In 1968, a recent university graduate, I remember being interviewed for a teaching position at Brebeuf College School in northern Toronto, the boonies in those days.
I was really nervous in the interview, after all it was the first job interview I had ever done for a real job, a career. I remember the interviewees, the school principal, Fr. Robert Meagher and the Vice Principal, Neil Gazeley. Trying to sound ingratiating and full of youthful impetuosity, I boasted to the principal about my attending a Catholic boys school in my old home town, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Mary’s College. “Oh yes, I am very familiar with priests managing schools. I went to a school run by priests, Basilians.”
Fr. Meagher replied, “I’m a Jesuit.” Gulp!
I taught at Brebeuf for 15 years until 1984, great years, many treasured memories, if only I could remember them.
Some I do and will just rhyme off some names for those alumni and former Brebeuf teachers who might read this:
Fr. Jim Toppings, “Door knob”, French teacher who never had a bad word about anyone;
Fr. Don Beaudois, “Chem lab run by an autocrat” but his bark was his biggest danger;
Fr. Clem Kambeitz, phys ed, coach, lover of football;
Fr. Robert Massie, incredibly articulate but could have starred on TV’s “Mom;”
So many teachers who were dedicated, energetic and devoted to doing the best job they could….and they did:
Lou Puccini, a gentle math teacher, like no other;
Pete Lee, French with sincerity and enthusiasm;
Bob Lato, math, but he couldnt handle a hammer or a screwdriver;
Mike Skebo, an oenologist before his time;
Tom Sullivan, a more well-read man doesn’t exist;
Jim Barry, the world’s best raconteur, always Waiting for Godot!
Bill Kennedy, phys ed head who managed his dept like a business;
Stan Kosior, ya needed a dictionary to talk with him;
Jim Hill, basketball coach who tolerated me as an assistant coach and whose phrase about our lasting impact on life has never left me: “Put your hand into a bucket of water, take it out. That’s what will remain after you are gone.”
Dan Dirocco, ran the best history dept in the school;
Holly Doyle, looked he just came back from dry cleaner’s…every day;
Fr. Winston Rye, a better school administrator doesn’t exist.
I even remember some of the best secretaries in the world, Eileen, Agnes, Helen, and Carine…great ladies all with wonderful personalities.
There were so many other great teachers, and not all men either. But the memory fades with the passing years. This morning it was jarred back a little by a phone call from Nabil Tadros, a former student, who went on to become a teacher and an outstanding basketball coach. Nabil wanted my permission to use my name and photo on an award. Me? Of all people.
Here’s a summary of what Nabil said:
I loved Mr. Szpin’s history class. It was educational and captivatingly interesting, especially the Grade 9 theme highlighting the gradual decline of the powers of the English Monarchy and the rise of Parliament. In Mr. Spzin’s class, I fondly remember one exercise where the students were asked to choose a famous piece of music and explain it’s musical interpretation. Mr. Szpin chose Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I followed that up with the Pathétique Symphony. Mr. Szpin praised my choice and my presentation, which was a big deal for me since I was not a natural pubic speaker. Thank you Mr. Szpin.
I remember you well as a young, timid lad who was tremendously polite and respectful always. I hope the respect you had for all others was reciprocated. Welcome to the website. I hope you enjoy exploring it even though I doubt you have hit the requisite “old folks” stage yet.
I never appreciated history until I finished university and went out in the working world. Many awesome memories of Brebeuf! Student Zippy Painters, Neoterics (Jim Barry), the 12 minute run ( took me 20 Thanks Mr. Hill!!). Great memories, still friends with many firmer classmates. Thank you Mr Szpin for the wonderful words an the stroll down memory lane!
You are another Brebeuf student that I remember quite well. The Teolis name was renown in the school with a brother and a cousin deeply involved in school activities. Kudos to you on your continuously successful struggle with the weight issues. It is a struggle I have been fighting unsuccessfully all my life but I am told, body size is not necessarily an accurate indicator of health. Still, you awareness of the health issue deserves praise and encouragement. Bravo…continued success in maintaining your healthy regimen.
Great summary of your colleagues.
Other memories have popped up. You were the first one to ask me if I knew the song “ahab the arab” right after “walk like an Egyptian” came out. By the way Egyptians today still love that song and there are many variations of that in Arabic.
Today I would be hung for being a racist and the song would be banned from the radio….likely already has been.