On the Old Ontario Strand

        Sheet music published by J.H. Peel Music Publishing Co., Toronto. Cover   by Virginia Boake ‘48 and Music arrangement by Joyce Belyea ‘46

As much as my writing reveals a nostalgic longing for the place and time of my childhood, I must acknowledge the importance of the last 25 years working as Associate Registrar at  Victoria College.

The best years of my life have been spent on another island, the Victoria Campus within the University of Toronto. This place has been a home, a shelter, a family, a gift, where I have been able to be myself, supported, accepted – even loved.

After graduating from university, I started full-time work at the Office of Admissions in the University of Toronto. Several years later, I walked over from Admissions on Bloor Street to Victoria College on the outer edge of the north east campus. The journey along those few Toronto city blocks felt like going to the ends of the earth. Waiting to greet me was then President, Dr. Eva Kushner, who made a point of offering me a gracious welcome as I started the newly created position of Assistant Registrar.

Her humble welcome was a template for all the people I would come to meet and work with over two and a half decades: professors, administrators, custodians, librarians – to name a few. In fact, all the Vic family, regardless of rank or position, treat each other as equals in our common mission: to be of service to students in our various capacities.

I found refuge in the “Old Ontario Strand, where Victoria evermore shall stand.” Every year, I join the Men’s Traditional Ceremony during Orientation Week. These beautiful September nights are full of promise as we welcome our first year students. We always end the ceremony by singing this traditional song with deep rich voices; years ago echoing in the cathedral-like Burwash Hall and, in more recent years, in the cocoon-like Chapel in Old Vic.

Today, the voices are still strong, and as we sing together, the little boy still inside of me, used to solitary gazing out into the world, finds warmth and a belonging in this company of young lives that makes me grateful for having found my place in this beloved institution.

Over the years I have had the honour of being in the same room with famous people: intellectuals, academics, even film directors. But the only one I remember distinctly is Northrop Frye, quietly standing, lost in the weight of his regal academic robes, waiting for the academic procession to start the year before he died.

In the yearly cycle of convocations and awards ceremonies I have listened to much wisdom and wit but all this pales when I consider the students I have met throughout the years. I have had the honour of listening to them, their dreams and hopes, their confusions, their fears, sometimes despair, sometimes joy, and I have tried to do one thing above all else: listen and acknowledge their life stories as authentically as I can.

As I receive a 25 Year Pin of Service, I am accepting and acknowledging a tangible sign of the best time of my life. Despite the ups and downs that inevitably mark a quarter of a century, Vic has been a constant source of stability and, above all, a home. Even though my time at Victoria is surely closer to the end than to the beginning, the physical space and the spirit of what is Victoria College will forever be a part of my inner landscape.

The little boy who came to Canada from the Azores found a new and welcoming home in Toronto, a city that has nurtured me and embraced me as one of its own native sons, as has Victoria College. I know that when the time finally come to leave Vic, I will most certainly look back on my time there with the same loving gaze which I normally reserve for looking out across Lake Ontario towards the Atlantic Ocean, hoping to still see that place I used to call home.

About thetorzorean

The musings of a torontonian azorean on identity and belonging. You can find me at https://thetorzorean.com/
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2 Responses to On the Old Ontario Strand

  1. Marcia Campbell says:

    Congratulations on your 25 year service at Victoria College, Emanuel! Your article was beautifully written!

    Love, Marcia

    Like

  2. Kathie says:

    That sheet music cover could almost be an azulejo design 🙂

    Like

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