Steven Laffoley ’84, Headmaster
Case for Support
Fellow Friends and Family of the Halifax Grammar School,
On the wall of my office hangs an old framed picture, an ornate hand-drawn picture that resembles a page from a medieval manuscript. On it is etched a list of twenty-two names, those parents who came together some sixty years ago, in the living room of a Halifax home, to talk about education.
As the story goes, they gathered to share their weariness with the modest work and mundane goals the local schools offered their children. They wished for a local school that aspired to something greater, a school where their children might engage with something like excellence. But no such school existed. So what did these parents do? Rather than let this ordinary conversation end with common expressions of parental concerns, they asked themselves instead an extraordinary question: What if we started our own school?
That was how the Halifax Grammar School began – with a simple call to action.
Once engaged, these parents were not to be deterred. They harnessed their great passions with exceptional ideas and crafted an audacious plan. When an available house was found on Tower Road, they did not hesitate. They mortgaged their homes. And when that house needed to be refreshed and refurbished, they did not pause. They offered up their labour.
I sometimes imagine those parents, dressed in work clothes in the summer months of 1958, their sleeves rolled to the elbows as they scrubbed the floors and painted the walls, imagine them as they carried through the front door the used wooden desks and ladder-backed chairs that turned old living spaces into HGS’s first classrooms. How extraordinary it must have been.
And how extraordinary it continues to be.
Since that first day, in September of 1958, the Halifax Grammar School has grown both physically and philosophically, from our second home on Atlantic Street to an expanded campus on Tower Road, and from our excellence in academics to expanded excellence in the arts, altruism, and athletics.
Yet, such growth brings paradoxical challenge. Our continued aspiration for something greater has created programs and experiences that now fill and tax our spaces. That is to say, we now find ourselves at moment in our school’s history, second only to its founding, when we ask ourselves a pressing question: Do we simply acknowledge and accept aging and limiting facilities that increasingly fail to provide engaging room for our growing imagination? Or do we, as our founders did, ask an ordinary question and respond with an extraordinary answer?
Engaging Excellence: The Campaign for Halifax Grammar is our ambitious response, an inspiring campaign with two laudable goals: first, to bring our school together under one roof by refurbishing the Tower Road Campus and building a new theatre, a spacious gymnasium, an exciting new academic building, and a stunning learning commons, creating the kinds of spaces that ignite imagination; and second, to ensure our longstanding commitment to make a Grammar School education available to all worthy students through funded scholarships and bursaries.
This is our generation’s call to action.
I wonder what those first parents would think of how their little school has grown. The picture on my wall stands as a daily reminder to all those who pass through my office that we live and learn in the shadow of those extraordinary founders, that we live and learn in the shadow of their grand dreams and great sacrifices. I imagine they would be pleased with how we celebrate our past. Yet, they would expect us to remain true Grammarians, always building for the future, always aspiring to something greater.
Steven Laffoley ’84