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Excerpts from Craig Davis’ remarks at the first Virtual Village Gathering of 2021

Last time I spoke at our Village Gathering in September to open Term 1 I referenced the traditional ideas of “village common ground” and historical groups such as the “Levellers” who sought to remove inequity, hierarchies and prejudice by forging positive partnerships and solidarity.

Over the Winter Break we witnessed this community at its best as students, employees, volunteers, residents, Board members, friends and alumni came together to create a great experience that will go down in Pearson History as probably the one and only time we stayed on campus together to celebrate the holidays – we definitely forged village common ground.

I do want to mention the particular efforts of our students David, Giovanny, Racim, Maria, Zara, Amina and Florence and staff members Angela, Candice, Sarah, Doug, Travis, Garth and Ty and especially all of our Houseparents who went above and beyond along with our campus residents and House Buddies.

As we start Term 2 please hold on to this positivity and community spirit that is genuine and a more authentic reflection of Pearson College. I was moved by the student speeches I heard in MCL on Christmas Day and New Years that identified how there had been significant challenges but now people were stronger and closer together as a result.

Keeping the positivity going, I am happy to report that, after thinking we might only have about 40 Year 47 students with us, we will have 90 on campus by the end of (January). This is remarkable news given all of the challenges facing many of these students trying to secure biometrics, visas and viable routes out of their countries! Again, a brilliant Pearson community effort in helping to get these students onto campus, including behind-the-scenes efforts by one of brand-new Board members who is based in Delhi and who has been lobbying governmental officials relentlessly over the Winter Break.

This community common ground is also in evidence in many ways. It’s evident in the great work our student College Assembly group has been doing to create an effective student-employee partnership in future decision-making affecting student life — another historic first for the College.

Another first, and an even more positive development, was the recent signing off of the Reconciliation Action Plan by our Board. This plan demands that we ensure positive progress and support for Indigenous students and our relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities. We will focus on this as a community strategy to ensure actions are taken and obligations honoured over the coming years.

Also, on campus, our use of general student advisory slots encouraged a re-examination of our UWC values and adaptations and encouraged edits to our community Essential Agreements that will guide us and which will be shared soon.

There is much to celebrate and be positive about for 2021 and we have great evidence of how productive our community can be if we follow the advice to assume “positive intent” and recognise Lester B. Pearson’s realisation that you have to meet face to face, eye to eye and walk the walk together before making judgements about each other.

The days are no getting longer and we are half way through winter already — spring is round the corner in our part of the world and with this will come more vaccines, more sunshine, more Vitamin D and more energy…especially if Ty is able to persuade a coffee shop to donate a Barista coffee machine to have permanently on site…..

The recent passing of Dr. Thomas Henry Bull Symons in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada memorialized the long and distinguished life of an engaging community-minded leader and cultural statesman with a passion for education and an outsized commitment to, and builder of, the United World College movement.

Tom Symons played an important role in the establishment of the second United Word College –

Pearson College UWC – and key supporting roles in promoting and facilitating the establishment of several other UWCs around the world. At Pearson, he is remembered as a Patron, a Board member between 1976 and 1994, who also joined the UWC International Board in 1979, and as a founder who thought it “entirely fitting that the new college should become a national memorial to Canada’s ‘most remarkable international figure,’ Lester B. Pearson.”

An outstanding public figure who was a leader in many areas of Canadian life, including as the founding president of Trent University in Peterborough, as a pioneer in Canadian and Indigenous studies, as an architect of national unity and French-language education in Ontario, as a champion of human rights, and as national-level policy advisor his commitment to true global education and with the UWC movement across several decades Symons’ life gives us inspiration that diverse individuals, working together, can achieve so much.