OLD BOYS: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College
by James FitzGerald
"A masterful oral history..."
JOHN ALLEMANG, THE GLOBE AND MAIL • Nov. 26, 1994
"From the obviously repressed through the painfully revealing to the sometimes hilarious....stranger than fiction."
PETER FOSTER, CANADIAN BUSINESS MAGAZINE • December 1994
"A fascinating glimpse into the evolving male psyche...this book is the strongest argument I've ever read for co-education for boys."
CHARLOTTE GRAY, TORONTO STAR • Dec. 10, 1994
"James FitzGerald has put together a book that everyone interested in the Canadian elite will be talking about for a good while."
ROBERT FULFORD, GLOBE AND MAIL • Nov. 9, 1994
"Yeah, so what if some UCC teachers were pedophiles? All that stuff has been going on in educational institutions since Socrates met Plato."
JILL RIGBY, TORONTO SUN • Dec. 18, 1994
"When I picked up Old Boys, I couldn't put it down. When I put it down, it haunted me and it still does. I thought if half of this is true, then Upper Canada College, school of choice of the Canadian Establishment, might have burnt all of the remaining copies."
TED SCHMIDT, CATHOLIC NEW TIMES • Oct. 8, 2000
"FitzGerald got his subjects to reveal some alarming things...Sexual abuse was just part of the equation....What is most disturbing about a book like FitzGerald's, of course, is how many could have been written, but never were."
ZANDER SHERMAN, AUTHOR OF "THE CURIOSITY OF SCHOOL: EDUCATION AND THE DARK SIDE OF ENLIGHTENMENT", 2012
Selected Reader Responses
"I have not met a single Old Boy who has read your book who does not agree that the bias is totally negative and that it can only be seen as some form of axe-grinding vendetta against the College. Virtually every day I reflect on how Upper Canada College changed my life for the better and I know literally hundreds of Old Boys who share this view...
The book strongly, clearly and uniquivocally builds the hypothesis that UCC corrupts and contorts young minds, produces spoiled, rich, valueless, immoral and pathetic human beings as graduates and, above all, ruins the lives of the boys entrusted to its care...
Should you ever wish to correct the record, or redeem your name as a serious journalist, I know you will have no trouble finding in your notes conversations with numerous Old Boys, including me, who have rich praise for UCC."
Ira N., Islington, Ontario, 1995
"As an Old Boy who didn't get to publish your book, it breaks my heart to say it, but it's a masterpiece. It's big. Sometimes it made me think of the third act of King Lear. It's also a bit like Schindler's List without Schindler. Of course, we all found our Schindlers or we wouldn't have survived the school.
It's just amazing that you were able to pull all that stuff out of the dark corners of human minds. Presumably the trick was in choosing the right people. I guess it's the eloquence that dazzles me most. I've published 500 books and worked with dozens of authors and I know that almost nobody can write worth a damn. People can't talk either, as literal transcripts all show. Obviously you did a lot of leading, a lot of manipulating, but it never shows, because you delete yourself and then (one surmises) adapt the text to leave a seamless finish, as if the guy just opened his mouth and it all came out, like, "We shall fight on the beaches." I gather this is the key idea that made the book possible. In a real sense, then, you are the author. Without you, no Feyer, no Gilmour, no Silver, no Colopinto, no Seccombe. Imagine the world without Wally Seccombe's wonderful piece about the sexual politics of football!
For raw power, for vigour, for passion, this book has few equals. From where I sit, it has just one thing wrong with it: it has the wrong imprint."
Michael Macklem, publisher, Oberon Press, Ottawa, 1995
"I found many fascinating aspects about your book. Almost every page had vignettes that resonated with me. There were simply hundreds of stories that I identified with. Many were hard to read because I felt I was there with your speakers, fighting the same battles all over again. Your book re-opened my mind and heart about my years at UCC and helped me to think about it critically and compassionately as a major formative experience in my life. Your speakers were courageous and you made UCC alive and less monolithic. Thank you for a terrific book."
David H., Cambridge, Massachusetts
"As I read 'Old Boys', I often felt stunned. I was thinking, 'Did I just read this? I can't believe this.' It's astounding how different the personalities are -- the deep thinkers, the sensitive ones, the shallow ones. I think the book is a stroke of genius."
Rudy G., Orangeville, Ontario
" 'Old Boys' is one of the best things that ever happened to UCC. It struck through to the core of the very negative things about the institution. In my opinion, one of them is the failure to go co-educational. Another was the knee-jerk, musk-oxen, defensive circle (rather like the Toronto Police Force) that smothered and ignored abuses and failings. Too many gutless wonders at the top, middle, and bottom."
Bruce Litteljohn, UCC teacher for 35 years
"In each generation there are a precious few who plumb the depths to make sense of the world in which they find themselves."Old Boys" is such an exploration of "self", heard through the voices of those who were there.
James FitzGerald is one of those gifted, sensitive souls. Dressed in gumboots or silk slippers, he amassed a wealth of testament. Three generations speak their eerily similar story. I was one of them and found brotherhood once more amongst my peers. So, I was not alone. Others came forward demanding closure and balance restored. Finally an expensive apology! If you wonder on the halls of power and the why of things as they are, then read this book."
Jonathan D., Caledon, Ont.
"An encyclopedia of arrogance and pain."
"I found Old Boys interesting, heartbreaking and incomplete...I was a student at Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario in the early 1970s and I can tell you stories that would make the content of your book look anemic in comparison...
During my time, beatings were routine and my classmates and I suffered them on a regular basis. Being bullied by upper school boys was not only tolerated but sanctioned by the school. I lost my front teeth at the hands of an upper school student who was three years older than me because he didn't like the way I spoke to him.Nothing was done and I still suffer issues in connection with the injury...
The damage inflicted on many boys with stay with them forever...Appleby has cleaned up their image but that does exonerate them of their past. Your book is a good start but not unlike the abuse being uncovered in the Catholic Church, you have only scraped the surface. Believe me, there are many, many more stories that need to be told."
Professor Steven Williams
Selected Media Coverage of UCC Sex Abuse Scandals
“What would you say if I seduced you?”
Behind the gates of Upper Canada College, the private Toronto enclave for Canada's elite, scenes of sexual coercion and even assault by teachers upon students are alleged to have played themselves out over decades, always covered up by its old boys club. Now, legal charges have brought those claims into the open. Globe and Mail investigative reporter PETER CHENEY tells tales out of school.
By Peter Cheney
Globe and Mail
Saturday, August 25, 2001
He sits in his fifth-floor apartment in Kingston, Ont., with his cat and his duct-taped guitar case, looking out over a landscape of highway interchanges and strip malls. Before him is a plastic box of medications and a package of Players Lights, which he smokes in endless succession as he tells the story of how he was raped by his teacher.
His name is Ron. He does not want his last name published, even though it is familiar to a generation at his alma mater -- Upper Canada College, this country's most elite private school. The public has never heard his story, but for decades Ron's rape has been one of upper-crust Toronto's dirty little secrets. The crime was known to the principal of the school, many members of its staff and classmates who went on to become blue-chip members of the Canadian establishment.
Ron went on to an emotional breakdown, a diagnosis of schizophrenia and the anguish that comes from watching the man who raped you go unpunished for 26 years.
Ron is 48 now, a greying version of the sensitive young man who appears in UCC yearbooks from 1971 and 1972. Then, he was a boy of promise and good grades, an amateur guitar player with a talent for squash and tennis. The memory that made him a good student is still acute. And he has not forgotten Clark Winton Noble, the UCC teacher who raped him on the night of Dec. 17, 1971.
It began at Toronto's upscale Badminton and Racquet Club, where Noble had invited him for a game of doubles. Ron recalls that Noble played poorly, but with a certain charisma -- "he had a lot of style." After the game, the teacher bought him drinks: Noble was 33 at the time; Ron was 17. He was not a member of Noble's inner circle of young men, but he found himself magnetized by his charm, and thrilled to be served drinks like an adult.
He remembers downing a series of Zombies, then some Rusty Nails. Then there was a bar cruise to Avenue Road, yet more drinking, a slide into alcoholic oblivion, followed by blurry excerpts from the trip to Noble's apartment, which was near the school. Inside the doorway, Ron remembers Noble taking him into his arms and fondling his crotch. He remembers Noble saying, "Would you like to go to bed now?"
Ron sagged, passing out from the liquor. And then he tells the part of the story that he relegates to a back shelf of his brain like a dusty, rarely watched movie: He woke up in darkness and realized that he was in Noble's bedroom. His face was pressed into the sheets, and Noble was sodomizing him.
In the morning, Noble acted as though nothing had happened. He drove Ron to his parent’s house and said, "I'll call you." Ron got out and slammed the door.
A few days later, overcome with shame, Ron confided to a friend. Soon, the word went around the school. Everywhere he went, students stared at him. "It was overwhelming," Ron says. "Everyone was talking about it. But nothing happened. Things just went on like before."
Noble ignored him. Ron walked past his class one day and saw that the desks had been pulled up in a circle. Noble was in the centre, all eyes upon him -- "like he was God."
Ron went to his father, a former military officer who had gone on to become a senior executive with a major Canadian company, and told him what had happened. His father went to see Patrick Johnson, the principal of UCC at the time.
His father returned, angry. He told Ron that he didn't think anything could be done. "He said the school had closed ranks," Ron says.
Ron's rape did not end with criminal charges against Noble. Nor did it end Noble's teaching career -- or even his pedophile career. Instead, Noble was allowed to teach at two other elite private schools, a process referred to in the profession as "passing the trash."
But for the events of the past month, Ron's rape might have slipped from public memory. Now, his story has been made fresh by developments that have recently rocked UCC.
It began on Aug. 2 with the arrest of Doug Brown, a charismatic former teacher who has been charged with 18 sex-related crimes. Brown, who taught at the school from 1975 until 1993, allegedly committed a series of sexual assaults in a UCC dormitory where he worked as a supervisor. These latest charges have shaken the school's blue-chip image and raised questions about its handling of sexual-abuse allegations.
Ian Douglas, a former lawyer who attended UCC in the 1950s and 1960s, said he believes that the institution used its overwhelming power to control information and, by extension, to maintain its public image.
"Society's acknowledged leaders believed that it was their birthright to influence people, events and what made it into the newspapers or onto TV," Douglas says.
The result, he believes, is that there is a story that has never been told about UCC: "That story," he says, "would describe an institution which utterly and consciously debased its most basic duties to the children in its care."
UCC has seen many golden boys and, until he was branded as a pedophile, Clark Winton Noble counted himself among them. Noble had the kind of gifts that can only be conferred: patrician looks, school connections and the confidence that comes with being a son of the Canadian establishment.
He grew up in a mansion in Toronto's Forest Hill, just across the street from the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. His father was E. Clark Noble, a prominent physician; his uncle was Dr. Robert Laing Noble, a cancer researcher whose accomplishments earned him a place in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Noble's brother went on to become a highly regarded cardiologist.
Noble chose teaching, a profession that was considered appropriate for children of the upper class, particularly if they secured a position at an elite institution.
To the outside world, UCC was monolithic, an ivy-covered school that was a stepping stone to a life of power and influence; by extension, it was assumed that the school's standards were far above average and that its staff was the finest.
Although that was partly true, UCC could also be a place of fantastic eccentricity and uneven standards. A boy might find himself in real-life Dead Poets Society, with a gifted and imaginative teacher who would give equal class time to Shakespeare and Pink Floyd. That same student might also have a teacher who would devote an entire double algebra class to the reading of hardcore gay pornography.
"For all of the late 1950s and early 1960s, UCC employed a population of usually bachelor, sometimes alcoholic, frequently sadistic and occasionally pedophilic masters who brought a pervasive terror to young boys," Douglas says.
This was Noble's world. He arrived at UCC in 1966, and made an immediate impression. "He was a very striking guy," one of his former students says. "He had a lot of presence."
Noble -- nicknamed Nobby by peers and students -- was a modern-day Pied Piper, attracting a flock of young male students with his flamboyant style. His academic standards were relaxed; his classes were widely regarded as useful for pulling up a sagging average. He spoke to teenagers as if they were peers. He drank with underaged students and invited them to his apartment. He took them on trips out west and on sailing expeditions where he was alone with them for days on end.
In the summer, he sometimes served as a leader on European tours organized by a company called Butterfield & Robinson -- a staple item in the life of upper-crust Canadian boys. He spent weeks travelling through Europe with his young charges, staying in hotels, sightseeing and drinking.
He was also a summer counsellor at Camp Hurontario on Georgian Bay, which catered to the sons of the wealthy. At the camp, Noble made the most of his physique by wearing tiny shorts and tight T-shirts. One camper later referred to him as "Michelangelo's David."
Only later would it be noted that Noble had created a life in which he was surrounded by young people almost every day of the year.
Not everyone bought Noble's act. A student who was interviewed by author James FitzGerald for his book on UCC called Old Boys recalled him as "a particularly repellent individual . . . an extraordinarily pretentious guy always trying to make a big impression."
Publicly, Noble embraced the school's homophobia. He once interrupted a 1968 history class to offer his opinion of a newly arrived Grade 10 English teacher believed to be gay: "God, I hate that guy," he announced. He used his classroom as a pulpit, declaiming on everything from the origin of man to his hatred of homosexuals, whom he denounced as "fags."
Privately, Noble was no stranger to gay sex. It was an open secret among students and staff alike. One student recalled how he shared a motel room with the teacher, who was in a twin bed next to his own, during a summer trip to Europe. Noble reached over, dropped an ice cube in the boy's navel, and asked, "What would you say if I seduced you?"
He told the boy that he had slept with at least a dozen of his classmates and that he enjoyed boys and girls equally. He offered his bisexual credo: "Double your pleasure, double your fun."
For nearly a year, Noble carried on a love affair with a young man who headed the school's cadet squad, a blond, muscular boy from a prominent family. He was sighted at a party, rolling around under a table with a teenaged girl from Bishop Strachan School.
But Ron's rape in December of 1971 was a bridge too far. When his father went to the school to complain, Noble was called in for a discussion with the principal. A short time later, Noble resigned his position at UCC. The police were never called.
In September of 1972, Noble went to British Columbia to teach at Pacific College, a new private school that was about to open. When the school's opening was delayed because of construction problems, headmaster Jack Matthews called a colleague at Shawnigan Lake School, an upscale private school on Vancouver Island and secured a teaching position for Noble.
David Robertson, the current headmaster at Shawnigan Lake, says his school had no idea of Noble's controversial past. "If that was the case, I'm certain he wouldn't have been hired."
Noble lasted only two months at Shawnigan Lake. He left after a falling-out with the administration over a wilderness program he wanted to set up. A short time later, he arrived at Appleby College, a private school in Oakville, Ont.
At Appleby, he repeated the patterns of UCC. He was very popular with students, known for his sense of fashion, his physical attractiveness and his apparent breeding. "He never talked about it," a teacher says. "But you knew he came from money. He'd mention a club he was in, or the trip he just came back from."
As at UCC, Noble spent a lot of time with students outside the classroom -- one of his distinctions at Appleby was the creation of a Temagami wilderness program, which he ran for 14 years. Noble took the students into the bush for week-long sessions of canoeing, hiking and camping. For much of the time, he was alone with the students.
In 1991, there was another accusation. The father of an Appleby student told the administration that Noble had sexually assaulted his son. Again, there were no charges. Instead, Noble left the school. Staff members were told only that Noble had decided to retire.
For years, there was no explanation. The first official insight came in 1997, when Noble was finally charged by police. The investigation that led to the charges was launched after Ron went to the police, determined that something finally be done.
After the charges were announced, the boy Noble had assaulted at Appleby came forward as well. In 1998, Noble pleaded guilty to a 1988 sexual assault at Appleby and to the 1971 rape at his apartment. In July of 1998, he was sentenced to one year, which was suspended. In the courtroom, Noble's lawyer, Frank Felkai, read a statement:
"The incident happened a long time ago. . . .[Noble] has asked me to tell Your Honour that he's sorry about what happened, he's sorry that he caused emotional problems."
A reporter from Canadian Press filed a news story on Noble's sentencing, but it never ran in the newspapers, keeping his crime an essentially private affair.
"I think that to this day, a lot of people really don't know what happened," says a private school official who once taught with Noble at Appleby College. "One day he was just gone, and that was it. End of story."
There is an obvious question: How could school officials allow teachers accused of criminal conduct to move on to other schools and avoid charges?
"I don't know what happened," says Doug Blakey, the current principal of UCC. "I can only imagine. It's hard to know what the principal of the day was contemplating."
Blakey says there are no records relating to Ron's rape, his father's complaint or Noble's departure. "And the individuals involved are no longer with us."
In fact, UCC officials of the time knew exactly what happened to Ron, and they were also aware of other problems with Noble. In a 1994 interview, just months before his death, former principal Patrick Johnson told FitzGerald, the author of Old Boys, that Ron's rape was common knowledge and that the school had been lucky to escape litigation:
"I'm amazed the parents didn't take legal action in that particular case," Johnson said in a transcript of his interview that was never published.
He also admitted that he was well aware that Noble had a reputation as a pedophile: "Nobby used to take boys on trips out west," Johnson said. "God knows what happened on those trips. I heard things through my grapevine."
The arrest of Brown has sparked a sort of institutional catharsis. Student after student has come forward to offer his version of past events at UCC. Some have emerged to defend the school as well as Brown and Noble, whom they recall as gifted, caring teachers.
"Doug Brown was the most influential teacher in my life," says Ben Peterson, who was taught by Brown in 1989 and 1990, when he was in Grades 7 and 8. Peterson, the son of former Ontario premier David Peterson, says Mr. Brown had inspired him to rise from last in his class to first. "He saw in me what many others had not. . . . Doug Brown was a gifted teacher -- a UCC institution -- who benefited numerous people in ways that most teachers can only dream of."
Many more have savaged their alma mater for concealing allegations of past crimes, and for using the power of its name to suppress discussion.
"What's happened here is a disgrace," says Walter Tedman, who attended the school from 1954 to 1963. "None of this is new. It was an open secret. It was everywhere. I can't imagine that there was anyone who didn't know about it. . . .
"I'm not surprised it's taken so long to come out," Tedman says. "Everyone who's tried to approach the topic realized that the college had no interest in anything but silencing them."
Tedman recalls how, as a small boy, he was repeatedly molested by Tim Gibson, a former UCC teacher who was referred to by many students as "Mo" Gibson for his habit of fondling his young charges. Gibson would circle around the back of the room and put his hand inside the clothes of the boys who sat in the back rows, he says.
"There was nothing I could do," he says. "It was just part of life at UCC. It was 10 o'clock in the morning, and the sun was shining through the windows and I was being mauled."
Tedman recalls how he went to the headmaster and asked for a seat closer to the front of the class. When he was asked why, he says, he said he couldn't see the board. When that failed to get him a new seat, he tried to tell the headmaster what Gibson was doing.
"I said that Mr. Gibson troubled me -- I said he sits down beside me and I don't like it. And the headmaster said, 'That's the end of this meeting.' "
To understand how the abuse of small boys was once tolerated at UCC requires an understanding of the school's position in society during the era when the crimes took place. Douglas, the former lawyer who attended UCC in the 1950s and 1960s, says the school was a central pillar in a small but dominant WASP society where social standing counted above all -- and to criticize the school entailed the very real possibility of ostracism.
"UCC was . . . the perfect environment for the cover-up, the big lie, inaction, studied disbelief. No one would ever complain, no one could ever complain. Maintaining appearances meant that parents needed to keep their children in UCC, more for their own sake than for the sake of their children."
Although many have said brutality and sexual abuse were rampant, others say they never caught a whiff of it.
"I didn't see sexual abuse, and I didn't hear about it," says Ron Atkey, a lawyer who went to UCC from 1958 until 1960. "The only place I encountered it was in British novels. I would say that it is an unfair rap."
Rob Prichard, who went on to a stellar career that has included the presidency of the University of Toronto after graduating from UCC in 1967, has always been considered a poster boy for the elite school, and one of its staunchest defenders. But in his interview for Old Boys, he alluded to darker undercurrents:
"There is an ugly side to UCC. Some men get a sexual rush from caning little boys. Unfortunately, private schools that encourage you to cane little boys attract such people to teach. I assume there are various nasty secrets hidden away in the bowels of the school's history. They are best left there."
For those directly involved, leaving behind the "nasty secrets" of UCC is impossible.
Some would obviously like to -- like Noble, who is now 63 years old. He lives in an exclusive Toronto neighbourhood across the street from Branksome Hall, an upper-crust private girls school. He refuses to talk about UCC, his teaching career or anything else. A phone call ends after one question: "I'm not involved," Noble says. "And I'm not interested in talking. Goodbye."
Ron, the boy Noble raped 30 years ago, cannot dismiss the past so easily, even if he would sometimes like to. The defining quality of his life is loneliness. His days are all the same, spent in his $500-a-month apartment, with a daily walk to buy lottery tickets.
The apartment looks like the dorm room of a student who has stayed on after all his friends have graduated and moved on with their lives. The shelves are filled with old paperbacks and VHS tapes. There are a few books on the Civil War, and a Time-Life series of hardbacks on psychology.
For Ron, being raped was the beginning of a steep personal slide. After leaving UCC in1972, he went to Queen's University to study arts, but suffered a complete breakdown. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He has tried to slash his wrists twice. Until 1986, he worked at a series of dead-end jobs, including farm labourer, health-spa attendant and squash instructor. Finally, he retreated to his apartment full-time, living on $900 a month from a disability allowance plus the occasional gift from his mother. His father died several years ago.
To control his schizophrenia, he takes a long list of medications, which he keeps in a plastic case that is marked with hours and days. He doesn't know whether being raped by Noble contributed to his mental condition.
"Maybe I was going to be this way anyway," he says. "But I don't think it helped. How could it? I can't deal with the feelings I have about it. I've spent all these years trying to bury it, but I can't. I had a good childhood. I had a great family. This was the first really bad thing that ever happened to me."
He says he has no anger toward his father for his inability to get justice done in 1971. "I don't know what my father was up against," he says. "I'm sure he did what he could."
Ron says he deals with the past by controlling his mind, which he sees as a damaged machine, a piece of equipment that has valves and levers that can allow or deny access to particular trains of thought and memories. The section that holds Noble is rarely opened: "I can make it so he's not here," he says. "That's what I do most of the time."
"I was afraid it was going to happen again"
In 1975, blue-blooded Upper Canada College appeared to be an oasis of scholarly calm. Below the surface, however, it was more a school for scandal. PETER CHENEY turns back the clock at Canada's most prestigious private boys academy to uncover the roots of a sensational sexual abuse case that ended last week in the conviction of a former teacher.
Globe and Mail
Saturday, October 16, 2004
As the summer of 1975 came to an end, life was good for a boy we'll call Brad and his family. There was a stately home in Toronto's Rosedale enclave, a cottage on Lake Joseph in Muskoka, a pair of Mercedes and private riding lessons. And now the family were climbing another rung on the social ladder -- Brad was about to enter the most illustrious private boys school in the country.
Although he was only 12, and his family lived just minutes away, he had been enrolled as a boarding student. This was due to a foul-up: his parents had applied late, and no other spots were left. "I didn't want to be a boarder," Brad would say later. "I didn't understand it, even though they explained it to me."
His new home was in Upper Canada College's Peacock Building, an aging brick structure that contained dormitories, dining halls, classrooms and apartments for teachers who served as housemasters. Among them was Doug Brown, who was 27 and newly arrived from Hamilton, where he had just finished a master's degree in English at McMaster University.
The hiring of Mr. Brown was something of an experiment for UCC. He was from a blue collar background, wore jeans and running shoes, and listened to rock n' roll. Even his hero was anti-establishment: Louis Riel.
Mr. Brown had connected with the school when, working as a camp counsellor one summer, he had met the son of Dick Howard. headmaster of UCC's prep school, which is for boys up to grade 8. Mr. Howard and other administrators were aware that the world was changing, and UCC had to adapt. Just how, they weren't quite sure.
"They were delivering a patrician education in what was becoing an egalitarian society," says James FitzGerald, a UCC graduate who went on to write Old Boys, a book about the school, "They were completely out of touch."
In effect, Brad and Mr. Brown were joining a 146-year-old colonial version of Eton -- rigidly hierarchical, all boys, with cricket, caning and a mandatory cadet corps. The staff, many of them older with English backgrounds, gathered for sherry in the evenings.
The code of behaviour and discipline was largely modelled on the British military, and one of its exemplars was Tony Hearn, a taskmaster with the hard, unforgiving style of a Coldstream Guard drill sergeant. Mr. Hearn administered corporal punishment with a bamboo cane or a leather slipper, and taught grammar by rote, with an unrelenting precision.
Mr. Brown, on the other hand, was decidedly new school. He saw many on the UCC staff as dinosaurs whose fixation on worn-out techniques was turning off boys and stunting their intellectual development. His home room (Five B -- for Grade 5, Brown) was soon a favourite among the boys. He put in sofas, rearranged the desks so they were no longer in rows, and lined the walls with maps and posters. He decorated the room with curiosities from his travels -- animal skulls, snowshoes and airplane propellors.
The syllabus he used was original and imaginative, mixing MacBeth with Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd with Herman Melville. Where other teachers might force the boys to memorize the annual production of wheat in Saskatchwan over the past decade, he would read out the lyrics of a popular song and ask the class to decode them -- "look for the subversive meaning," he'd say.
Where UCC had always represented pre-eminence of the institution, and the subordination of personal interests to duty and tradition, he represented a new era of individualism in which young people declared their personalities through the way they wore their hair, the music they listened to, and the book they read. His apartment in the dorm was a refuge from the rigid atmosphere that prevailed elsewhere. Boys as young as 12 would drop by to talk about music, and perhaps have a beer from his mini-fridge. There were even Playboy magazines.
Soon, Mr. Brown had a circle of young acolytes. "He was the best teacher I ever had," one boy now says. "He saved my life."
Brad arrived at UCC the day before the classes were to begin, moving into a dorm that seemed to be straight out of Dickens. There was crumbling plaster, knob-and-tube wiring, hissing radiators that ran in rows down the middle of the rooms. The boys, some as young as 8, slept in six-by-nine foot cubicles walled off with curtains.
He unpacked his bags and listened as a teacher read out a long list of rules. Then there was a welcoming. Around 9:30, he went to his cubicle and drew the curtain. What happened next changed him forever.
As he lay drifting into sleep, he felt the pressure of a hand on his chest. He realized that his pajamas were being pushed down, and the intruder's other hand was cupping his genitals. Brad didn't know what to do. "I froze," he said later. "I played possum."
Through squinted eyelids, he recognized the person touching him -- it was Mr. Brown and he had started to stroke his penis. Then he bent over and licked the tip of Brad's penis. The boy was overcome by a sudden urge to urinate. Mr. Brown kept licking until he sat up, took Brad's hand and placed it on his own penis.
Then, suddenly, he was gone. But a few minutes later, when Brad got up to go to the bathroom, he was back, blocking the doorway.
"What are you doing up?" he asked.
"I had a really bad dream," Brad replied.
The next morning, Brad (which is not his real name; sexual abuse victims cannot be identified) called his father, and asked him to come to the school right away. Exactly what followed has been the subject of intense legal wrangling, but Brad's account is as follows:
After telling his father what had happened, a meeting was arranged with Dick Howard. Brad told his story and then was asked to wait outside. Mr. Brown was summoned and disappeared into the office until Brad's father reappeared and told him to go to the car.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, his father opened the door, got in the car, and said something Brad has never forgotten: "Son, you need to be careful what you say about people."
The boy returned to class in a daze. "I was petrified. I was afraid it was going to happen again." (It didn't -- in the three years Brad was at UCC, Mr. Brown never spoke to him). And so Brad embarked on a crusade, describing what had gone on in his cubicle. "After a while, I got tired of telling people," he said, but he couldn't seem to stop.
Speaking out made him a pariah. "I was shunned. People laughed at me. There were people, right from the beginning, who didn't want to know me."
And yet several boys quietly told him that they, too, had been molested by Mr. Brown. Two of them said they had formed a mutual protection pact -- so they would always stay together, so Mr. Brown would never find them alone.
"Good idea," Brad said. But it would be almost 30 years before the criminal justice system would give him a true measure of satisfaction.
Outsiders may have considered UCC an oasis of gentility, but reality was far different. Thefts were common, and older boys routinely conducted "raids" on the younger ones, often armed with socks filled with bars of soap or billiard balls -- a practice known as "eight-balling."
The rough stuff extended to some of the teachers. Mr. Hearn, for example, once knocked a boy completely out his chair after he noticed that he was playing with his testicles. Another teacher routinely paddled boys with a cricket bat.
And the school already had a long, secretive history of sexual abuse. John McDonald, a student from 1921 to 1930, recalled for author James FitzGerald that "very quietly, going on all the time, was a homosexual undercurrent" and described one housemaster who "after he caned you, he'd put you on his lap. He'd then rub your behind and start to cry."
A contemporary of Mr. Brown. a science teacher, had the boys take off their pants to compare their penises, and a swim coach would punish students by making them swim and then perform toe-touching exercises while naked. In 1968, a teacher named Walter Bailey spent an entire double algebra class reading out hard core homosexual pornography. Fired eventually for locking himself in his room and refusing to come to class or answer his phone, he died of a heart attack in 1989.
One of the more notorious predators, Clark Noble, came from an illustrious family of physicians. Something of an Adonis, he was a bisexual pedophile who once explained that he liked young men and women equally: "Double your pleasure, double your fun."
Mr. Noble left after a 17 year old boy charged him in 1971 that he sodomized him after getting him drunk at a private club. The boy's father complained to the principal and was persuaded not to go public. Instead, Mr. Noble left to teach at several other private schools (in 1997, he was convicted for having sexually assaulted a boy at Appleby Colege in Oakville almost a decade earlier). The UCC boy, once an elite-level squash player, had a complete emotional breakdown, and has been unemployed for more than 30 years.
Officials later denied knowing about the Noble assault, but it was fairly common knowledge. Years later, Patrick Johnson, the principal at the time, told Mr. FitzGerald that, "Nobby used to take boys on trips out west. God knows what happened on those trips. I heard things through my grapevine." As for the 1971 incident, he said, "I'm amazed the parents didn't take legal action in that particular case."
Mr. Brown soon emerged as a headache for the administration. One night, he showed up at a drama performance having had several too many and "laughing raucously", recalled Mr. Hearn, who died in January. "He was out of control."
The next morning, there were two more sexual abuse complaints, and Mr. Brown was called to the office. According to Mr. Hearn, he admitted that he had fondled the boys and "couldn't explain why."
But the school had a tradition of tolerating the eccentricities of gifted teachers. One became infamous in the 1960s for putting his hand inside boys' shirts as they worked at their desks. ("People ask why I fondle little boys," he explained. "It's because I have arthritis, and it makes me feel better.") And Mr. Hearn, although credited by many boys for their perfect grammar and diction, was known to return from shopping trips with liquor bottlles clinking in his coat or hidden in his groceries. He finally quit drinking in 1969 after toppling off the podium during an address.
Mr. Brown seemed to be a new version of an old prototype. And his teaching seemed to redeem his personal failings. "Without doubt, Doug Brown was the most influential teacher in my life," says Ben Peterson, son of former Ontario premier David Peterson. "He encouraged and supported me through a time when not many others believed in my abilities. I was consistently last in my class until Doug Brown gave me the inspiration and confidence to raise the standard of my academic performance."
But the things that made him a hit with students brought him into conflict with some of his colleagues. Mr. Hearn, for example, found him overly familiar with students and "utterly pretentious" despite his blue collar pedigree, and Mr. Brown once went six years without speaking to two teachers he considered his arch enemies.
"Mr. Brown was the cool teacher, and they were the old guard," one protege said. "They hated him because he was relevant, and they weren't."
Brad left UCC in 1978, first for a Toronto public school and then a Christian academy, where he found himself in constant trouble. At home, things were falling apart, driven by a financial collapse that the following year cost the family their house. Brad dropped out of school and, at 16, went to work at a purebred horse farm. But he couldn't stick with it, or almost anything, for long. He went through such dead-end jobs as dishwasher, construction labourer and glass installer. He moved continually, living with friends, in rooming houses, in cheap hotels, and sometimes on the street. He used drugs and drank heavily.
The family moved to Vancouver and, with almost everything seized by creditors, his father took to selling cars, often changing dealerships in a hunt for higher commission. Rather than ebbing over the years, the anger Brad felt because his father had refused to support him against Mr. Brown grew. "I hated the bastard," he said later. "I never stopped hating him."
By the mid-1980s, many of the boys Mr. Brown had visited in the dormitory were exhibiting traits now considered classic symptoms of sexual abuse. Only three had come forward when Brad was at UCC, but there were many more.
One went on to become a tour manager for a band, and spent years struggling with substance abuse and an inability to maintain relationships. ("I didn't trust authority," he said. "Why would I, after what happened?") Another boy, the son of a diplomat, became an addict and was charged in California with sex-related crimes against children. Yet another wound up in New York State chronically unemployed and suffering from persistent substance abuse -- he went through more than a dozen detox programs without success.
"He was a mess," says his father, an Italian immigrant who had made a small fortune in business. He had considered sending his son to UCC as the pinnacle of success. But then, while visiting on weekends, he and his wife would take the boy out for dinner only to find him reluctant to wear his UCC blazer. He also lost so much weight he looked "emaciated and estranged" when he graduated in 1981.
"We were a loving family," the father says. "We didn't send our son to that school because we didn't want him around. We sent him there because we thought it would give him a chance."
In 1984, when he was 21, Brad "found cocaine, or it found me." He was soon spending more than $2,000 a month on his habit, most of it raised through petty crime. The following year, he was back in Toronto, hanging out on the seedy Yonge Street strip, when one night, hungry and in need of a high, he spotted a man standing with a teenage boy in a movie lineup.
It was Mr. Brown, who, when he saw Brad staring, greeted him as though nothing had happened: "Oh, hi, how are you?" he said, according to Brad, who resisted the urge to punch him.
The chance meeting seemed to spark something in Brad -- he was angrier than ever. Later that year, after being arrested yet again for a petty crime, he told the policeman what had happened in the dorm a decade earlier. The cop laughed: "People like you don't go to UCC."
By the mid 1980s, UCC had decided to close the prep school's dorm, and Mr. Brown had moved off campus to a low-rise on Forest Hill Road, just south of Eglinton Avenue. In his late 30s, he was still a popular teacher and his apartment was still a student refuge.
But there seemed to be a Jekyll and Hyde quality to him -- he could suddenly turn from hip companion to intolerant disciplinarian. More than once, he blew up and railed about "stupid little rich kids." Once, as a class looked on, he reamed out a boy who had forgotten to return a set of keys, forcing him to write a 1,500 word essay on responsibility.
"He was supposed to be different," one ex-student recalled. "But in the end, he turned out to be the same. Humilation was a standard method of control."
If Mr. Brown had thought he might help usher in a new age at UCC, his hopes clearly were fading. The school's elitism had survived only too well. At sports competitions against less wealthy schools, UCC boys would yell out: "Hey, Gino, your mother cleans my house." And if the other team scored, they would chant, "That's all right, that's okay, you'll be working for us some day."
And even with the prep dorm closed, he was still the subject of rumours. A boy who spent a lot of time at the apartment was pulled aside by a senior student, who said, "I can't believe you hang out with that guy. He's such a total fag." And one night, someone took spray paint and wrote "fuck truck" on the side of the GM van lined with shag carpet that he drove.
Yet by 1992, it seemed safe to assume that Mr. Brown would never be brought to account. The boys he had visited had moved on, with mixed results. One was a successful businessman, showing no apparent signs of damage. Others were doing less well. (One boy had spent years in therapy, and still felt "overcome with shame.")
But Brad's obsession remained. His life seemed to consist of drugs, crime and hating Mr. Brown. During a stay in Toronto, he looked up one of the boys who had formed the protection pact back in 1975 and asked him to write a letter documenting what had happened to him in the dorm. He then took the letter to a lawyer who said he had two options: sue the school or press for compensation.
Needing money for his habit, Brad told the lawyers to see what he could get -- and in the spring of 1993, he signed a deal with UCC that gave him $25,000 in exchange for his silence. The participants in the discussions included Doug Blakey, who had been principal since 1991 and, ironically, arrived in 1975 like Brad and Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown, meanwhile, was shown the door much as Mr. Noble was 22 years before. He was allowed to resign and given a year's salary as severance and even a cooly worded leter of recommendation.
He went to Montana, where he lived on a commune and worked on a project he had dreamed about for years -- a book on Louis Riel, an outsider who, like him, took on the established order and lost. But that winter, he returned to Canada, and just before Christmas, a former student spotted him driving down the street in Toronto. He told the student that he was unemployed and living in his van. The student, who assumed Mr. Brown had been driven from UCC by the forces of comformity, took him back to his parents' home in Forest Hill where they stayed up talking all night.
"I suddenly realized," the student recalls, "he wasn't the one giving the advice any more. I was giving it. I was the one taking care of him. So I was having this revelation: I'm taking care of this middle-aged man because there is no justice at UCC."
The secret payment didn't give UCC the relief it had hoped for. In the fall of 1993, Brad was spotted at the school's main gate on Avenue Road, panhandling bewildered parents as they pulled up in their luxury cars, and offering to recount his tale of abuse. Security arrived, and he left peacefully.
But the money was gone, and soon he was calling or visiting almost everyone he knew in search of cash. He showed up at Mr. Blakey's house at 3am and the headmaster forked over some bills. Not long after, he was back, hammering on the door in the middle of the night, and this time, Mr. Blakey had nothing on hand. When Brad wouldn't quit, he went with him to a bank machine.
Mr. Brown's prospects, meanwhile, were looking up. He had won a consulting contract with an Ontario government agency, and then gone to the Bahamas to set up an educational program. He later travelled to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean as a consultant, and then to China, where he taught English at a metallurgical institute.
In 1994, he wrote twice to Mr. FitzGerald, who had tracked him down for his book, refusing an interview and lecturing him on the pitfalls of probing the past: "Your various receptors must have been on full power to detect the sound of grinding axes, observe attempts to bring the great low...listen to the sychophantic slurping in the eventuality a son or grandson has to get into the school, find recovered memory syndrome and find the school a one-time haven of torture and abuse."
In another three years, the forces that eventually reunited Brad and Mr. Brown in a Toronto courtroom began to stir. Brad learned that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. The news had a galvanizing effect. He approached the Toronto Police's sexual assault squad. A detective took a videotpaed statement, but cautioned him that there wasn't enough evidence.
After that, Brad headed out to Vancouver, where he underwent drug treatment and managed to stay clean. He enrolled in a community college, rented a house, bought a car and a horse. Most significant of all, he found "a girlfriend who didn't drink or use drugs," as he would later recall with pride.
Once again, Mr. Brown underwent a reversal of fortunes. Detective Marie Drummond of the Toronto force called him in the Maldives to say a former student had filed a sexual abuse complaint and spoken of other such cases. There was no basis for charges, "but that may change," she warned.
Back at UCC, principal Blakey was under pressure. The mother of one of the boys Brad had conferred with had come to see him about Mr. Brown's actions in 1975. As well, he had been contacted by the target of Mr. Noble from 1971, and the former student was going to the police. (By now, Mr. Noble was facing the Appleby College charges).
After an "internal investigation" that lasted several weeks, Mr. Blakey called the police, and on August 2, 2001, Mr. Brown was arrested after returning from China to visit his mother. The charge was based on complaints filed by Brad and two other students, but when the story became public, more alleged victims came out of the woodwork. By the time Mr. Brown went to trial this year, 10 had filed criminal complaints, and at least 17 had joined a class action suit aginst him and UCC.
As well, the police had charged two other teachers with sexual assaults on students, as well as a young teaching assistant whose home computer contained a collection of child porn.
Not long after Mr. Brown's arrest, Brad's period of stability came to an end. His mother died on Sept. 10, 2001, as the funeral home attended to her body and planes crashed into the World Trade Center, he felt himself coming adrift: "I'd lost my reason to stay clean." He was soon using again and within months lost his car, house, girlfriend and horse.
By last summer, with Mr. Brown's trial set for September, the idea of telling his story in front of a packed courtroom prompted Brad to consider seeking drug treeatment yet again. It would have been his 22nd attempt, but he never checked into the program. Even so, he kept his appointment with the detective who flew to Vancouver to escort him to Toronto for the trial.
In the witness box, Brad, now 41, found his view of the 57 year old Mr. Brown was impaired -- which, as he would say later, was just as well. The Crown attorney led Brad through his story, which he told with a film noir realism, providing details that painted a vivid picture of both Mr. Brown's assault, and his own long fall from grace.
Six other men testified against Mr. Brown, recounting assaults that had taken place from 1975 to 1981. Outside the courtroom, one of them acknowledged that the arc of his life had been far different than it might have been. "Long is the way, and hard," he said, quoting from Milton's Paradise Lost, "that out of Hell leads up to light."
Given the nature of the case, credibilty was a key issue in the trial. In the witness box, Mr. Brown denied every allegation made against him, admitting only that he once sat on a bed in a bid to intercept boys heading off for a fight. And Brad, who had briefly gone off drugs before testifying, said afterward that he felt that a weight had come off his shoulders.
But the moment soon passed. At 3 the next morninmg, he was calling reporters he had met at the trial, saying "bad things would happen" if he didn't find some money. One coughed up $70, but the next one turned him down, and Brad cried softly into the phone, "Thankyou for saying no."
A few days later, he was back in Vancouver and the Toronto courtroom was packed as Mr. Justice Harry LaForme of the Ontario Supreme Court passed judgment.
"If I believe Mr. Brown, I must acquit him," the judge said, and the proceeded to give Brad the vindication he had waited for so long. Almost three decades after his father wouldn't believe him, Judge LaForme applauded his courage and honesty:
"He did not sugarcoat any of his past or make excuses for it. He never quarrelled with counsel or was the slightest bit evasive when responding to questions, regardless of their sensitivity or potential humiliating nature...His sad and tragic life was offered up as an open book. He did not shirk from the requirement to tell all, and he blamed only himself for it.
"In sum, even rogues are capable of being truthful."