James FitzGerald

Old Boys

OLD BOYS: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College

Since opening its doors in 1829, Upper Canada College has stood at the very centre of the Canadian Establishment, turning out generations of Eatons and Bassetts, Masseys and Thomsons, Conachers and Airds. 

In "Old Boys", seventy-one old boys, graduates from the 1920s to the 1990s, recount with extraordinary insight and honesty the ways in which their lives were shaped -- and in some cases scarred -- by their experiences at UCC. 

No official history, this highly controversial glimpse inside Upper Canada College tells of triumph, scandal and tragedy, and has become, in the words of Robert Fulford, "the book that everyone interested in the Canadian elite is talking about."

James FitzGerald, an old boy himself (Class of 1968), comes from a family with close associations with Upper Canada College. His father and brother graduated from the school; his maternal ancestors were among the first generation of graduates in the 1830s and yet another was the architect who built UCC's original administration building and boarding houses in 1829. 

Trained as a journalist, FitzGerald has long been fascinated by the powerful mythology and legacy of UCC -- a school that could produce a federal cabinet minister and a drug-crazed murderer in the same graduating year. From the likes of Conrad Black, Ted Rogers, and Michael Wilson to Robertson Davies, Peter C. Newman, and Michael Snow, FitzGerald's contributors offer vivid portraits of life inside the walls of Canada's most famous private school -- and by extension, revealing insights into the formation of the shared attitudes and mindsets of generations of the English Canadian ruling class.


Published by Macfarlane, Walter and Ross, 1994

Gates of Upper Canada College, Toronto, founded 1829

Cover of Toronto Life Magazine, October 1994

Cover of Toronto Life Magazine, October 1994

Upper Canada College Preparatory School First Cricket Team, 1964

Reviews & Interviews

Something Old, Something New, Amazon Review of “Old Boys”, By Elizabeth Smythe Brinton, June 1, 2018

James FitzGerald has given us a fantastic gift. In compiling stories spanning decades, he has created a national treasure of personal accounts and anecdotes of the men who attended Upper Canada College in Toronto. For those of us, who, like me, had a boyfriend, a father, a grandfather, uncles, cousins and a brother at the school, I gained much insight into a culture that played a significant role in shaping the history of our family. The book describes what a same-sex education has to offer privileged males who run on pure competition. Win or lose, sink or swim: it is a game of Darwin’s social contract brought to the playing fields. What FitzGerald brought to the project is an almost impossible feat: asking males to describe what they felt about things. Spoken as one who spent years asking the same questions, and for the most part, only ending up with precious few answers, I am in awe of this work. READ FULL ARTICLE

"A masterful oral history..." - JOHN ALLEMANG, THE GLOBE AND MAIL • Nov. 26, 1994

"From the obviously repressed through the painfully revealing to the sometimes hilarious....stranger than fiction." - PETER FOSTER, CANADIAN BUSINESS MAGAZINE • December 1994

"A fascinating glimpse into the evolving male psyche...this book is the strongest argument I've ever read for co-education for boys." - CHARLOTTE GRAY, TORONTO STAR • Dec. 10, 1994 READ FULL ARTICLE

"James FitzGerald has put together a book that everyone interested in the Canadian elite will be talking about for a good while." - ROBERT FULFORD, GLOBE AND MAIL • Nov. 9, 1994 READ FULL ARTICLE

"Yeah, so what if some UCC teachers were pedophiles? All that stuff has been going on in educational institutions since Socrates met Plato." - JILL RIGBY, TORONTO SUN • Dec. 18, 1994

"When I picked up Old Boys, I couldn't put it down. When I put it down, it haunted me and it still does. I thought if half of this is true, then Upper Canada College, school of choice of the Canadian Establishment, might have burnt all of the remaining copies." - TED SCHMIDT, CATHOLIC NEW TIMES • Oct. 8, 2000 READ FULL ARTICLE

"FitzGerald got his subjects to reveal some alarming things...Sexual abuse was just part of the equation....What is most disturbing about a book like FitzGerald's, of course, is how many could have been written, but never were." - ZANDER SHERMAN, AUTHOR OF "THE CURIOSITY OF SCHOOL: EDUCATION AND THE DARK SIDE OF ENLIGHTENMENT", 2012

Radio Interviews

Related Articles

Richard Howard, "Lives Lived", Globe and Mail, November 20, 1996

Dick Howard personally embodied the complexity, paradox and powerful mythology of Upper Canada College. His legacy is subtle and profound: Thousands of impressionable pre-adolescent boys -- including men as diverse in politics and temperament as Conrad Black, Michael Ignatieff, Ted Rogers, Peter Dalglish, John Bosley, Stephen Clarkson, John Eaton, Rob Prichard, John Godfrey, and Avi Lewis -- passed under Dick's tutelage as prep master, housemaster and headmaster from 1943 to 1986. READ FULL ARTICLE

"It could happen to you," John Barber, Globe and Mail, November 14th, 1998

I don't his name, only that he is about my age and we attended the same private school about the same time. But he learned far more than I ever did at that place. I left before graduating, rebellious but naive in life. Had I stayed, I, too might have been raped by my history teacher. READ FULL ARTICLE

"Tower of Power", Toronto Life, May 1999 (Profile of Upper Canada College clock tower).

Even as a lowly eight-year-old new boy in 1958, droning the stanzas of the school song -- "High on a hill she stands/Her tower a landmark clear" -- I was struck by the irony of the pronoun. After all, at Upper Canada College, that thirty-five-acre incubator of the Canadian elite, females were -- and are -- scarce. Never mind that the verses had been composed by Mary (Bubbles) Sowby, wife of the principal, or that several of my masters were closeted gays. The thrusting UCC clock tower -- for more than a century a potent symbol of the Canadian Establishment, and of the city -- is nothing if not masculine.  READ FULL ARTICLE

"What would you say if I seduced you?", Peter Cheney, Globe and Mail, August 25th, 2001

Behind the gates of Upper Canada College, the private Toronto enclave for Canada's elite, scenes of sexual coercion and even assault by teachers upon students are alleged to have played themselves out over decades, always covered up by its old boys club. Now, legal charges have brought those claims into the open. Globe and Mail investigative reporter PETER CHENEY tells tales out of school. READ FULL ARTICLE

"Who is telling the truth?", Craig Offman, National Post, March 2, 2002

On an overcast morning last December, William Monash already had a few Black Ice beers in his system when his landlord dropped by his basement apartment in North Toronto and asked Monash if he needed a lift anywhere. Monash, who seldom left his room, said he had an appointment at Upper Canada College and, sure, he would love a lift. Minutes later, his landlord dropped him off outside the imposing gates of the city's most prestigious private boys' school. READ FULL ARTICLE

"I was afraid it was going to happen again," Peter Cheney, Globe and Mail, October 16, 2004

In 1975, blue-blooded Upper Canada College appeared to be a veritable oasis of scholarly calm. Below the surface, however, it was more of a school for scandal. PETER CHENEY turns back the clock at Canada’s most prestigious private boys academy to uncover the roots of the sensational sexual-abuse case that ended last week in the conviction of a former teacher. READ FULL ARTICLE

Henry John Pemmell "Happy Jack" Schaffter, "Lives Lived", Globe and Mail, November 1, 2011

Jack Schaffter was destined to teach. Descended from three generations of English missionaries, he was born in Persia (present-day Iran), where his parents, a surgeon and a nurse, ran a 100-bed missionary hospital.

At 5, Jack was packed off to an English boarding school where he suffered “weekly thrashings for being sad and bad.” When war erupted in 1939, his parents were cut off in Persia; Jack did not see them from age 8 to 18. READ FULL ARTICLE

"Nightmare on Avenue Road", Stephane Beauroy, Toronto Life, September 2013

Almost 40 years ago, Doug Brown, the notorious Upper Canada College teacher, repeatedly sexually assaulted me. Only now do I understand what he did to my life. READ FULL ARTICLE

Can We Learn From WASP virtues?”, Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post, December 7, 2018

Let me be clear. I — of all people — am not calling for a revival of the WASP establishment. I am asking, can we learn something from its virtues?


History of Upper Canada College — Wikipedia

The following are selected excerpts, published and un-published, taken from 300 tape-recorded UCC oral histories collected from 1991-1994. Following each name are the years the person attended UCC.

Excerpts from Interviews with UCC Alumni

The health of UCC is very important for the health of the country.
— Harry Wilson (1919-1922), former financier, chairman of the UCC board of governors, 1962-1967, and father of former federal finance minister, Michael Wilson
I rebelled against the whole system at Upper Canada, which I thought sadistic and totally unimaginative. It had no room in it for creative work or unconventional thought. There was one incident of real suppression after another, including countless canings. There was no doubt in my mind that the headmaster, Duke Somerville, enjoyed it. There was a real sadistic streak in the man. Intimidation was his whole stock and trade.
— Mavor Moore (1927), actor/director/playwright
Lots of guys were caned dozens of times. One guy got 30 whacks in succession. He boasted about it. They used a stick as big as your thumb and they would hit you in front of the class.
— Guy Purser (1919-1927), gas station manager
I didn’t go back to Upper Canada for a long time after I graduated because of the sociopolitical gap. I remember when I went back to an old boys’ dinner in the 1960s, I met a guy who said, ‘Are you still a fucking Commie?’ I said, ‘That’s one way to describe it.’ About five minutes later, somebody introduced me to another old boy. It turned out he was an RCMP inspector who had been probing and surveilling my underground political activities.
— Stanley Ryerson (1919-1929), former Communist activist and professor of history
Duke Somerville, the prep headmaster, was a peculiar fellow. He caned the hell out of kids, who used to line up outside his office. After the canings, he would put the kid on his lap, fondle his bum and kiss him in a way that was rather peculiar. It was noticeable to me even then. I still remember it. It was a funny kind of changeover, going from being terribly severe to suddenly shedding tears...

But I never felt any resentment about being beaten because that was part of the system. I used to charge people a quarter to see the marks on my ass...I think the held the record for being caned the maximum number of times in one month — 28. The prefects were allowed to give a maximum of six whacks, the masters eight. When I became a prefect, we used to order our birch canes especially from England.

The one big caning I remember is when we found two guys in bed together, one a new boy and the other about four years older. If they had been the same age, I don’t know what the hell we would have done. As prefects, we thought we would make an example of him, so we gave him six of the best. Not the young one. It wasn’t his fault. He was seduced, I presume.
— Ramsay Fraser (1921-1929), retired businessman and father of John Fraser, former editor of Saturday Night magazine
At the moment, I’d say that Upper Canada College has a better chance of surviving as it is than the country does.
— Kenneth McNaught (1929-1936), historian
In the late 1970s, I was asked to be an external examiner at Carleton University for Wallace Clement, a Canadian Marxist sociologist and a student of John Porter, the author of ‘The Vertical Mosaic.’

A lot of bearded, hippie graduate students attended his dissertation defense. In his speech, Clement said, ‘This book compares the Canadian and American elites, showing the Canadian elite to be much more elitist, exclusive and snobbish. They all went to Upper Canada College.’

When the time came for me to speak, I looked around the room and said, ‘I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I am the only person here who is a graduate of Upper Canada College.’ There was a general recoil as if I’d said I was a member of the SS.

I went on to say, ‘I notice this book has on its title page a quote from the philosopher George Grant, not only a graduate of Upper Canada College, but the son of the principal who built the school up to its present status. It also has a quote from Stanley Ryerson, a former Communist, also a graduate of Upper Canada College. I myself was steered by my UCC masters into the arms of the Communist Party.’

This rather upset the image of Upper Canada College as a training ground for capitalist, gung ho, right wing old boys. There was a real theoretical point to be made that UCC didn’t train people to be members of the corporate elite the way that Catholic schools train people to be Catholics or military schools train people to be militarists.
— Dennis Wrong (1936-1941), professor of sociology, New York University
A lot of the UCC guys were assholes, but I liked them.
— Galt MacDermot (1937-1942), musician and co-author of the Broadway musical "Hair"
My experience at Upper Canada was probably the single most important experience of my entire life. I loved the place with a passion. I loved the masters and the student hierarchy. I availed myself of all of the wonderful things that were available to me. The lifelong friendships I made at Upper Canada were so powerful that they transcended anything I subsequently found in university or in business. But being a UCC old boy wasn’t helpful to me in a business sense. You simply made a lot of solid, bedrock, hardcore friendships which stick with you all of your life.
— Richard Davidson (1935-1945), former president, Brewer's Retail
Upper Canada College in my day was a macho, athletic, militaristic, authoritarian place which was an embodiment and an encouragement of a male-dominated hierarchy. You expected that men would run things. I hope that’s changing now, but Upper Canada has made a major historical contribution to that mentality. You learned to wear a uniform, like heavy armour. A lot of men are now getting tired of wearing their emotional armour.
— Bruce McLeod (1939-1946), former president, Canadian Council of Churches
One day, our housemaster called me into his room. There were a bunch of hockey sticks leaning against the wall. I thought, ‘Oh boy, he’s going to give me a new stick!’

’Pick one out’ he said. I did and then he took it from me, hefting it. ‘Now bend over’ he said. When I did, he whacked me with the stick, a hell of a blow, and told me I was getting it because I had skipped Sunday School the previous day. I thought it was a rotten Upper Canada trick, and I still do...

I hated my years at UCC. I recognize that UCC discipline has helped produce some of the finest Canadians in many fields. But my firsthand opinion was that it also produced a lot of skunks. 

Years later, I insisted that my sons, Hugh and Stafford, go to UCC simply because I knew from my own experience that once a boy had gone to Upper Canada, he would never again be in awe of great family names, money, power or social standing. He would know that although a good private school like UCC can produce the best, it can also produce the worst.
— Conn Smythe (1908-1910), founder, Maple Leaf Gardens. (Quoted from "Conn Smythe: If You Can't Beat 'Em in the Alley", McClelland and Stewart, 1981) 
We never had any rebellion at UCC in my time. My God, what’s the use of going to a school if you don’t believe in it?
— Allan Lamport (1919-1923), former Mayor of Toronto
I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Upper Canada College system. 
— Robertson Davies (1928-1932), author
UCC was a murderous establishment, absolutely brutal. Very quietly going on all the time was a homosexual undercurrent, which mostly came from the headmaster.
— John Macdonald (1921-1930), retired civil servant
In 1942, I was serving as an intelligence officer when our ship was sunk at night by a German submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. During the long ordeal in the water, watching people die, part of my salvation was figuring out that somehow I had to get through to dawn. Not that dawn was a guaranteed salvation, but I knew I had a better chance in the light. I knew I had to conserve my energy. I saw a lot of people, much stronger than me, thrashing about in a panic, drowning and bleeding all around me. In the morning, I was able to swim to a lifeboat.

The things that sustained me were not religious beliefs. They were habits of mind, of self-discipline, of thinking, logic and deduction that I had learned as a boy at Upper Canada College. I owe a debt, perhaps even my life, to those influences.
— John McCordick (1927-1933), diplomat. (McCordick suicide six months after this interview).
I was lucky enough to have been a governor of the Toronto Stock Exchange and vice-chairman of the Investment Dealers’ Association. Therefore I was at the centre of what was going on. I saw that if you have an absolute monopoly, you hang onto it as long as you can because you make money hand over fist. It’s a license to steal. Not in a bad sense. As long as you had enough sense to see that you have to give the public a break, that you had a monopoly and therefore you could set your connections.

In my time, the changes started. The do-gooders said we’ve got to compete with the British, the French, the Americans. I always said, ‘Why do we have to compete? We’ve got a license to steal. Just hang on to it.’ Now you have the banks owning the few remaining investment houses. It’s really sad. It was all done in the marvellous pursuit of progress. Progress is when you’ve got something good and you don’t give it away.
— Norman Bell (1929-1939), retired stockbroker
Among my contemporaries at UCC, Arnold Smith, George Grant and myself all became Rhodes Scholars. Arnold Smith, who was four years older than me, got his Rhodes along with George Ignatieff. They both wound up in External Affairs. We had an extraordinary group of people in the External Affairs Department after the war who had a great deal of idealism that was internationalist in scope...if UCC really was a womb matrix for a bunch of WASP patriots, why did it produce so many internationalists?
— James George (1926-1936), diplomat
I learned to be a sexual masochist at Upper Canada. I’m not kidding. Whenever the housemaster caught me masturbating, his way of dealing with it was to cane me. Caning is a rotten method of teaching anything. What it taught me, of course, was the erotic connections of caning. They are still with me to this day.
— John Gartshore (1935-1943), musician
I think expectations placed on children more often come from parents than from school. The kid who thinks he has got to conquer the world because he went to UCC has got a real monkey on his back.
— Hugh Macaulay (1933-1943), former chairman of the board, Canadian Tire Corporation
UCC old boys such as Stanley Ryerson and myself, who became socialists, are an exception. There is no accounting for the change in some people. I think the general collective picture is more accountable for change within individuals...

In many ways, the school was a caricature of upper class attitudes. It was almost as if it was being done deliberately in order to justify itself, as if to say, “This is the way we do it.’ Not that all the boys behaved that way. I can’t reject them all categorically, because though I wouldn’t say I came from the ruling class, I did come from a professional class. But I don’t count on the ruling class to change its spots...

I went back to my 25th class reunion in 1968 just after I had run for the federal NDP. The old boys knew I was a renegade and behaved accordingly. It wasn’t that I pushed socialism at them. They just didn’t want to talk with me. So, piss on them.
— Dan Heap (1940-1943), former NDP member of parliament
I felt socially awkward on leaving UCC. If there had been girls in the classroom, I might have got laid earlier.
— Michael Snow (1942-1948), artist
UCC was a whole world unto itself, my home for 12 years. Despite its dark side, it was an incredible experience for me, a kid from a broken home...

I remember some sadism of a particularly virulent kind. Once, during the war, we had a smoker in the boarding house and an old boy who had recently joined the American army was invited. He invented some punishments for us in the basement of Seaton’s House. 

Wearing his U.S. army uniform, he filled a couple of waste baskets with paper and set fire to them. We had to crawl on our hands and knees to one end of the basement, fill our mouths with water from the drinking fountain, then crawl back and try to put out the fire by spitting on it. Lined up in the hallway were boys with hockey sticks who beat us over our backs, trying to get us to spit out the water before we reached the baskets....If you put that scene into a movie like ‘Dead Poets Society’, no one would believe it.
— James B. Douglas (1936-1948), actor
I used to protect Ted Rogers at UCC because guys would want to beat up on him. He was as skinny as a rake. They used to call him ‘Bones.’ When I visited Toronto in 1991, I thought I’d look up old Bones, who I hadn’t seen since UCC days, 40 years earlier. You can easily confuse UCC and Ted Rogers’ house on Frybrook Avenue because they are about the same size. A maid came to the door and I said, ‘Is Mr. Rogers at home?’ She said, ‘Yes. Who are you?’ I said, ‘Just tell him Butts Campbell is here.’ She came back a minute later and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Rogers is terribly busy right now.’ So I didn’t get to see him. Of course, he’s a billionaire now.
— Bill "Butts" Campbell (1944-1950), soldier
I came away from my 10 years at UCC feeling bitter...but I’m not complaining because I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life. Having had some adversity helped me. People who have had some adversity tend to work harder. They are more driven. If everything is handed to you on a plate, you’re less likely to struggle.
— Ted Rogers (1941-1951), media baron
In my first year in the prep at age seven, Mrs. Milsom used to hit us on both hands with a wooden spoon. I remember I used to get sick all the time at that age. It was just nerves... 

Every morning, a taxi cab used to drive around Rosedale and pick up seven or eight of us, including my friend Michael Wilson, en route to UCC. My mother developed a technique of putting a brown paper bag on my stomach every morning. If she heard a wrinkling noise, she knew I was going to be sick. One day she ran out of paper bags. When I got into the cab, I vomited all over the cab driver’s neck.
— Julian Porter (1943-1950), libel lawyer
The school made an effort to bring in leaders to talk to us. You had a sense that you were in an educational institution that was special. Implicitly, you were expected to use that. You were imbued with a sense of importance of achievement...but at that point, I can’t say I was thinking, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be minister of finance.
— Michael Wilson (1949-1955), former federal Progressive Conservative minister of finance and current member of the board of governors, Upper Canada College
Michael Wilson and I were each other’s best friend for about eight years. It’s funny: I was better at math than he was, and he became federal finance minister.
— Tom Godwin (1947-1955), cardiologist
Growing up in the privileged UCC world, I didn’t see anything but the wonderfully rich, embossed side of life. Every Christmas, we were encouraged to contribute to families who were far less well off than we were, but it wasn’t until after I graduated from medical school that I realized that most people didn’t grow up in a privileged cocoon like I did. I discovered that the bulk of the world’s population live in a tough, killer environment where nothing is certain. 

I can’t blame UCC for that, but I decided early on that I wanted out of that protected world. If you chose to, you could spend your life within the silken, gossamer orbit of UCC, BSS, the Granite Club and the Rosedale Golf Club. You could follow your Dad as a lawyer or stockbroker. I wanted to see how the other half lived.
— Dr. Joseph MacInnis (1945-1956), explorer
If you want a good, broad education, and a lot of extra programs to fill out the rest of your young life, UCC is the place for you. But you have to work for it. It isn’t handed to you on a plate.
— John Craig Eaton (1945-1957), chairman, T. Eaton Company of Canada and chairman of the board of governors, Upper Canada College, 1987-1992
I was accepted at UCC because I could do things most guys there couldn’t do. I was fortunate to have won all sorts of trophies in track, football, boxing and hockey. I could beat a lot of them athletically, so I survived. UCC is certainly a place of survival of the fittest.
— Lionel Conacher (1950-1956), president, Canadian Tire Associate Store
Once I boxed Lionel Conacher. My defences were useless against his avalanche of punches. They just came in one after another. I couldn’t stop it. It was a bad match, but it was a challenge to personal courage. Boxing is excellent training. I was sorry that the school eventually dropped it because it was a real man’s sport. You learned how to be a man.
— Edward Jackman (1948-1958), Dominican priest
At UCC, I was in a group of self-serving jerks and spoiled brats who would boast about how many shirts they had...Going to work for Pierre Trudeau was my final divorce from anything Upper Canada-ish. Anybody I knew who was the slightest bit Establishment Toronto thought I was the biggest asshole in the world. They would lecture me on how Trudeau was ruining the country.
— Patrick Gossage (1950-1956), former press secretary for Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Once when he went on a school trip, he saw a 12 year old prep boy pull out a bag of cocaine. The violence was mindless, boys attacking other boys for the fun of it. When my son switched to Lawrence Park Collegiate, he said the difference was night and day. He said, ‘It was such a relief to get out of that place because I no longer had to worry about getting mugged when I walked down the hall.
— Lawrence Kerslake (1948-1957), professor, Trinity College, University of Toronto
I remember as a young lawyer, I had just been made a partner in a big law firm, Smith Lyons. A very young lawyer who had been out about a year came into my office one day in tears. A couple of senior partners had been very hard on him because he had made a mistake, which is what young lawyers do. 

He said, ‘You know, Frank, I came up through a poor family.’ After he told me his story, he said, ‘Those bastards are all Upper Canada College graduates. You know the bastards, Frank.’ He did not know that I went to Upper Canada, which I considered a compliment. I never did tell him. I just said I thought they were all a bunch of pricks too.
— Frank Kelso Roberts (1949-1957), trial judge
After a series of vicious canings, I became completely and perniciously insubordinate and undermined the school in various ways, culminating in stealing the final examinations and selling them to the boys in the school. It’s not something to be proud of, but I’m not ashamed of it either...The school threw me out at age 14. I bear UCC no ill will. I think it’s a good school and I wish it well. But I do not seek any acts, symbolic or otherwise, of re-acceptance by them.
— Conrad Black (1951-1959), media baron
One of our masters was known as ‘The Beast of Belsen.’ He struck holy terror in us. Once, instead of caning me on the behind, he caned me on the top part of my legs. To prove it, I charged people a quarter to see the welts. Sick schoolboy society!
— John Fraser (1953-1961), former editor, Saturday Night magazine
Anti-Semitism was generally an unspoken undercurrent at UCC, but a couple of times I witnessed overt anti-Semitism. When the NDP politician David Lewis spoke at the school, a teenage classmate said something about a kike lawyer. I remember it so vividly because it was one of the handful of times that I heard that kind of overtly vicious, virulent anti-Semitism.

I think that kind of thing was a reflection of a certain kind of Granite Club Toronto, the Toronto that is personified in politicians like Michael Wilson. I don’t mean to say that Michael Wilson is anti-Semitic, but there is a kind of narrow, stalwart, unimaginative, elitist, exclusionary mentality at work. It’s not for nothing that the rest of Canada didn’t like Toronto even before Harold Ballard, a UCC old boy, ruined the Toronto Maple Leafs. Before 1960, Toronto was a pretty narrow, close-minded, little Victorian town and Upper Canada College reflected that reality.
— Graham Fraser (1960-1964), Globe and Mail Washington Bureau Chief
My basic grievance against UCC is that it socialized me against my will as opposed to letting me develop into whatever I am. Places like UCC have no idea what real spirituality is all about. I still resent the place because they wanted to snuff out your divine spark at an early age and they succeeded in many cases. I left the place feeling angry and fucked up. I still have problems relating to women...

Robertson Davies for me personifies the kind of mentality that comes out of that place. I just recognize this thing instinctively for what it is. Whatever it is, it is extremely repressed. Part of it is not looking at women as real people.
— Chris Gilmour (1957-1965), former commodities broker
There is an ugly side to UCC. Some men get a sexual rush from caning little boys. Unfortunately, private schools that encourage you to cane little boys attract such people to teach. I assume there are various nasty secrets hidden away in the bowels of the school’s history. They are best left there.
— Robert Prichard (1956-1967), former president, University of Toronto and member of board of governors, Upper Canada College
C.G. Jung said there are four male archetypes — king, warrior, lover and magician. UCC is definitely a male warrior school. It is unpopular to defend the warrior archetype, but it exists as part of the male make-up. Men shouldn’t wimp out and deny it.
— Patrick Crean (1961-1967), book publisher
I believe the ethic that underlies Upper Canada is a belief in excellence and a belief in service, which in the 1990s seems very old-fashioned. But if you look at the qualities that are most needed in Canadian public life, business, or whatever sector, those two values are needed today perhaps more than ever before. At UCC, there is a desire to create the very best, to achieve and to make a contribution that uses all of your talents to the fullest. UCC can have a profound impact, something that perhaps you can set in perspective only some years down the road.
— Perrin Beatty (1963-1968), former federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and currently president of the CBC
I ran into Perrin Beatty at a Christmas party in 1993 after he had just been defeated in the federal election. We used to be roommates at UCC. His wife turned to me at the party, after she’d had a cocktail or two, and said, ‘You know, enormous damage was done when Perrin went to UCC. We have spent over 25 years trying to undo some of the damage — the closed-offness, the defensiveness, the stiffness — that came from his years at Upper Canada.’ 

Then, after a couple of cocktails, Perrin himself said to me, ‘I hated every second of UCC.’ I was just amazed. I thought I was the fucking rebel, and here I am with the good memories of UCC. I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I’m supposed to be the one saying these things.’
— David Gilmour (1959-1967), novelist/former CBC broadcaster
Because I grew up on the margins of WASP Establishment Toronto, I always felt an ambivalence and insecurity when I entered their mansions and clubs. Initially I was attracted to that world and then I discovered as an adult that the identity and sense of worth of the Rosedale/Forest Hill Chosen is based on a fundamentally narrow mindset that is often racist and homophobic. 

I know people like that. They are not necessarily hateful people, but their ideas are hateful. Because they are permanently locked into that mindset, it would be psychologically devastating if they were forced to recant. They reach a point of no return where they simply can’t change. 

A nervous breakdown is the only way out because you are shattering the foundations on which your personality has been formed. You either have a breakdown and rebuild, or you resist, carry on and tough it out. I’m not saying that UCC would have necessarily done that to me if I had stayed at the school for 10 years. But today I’m glad that my parents let me leave the school, at age nine, after spending only three weeks in the boarding house.
— Oakland Ross (1962), journalist
They beat the shit out of me at UCC but I got straight A’s at university. I’m not overly bright. In fact, I’m lazy. But UCC instilled in me the idea of getting my work done. You have to be tough in this world, and UCC made me tough...

I feel strongly enough about UCC that I gave them $5,000 at my 20th year old boys’ reunion in 1990. But I understand that an increasing number of visible minorities are now getting into UCC, particularly Hong Kong money. Who else can afford $12,500 tuition fees these days? There is still a WASP power base on Bay Street but UCC is becoming slowly diluted. 

If I ever have a son, they better well let him in instead of Who Flung Dough. Who does the school get their money from? Guys like me! The old boy system let me in because my Dad, who is a judge, went to the school. It should still count for something. If I start to see too many towel-heads and Chinese wandering around the halls of UCC, I’m turning off the tap. I’m dead serious.
— Kingsley Graham (1963-1970), criminal lawyer
At UCC, you could never show any weakness because of the viciousness of the boys...I have lived alone for years. I try to surround myself with a quality of life that is so distant from my UCC years. I would like to be a better person. I would love to be more accessible, friendly and comfortable around people, but I’m not. I blame UCC for it.
— Robert Pattillo (1958-1968), vice-president, Alliance Communications
In my day, UCC was very snobbish, overly tied to monarchism and acdemically inferior. Peter Newman and I vowed we would never send our sons to UCC. I kept that vow.
— James Bacque (1936-1947), author
As a young immigrant boy at UCC, I learned how to survive in Canadian society.
— Peter Newman (1945-1949), author of "The Canadian Establishment"
UCC becoming co-ed would be a disaster. That may make me sound like some kind of dinosaur, but look what has happened to poor old Trinity College and Ridley College since they went co-ed in the 1980s. They have disappeared from the map as great educational institutions. The ‘Little Big Four’ private boys’ schools — Upper Canada, Ridley, Trinity and St. Andrew’s — were once an enormous force in Ontario.
— Arthur Whealy (1938-1948), criminal court justice
My father, Foster Hewitt, who went to UCC from 1915 to 1921, was entirely devoted to the concept of Upper Canada College...

During the school’s $17 million fundraising campaign in the late 1980s, I decided to donate $1 million. I know that my father would have approved. A few years later, the new Foster and Bill Hewitt Athletic Centre was officially opened at Upper Canada on February 21, 1992. John Eaton, the chairman of the board of governors, was at the sod turning, along with other members of the UCC community. 

In my speech, I did a mock play-by-play hockey broadcast. I started by saying, ‘Hello, Canada! This is Foster Hewitt from Upper Canada College.’ At the edge of the dais were some shovels and hard hats. Just as I said Dad’s name, the hats and shovels spontaneously fell on the ground. Nobody had touched them. It totally stunned me. I stopped for a second and looked up. I said, ‘Yeah, Dad, I know you’re up there.’ 
— Bill Hewitt (1940-1949), broadcaster
About 20 years after I graduated, I was invited to speak to the boys in the prayer hall. I gave an address called ‘Upper Canada College Students in a Sick Society.’ I told them that their parents, by and large, were ripping off society. I said UCC boys were not constructive members of society because they were spoiled brats. They owed something to society but they would probably never repay it because they were going to follow in their parents’ footsteps onto Bay Street, ripping off people with inside information and conflict of interest.

If you were a failure, you did not have to worry. The insurance company picked you up because presumably you had some social skills and you could use those to con your friends you had at Upper Canada into buying insurance and keeping you alive...I got a standing ovation.
— John Crispo (1946-1952), political scientist
One can argue that UCC, as the pre-eminent private school in English Canada, has had a large impact on the country. In my judgment, it has been largely negative.

Canada’s elite has been protected throughout its history by the Pax Britannica, which made it incapable of even conceiving of a threat to its integrity...UCC was originally set up in 1829 to perpetuate the elite, at that time the oligarchy of the Family Compact, which needed to protect itself against the masses internally and the American threat externally. 

Ironically, as UCC has evolved, it has really defeated its own purposes. It prepared its elite to accept a continuation of imperial dependency that has undermined its own integrity. There are a number of paradoxes in this, since the new American imperial culture is less democratic and more class ridden and polarized than the present Canadian dependency...

The overall impact of UCC on the country is personified in Michael Wilson, an architect of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the GST and a contemporary of mine at UCC...In the pathology of Canada, namely its incapacity to perceive its own interests as different from and threatened by those of its dominant partner, there is something of an historic tragedy. Canada has come to a position where the only thing it can do is to tag onto the economic and political system of a declining American hegemony. I see Upper Canada College as a microcosm of the problem...

Recently UCC used John Porter’s sociological data published in his book, ‘The Vertical Mosaic’ — namely that UCC has produced a disproportionately high number of leaders in all walks of Canadian life — as fundraising material. If that is indeed true, then UCC has to accept some responsibility for where those leaders have led the country — to the brink of collapse.
— Stephen Clarkson (1945-1955), political scientist
I went to UCC at age seven because my father was killed in World War II...Long before I read Thomas Hobbes, I understood what he was talking about: ‘The condition of man is a condition of war of each against all.’ There was constant fighting in the prep boarding house. When I went home on Sundays, my mother would tell me that I would have black eyes and cuts on my face. I remember kids would fight at the slightest provocation. It was a very bizarre, nasty and brutish existence. The relish with which some of the masters caned little boys was quite extraordinary. There were some very unpleasant men who clearly derived sadistic pleasure out of bullying and beating little boys.
— Robert Martin (1946-1957), professor of law, University of Western Ontario
I like living alone. I haven’t been to a party in 20 years. I doubt very much if I will ever get married. I believe that my seven year stretch at boarding school, at an age when you’re so influenced by your environment, had something to do with it. It retarded you, socially and sexually.
— Alan Walker (1946-1953), former executive editor, Maclean's magazine
I always thought there was something wrong with me that I hated my time at UCC. What a sick place it was in the 1950s under Dr. Sowby...I always thought I was singled out because I was not rich like the Eatons and Bassetts. How I envy my friends who went to a normal high school and talk of it being the happiest years of their lives...

I arrived at UCC a frightened, sensitive, shy young boy of 13 and I was met with intimidation, domination and abuse instead of help, leadership and understanding. As long as I live, I will never forget the extreme physical abuse I suffered from one of the masters in the upper school. Some very unpleasant flashbacks of physical and mental abuse still come back to me...I have avoided all contact with my former inmates since leaving.
— Andrew Kennedy (1952-1956), Air Canada pilot
I remember having dinner years ago with the feminist Germaine Greer and having a hell of a row with her over some of her attitudes. I suppose some feminists would think I’m out to lunch. I don’t know whether that goes back to Upper Canada and the fact that we didn’t associate with girls at school.
— Bill Graham (1950-1957), Federal Liberal MP, Rosedale
We’re going to be in a major crisis if we don’t awfully soon find a way of doing something serious and intentional about spirituality. Materialism and all the rest of it is going to let you down. So a lot of what Upper Canada taught us was a lie. All the stuff that we thought would make life good and beautiful hasn’t worked. It’s a problem for the school and a problem for society.
— Andrew Hutchison (1950-1956), Anglican Bishop of Montreal
Structure is very good for a young person’s life...I learned about discipline, accountability and standards at UCC. After the exams, they used to post the marks. Everybody used to see what you got. It was a public display of achievement, or lack of it. You died a thousand deaths if you didn’t do well. As a result, you tried to do something about it.
— Alan Tonks, (1956-1959), former chairman, Metropolitan Toronto
For many years, I refused to go to any old boy reunions. I felt I would stand out as a left wing pariah. I imagined somebody like Conrad Black starting into a tirade and me being the only socialist in the place. I imagined myself either rising to the bait or swallowing my tongue and selling out my values...

It is a cliche that we repress painful experiences. But I was amazed to discover at my 25th year reunion how deeply I had forgotten, repressed or excluded the warm, deep, friend-for-life experiences that I had as a boy at UCC because of my own hardening ideological opposition to the school and all that it stood for. As a Marxist, I had become so vigorous in my opposition to the school as a ruling class institution that I had completely forgotten how happy I was there.
— Wally Seccombe (1957-1963), professor of sociology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
The UCC culture in my time was basically Tory, Anglican and fantastically patrician. I think anybody who was at UCC has to wrestle with the anomaly and irony of a patrician education in an egalitarian society like Canada. The contradiction is particularly flagrant...

The Canadian elite must be an open, permeable elite which is colour blind, religion blind and gender blind. There has to be an elite based not even on intelligence but character. They will mostly come from schools that bear no resemblance to Upper Canada College. The Canadian elite must listen to the music that is coming up from the ground. Upper Canada doesn’t teach you to listen to it, but you have to. If the elite doesn’t listen, the country is dead.
— Michael Ignatieff (1959-1965), author/broadcaster
Before long, my roommate began to hit me. Maybe he realized I was easy to manipulate and maybe he despised me for it. A little while later, he made a sexual move on me. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I was physically and sexually abused in that situation all year long...

This experience obviously didn’t do anything for my self-esteem. It really knocked me down. I wish there had been someone I could have talked to. The abusive situation was really confusing to me. I sort of got into it, but I really didn’t know what was happening. I was very confused by the sexual stuff, and he beat me up as well. The mixture of the two things was so confusing emotionally. You know this sort of thing happens in jails, but nobody ever talks about it. Part of me liked the attention. I hadn’t been told it was bad.
— Galt Kortright (1960-1965), Anglican priest dying of AIDS
Recently a UCC old boy from the 1920s told me that Stanley Ryerson, a direct descendant of Egerton Ryerson, the founder of the Canadian public school system, was bullied unmercifully at the prep. He said, ‘Morning after morning, Ryerson would be at the centre of a ring of howling banshees.’ Ryerson later became a Communist and understandably so. What dismayed this old boy was that the adults didn’t seem to notice or care about the rampant bullying...

I remember, early in my teaching career, I gave a small prep boy three swats with a stick. He’d done something outrageous and he took it very cheerfully. I didn’t think it had much effect on him. But as the third stroke descended, to my shame and mortification, I hit his hand. 

I didn’t hear anything more about it. Two days later, I saw the boy with a bandage on his hand. I made discreet enquiries and learned that he had gone for an X-ray at the infirmary and the nurse found a broken bone. The nurse had asked, ‘How did you get this?’ The boy said, ‘Catching a cricket ball.’ He saved my career. His father, who was the mayor of North Bay, could have sued me. That was a turning point in my tawdry career. I stopped beating boys from that point on. It was madness, utter madness.
— John Schaffter, UCC prep master 1950-1968; headmaster, St. John's Ravenscourt School, Winnipeg, 1968-1977; headmaster St. Michael's University School, Victoria, 1977-1988
In grade 11, I roomed with David Molson, who was a really gentle, sweet-natured guy. His parents, Hartland and Lucille Molson, had been very good friends of my parents. When his parents split up, David and his brother Peter were put into boarding. It was always clear that David was very, very fond of his mother. What people said in the school was that Mrs. Molson had been playing around on her husband. At some point in the family drama, Mr. Molson ended up killing himself.

During this period, David started to unravel in front of us. What a martrydom! We roomed with a guy who was called a spaz, a complete retard, all of the things that Upper Canada prided itself on calling people. David’s thing to do to our roommate was to force him behind a door and then hurl himself against the door, squashing him. The poor guy would stand there screaming in pain. There was no way to get out. David just hurled himself against the door and it would go on and on and on. People would just say, ‘Shut up! What are you, a girl?’

I still remember the horrible feeling of trying to drag David Molson off him. David used to get up in the middle of the night and persecute the guy. He’d wake him up and pour water on him and lie in the dark and throw lighted matches on him. David was just unbelievably angry. He’d refer to his mother and father with a string of obscenities. When he got letters from his parents, he would tear them up and scream and shout.

The next year, he signed himself out of the boarding house, went to a UCC boy’s house across the street, and shot himself. Everybody said, ‘Oh, what a terrible tragedy!’ I remember a terrible feeling of sadness about the whole thing. It was awful. When I look back on it, part of me asks, ‘Why didn’t I do something?’ I should have done something, but another part of me says I was only a 16 year old boy at the time. Where the fuck were the teachers? Where were the counsellors? Where were the advisors? Where was the housemaster? What the hell was going on?
— Andrew Ignatieff (1962-1969), community worker
Our behaviour at UCC was driven by deprivation of contact with girls. There is no question that women have a civilizing effect on men. A concentration of males in one place really does degenerate into a low common denominator. It’s very primitive. I shudder at the things we said about women, the things we thought about them, the way we treated them. Only in university did I realize that I didn’t have a female friend. That’s when I asked, ‘Why me? Why can other people who do not have a privileged background form female friendships and I can’t?
— Peter Szatmari (1959-1970), child psychiatrist
I remember a boy who was caned in the prep boarding house. The master kicked him when he was down and he had a bruise all over his arm. His buttocks were just black and blue. He ran away to his home that night, after the caning. His parents sent him right back to the school...I believe that anyone who attended an all-male private school for any length of time is, to some degree, a casualty.
— Dave Hadden (1964-1971), former professional football player and currently headmaster, Lakefield College
I remember discovering a psychotic streak in myself at age 10 in the mandatory prep boxing tournaments. In some ways, it was a useful experience. 

At first, I had no idea what I would do with these big gloves on my fists. But when I got into the ring, I suddenly started to hit the other kid and I remember I actually enjoyed it. But there was something terrible about it too. I won the fight and I remember going into the locker room afterwards. My opponent was in front of me, weeping. I put my arm around him and said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.’

In my second fight, I was matched against Peter Hayman, the quarterback of the football team and the son of the founder of the Montreal Alouettes. I was filled with horror because I thought I was going to be killed. It turned out he was a gentle soul and I beat the shit out of him too. Finally, in my third fight, I got the shit beaten out of me. He finished my boxing career that year and also put my own latent psychosis in perspective.

On reflection, I think there was actually a lot of good things in the traditional ways kids were raised before the politically correct ambience lowered itself into the culture. Organized activities like boxing acknowledged the darker moments of childhood that cannot be acknowledged anymore. I don’t know where kids’ natural cruelty and darkness is supposed to go nowadays. 

In my case, boxing made me acknowledge my own unconscious. It is important to learn to acknowledge what happens when you hit somebody, even in a context when it is not anger that necessarily provokes you. You examine the experience and learn something about yourself. Then it means something else again when you are angry, which is also useful information. UCC seemed to have a line on traditional stuff like that, but unfortunately they did not know how to talk about it creatively.
— Jonathan Goldsmith (1963-1970), musician
I came away with a lot of emotional scars from UCC. In the prep, there was a sadistic teacher who would cane kids for the slightest thing. He would cane me for going to the bathroom after lights out, he would cane me for getting my shoes scuffed, he would cane me for not eating all the food on my plate. Maybe he was doing it because he was anti-Semitic. I was the only Jewish boarder in the prep. 

Some nights, he was noticeably drunk. That’s when he was the meanest. When you are an eight year old boy and a cruel adult is making your life miserable, it feels like an overwhelming problem. My ongoing anger at UCC is based on the fact that he was allowed to get away with it. Over the years, he was promoted and rewarded by the system. He’s still there, in fact. There is something sick about an institution that would let someone like him have access to little boys for 40 years. There were some intelligent, enlightened people at the school too. Why the hell were they protecting this guy?
— Peter Page (1962-1970), public school teacher
For UCC to boast of providing a broad, liberal education — and not include what women bring to that liberal education — is almost irresponsible.
— Rodger Wright (1965-1970), headmaster, Trinity College School
One of the history masters used to take boys on trips out west. God knows what happened on those trips. If there was something going on, according to my grapevine, the sexual relationship was mutual. In one isolated case, a boy was raped by this master. The boy was drunk after a squash game and he walked into it as an unexpected experience. I didn’t hear about it until after the master left UCC to teach at Appleby College, another private school. I heard that the boy had a breakdown the following year at Queen’s University. I’m amazed that the boy’s parents didn’t take legal action in that particular case.
— Patrick Johnson, principal, Upper Canada College, 1965-1975
One night, when I was 15, I came home at about 2am. I was going to bed when I heard a whimpering sound, like a dog or an animal. I walked into our living room, which was a large, open-concept room with a large picture window overlooking our swimming pool.

Sitting on the couch was my Dad. He was crying. He was drunk to the point of not being fully conscious of anyone around him, but having that vague realization that somebody else was there as I sat down beside him. He was talking to himself in a drunken, slurring way. He kept saying, ‘I always wanted to be an archaeologist.’ He was crying because in fact, after UCC, he had become a businessman, and a fairly successful one at that.

He was in a lot of pain. I remember he waved his hand across the picture windows and said, ‘All of this means nothing.’ He went on and on about Thomas Leakey discovering the first homo sapien in Africa, about how he had always wanted to spend his life digging up fossils and discovering old civilzations.

As he talked, I looked out at the pool. I didn’t just see the pool — I saw Upper Canada College, Branksome Hall, the Granite Club, the Badminton and Racquet Club, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. For the first time in my life, I saw the school, the house, the neighbourhood and everything else completely differently. Very suddenly, I realized that none of it meant a goddamned thing. It was totally meaningless because the man who had created it had not been true to himself. From that day on, I have never cared a whit for money....When my father died 20 years later, he was flat broke.
— Lawrence Day (1967-1971), actor/real estate agent
Our history master, Nobby Noble, was a charismatic guy who befriended a lot of the boys. In our classes, he would make references to male bonding, how Alexander the Great had a sexual relationship with a friend who accompanied him on all of his military campaigns.

The summer I graduated, I went to Europe, where we happened to met up and travel together. We were in a motel together. I didn’t know what was going on. Nobby was in his bed and I was in another bed. He reached over and put an ice cube in my belly button and held it there. I laughed at first, but his hand stayed there. He said, ‘What would you say if I seduced you?’ I said, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be very comfortable with that. It’s not my style.’ I was just shocked.

That’s when he told me he was bi-sexual. I had known a couple of BSS girls he had gone out with. He said, ‘I like boys and girls equally. Double your pleasure, double your fun.’ Then he told me that he had slept with about 10 or 15 guys in my class. At least, he claimed to have slept with them. I think he was trying to convince me it was OK because everybody was doing it...

But I do know that he had a long-term relationship with at least one guy on my class, the guy who had been the commanding officer of the cadet battalion. I understand that when the guy eventually decided to get married and have children, it was very hard on the teacher.
— Richard Meech (1965-1972), anthropologist/film-maker
The debate about elitism always seems to me to be an intramural fight. I think the vast majority of humanity is sitting on the sidelines, scratching their heads and saying, ‘What are they all talking about?’ The women who attack UCC as a bastion of male privilege are usually women who attended privileged private girls’ schools like Havergal College and Bishop Strachan...I don’t think the so-called old boys’ network has ever really existed the way people think it exists — making deals through the old school tie. It’s as if people think we have secret meetings in a Star Chamber north of Toronto every three years. It really doesn’t exist.
— Tom Clark (1962-1971), CTV journalist, host of "W5"
My son is now in the prep, a third generation Aird to attend UCC. I’m now hearing horror stories about the drug problems in the school. My son has been offered drugs three times by upper school kids. There is a lot of cash floating around places like UCC. 

My daughter said to me, ‘Dad, you’ve got to understand that compared to Lawrence, North Toronto, Northern or Jarvis Collegiates, Upper Canada College has the largest drug problem of all the high schools in southern Ontario. It’s because the kids are under so much pressure academically.’

When I told the school about my son’s experience, they didn’t do anything. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool UCC old boy, but I’m shocked. I’m considering removing my son from the school. The whole place needs a great big kick in the rear end. The worst story I’ve heard was when the current principal, Doug Blakey, told me that when it came time for UCC boys to apply to university, the school added 15-20% to every kids’ marks so that they were comparable to the kids in the public system.
— Hugh Aird (1960-1972), former senior vice-president and director of corporate finance, Midland-Walwyn
When I was in the upper school, some old boys had a class reunion in the dining hall one night. After the party, an old boy took a dump on one of the tables. He just left a steaming pile of shit on the table all night. The kitchen staff found it in the morning.

When the principal, Pat Johnson, came into the dining hall that morning, he automatically assumed it was a boarder who had done it. He threatened to take away all of our weekend leave privileges until somebody owned up.

It emerged later in the day that it was a returning old boy who was the culprit. Because he hadn’t left a mark when he was at the school, I guess he was determined to leave one in another form. The principal never apologized to us, either.
— Richard Charteris (1966-1974), former editor, TV Guide
When I first started at the prep at age seven, I was cycling along a bridge with another little seven year old UCC chap. He said to me, ‘My mother is so happy that we are friends because you are going to be able to do so much for me in later life.’ I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what it is that I am going to be able to do for this chap?’ Then I grew up and realized, ‘So that’s the way it is. That is what people expect.’
— David Thomson (1964-1967, 1970-1975), deputy chairman, The Woodbridge Company, and heir to the $16 billion Thomson media empire
The College gave you a certain self-confidence. I notice it when I interview UCC old boys for jobs at Scotia McLeod. The quality kid who comes out of UCC is clearly different from kids anywhere else. Recently I interviewed two UCC old boys. One went to Yale University, one to Queen’s University. They were both outstanding hockey players and one of them was also outstanding academically. Both of them worked as U.S. investment dealers. They were two of the best people I’ve ever seen, bar none — self-assured but not cocky, intense but not to the exclusion of a sense of humour. Absolutely first class.

That’s what UCC is supposed to turn out — a great all-rounder who is able to deal with a whole lot of different situations. You may not be academically the brightest, but you’re smarter than the average person. You’ve got integrity and a good sense of judgment. You’re confident but not arrogant. You have an ability to lead. You make decisions and you make tough decisions. UCC challenges you and allows you to excel, and allows you to make mistakes while you’re doing it.
— Gordon Cheesbrough (1962-1971), CEO, Altamira Financial Services and Chairman of the Board of Governors, Upper Canada College (1997-2002)
UCC is an amazing place to build a personal myth out of because the school itself is physically constructed on its own powerful collective mythology. Everywhere you look, there are huge lists of men who were honoured in some way, who died in a war, who achieved great things in Canadian life. The fabric of the myth is completely embodied in the physicality of the school, which powerfully affected my imagination.

I remember wandering through it like a museum, trying to place myself in it, wondering about the men whose names were on the walls and who had died in 1916 or 1944. I wanted to have my name up on the board somewhere, but I did not know how to go about it. I did not ever really want to commit myself. As a result, I never did achieve anything at UCC and I was finally kicked out in grade 9...As an alienated kid at UCC, I remember spending most of my time alone with my own thoughts, trying to construct my own personal myth.
— Michael Edwards (1964-1970), photographer, New York City
The debating, theatre and community service programs at UCC had a huge impact on my life. I must have been volunteering 10 hours a week, maybe more. I had a burgeoning social conscience. I had a sense that the purpose of education was primarily empowerment, that you acquire a technical skill that you use to change the world. From early on at Upper Canada, I knew I wanted to use my education to change the world.

For some boys, UCC is an extraordinary experience which helps to engender and promote natural leadership abilities. Others can be severely damaged. There was a significant amount of physical and emotional abuse of the boarders...

There is a veneer that these private school kids come from nice, affluent families where everything is going fine. In reality, a lot of them are from seriously dysfunctional families. In a society based on consumerism and materialism, parenting skills aren’t something people have a lot of time to invest in...

In fact, some of these rich kids have it worse than the poor kids I work with in Bogota, Colombia. They don’t have much of their parents’ time. A lot of these kids just need to be loved and there’s very little love at home.
— Peter Dalglish (1969-1975), founder, Street Kids International
As far as I know, I was the last student at UCC to be caned. In June 1972, when I was in grade 10, I had only one exam left for the year, which was a French exam the next day. Being French-Canadian, I wasn’t paying too much attention to it, so I took the day off. I missed a couple of meals in the boarding house and the roll call, but because it was the end of the year, I figured they wouldn’t bother to punish me.

But the housemaster, John Symonds, went crazy. He hauled me into his study and yelled and screamed at me. He pulled his cane out of the corner, which surprised me, because I had never seen it. He yelled, ‘Bend over!’ I said, ‘No!’ He was screaming and waving ther cane in the air. I think it was hickory. Again he yelled, ‘Bend over!’ So I bent over and he came down hard with it. I put my arm back to deflect the blows. He whacked me again.

I was getting a little mad at this point. The third time, I half turned around and somehow grabbed the cane away from him. I said, ‘Here, do you want this?’ I offered it back to him. He just stood there. He was much bigger than me. Then he yelled, ‘Get the hell out of here!’ I challenged him all along. My attitude was, ‘Go ahead. I don’t care. I’m still going to do what I want.’
— Jean-Guy Brunelle (1968-1975), banker
I’m probably the only chef in the history of Upper Canada College. I’m probably considered a bit of a rebel or oddball...

Tradition is nice, but it can breed complacency. Traditionalist old boys never want anything to change. They want class rankings on their report cards, they want the cadet battlion to be reinstated, they want everything to be the way it used to be. It’s the same where I work at the Granite Club, whose constituency is still largely WASP. Everybody always wants prime rib and Dover sole. I see old boys coming in here all the time. Bill Hewitt was in here for dinner on the day he dedicated the new Foster and Bill Hewitt Athletic Centre at the school...

When I was at the school, the food was awful. It was so bland and nondescript that you actually didn’t know what it was. Nobody cared. I’ve tried to erase it from my memory...
— Peter Oldfield (1971-1976), executive chef, Granite Club
When I was in grade 12 or 13, I had a sexual encounter with one of the closeted masters on campus. After the fact, I asked him why he had approached me. He said it was because he thought I would be discreet. Obviously, to do something like that with the wrong person would mean the end of your career.
— Edward Sheng (1973-1977), architect
In grade 12 or 13, I used to drive my beat-up Toyota to school. A couple of times, I found shaving cream on the back of the car saying, ‘Jew pig.’ This is not something that scars someone’s life, but for a teenager basically trying to fit in, it is not a pleasant experience.
— Drew Fagan (1968-1975), editor, Globe and Mail Report on Business
In swimming class, we all had to swim nude. We were divided into two teams and we’d dive for a hockey puck. A lot of brutal things happened at the bottom of the pool trying to get the puck. You are desperate to get the puck and you are short of air. The master rewards the guy who gets the puck, so you want the reward. So you would get kicked in the nuts or the teeth or God knows what else down there.

Near the end of the class, as a big present, the master would throw a handfull of pocket change into the shallow end. We had to turn our backs while he threw in the money, then we would go for it. Sometimes it was fun, but sometimes it was pretty brutal. It’s something I would never do with kids...

After swimming class, if you didn’t have your pants, shoes and shoes on within three minutes, the master would hit your feet with a hockey stick. I don’t think he meant to hurt anybody, but occasionally he would.
— John Davis (1966-1976), lawyer
When the Ontario NDP budget came down in April 1991, I was outraged by the accumulated debt and deficit. So I organized a few rallies. I’ve never seen the old boy network work so well. With the help of some other old boys, I put together a one-page fax and faxed it to 200 people who then in turn faxed it to at least another 10 people. In no time, we raised $10,000 for banners, paper and stationery. In two weeks, we got about 5,000 people on the front steps of Queen’s Park, the provincial legislature, for the first rally. For the second rally, we got about 8,000 people.

Actually, a rally of elitists was not what I wanted to achieve. A picture in the Globe and Mail showed a guy standing beside his Rolls Royce with his driver at the front of Queen’s Park. The cutline said, ‘With the NDP coming to power, it’s amazing how you create a new class of malcontent.’
— Blake Hutcheson (1977-1980), real estate developer
There were several scandals in my year. The son of the president of a major corporation was in my class. He was a really shifty, slick guy who committed a litany of sins in grades 11 and 12. Once he went into the master’s mark book and changed his marks. But nobody would ever do anything about it. 

Then he got caught cheating on his exams in grade 12. Again nothing was done. What upset people was that another guy was suspended and stripped of his stewardship for trying to smuggle a bottle of booze into a school dance. Not only was he appointed a steward in grade 13, he was always immune from punishment. Drinking on campus is one thing — everybody did it — but it doesen’t even compare to cheating on exams. 

He always got away with it because of his father’s wealth and influence at the school — and everybody knew it. The issue really divided the faculty, as well as the student body. But the principal, Dick Sadleir, did nothing. Our class had absolutely no respect for him.
— Innes Van Nostrand (1972-1982), former director, Queen's University Alumni Association
When I walked in for my first meal in the UCC dining room, my father told me to look for the portrait of my grandfather, Harry Wilson, who had been a former chairman of the UCC board of governors and a major figure at the school.

When my father was running for the Progressive Conservative leadership, I was in grade 10. An Ottawa newspaper reporter asked me a few questions and mixed things up. She worked things to her advantage and quoted me as saying that after my father, I was personally supporting the candidacy of Brian Mulroney. The headline said something like, ‘Michael Wilson’s son supports Mulroney.’ Therefore, look for Michael Wilson to support Mulroney on the second or third ballot.

That was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned it’s all about power, digging up a story when you have to. So from that experience, going in to the UCC dining room, I realized that anything I did was not only reflecting on my father but also on my grandfather and my family name.
— Geoffrey Wilson (1984-1986), banker. (Geoffrey Wilson's brother, Cameron Wilson, 27, committed suicide in the spring of 1995).
To my knowledge, there aren’t any ghastly horror stories about UCC. The place has never descended into ‘120 Days of Sodom’, which is what can happen when patriarchy degenerates into a climate of domination where sexual and other perversions can take root. That just isn’t the way UCC is.
— Mark Yakabuski (1976-1980), government relations consultant
In my time at UCC, the boys still had to play the female roles in the theatrical productions. I regret that the tradition eventually changed and the school allowed BSS girls to act in the plays. I think it is interesting and challenging for guys to have to play a female role. It gives kids a chance to explore and expand themselves creatively. I’ve done quite a lot of crazed character stuff as a professional actor and I never would have been comfortable with it had I not had the chance to sing as a girl in UCC plays.
— Geraint Wyn Davies (1968-1975), actor
No institution is perfect. On balance, I came out with a very positive outlook on the school. UCC is one of the more valuable educational institutions in Canada, steeped in a kind of rational, WASP tradition that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The processes of the school reflect Canadian society and culture, although perhaps in a delayed way. As a Ukrainian-Canadian, I became of aware of a different culture and a wholly different approach to the way you go about understanding life. That’s an education in itself.
— Borys Wrzesnewskyj (1972-1979), president, Future Bakery
Being the son of Stephen Lewis and Michele Landsberg, and having gone to UCC, is a burden I’ll carry to my grave, but I don’t regret it for a moment. I learned a lot about the world at UCC — a world which I lament and which I’ll spend my life trying to change.
— Avi Lewis (1976-1980), broadcast journalist
Recently I spoke with a former UCC classmate whose boss, an American, works for Colby, Sax and Goldman, probably the pre-eminent investment bank in the world. Yet they can’t crack the Canadian finance market. My friend said to me, ‘Do you think the UCC old boy network in this country is part of the problem or part of the solution?’ I said, “What do you mean?’ He said, ‘The head of the bond desk at Dominion Securities is Andy Pringle (husband of CTV broadcaster Valerie Pringle). The CEO of Scotia McLeod (now Altamira) is Gord Cheesbrough. The head of the treasury at the Morgan Bank is Jeff Gouinlock. The (former) head of corporate finance at Midland Walwyn is Hugh Aird. They are all UCC old boys.’

I don’t think it’s just the investment community. The old school tie, much to a lot of peoples’ chagrin, is still very much alive and well in the business world. I don’t think any kid aged 17 or 18 graduating from UCC realizes the depth and impact of it.
— Lionel Conacher, Jr. (1976-1981), merchant banker
When I was at UCC, a large majority of guys were just putting in time. There was a crowd of preppie guys who made T-shirts and called themselves ‘The Beautiful People’, believe it or not. I think they all ended up going to Queen’s University together. They hung out as a team and wore really preppie clothes. They would get wasted all weekend, come back and talk about how wasted they got. They would lie and cheat to get through their courses. They wrote all their essays, but they would do it at the last minute, usually by copying off each other. Everything they did looked good in a way. It was mediocre, but they didn’t care. 

They got through. They realized that they had the privilege of buying into a certain kind of game early on and that they could play it for the rest of their lives. That’s why more than half of the UCC student body still flocks, sheeplike, downtown to Bay Street. They subvert themselves because they are lethargic. They don’t realize they are being given freedom.
— Evan Jennings (1978-1985), post-grad student
Sexism is a huge issue at the school. Everybody tries to talk about the egalitarian 90s, but UCC tenaciously holds on to its hardcore traditional values.
— Ian Charlton (1982-1989), university student
One day, the school brought in a speaker who talked about the effects of dropping acid. We were all thinking, ‘That’s sounds really cool.’ The next week, about 20 guys I know went out and bought acid. We all tried it because it sounded so cool in the drug lecture. It was wild, sitting in front of our computer screens on acid, laughing uncontrollably. Football practice was even worse. The huddles were a complete mess because half the team was on acid.
— Ben Wiener (1983-1990), university student
I believe in strengthening the school through criticism.
— Douglas Blakey, principal of Upper Canada College, who refused to allow James FitzGerald, author of "Old Boys", to speak at the school's Current Affairs Club upon the invitation of its 15 year old president. 
I don’t think it is possible not to be affected by UCC. It is still the number one influence in my life. I still have nightmares about it. It is going to be part of my psychological make-up, for good or ill, for the rest of my life...

In grade 13, I was appointed editor of the College Times. I was honoured because I was in very good company. Former editors have included John Ross Robertson, Stephen Leacock, B.K. Sandwell, Stanley Ryerson, Robertson Davies, John Bosley, and Michael Ignatieff.

As editor, I wrote a very critical editorial of UCC, summarizing my feelings about my 11 years at the school. To my Jewish grandfather, or to any outsider who was trying to attain membership in it, UCC had represented the holy grail of the WASP elite. To me, UCC was originally designed to create leaders. 

But in my years at the school, I had personally encountered anti-Semitism, stupidity, faceless bureaucracy. I saw a lot of mindless followers, not leaders. I didn’t understand why, because there seemed to be a lot of potential. As far as I could see, UCC was being run as an exclusive health club for old boys and the power elite. I think the ongoing conflict between the current students and the old boys is a major crime in UCC’s history. Who is this school for, exactly? So in my editorial, I asked, ‘Why not apply for an old boy club membership card instead of a diploma?’ 

My editorial was ripped off the printing press by another steward. Over the next four weeks, I got into a huge fight with the administration over the principles of intellectual freedom, the very principles I had been taught in the classroom. I thought that because they had given me the responsibility of editorship, I had a responsibility to speak out. That’s what an editorial is.

What hurt me most was both students and faculty calling me irresponsible. They said I didn’t like the school, which I thought was incomprehensible. Why would I go through weeks of personal turmoil if I didn’t care about the school? The faculty members who were accusing me of irresponsibility hadn’t been at the school as long as I had. Nobody wanted to hear the bad news about what was really happening at UCC — the profound alienation of the vast majority of the student body.
— Motek Sherman (1979-1990), university student
Inevitably you will come out of UCC as an aggressive person. A closed, competitive environment, with teachers breathing down your neck, forces you to have a strong character. I’m grateful for that...

But I don’t think I’m going to stay in Canada because there is too much complacency here. The U.S. has a lot of false hopes and dreams but, like UCC, they have the same dog-eat-dog environment that you need to get ahead.
— James Arthur (1987-1993), university student
UCC is the pre-eminent secondary educational institution in Canada...Personally, I’m not ready to embrace co-education as something the school needs financially. But it is something to worry about in terms of what kind of product we are turning out.
— David Beatty (1950-1960), president, Weston Foods and former chairman of the board of governors, Upper Canada College
I used to hang out with one of my teachers after school, a teacher who was eventually forced out by the administration. We both agreed there were fundamental things wrong with UCC. I always viewed the system as a form of thought control. You could get a good education along the way, but UCC could also turn out amoral, screwed up guys who don’t even know it, and never will. You could become a guy like Doug Bassett and not realize how wrong you are, repeating the same mistakes that had been done to you. 

I got an excellent education at UCC. I was allowed to excel in anything that interested me. There were almost limitless possibilities. But paradoxically, at some point, you had to give in and conform to the ideology of the school. All the time I was there, I was thinking, ‘I hate this school, but I love it. I want to stay because I want to see if it can change.’
— Daniel Borins (1984-1993), university student
There are many problems at UCC in the 1990s, the foremost being parental pressure on kids. I don’t think many of the parents have a clear idea of what defines a liberal education and I’m not sure the school does either. 

Far too many peripheral activities, extra-curricular programs and even political events are encroaching upon the ideal of a liberally educated community engaged in learning. Kids are being overwhelmed and distracted by far too many resume-building activities at the expense of their academic education. Instead of joining a school paper because you love to write, you join in order to put it on your resume and impress somebody. I have seen wonderful people become victims of this mindset. 

The faculty, students, parents and board need to be more honest about what they can’t do. There is a false self-assurance implanted in many people which is ultimately just a facade, so the core rots. The school’s recently published ‘Aims and Objectives Statement’ is trying to please everybody and thus pleases nobody. If you rigorously examine it, you realize it is 20 pages of confusing and contradictory statements, full of trite pedagogical catch phrases that don’t have any integral meaning or vision. They threw in everybody’s views in order to accommodate them all. 

For better or worse, a private school has to have a vision and become accountable for it. UCC has been avoiding that problem and as a result they are creating a race of technocratic janitors and maintenance men who don’t think for themselves and who don’t confront themselves. Good conflict is the lifeblood of a liberal democracy and the school is resisting these challenges, issues and conflicts. Among other things, a liberal education should prepare one to live a meaningful life — and of course, it should be co-ed. I honestly think that UCC’s continued attempts to accommodate all segments of their constituency will finish the place.
— Mark Schoeffel (1977-1984), master, Upper Canada College, 1990-1993
UCC functions most like a large corporation or a bank. The Board of Governors is like the owner of the corporation. Usually the members of the board are themselves heads of actual corporations, people like John Eaton, Gord Cheesbrough, Michael Wilson, George Cohon, Galen Weston, David Beatty, the president of Weston Foods, et al. 

The principal is the general manager and the teachers are in sales. If the board says, ‘Yes!’, everybody says, ‘Right on!’ The parents are like customers who come into their local Eaton’s store and spend their money. The boys are at the bottom of the food chain. They are ‘the product.’ They fulfill the 19th century idea that children should be seen and not heard. Never complain, never explain, just do your thing.
— Paul Illidge, English master, Upper Canada College, 1981-1991

Selected Reader Responses

"I have not met a single Old Boy who has read your book who does not agree that the bias is totally negative and that it can only be seen as some form of axe-grinding vendetta against the College. Virtually every day I reflect on how Upper Canada College changed my life for the better and I know literally hundreds of Old Boys who share this view... 

The book strongly, clearly and uniquivocally builds the hypothesis that UCC corrupts and contorts young minds, produces spoiled, rich, valueless, immoral and pathetic human beings as graduates and, above all, ruins the lives of the boys entrusted to its care...

Should you ever wish to correct the record, or redeem your name as a serious journalist, I know you will have no trouble finding in your notes conversations with numerous Old Boys, including me, who have rich praise for UCC." - Ira N., Islington, Ontario, 1995


"As an Old Boy who didn't get to publish your book, it breaks my heart to say it, but it's a masterpiece. It's big. Sometimes it made me think of the third act of King Lear. It's also a bit like Schindler's List without Schindler. Of course, we all found our Schindlers or we wouldn't have survived the school. 

It's just amazing that you were able to pull all that stuff out of the dark corners of human minds. Presumably the trick was in choosing the right people. I guess it's the eloquence that dazzles me most. I've published 500 books and worked with dozens of authors and I know that almost nobody can write worth a damn. People can't talk either, as literal transcripts all show. Obviously you did a lot of leading, a lot of manipulating, but it never shows, because you delete yourself and then (one surmises) adapt the text to leave a seamless finish, as if the guy just opened his mouth and it all came out, like, "We shall fight on the beaches." I gather this is the key idea that made the book possible. In a real sense, then, you are the author. Without you, no Feyer, no Gilmour, no Silver, no Colopinto, no Seccombe. Imagine the world without Wally Seccombe's wonderful piece about the sexual politics of football!

For raw power, for vigour, for passion, this book has few equals. From where I sit, it has just one thing wrong with it: it has the wrong imprint." - Michael Macklem, publisher, Oberon Press, Ottawa, 1995


"I found many fascinating aspects about your book. Almost every page had vignettes that resonated with me. There were simply hundreds of stories that I identified with. Many were hard to read because I felt I was there with your speakers, fighting the same battles all over again. Your book re-opened my mind and heart about my years at UCC and helped me to think about it critically and compassionately as a major formative experience in my life. Your speakers were courageous and you made UCC alive and less monolithic. Thank you for a terrific book." - David H., Cambridge, Massachusetts


"As I read 'Old Boys', I often felt stunned. I was thinking, 'Did I just read this? I can't believe this.' It's astounding how different the personalities are -- the deep thinkers, the sensitive ones, the shallow ones. I think the book is a stroke of genius." - Rudy G., Orangeville, Ontario


" 'Old Boys' is one of the best things that ever happened to UCC. It struck through to the core of the very negative things about the institution. In my opinion, one of them is the failure to go co-educational. Another was the knee-jerk, musk-oxen, defensive circle (rather like the Toronto Police Force) that smothered and ignored abuses and failings. Too many gutless wonders at the top, middle, and bottom." - Bruce Litteljohn, UCC teacher for 35 years


"In each generation there are a precious few who plumb the depths to make sense of the world in which they find themselves."Old Boys" is such an exploration of "self", heard through the voices of those who were there. James FitzGerald is one of those gifted, sensitive souls. Dressed in gumboots or silk slippers, he amassed a wealth of testament. Three generations speak their eerily similar story. I was one of them and found brotherhood once more amongst my peers. So, I was not alone. Others came forward demanding closure and balance restored. Finally an expensive apology! If you wonder on the halls of power and the why of things as they are, then read this book." - Jonathan D., Caledon, Ont.


"An encyclopedia of arrogance and pain." - John Cook, Arles, France


"I found Old Boys interesting, heartbreaking and incomplete...I was a student at Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario in the early 1970s and I can tell you stories that would make the content of your book look anemic in comparison... 

During my time, beatings were routine and my classmates and I suffered them on a regular basis. Being bullied by upper school boys was not only tolerated but sanctioned by the school. I lost my front teeth at the hands of an upper school student who was three years older than me because he didn't like the way I spoke to him. Nothing was done and I still suffer issues in connection with the injury...

The damage inflicted on many boys with stay with them forever...Appleby has cleaned up their image but that does exonerate them of their past. Your book is a good start but not unlike the abuse being uncovered in the Catholic Church, you have only scraped the surface. Believe me, there are many, many more stories that need to be told." - Professor Steven Williams