I can still visualize my first impression of Royal Roads.
We were on the bus, and as the bus crested the hill, we could see the Grant block and the castle and across the water to the mountains. And I thought, “My God, what a wonderful place."
And then the bus stopped, and the doors opened. The second year cadets greeted us: “Get out!” There was lots of screaming and yelling, moving us across the square, grabbing our luggage, and that was my second first impression of Royal Roads as a new cadet in 1968.
You can’t help but be impressed by Royal Roads. The site itself is just amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful campuses for a university or a college.
However, you didn’t get a chance to see too much, because you were constantly moving. In first year, you were trying to establish yourself as someone to be noticed, or not to be noticed, or somewhere in between.
You had some time to enjoy the scenery, but you really didn’t want to see the inside of the castle. That’s where the administrative staff and the Commandant were, and if you did go in, you were looking straight ahead, because you knew you were in trouble. Of course, second year gave us more freedom to walk around and enjoy the environment.
I returned to Royal Roads 1992 as the Director of Cadets, and once we received word that the college was going to close, I was appointed Commandant for the final year and a half before the college officially closed in August 1995.
It was a mixed blessing kind of posting. It was a great honour, and it was also very tough, knowing we were closing something that all of us cadets and staff certainly loved.
At the 1995 Closure Parade, we had 450 ex-cadets on the parade square. When we marched them off, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
Twenty years later, standing in front of the microphone at the 2015 Sunset Ceremony, it was just so special, reminding me of the 1995 ceremonies, in particular.
I wanted to instill memories for all of those in the crowd, not only those who had attended Royal Roads as cadets or staff, but everyone in the community whose dads or moms or sisters or brothers had come to Royal Roads when it was a military college. I wanted everyone to appreciate that sense of history and heritage that the university has.
And that’s what we wanted to capture, to visually present something on the parade square that people would have come out and watched 20 years before. I think that was achieved in spades.
This is something that the university has been building in the last decade or so, that celebration of heritage and excellence in leadership and positively changing lives.
After 1995, the military college graduates didn’t have a site to go back to – a place. But now there is a welcoming sense of belonging here at Royal Roads for ex-cadets and former staff, and special recognition given by the university to ex-cadets.
For me, that feels great.