Celebrating 115 Years of Kindness at Selwyn House School
Last week, we celebrated the remarkable history of Selwyn House School and the community that has supported it for over a century. Our commemoration offered a chance to reflect on the theme of "Connecting to Kindness," which has been a core value of the school since 1908.
Students, staff and guests, were given the opportunity to honour our past, present and future together as they experienced the "Connecting to Kindness" exhibit. The event highlighted memories of acts of kindness within our community and beyond, featuring special projects such as The Garage Sale, preparing food for soup kitchens, and much more. The theme aligned perfectly with the values of this year's Speirs Medalist honorees, Roula and Alan Rossy ‘79.
Alan Rossy '79 was influenced by Dr. Speirs, who instilled values such as sincerity and moral character. His family's connection to Selwyn House School runs deep; Alan joined Selwyn House in Grade 6, and sons, William '16 and Christopher '22, were "lifers" at the school. Roula and Alan donated the Agora space in 2003, and have since been actively involved with the school's board of directors and fundraising campaigns. Roula has chaired fundraising events and was awarded the Nancy Pitfield Award for her dedication to Selwyn House. They have demonstrated their commitment to mental health and wellness initiatives by establishing the Student Success Centre.
On November 23, Selwyn House School kicked off its celebration of special honourees with two student assemblies and an evening reception. During the assemblies, students viewed short videos featuring their peers sharing what kindness means to them. Retired school receptionist, Annie Snabl, shared several memories of how the school has displayed kindness over the years. The Elementary assembly included a special guest appearance by a 115-year-old Old Boy (played by Mr. Kennedy), who recounted fond memories of acts of kindness in his days at SHS. All students were also introduced to the 2023 Nancy Pitfield Volunteer Award recipient, Anne Garschagen, a current parent who was recognized for her dedication to the Selwyn House School community. Additionally, Grade 6 student Ryan Pitfield was featured in a short clip where he spoke about his grandmother, for whom the award is named and who he described as "kind of a super volunteer when my father (Tom Pitfield '93) was a student at Selwyn."
Over 200 guests gathered in Coristine Hall in the evening to celebrate the award recipients of this year. Headmaster Mike Downey, kicked off the festivities with a touching speech, expressing his gratitude and appreciation for the “outstanding, incredibly kind, generous and hardworking people who devote their time to the school and the community.” Laura Osborne, Co-Chair of the Parent Volunteer Association, then introduced honoree Anne Garschagen to the evening’s guests, while Brad White '94, Vice-President of the Old Boys' Association, recognized former staff members Kathy Funamoto, Brenda Montgomery, Jean Pruneau, and the late Jack Martin, presenting them with Honorary Old Boy pins. Portraits were unveiled of five Selwyn staff members who were honoured for their service of 25 years or more: Kathy Funamoto (44 years), Brenda Montgomery (34 years), Rob Moore (33 years), Jean Pruneau (31 years) and Chantal Simard (27 years).
Retired Headmaster, Hal Hannaford and his wife Susan presented Roula and Alan, the guests of honour, with the Speirs Medal for their numerous contributions to the school over the years. “My educational journey spanning four decades [...] led me to spend my final twelve years right here at Selwyn House. [...] Allow me to emphasize a fundamental truth I’ve come to realize: for any organization - particularly a school - to thrive, we rely on individuals blessed with unwavering commitment, impassioned dedication, and a wholehearted investment in its success. In this capacity, I must stress the pivotal role played by Roula and Alan. It’s not a mere cliché; it’s an undeniable fact” said Mr. Hannaford. Above all, the Rossys seek to promote kindness and unity. Their contributions to the school community have earned them the prestigious Speirs Medal.
Mr. Rossy expressed his appreciation, stating, “After a long, heartfelt association with Selwyn House, we value this award and are honored to have been chosen. It means a lot, especially to an Old Boy [...] Since my Selwyn school years, I can attest that this school, our school, is a much better institution. I see a better generation, smarter, more educated, more exposed, more diverse, more environmentally-conscious, and a community that embraces its values of Veritas and kindness. Tonight, I thank Headmaster Mike Downey for his leadership and insight, his Heads of school and all Faculty, and our Trustees, for having the courage to initiate change and to continue this enviable journey to make Selwyn House, the best place, for a boys’ education.”
In closing, Mrs. Rossy added, « Selwyn House a été une deuxième maison pour nos fils William et Christopher [...]. Donc, redonner à Selwyn House était ma façon de montrer mon appréciation. De dire merci de prendre soin de mes fils quand je n’étais pas avec eux. »
The evening continued with a delicious cocktail dînatoire and lively conversations, as guests mingled and celebrated the achievements of these remarkable individuals. It was a night to remember, one that truly embodied the spirit of the SHS community.