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The Robert Land Academy Gala Event

This past Saturday (April 6th), RLA held its annual gala at the National Club in Toronto.  It was an evening to acknowledge our Graduates, honour this year’s recipient of the John Brant Award and remember and reflect on the Academy’s 40 Years of helping students reach their potential.

After a wine reception and silent auction, the formal ceremonies began with a focus on students as the 2019 graduation class marched on the colours of our country and the academy.  Our Head Boy Daniel H., Parade Sargent Major Luke W. and Aides de Camp Pan L. and August B. were supported by members of the graduating class.

Every time I see our students march on, wearing their Scarlet tunics and carrying the colours, I am struck by what an impressive sight they make but in the beautiful setting of The National Club dining room, with parents and special guests in attendance, this was an even more striking and memorable moment.

After performing this duty our graduates were introduced by our Deputy Headmaster Dr. Harley, who highlighted each grad’s chosen field of study and noted the remarkable improvement in their academic performance since enrolling at RLA. This year’s class have been receiving acceptance letters on an almost daily basis since applications were sent out, and while not quite 100%  of the grads have received acceptance to post-secondary institutions, we are very close and I am confident that as the weeks go on those students awaiting acceptance into Engineering and Business programs will see this occur.

I am always proud of all of our students, and on Saturday evening, watching the grads and NCOs welcome our guests, march on the colours and come to attention as they were introduced, knowing how hard they have worked to get to this point, I couldn’t have been more proud to be Headmaster of RLA.

After a wonderful dinner and being shown fantastic hospitality and service by the staff of the National Club, I had the honour of speaking about RLA’s 40 year history.  Although 40 years seems like a long time in fact, in regards to other private schools, we are quite young.  In 1978 our founder, Scott Bowman, put together a school in a rural location (to be honest it used to be a pig farm) which focused on structure and values.   Five years later the school built its first permanent academic building and the decision was made to create a campus that mirrored a British Fort during the early 19th Century.  From these beginnings the school has grown to include three barracks (residences), a PE/Atheltic complex (Ivey Hall), a mess hall (Landholme Hall), an administration building (Ritchie Hall) and a few other buildings that support the residential, academic, and physical training aspects of the school.  As the school evolved so did the importance of the five values: Loyalty, Labour, Commitment, Courage and Honour, as they have become part of the Academy and a teaching tool to develop character in the students. As well, leadership opportunities became part of a program that strove to create a highly structured living and learning environment.  The military theme also evolved during this time with the premise, to quote our founder, “not to create soliders, but good citizens”.

My second task of the evening was to introduce The John Brant Award.  Created in the spring of 2017 by the Academy’s Board of Governors, the award seeks to recognize leaders in our community who exemplify the five values of RLA (Loyalty, Labour, Courage, Commitment and Honour).  The award is named after John Brant as a leader who demonstrated these values during his lifetime which saw him serve as a solider, government official (both elected and appointed) and a champion of education who worked toward the creation of schools for the Mohawks.

This year’s recipient of the award, General Walter Natynczyk (retired), was introduced by Board Member Captain Nick Desphande, who took time to share General Natynczyk’s career with those gathered. The former Chief of Defence Staff and president of Canada’s Space Agency, General Natynczyk served in the Canadian Armed Forces for almost four decades and has been a strong leader whose career truly exemplifies the Academy’s values.

This year’s recipient of the award, General Walter Natynczyk (retired), was introduced by Board Member Captain Nick Desphande, who took time to share General Natynczyk’s career with those gathered. The former Chief of Defence Staff and president of Canada’s Space Agency, General Natynczyk served in the Canadian Armed Forces for almost four decades and has been a strong leader whose career truly exemplifies the Academy’s values.

An amicable, gracious and outgoing figure who not only commands respect but is impossible not to like, General Natynczyk was the highlight of the evening as he spoke about how he wished there was a school like RLA when he was a student - a school which supports a student in academics and physical training. As well, he reminded our students of the importance of maintaining your values and set of beliefs no matter what you do, and your role in life. Too often, he stated, people change and forget what is important as their roles in life change.

Given that one of the reasons for RLA establishing The John Brant Award was to demonstrate to students the link between leadership and the school’s values with success and an individual’s impact in the world, I was happy to hear this message from General Natynczyk.

The Robert Land Academy Gala Event is a special evening that allows us to recognize the important work we do in helping young men reach their potential; honour those who inspire us and live an exemplary life; and come together in support of The Academy and our students. I have heard from many of our guests that it was a most enjoyable event, and I look forward to next year’s Gala.

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