Lawrence Park turns 75

[attach]5207[/attach]Bruce MacLean remembers Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute as a school that strove to achieve excellence in both academics and athletics.

Now, 75 years later, those memories are still strong. The 100-year-old former teacher taught math at Lawrence Park in the first year it opened, 1936. He was one of the school’s first teachers.

There’s a hint of the school’s special place in the community in MacLean’s voice.

“I think it stands out for its excellence in education,” he said. “They’ve always been on the cutting edge.”

MacLean, who taught at the school until 1941 before joining the Navy, said sports were an important part of Lawrence Park’s identity.

“I was a coach of the hockey team, and we won one championship,” he said. “I was also a coach for the senior rugby team, and we did pretty well.”

Principal Lillian Jovanovic says the school still makes an effort to strike a balance between academics and athletics, but would also add arts to the mix, for a AAA rating.

[attach]5208[/attach]“We’ve got all bases covered,” she said happily.

The school recently opened its doors to usher in former students and staff as they celebrated Lawrence Park’s 75th anniversary.

Alumni traveled from far and near to take part in the historic event.

“It’s a bit of a long trek, but not too bad,” said Robertson Boak, who came from Oakville to see classmates from his 1957 year. “My brother lives in southern Quebec and he came too.”

Bruce Allen, who left Lawrence Park in 1940 to join the Air Force, also attended in the hopes of catching up with some old classmates.

“When I saw it was the 75th anniversary, I thought let’s see what the old gang is doing,” he said, enthusiastically. “I think it’s kind of nice to know there are still people around from the old days.”

Former teacher Perle Michna, in her second year of retirement, taught at Lawrence Park for 37 years. She said the school’s staff was distinguished by their passion for the job.

“I didn’t see too many teachers who were lackadaisical about their profession,” she said. “I thought that was really remarkable and I feel the school stood out for that reason.”

While certain traits of Lawrence Park seem to have lived on, much has changed as well. For one, the surrounding community has changed in terms of demographics, said alumnus Paul Leinonen, who graduated in 1966.

“Compared to now, it was a very much more homogenous society back then,” he said. “It was a completely white school.”

But Leinonen also proved the saying ‘As much as things change, the more they stay the same’ rings true when it comes to Lawrence Park.

“Things have changed a lot around here, but we still have substandard gyms,” he said. “Or maybe they just seem smaller now.”

As for MacLean? He’s not complaining about the gyms.

“It’s been a very good reunion, well prepared and well run,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the people that I taught.”

And if his health permits, you can bet he’ll be at the next anniversary.

“I’m the only one (from the first year) left I think,” he said. “So I’ll see you in 25 years.”