Departures – Paul Winnell

Interview Conducted by James MacFarlane

Mr. Paul Winnell is enjoying his final days as a staff member at UCC, just a year shy of the Quarter-Century Club. He is known to a majority of the student body as the guy who shakes hands at every assembly, but he also does important work behind the scenes. His confident, easy-going demeanor as well as his past experiences at UCC makes it easy for the average student to relate to him. I sat down for a brief conversation with Paul the other day, where he talked about his experience and gave a piece of invaluable advice to this year’s leaving class.

James: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey at UCC both as a student and a staff member.

Paul: I started in Jackson’s house in September of 1961, in a few months it’ll be 50 years. Long time ago. I loved being here as a student. I didn’t do very well academically, but I loved the extracurriculars. Sports, music, battalion, theatre…

J: They had a battalion back then?

P: Battalion? Every Tuesday and Thursday, we went to march through Forest Hill carrying rifles. It was a big part of the school. So that was cool, I loved being here. Then I came back to work here in 1988, managing director of the foundation and alumni relations. This is my 24th school year and I love coming in to work everyday. It’s a great place.

J: I think most people here, especially the students, know you as the guy that shakes everyone’s hand in assembly. So, what exactly are your responsibilities in the school, besides shaking hands and being friendly?

P: Managing director of the foundation, secretary director of the foundation. The foundation is an organization that’s legally apart from the school that holds the school’s endowment. Endowment is a fancy word for savings. The school has about $53 million in savings. It seems like a lot of money, it is by far the largest private school endowment in Canada. But compared to some of the US prep schools, it’s small. Some of them are in the billions. It grows by donations and by investment performance, so whatever’s in there at the end of each year, 4% of it is given to the school, and most of that goes towards needs-based financial aid, scholarships. And then alumni relations, there are a lot of ways I represent the school externally. I go to branch events around the world to meet with Old Boys. We have about 15 branch events each year, Hong Kong, Budapest, London, England, New York, Boston, all across Canada. I’m fortunate I have to travel to all of those and represent the school, speaking to Old Boys. Then events here, participating and helping to organize things like Founder’s Dinner, Association Day, reunions. I started working part time a few years ago, so I’m phasing out some of the things I used to do. So that’s generally what I do, alumni relations, representing the school externally and the foundation.

J: It sounds like you’re pretty passionate about your job.

P: For sure, I love it.

J: So at what point did you decide that it was time to call it quits?

P: You know, there wasn’t really a particular point. It’s just that I turn 65 soon, in a few months, so it’s time to do something else. 24 years… it’s time to move on, party somewhere else. Do some more stuff.

J: So was it a hard decision to make?

P: No, it really wasn’t difficult. It’s long enough to be in one place. You know, I want to do something else. I have a home in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and obviously, working, I can’t spend much time there. I want to spend probably five months a year in Brazil starting next December. So that’s a significant motivating factor in retiring.

J: That sounds amazing.

P: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Brazil’s a great country and I’m not the kind of person who’s gonna retire to South Florida and play shuffleboard.

J: You’ve obviously been here for a while and seen many generations of students come and go. What’s the one piece of advice you have to give the leaving class this year?

(Paul takes a long, pensive pause)

P: You hear it all the time, do what you’re passionate about and make sure you enjoy your life because it’s pretty short. Don’t ever do stuff you don’t want to do. Life is way too short… especially your working life. You finish university, it’s important to find something in your life that you really want to do. Don’t make your objective to make tons of money, because if you’re not happy doing it the money’s not gonna make you happy. Just do what you love.

J: One last question- Who have you got winning the Cup?

P: Vancouver in 5.

J: Thanks for your time and best of luck with future endeavours.

P: Cool, keep in touch. Come and visit me in Rio.