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February 24, 2006

Westdale grads found stardom

'Their futures were only their dreams when they were here,' students told
By Carmela Fragomeni
The Hamilton Spectator
(Feb 24, 2006)
From wartime spy to Olympic sportscaster in Turin, Westdale grads make an impressive roster.

The late Wallace Donnelly, an intelligence officer in Britain's clandestine "phantom" regiment in the Second World War, may not be a familiar name. But Brian Williams -- the CBC's prime time broadcaster from the Turin Olympics -- certainly is.

Entertainment alumni include funnymen Martin Short and Eugene Levy, Teenage Head punk rock band founder Gord Lewis and film writer Len Blum whose latest movies are The Pink Panther and Over the Edge. Athletes include hockey great Harry Howell and Canadian Football Hall of Famers Jim Young and Russ Jackson. From the sciences, there's doctor, researcher and highly respected respirologist Michael Newhouse.

Don't forget Hollywood film maker Daniel Goldberg of such movies as Twins and Space Jam, architect Raymond Moriyama who designed the Ontario Science Centre, the Saudi Arabian National Museum and the Canadian War Museum, and the late John Munro, cabinet minister of many portfolios over his 22 years as a Hamilton MP.

Women graduates include Joy MacPhail, former provincial cabinet minister and NDP leader in B.C. and the first Canadian to sue tobacco companies for taxpayers. Heather Munroe-Blum, head of McGill University, and Fiona Nelson, a teacher, broadcaster, and commentator on children's health and education.

"Their futures were only their dreams when they were here," Marlene Gibson told a student assembly at Westdale Secondary School yesterday to kick off the historic school's 75th anniversary. Celebrations will culminate in a reunion weekend in May.

Gibson, a parent on the anniversary planning committee, told students distinguished grads were no different than them.

"Some of them were chased by police through Churchill Park and the reservoir like some of you," she said to laughter.

But she urged students to follow their lead and seize the day.

"If you do that, some day we might have your name on the list."

Westdale is establishing a "wall of distinction" for the anniversary to honour its inductees and to inspire current and future students.

The high school, an architectural landmark in the city, opened in 1931 with 1,300 students and at that time was the largest composite school in the British Empire. The student population peaked in 1965 with 2,264. It is now 1,470.

In the 1940s, Westdale was a school by day and a training facility by night for ground and air troops off to war.

Yesterday, graduate Dan Ormond, an expert locksmith and recreational safecracker, briefly entertained the students by getting his long hair clipped in front of the students to donate to the Cancer Society. Ormond graduated from Westdale in the 1970s, but laughs that he can't remember exactly what year. "It was the '70s, you know."

The school's motto -- each of us will find our own way to the stars -- fits nicely into the anniversary kickoff.

For more information on the reunion May 18-20, visit www.mywestdale.com or call the school at 905-522-1387.

cfragomeni@thespec.com

905-526-3392

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