The biggest gift that Walter Gage gave me

Picture this – a small town 16 year old girl getting ready for her final grade 12 exams in 1968 in mathematics and chemistry BUT at the same time she was:
– the Prime Minister of her high school
– valedictorian and master of ceremonies at the graduation ceremony
– working at BC Telephone training to be an operator from 330p to 1030p or 11p from Monday to Friday (a pre-condition for a summer job there)

She had also been told she was her school’s best chance for the provincial gold medal. Plus she needed scholarships to be able to go to the University of British Columbia without impacting her family’s finances. No pressure, right?

Well that was me and it all did not work out as planned.

My first exam was mathematics and it covered all of the grade 11 and grade 12 materials and was on a Monday. Late on Sunday night (when I had reviewed the grade 11 materials and was starting on the grade 12 materials), my father came into my room and told me I really should go to sleep. He came to see me shortly after that to say good night, touched my forehead and I curled into a little nervous ball. He then took me out for a long drive to calm me down and try to ease the panic I was feeling.

I went to the exam the next day and the panic (and mostly the exhaustion) set in again and I knew I had not done well on the exam.

I came home very upset and later went to see my principal to tell him what happened – that I had let everyone (including myself) down. He calmly said that he knew what to do and called Walter Gage at the University of British Columbia. I am so grateful that he did. Mr. Gage said that I should go home, get some sleep and write the chemistry exam and that he would handle it from there. When my marks came out, I got exactly what I needed to have three quarters of my tuition paid which made so much of a difference. It also enabled me to remain eligible for other scholarships and I am confident that Mr. Gage made sure I received other scholarships.

So I started my Bachelor of Science in September 1968 and graduated in 1972. I started my Bachelor of Law in September 1972 and graduated with the gold medal in 1975. When I graduated from law school, I received a letter from Mr. Gage congratulating me which letter I have and treasure to this day. Maybe this is naïve, but I think he remembered helping that 16 year old in 1968.

There are responsibilities that come with someone offering to help you when you need help and you accepting that help. When you can, you need to help someone else in return.In this case, for me, that has continued to mean two things:

– firstly, being there when someone needs me to let them know they are not alone and I will do what I can to help
– secondly, helping financially especially with expenses for education (which I continue to believe is the key to most people being the best they can be).

Maybe that is the biggest gift that Walter Gage gave me – cementing those thoughts in me.

Anne Stewart
BSc 1972
LLB 1975