Last week, Professor Santa Ono, the recently appointed President of the University of British Columbia, spoke to the Senior School in an engaging and memorable x-block presentation. Professor Ono brings a wealth of experience to his new role. As a professor of medicine and biology, he worked at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University College London, and Emory universities, prior to becoming the President of the University of Cincinnati and most recently the President of UBC.
In his opening comments, Dr. Ono spoke passionately and eloquently about the higher purpose of education. In addition to educating the mind, educational institutions also must educate the heart. Citing two well-known individuals who were well educated but morally bankrupt, the Nazi physician Josef Mengele and the Wall Steel fraudster Bernie Madoff, he spoke about the way in which education must reinforce the importance of values, such as respect, humility and responsibility, while helping students become the very best human beings possible.
Following his opening comments, Dr. Ono roamed around the gym interacting with the boys and fielding a wide range of questions. Most of the boys' questions focused on UBC specifically and post-secondary education in general, and Dr. Ono took the opportunity to speak about the merits of UBC, while emphasizing the importance of ‘fit.’ There is no best university, he declared; it's all about finding the university that is the best fit for you.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Ono's comments resonated with me. Our Mission, Building Fine Young Men. One Boy at a Time, speaks to the importance of a broad and inclusive approach to education that elevates the heart, as well as the mind. Moreover, through our Strategic Plan and our Core Values, we continue to reinforce character education as the cornerstone of a St. George's education. As I stress whenever possible, our primary purpose as a School is not to win athletic championships or to get our boys into highly competitive post-secondary institutions, although it's gratifying when those things happen. Rather, our primary purpose is to help our students become the very best human beings they are capable of becoming—young men of character, able and willing to help build a better world.
Dr. Ono's comments about ‘fit’ also struck a chord with me. Although our graduates go on to study at some of the most prestigious universities on the planet, we believe that there is no best university, and quite frankly, we take university rankings with a grain of salt. It's all about fit and finding the school and program that are best for the individual boy. We, therefore, measure the success of our University Counselling Program, not in the number of Oxbridge or Ivy League acceptances, but rather in the growing diversity of programs and post-secondary institutions attracting our graduates.
At the core of our educational philosophy and Dr. Ono’s presentation is the conviction that education has a higher purpose. We are committed to educating the mind, but we are equally committed to educating the heart. We want our boys to do well, but we also want them to do good.