OCT OEEO

PS_December_2017

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R E M A R K A B L E T E ACH E R 27 December 2017 | Professionally Speaking PHOTOS: MIKE FORD Dragons' Den star and entrepreneur Michael Wekerle recalls the valuable lessons that his mother taught him at school and the high returns he's enjoyed because of them. BY RICHARD OUZOUNIAN O n the night of May 11, 2012, the walls of the Royal Opera House at the Palace of Versailles echoed with the cheers of a Parisian audience saluting Canada's Opera Atelier, which had just made its dazzling debut of the 1686 Baroque opera classic, Armide. And while the company beamed with justifiable pride, the largest smiles in the theatre belonged to a teacher and her pupil, who also happens to be her son. One of those smiles belonged to Hermine Wekerle, who surveyed this triumph from the prestigious Royal Box — customarily reserved for royalty and where Marie Antoinette once sat. This was a moment she could only dream of as a child, as she'd watch productions from the back row of the Vienna State Opera — the only seats her family could afford. Her son, CBC's Dragons' Den star Michael Wekerle — one of the most flamboyantly successful Canadian entrepreneurs — was the reason Hermine was there. He had a dream of his own — to see his mother enjoy such glory, since taking him and his high school classmates to see the Canadian Opera Company's The Merry Widow. Much has happened since Wekerle's school days. After dropping out of university and taking a job at the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1982, he soon became the stuff of financial legend. Within a decade, "Wek" swiftly made a name for himself as one of the country's best institutional traders, fast tracking his way through the investment world. Since then, the ups and downs of this multimillionaire's dealings have kept Bay Street buzzing, especially after being a key player in the early financing of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) and its IPO. As much as the television personality is known for his financial wins, and occasional high-profile antics, his philanthropic support of artistic and youth organizations is just as noteworthy. When asked about his life achievements, Wekerle claims that "everything good about me came from my mother." Hermine was a German and history teacher for many years at Michael Power/St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke, Ont., before becoming an influential guidance counsellor there. Looking back, what she and her students remember best is what she called "The Culture Club" — a series of outings she devised to broaden the scope of their lives. "She'd take us to the opera, ballet, theatres and museums," recalls her son. "We even wound up at a disco once; she wanted us to enjoy every type of cultural experience."

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