course the real success in maintaining the “secret sauce” that makes Brentwood special during this time of crisis, has been the amazing response of the students who have risen to the occasion by transitioning to virtual distance education with enthusiasm and good grace.

So to say grace and give thanks for all of the blessings we continue to enjoy, I would like to introduce Ms. Wendy Haslam, a long serving member of staff, grandmother to a Brentonian and, beloved of all of us, to say the blessing.

Thank you Wendy. Good things truly do come from small packages. As always you spoke from the heart, with the students’ well being in mind

Now to you Lifers, it may have seemed, when you arrived here, that you were facing some kind of horrific ordeal, especially if your parents were high fiving each other as they left the school gates on opening day. Looking back, however, some if not all, have admitted to feeling a touch of nostalgia.

I feel very fortunate to have received the gift of over 40 one year contracts which make me a Lifer ten times over in the asterisk era.

We have much to celebrate tonight, so let’s begin by raising a glass to toast the wonderful Beth Melhuish who started this lovely tradition several decades ago.

Mrs. Melhuish always endeavoured to choose student speakers who may not have been obvious house leaders or experienced speakers, but she had an unerring knack of getting it right in finding some real gems who spoke with great warmth, insight and good humor on behalf of their houses.
This is a tradition that provides an opportunity for our longest serving students to share a few stories with their fellow travellers on this journey and look back over their four or five year terms with a wistful eye.

In reading over the words of the eight young women and men who were chosen to speak this evening across the world of cyberspace, I was touched by the depth of their gratitude to their house staff and the strong relationships they had developed with those who arrived as strangers each year. There is a spirit of kindness, selflessness, and goodwill that is a recurring quality in all of them.

You have all borne the interruption of your final year and the tough adjustment to a “new normal” without complaint and have looked to make the most of your final term, despite the challenges and disappointments - such as no real dinner or sparkling apple juice.

So here we go with some words of wisdom from our chosen people. No pressure - some are born to glory and others have it thrust upon them.
First up is Alexandra House: Kenya Bontkes with an introduction by Ms Sarah Hall.
Kenya, raised in the Cowichan Valley, brings charisma and positivity to Alexandra House. As birthday prefect she celebrates each girl with love and ensures that no matter how far away home may be, everyone feels special on their birthday. A committed dancer, actress, and singer, Kenya has left a mark on the Bunch stage that will be missed almost as much as her presence in the house. She brings love and openness to the house and her kindness has contributed to the home away from home many girls are missing this year. She is an amazing young woman and will be missed by many next year.

Kenya’s speech - to be published next week on this Blog.

Thank you, Kenya, for those thoughtful and insightful words.

I was impressed with Kenya’s work ethic when I taught her last year. She was popular and respected by her classmates and had a great sense of humor which she showed in her speech. She would even politely smile at my lame attempts at humor in class and so will, I hope, appreciate the following story about a recent arrival to the Alex community.

Mrs, Warner was in labor and had reached the difficult transition stage, crying out:
“Don’t, I won’t, I can’t”. Somewhat nonplussed, Mr. Warner was on speaker phone with his buddy Paul Collis who had been through the experience twice before. Collis he said, “Did you hear that? My wife is stressing out.”
“Not to worry”  replied the eccentric teacher of English, “It is only a few contractions.”

Whittall House: Yale Handler with an introduction by Mr. Gage
Yale may look the same as in grade nine, but there has been lots of change for this young man as he has become an outstanding leader in the house. He cares immensely about the house and his Whittall brothers. His looks are deceiving - he is a very bright young man and it is impossible to think about Whittall without him.
Yale’s speech - to be published next week on this Blog.
Fine words and fine sentiments Yale. Thank you for that message.

Mackenzie House: Bridget Madigan with an introduction from Mrs. Cheung.
A super-lifer, here since Grade 8, Bridget is a fun-loving, honest, thoughtful person who is invested in whatever she is doing - she will admit that when she was in Mack in Grade 9 she was a “hot mess” but thankfully, things have settled down since.

Bridget’s speech - to be published next week on this Blog.

Thank You Bridget. That was a heartfelt message, which shows your personal growth here. I enjoyed working with you in rugby and loved your enthusiasm and sense of fun. But we knew you loved horses more.

Perhaps you know this one:
A horse walks into a bar. Clip clop clip clop. Up he goes to the bartender and shakes his head from side to side.
“Why the long face?” Says the bartender.

Ellis House: Derek Yu with an introduction by Mr. Wismer.
Derek Yu – has been quiet but impactful, stylish but simple. Mr. Skardal and I were extremely impressed with how many boys in Ellis mentioned Derek in their end of Brentwood Capstone presentations as someone who taught them just to be genuine, kind, and true to themselves. He always has a smile on his face, except when he passed out in front of a Grade 9 in the common room this winter and had to go to the hospital.
Derek loves his basketball and loves his fashion – he is headed to study at Parson’s School of Design in New York City.

Derek’s speech - to be published next week on this Blog.

Thanks Derek. I appreciate that public speaking is a challenge for you and it does show how much you care about the house that you were prepared to step up to the plate when asked. In a study across North America, people listed their greatest fears. #2 was death  #1 was public speaking.
As a member of Ellis House, Derek has heard most of my jokes and is a good listener as well as an excellent speaker. I think he also gets the punchline for most of them. Let’s try him.
Derek what do you call a camel with three humps?
Answer: Humpthree
Hope House: LJ Lavalee with an introduction by Ms Hedquist.

LJ is our speaker for Hope. She has grown from a younger, shyer student into a woman who has committed to building and maintaining relationships with all the girls of Hope. She has done this beautifully. Having faced some challenges growing up, she appreciates the importance of kindness. She has a rosy outlook on life which matches her complexion, especially when she blushes - it's really cute. She's a rock solid human in every aspect

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