Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

My valedictory address

by Rob - June 15th, 2023.
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The province of Ontario, where I went to school, was unique in North America for having a grade 13, an extra year of high school. Forty-four years ago, when I was 19, I was valedictorian for Northview Heights Secondary School’s Class of 1979.

Below is my valedictory address; the final line echoes lyrics from the school song, Arbor was the school yearbook and The Northview Post was the school newspaper, which I both founded and edited:


Friends, fellow graduates, faculty, ladies and gentlemen:

Well, we’ve come a long way in four years. We’ve grown older and we’ve hopefully grown wiser. We’ve made many friends that we’ll never forget. We’ve done a lot of new things and gone a lot of exciting places. But most of all we’ve succeeded: succeeded as students. And that’s what these commencement exercises are here for — to honour our success.

This graduation marks the close of an important chapter in the lives of all of us. New and exciting adventures lie on the road ahead. But Northview, too, has reached a pivot point in her history. She’s a mature school now, graduating students younger than the institute itself, and our class — the class of ‘79 — is the last to leave the old Northview. Already multi-million-dollar renovations have begun on the building that surrounds us now for our final time together. Never again will Northview be as we grew to knew her.

It’s appropriate, perhaps, as each of us starts a new life — be it as a questing post-secondary student or a proud member of the labour force — that Northview, once a cocoon, now spreads her concrete wings and soars off in a different direction. When we return in 1982 to honour the 25th anniversary of the founding of NHSS, it will be our collective memories that will be Northview for us, not the metamorphosed building.

What will we recall at that reunion? Will it be the monumental essays that were impossible to write, but that we completed anyway? Or will it be a favourite classroom and a favourite teacher? Or a favourite club and a favourite coach? Cramming in the library? Or being shhshed by Mr. Gomes?

Indeed, all those things made Northview the school it was, and made us — all of us — the men and women we are. Years from now, thumbing through an old Arbor or re-reading a Post, we will think back to these years of growth, learning, good times, and good friends.

And even those who were never here in time to hear Judy and myself stumble through the morning announcements, and who tore out the doors the moment the clock clicked to 3:10, will recall, with more than a little nostalgia and fondness, their school, Northview Heights.

We’ve been through a lot together, the class of ‘79. We’re the last students to graduate who knew Northview during the teachers’ strike. We’ve felt the pressures of budget cuts and declining enrollment. We’ve seen Northview sail with two dynamically different men at the helm — sailing towards different destinies, different fortunes.

We’ve known academic achievements and football victories and smash-hit plays and literary triumphs. And we’ve known a few failures, too: courses we didn’t do quite as well in as we’d have liked; club events that just didn’t turn out. But through it all we never gave up.

Tonight we’re here together to honour the fact that we are successes — proud recipients of proud diplomas. We’ve completed a minimum of 27 courses — over three thousand hours of classroom time. Those 3,000 hours will not go to waste. The same indomitable Northview spirit that bought us to this point tonight will take us out, boldly, into the world. Armed with the skills we’ve acquired within these hallowed halls all of us will attack life with vigour and emerge triumphant. All of us will, in the spirit of Northview, March on to victory, March on to success.

Ladies and gentlemen, good night.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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