The UVic Torch · University of Victoria Alumni Magazine · Spring 1999

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Gareth Rees:
Athletics

by Cleve Dheensaw (B.Ed 79)

Every Monday night a trek is made by tutor/counsellor/coach Gareth Rees and a band of students from the halls of privilege at Eton, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, across to the rugged London borough of Slough. This is the one night each week homeless shelters are closed in Britain and Rees and his students help local churches put on an informal soup kitchen in the street.

Even though Canada is a Commonwealth country, its culture is heavily American influenced and the whole school uniform and tie thing is something that takes some getting used to for a Canadian-even one such as Rees, who was in such an environment at St. Michael's University School before coming to the University of Victoria.

"These are privileged kids (at Eton) and it's a real eye opener for them every Monday," says Rees. "Coming from their background, these students just don't see this kind of stuff. But it's not their fault. The whole Eton scene can seem bizarre for a Canadian-some of the traditions run so deep that it's unfathomable for a North American."

But Eton-where Rees coached Prince William on the finer points of rugby-is only part of the UVic grad's life. As a professional rugby star for North London club Wasps, Rees is now only part time at Eton and better known on the sports pages of British newspapers. Rees emerged from the UVic Vikes program to be considered perhaps the greatest Canadian player ever produced in his sport. When he captains Canada at the 1999 World Cup in October, Rees will become the only player to have appeared in all four rugby World Cups held to date.

He's been doing the weekly gig at the Slough street kitchen ever since he got to Eton six years ago but didn't want to discuss it at length, saying many people put in thousands more volunteer hours and praise should be directed at them.

But it does help put the world in its proper orbit for Rees.

"As a pro athlete, it's easy to take things out of context," said Rees. "You think a game is life and death when it's not."

Rees laughs when it's mentioned that his charitable attitude, coupled with the Eton connection, could make him a poster boy for Tony Blair's centrist New Labour.

"I'm aware of things on a political level but I have no party leanings in either Britain or Canada," said Rees. "But going to UVic from SMUS when I did (1988) really opened my eyes to a lot of race and women's issues because things like women's studies were coming into the forefront of campus life at the time. That's maybe the biggest difference between Canada and Britain. It's made me realize how progressive-almost radicalized compared to British educational institutions-that UVic was in some senses. Canada is a much more liberal place in that regard and I appreciate that more now."

Rees came to SMUS in Grade 8 as a BCTV scholarship student from Willows Elementary.

"We weren't rich-I had two school teachers as parents-and I was a scholarship case at SMUS for four years," noted Rees. "When my SMUS mates were going off to McGill, Queen's, Harvard and Stanford, I stayed home and went to UVic.

"UVic was always the right choice for me," Rees continued. "I chose it because of the rugby program. I grew up with the Vikes winning all those national championships in basketball and other sports and Vikes rowers winning Olympic medals. The place was in my blood from childhood. When I first got on campus, I made it my goal to bring UVic rugby up to the level of UVic basketball and rowing.

Indeed he did. In Rees' four years in Vikes blue and gold, he turned UVic rugby into the prime collegiate program in North America. UBC and the University of California at Berkeley were the two other serious aspirants to that mantle and UVic went 4-0 against Berkeley and 3-1 against UBC during the Rees era.

After a post-SMUS year at Harrow on an English Speaking Union scholarship, Rees started at UVic in September of 1988. The following summer, he was playing for Canada as a 19 year-old in the first ever rugby World Cup.

Vikes rugby now produces Canadian national team players and overseas pros as a matter of course. That's Rees' legacy to the program-an attitude of excellence he left behind.

Rees graduated from UVic in 1991 with a bachelors degree in history before earning a masters in studies in modern history from Oxford's Keble College. His passion for teaching runs deep, as does his desire to create the well-rounded student.

"If kids are busy in music, drama and sports, it keeps them away from the bad stuff that's out there," he said. "Teachers are much more effective when they see the students in different environments. I wouldn't like to be in one specialized area and not be able to do things like coach."

At 31, Rees knows this year's World Cup will be his last. Last fall, he suffered a concussion during a Wasps game and had to be carried off in a stretcher. Before that, he was out for three months after snapping ligaments in his wrist during The World Cup qualifying tournament in Argentina.

"Rugby was my whole life," admitted Rees. "But when my body began failing me for the first time, it scared me. And so I started thinking a little more about preparing for my teaching career full time. Yet I look at what happened in the NFL last season with the re-emergence of older players. I believe I can do that in a rugby sense and I'm definitely playing pro for at least two more years. After that, well, it's wait and see."

Regardless of when it ends, it's been quite a trip from Wallace Field just outside Ring Road to starring roles in World Cup stadiums from New Zealand to South Africa.

UVic alumnus Cleve Dheensaw is a sportswriter for the Victoria Times Colonist and author of five books on sport.

 Linda Hughes:
Journalism

by Patty Pitts

In 1972 Linda Hughes was convinced her fresh new UVic honours degree in economics and history would lead to the life of an academic. But stopping by the Victoria Times one day to return a borrowed book, someone suggested that she apply for a summer job. Her career course was set.

"I thought I knew Victoria, but covering it for the paper made me see it in a different way. It opened up many new doors for me, and I had so much fun," recalls Hughes, now the publisher of the Edmonton Journal .

Her appointments as the Journal's editor-in-chief and then publisher made her the first woman to fill those positions at the newspaper. She remains the only woman in the country at the helm of a major Canadian daily. Yet, she downplays her accomplishments.

"I've had a lot of luck. I was in the right place at the right time in a period where there was a lot of change and movement within the newspaper industry," says Hughes, who was declared one of Canada's "50 most influential women" by Chatelaine magazine in 1994.

Hughes started her career doing general assignment work at the Times before moving to the provincial legislature. "I covered Dave Barrett's government and the first year of Bill Bennett in power. Those were very exciting times," says Hughes. Her work attracted a job offer from the Journal. "Someone phoned out of the blue on a day when I was thinking it was time to leave Victoria. I'd never been to Edmonton before and it seemed like a kind of adventure."

She rose through the ranks at the Journal-news editor, assistant managing editor and editor-in-chief-before being appointed publisher in 1991.

"Linda's really respected within the industry, and not just because she's a woman," says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, director of UVic's professional writing program and a former Journal reporter. "She was not the kind of person to make a fuss. She did her work in her quietly competent way, but she was always aware of what was best for the company. In addition to her professional competence, Linda always impressed me as someone who cared deeply about her staff and her community. She was a role model for me."

The 1987 Edmonton tornado remains one of Hughes' most vivid career memories. "The main lesson we learned was how important a newspaper is to a community. The storm had knocked out power to our press so we had to print a much abbreviated edition of the paper in Calgary and truck it back to Edmonton. There were people standing in line to get it. We sold out. People just wanted to read about what was going on with the tornado even though they had full TV and radio coverage."

Hughes is happy in Edmonton (she and husband George Ward have two children) and she has no desire to move to a bigger paper. But she'll admit the West Coast maintains a certain allure: "I'm still interested in politics...and there's nothing like B.C. politics!"

 Marshall McCall:
Astronomy

by Mike McNeney

He was a child, maybe not even five years-old, when his mother led him by the hand outside to see one of the first American satellites go flying overhead.

Ever since, Victoria-born Marshall McCall has spent a lot of time thinking about what's out there-stars, galaxies and the building blocks of the universe since the big bang-and he has established himself as one of Canada's leading astronomers.

As a teenager he pestered the staff at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory until they relented-a job tending the gardens was all he needed to get his foot in the door. He became a summer research associate while studying at UVic.

"I worked like a dog at UVic. The honours program was incredibly difficult," says McCall of his undergraduate experience in the department of physics and astronomy. "The astronomy stream required observational tasks, which of course could only be done at night, as well as daytime classes. I didn't realize it then, but I know now that the UVic astronomy program is competitive with any university."

A particular influence was Dr. Jeremy Tatum. "It so happened that at one stage three of my five courses were taught by him. He not only taught, but also opened up research opportunities for me." McCall graduated in 1976, winning the Governor General of Canada Medal for scholastic achievement.

He went to the University of Texas for his doctorate where a fellow student (a galaxy "fanatic") helped developed McCall's main research interest-the gaseous nebulae that envelope galaxies and reveal their chemical evolution.

Now a tenured professor at York University in Toronto, McCall balances teaching with an active research program.

McCall and Dr. Ronald Buta of the University of Alabama are preparing for Hubble Space Telescope observations scheduled for a six-week "window" this December and January. They'll observe the Maffei-1 galaxy, an old collection of stars believed to be one of the first to form. Because of its age it should offer a sharp view of its parts.

"One of the Hubble reviewers said this galaxy has the potential to be the 'Rosetta Stone' of images taken by the space telescope," says McCall.

Maffei-1 is the same galaxy that led McCall and Buta to the discovery of two new galaxies neighbouring our Milky Way. It drew a huge amount of interest from the news media. "It was like shucking an oyster and finding two pearls inside," McCall told Maclean's in 1995.

In 1997, McCall and Buta identified three of the five brightest galaxies in the northern sky and proved that they've influenced the motion of the Milky Way and its neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda.

The news media continues to rely on McCall as an expert source. He's often called on by the CTV's Canada A.M. to explain a whole range of issues in astronomy. "I normally get about 12 hours warning," says McCall.

"It's tiring and it takes a lot of time. But the reason I do it is that the more people know about science, the more interest the public will have in it, and more benefits will flow to science in general."


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