Issue link: http://oct-oeeo.uberflip.com/i/896938

Contents of this Issue


Page 30 of 63

29 December 2017 | Professionally Speaking Entrepreneur Michael Wekerle and his mother, Hermine (his former history teacher), share a moment at his home in Markham, Ont. sitting there, writing out lesson plans — it helped me realize that you can't succeed without real effort and preparation." Hermine shares a happy memory of her own. "Sometimes, I'd keep students later and help them with their work; Michael would often stay and lend a hand. He cared about others, even then; I knew he would go far." In fact, it was that love of helping others — along with his mother's rich cultural influences — that brought Wekerle and Opera Atelier together. Co-artistic director Marshall Pynkoski recalls a special moment at an Opera Atelier event he was speaking at: "I hadn't even gotten back to my table when someone handed me a cheque for $25,000. It was from Michael Wekerle, and I had never even met him!" Since, Wekerle has donated more than $1 mil- lion — assisting youth and young artists with education and outreach opportunities. He has even funded produc- tions and taken shows abroad. "I'll never forget that opening night," says Pynkoski. "Michael flew his mother in his private jet so that she would arrive on time; he didn't want her to miss a thing." Although Wekerle may have one of the most remarkable careers in Canadian finance, he is quick to attribute credit else- where: "It's all thanks to my mother, and what she taught me in and outside of the classroom. My interest in history, in the arts, in helping others — it all came from her." PS It wasn't until Grade 11 history that Hermine and Wekerle's academic paths crossed but this didn't mean any special privileges. "Ninety-nine per cent of the time she was great, but if I got her mad — watch out for that one per cent! It could get awful- ly quiet in those car rides home." Being a particularly good read of others, a skill that served her well in guidance, Hermine noticed something about Wekerle: he had a penchant for daydreaming. "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary." This was one of his mother's favourite sayings, which Wekerle still recalls fondly. She also stressed the importance of customizing systems that work for you: "Develop your own process and stick to it." For a charismatic entrepreneur whose career has known dizzying highs cut with stomach-turning lows, Wekerle has found much inspiration in another of her zingers: "Failure is not an option." When asked what he gained from having a parent who was also his teacher, Wekerle's eyes light up. "I think the most valuable thing was watching my mom prepare each night for the following day. I can still see her "My European background had a lot to do with it," the retired teacher admits, sitting at a dining-room table in her son's baronial home in Markham, Ont. "My par- ents had always taken me to the ballet and opera as a child and I wanted my Canadian students to enjoy the same experiences. The school thought it was a wonderful idea and so did the parents." Hermine immigrated to Canada in 1952, sent by her parents who were determined that she know a better life than what postwar Europe could offer. She landed at Halifax's famous immigrant destination, Pier 21, and was taken under the wing of the Sisters of Service of Canada, which helped hundreds of newcomers. "They had a residen- tial home in Toronto for young Catholic girls," she recalls, of the historic Mary Perram House where she stayed. Shortly after, she met a tradesman in the import-export business, whom she married and had four children with. Hermine devoted herself to mother- hood but when a friend discovered she was fluent in German and English — and suggested a career in teaching — her path in life changed dramatically. She soon became certified at the University of Toronto's Ontario College of Education in 1971. "I never thought of myself as a teacher," Hermine recalls, "but once I began, I real- ized that it was a job I was born to do." When her children reached high school age, the resourceful Mrs. Wekerle found a way for them to attend the same school where she was teaching. Even though it was a good distance from home, she'd drive them in with her each day. "I remember it being a long ride," says Wekerle, "but Mom believed in keeping the family together." In this profile, notable Canadians honour the teachers who have made a difference in their lives and have successfully embraced the College's Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession, which are care, respect, trust and integrity. " i can still see her sitting, writing out lesson plans — it helped me realize that you can't succeed without real effort and preparation. "

Articles in this issue

view archives of OCT OEEO - PS_December_2017