Place a Dream as the Goal

Place a Dream as the Goal

By: Peter B. Ditchburn, former Head of School

“The founding achievements of the past 50 years were those of men and women, and their families, all of whom were involved in a dream that became a goal; and, in time, a success.”

On a recent visit to the School, I stopped by the impressive Nil Nisi Optimum sculpture at the front entrance and found the words ‘Place a dream as the goal.’ It resonated immediately with me, particularly with regards to the founders of our predecessor Schools, as well as to those of Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS).

In each case, family initiative, influence, and resilience brought about the desired results. Strathcona School for Boys opened with eight boys in 1929, just six weeks before the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. Likewise, St. Hilda’s gained Anglican Church patronage that enabled it to open with 40 students in 1905.

By the late sixties, both Strathcona School for Boys and Tweedsmuir: An Academic School for Girls were operating in buildings no longer large enough or safe enough in Elbow Park. Enter Sandy Heard ’46, who became Headmaster of Strathcona School for Boys in 1967 and saw an opportunity to form a co-ordinate school with Tweedsmuir – an idea, a dream that he shared.

Sandy was aware of two Hamilton schools, Hillfield and Strathallan, which had moved to one campus in 1962. “If they can do it, so can we,” he said. With the 1968 bequest of a quarter of a million dollars on behalf of oil man W.H. ‘Bill’ Atkinson, a 160-acre donation of land by the Cross family, and a further $750,000 raised by E. David Dover ’48, he was finally able to move forward on the new amalgamated school.

It wasn’t long before our founders faced yet another challenge – a lack of water. The hydrogeologists could not find a suitable well site on the property. Undeterred, J.B. Cross drove his jeep while his water witcher leaned out with his forked stick. Four sources of water were discovered, which allowed construction to proceed. A grand opening was held for 285 students in September of 1971.

The founding achievements of the past 50 years were those of men and women, and their families, all of whom were involved in a dream that became a goal; and, in time, a success. 

In this special 50th Anniversary of From the Archives, we would like to honour and thank our predecessor schools for laying the foundations for the evolution of STS. We also honour and thank the Atkinson, Cross, Heard, and Dover families who gave us the site, the facilities, and the capacity to offer Nil nisi optimum. The character of our founders brought others into the enterprise of STS – families, volunteers, and donors – and our School was able to flourish as a result. 

I would like to thank the School, Carol Grant-Watt and the staff, students, alumni, Board of Governors, the STS Foundation, and especially POSTS for organizing an impressive celebration for our 50th year. I look forward optimistically to the next big occasion. Will it be the 60th, a Diamond Jubilee or, now that the Queen has started a trend, a Platinum Jubilee for 70 years in 2041-2042?