- Helen Chandler '82
- Bronwyn Greer '99
- Ian Dickinson '11
- Faith Saar '19
- Carly Heffernan '03
- Larry Wood, Class of 1958
- Dr. Jo-Anne Willment '73 EdD. C.C.C.
- Kate Robertson '83
- Leanne Whiteman '88
- Kevin Balmer '90
"I was at AC for my Grade 12 and 13 years. I was very hesitant at first. I had been with the same group of kids from kindergarten to Grade 11 and it was a big step to leave and go to boarding school. I didn’t know if I would make friends and knew I’d miss my dogs and cats, possibly even my parents. I think the best thing about AC for me was the friends I made from all over the world. My public high school was very sheltered and meeting people from different parts of the world opened up my mind. It made me want to travel to those places and gave me a sense of empathy for the world.
I also remember the support of the teachers at Albert. At my previous school I was failing Grade 11 math. My math teacher grudgingly passed me and advised me to just never take a math class again. Fortunately, I didn’t take that advice and made it through math and physics in Grade 13 and got into science at the University of Waterloo. There were many nights I stayed in and pestered poor Miss. Shelley Lockhart with questions about the homework that day. She would patiently explain it again even though it was probably her time off.
After Albert I studied Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. Although I enjoyed my courses I couldn’t see a career for me until I took an ergonomics course. Combining knowledge about how the body works and preventing injuries at work made sense to me and put me on my career path.
I took a year after graduation to teach skiing in Whistler. This brought me to the west coast that I knew I would always call home. I worked for a year as the Provincial Coordinator for the Disabled Skiing Association of British Columbia in Vancouver and then as a research assistant for a professor in the Health Care and Epidemiology Dept. at University of British Columbia (UBC) which brought me back to occupational health and safety. I then did an Occupational Health & Safety diploma at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and entered the safety field. I got my first safety job working at the Overwaitea Food Group as a Safety Advisor for their grocery store chain and then back to BCIT in the safety department. While there I found an ad online for an ergonomics position in California. Thinking that I would apply and possibly be asked to fly to San Francisco for an interview, I had no real hope of getting this, my dream job. I did get the job, moved to California and worked at State Fund as an Ergonomist in California for 11 years. While there I met my partner and had our son, Ben.
In 2012 we moved back to Vancouver where I worked as a Safety Advisor for Vancouver General Hospital and then went to WorkSafeBC as an Industry Specialist for Young and New Workers and Small Businesses where I have been ever since. Last year we moved to Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island."
Helen Chandler '82
"Albert was the best high school experience I could have asked for, small, familial, all while giving me exposure to the rest of the world. I came to Albert for what should have been Grade 11, but given my schooling had been in Florida for the eight years prior, it was determined I could advance to Grade 12. This meant, joining in a class with people I had known back in my childhood, but had not seen in years - despite this, it was those welcoming faces that made it so easy to join the AC family. Having classmates from Belleville, but also from all across the world, likely is what inspired my love of travel (staying home these last few months has proven challenging). One of my first international trips was to Bermuda, with Melanie Eddy ’98; her family welcomed me with open arms, shared recipes, photos, and their love of the island. Melanie is actually designing my wedding rings now; you never know where AC will come back into your life. The other aspect of AC life, for me, was sports; I played field hockey and soccer, and knew that I wanted to find a way to continue to be in sports in college, even if not as an athlete. The combination of that, the varying classes, and my leadership role as a Prefect in my OAC year, it's safe to say that AC set me up for success in my future.
From Albert, I went to the University of Windsor (UW), for a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics, continuing in that sports vein. They had a program that offered in the field experience which was a huge draw for me. While in UW I got involved as a student athletic trainer, and by virtue of that, was also the team manager for the men's varsity volleyball team. Four years of this dual role, showed me that my passion was organizing events and people, something I still do to this day. Coming to this realization is what led me to the Sports Administration program at Ohio University (OU). Recognized as the best in the world, the dual degree of an MBA with a Masters in Sports Administration, I felt would be something that would help me realize my dreams (at that time, working a Superbowl one day). Two years at OU, and an internship with the Houston Texans, among many others, led me to Texas in the summer of 2006. Through timing and luck, I secured a job as Tournament Manager for the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship, one of the 64 events on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour. Tennis was not somewhere I envisioned I would spend my career, but I was willing to try it out, and it's been amazing. Throughout the years, I've been lucky enough to go and work other events as well, to gain experience, notably the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Five years ago, I was promoted to Tournament Director, and am presently only one of three female tournament directors on tour, in addition to being the youngest. This role has enabled my love of travel to be combined with my job, and opened up the world once again. While tennis was never where I saw myself ending up, I've really and truly come to love my job, and the people in the tennis industry, it feels like family, much like Albert College did."
- Bronwyn Greer '99
"I am tremendously lucky to have spent 12 years at AC, with an amazing group of classmates along the way. So many bright kids all in one place meant for some friendly competition in and out of the classroom, and I found my place mostly embracing the arts (my favourite of the Albert A’s). I remember hopping between classrooms during Arts Period so that I could play in the band, sing in the choir, and get on stage in the school play. This was a strategic choice to distract from my lack of presence during athletics practice, which was largely attributable to my documented lack of hand-eye coordination. Otherwise, you could typically find me helping either running or promoting events, or pretending to study in the library.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years since I graduated. After AC, I obtained my Bachelor of Commerce from the Queen’s School of Business, where I also earned my Graduate Diploma in Accounting. I spent the next three years working towards my Chartered Accountant designation at KPMG, where I worked in both their Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) Group, as well as their Deal Advisory team. After earning my CA, I found my way to the Royal Bank of Canada’s Mergers & Acquisitions team, a group that managed all of the bank’s acquisitions and divestitures globally. That was the perfect stepping stone to my current role as Director of Strategy for B2B and Health Ventures, a new and innovation-focused arm of the bank."
Ian Dickinson '11
"I started at AC in Grade 1 and stayed there for my whole elementary and secondary school education and have worked in the Advancement Office for the two summers following my graduation. I remember always being busy. There was always a meeting to go to, a concert to prepare for, sports practice or games or volunteer projects I was working on. I loved every second of it. I think my favourite experience was being the Active Citizenship Prefect. My portfolio along with my trip to Kenya in Grade 11 solidified in my mind that I wanted to travel and do non-profit work as part of my career. I played soccer, basketball and volleyball. Being on a team like that is one of the things I miss most. I completed all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh awards. Those trips definitely improved my confidence and what I thought I was capable of. I played trumpet in the Community Winds and jazz band. At one point we had a brass quartet which was a lot of fun. Most importantly, I met some of my best friends and biggest mentors that I know will be with me for the rest of my life.
I am now in my second year at the University of King’s College. I went in to study Journalism, but I realized that wasn’t the right career path for me. I transferred into International Development Studies with a minor in Journalism and am loving it. Even though I don’t see it as my career, I highly recommend taking journalism courses. The skills you learn are widely applicable.”
Faith Saar '19
Alumna Carly Heffernan graduated from Albert College in the class of 2003. She has since gone on to become an award winning Actor, Writer, Comedian and Director. Most recently, in 2020, Carly became the first-ever female Artistic Director at Second City. It was at Albert, under the direction of faculty member Ms. Leslie Austin-Profit, where Carly first fell in love with all things funny and she hopes that everyone can find a way to laugh their way through life.
“When you grow up in a town with a population under 200 you have to learn to entertain yourself. Once you can entertain yourself, then and only then, can you move on to entertaining others. That’s exactly what I did. I started out in musical theatre because that’s where you shove kids who show even the slightest inkling of musical talent. Check the Albert College yearbooks, I was in the shows and I loved it. However, my feet did not. They were bad at dancing, very bad, maybe the worst and spoiler: they never got better. So I decided to throw in the entertainment towel and pursue a career in politics, naturally. However, while studying Politics in my first year at Queen’s University I couldn’t help but be drawn back to the theatre. I started performing again with QMT (Queen’s Musical Theatre), I played a tree in an experimental piece and then I stumbled upon a show called Queen’s Players. Now this was something completely new to me and yet it fit like an old glove. It combined so many of my favourite things singing, performing and drinking ridiculous amounts of cheap beer. It was also my first, true introduction to sketch comedy and wow did we hit it off. But I was still a practical, rural gal and so applied to teacher’s college in British Colombia with every intention to follow through on that until a professor suggested I “try it.” “It” being moving to the big city of Toronto to become an actress. The idea of making a living in the arts had never felt realistic to me but on a whim and this woman’s encouragement I decided to give myself one year. One year of auditioning and trying to “make it” which if you know anything about the entertainment industry is near impossible, it’s just not enough time…unless you’re really lucky. I was, I was really, really lucky. I went to the World Famous Second City one night with some friends and fell in love with professional sketch comedy. This was where I had to be and this was what I had to do. The great comedy institution called to me, I wanted to be like Catherine O’Hara, Gilda Radner the list goes on and on. I immediately checked out the website and saw they had auditions for their Conservatory Program that week- how could I be so lucky!? It also, said I should have at least one year of improv experience but I felt that one-week unit we did at Albert College with Leslie Austin-Profit was enough, and it was! By some miracle I was accepted into the program and it wasn’t long after I completed it that I was hired into The National Touring Company. After a year of life on the road going to exotic and exciting places Saskatchewan and Hamilton, Ontario, I was promoted to the Main Stage. I spent almost three years writing and performing satirical sketch comedy on that stage and there’s honestly no better way to spend that chunk of time. It was part school, part playground, part family, part home. After Second City I went on to write and perform in some amazing Canadian television like This Hour has 22 Minutes, The George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight Show, The Beaverton, Odd Squad and many more. But Second City…it kept calling. I returned in 2016 to become the theatre’s youngest ever Main Stage Director and it was even better than before. Being on the other side of the comedy, directing the writing process and the performances and guiding the overall shape of the show and experience of the audience is quite simply the best job in the business. That job has taken me all over North America and won me some fancy-pants awards (Canadian Comedy, Toronto Theatre Critics, Canadian Screen and Helen Hayes awards) and continues to bring me back to that first love that I developed way out in Codrington, Ontario entertaining.”
Carly Heffernan ’03
Larry Wood was 12 years old when his father passed away. He was an only child and the death of his father did not help his already strained relationship with his mother. They never did get along and this loss made it much worse. Not many years later, knowing he did not want to live at home anymore, Larry ran away. He was friends with some older students who were attending Queen’s University, and he was allowed to stay with one of them in his apartment. Larry got a job at a local nylon factory, bought a used car and quickly had the responsibilities of an adult while he was still a child.
In a turn of events, Larry’s life changed in a way that shaped him for the rest of his life. While he was working at the factory, Reverend A.M. Laferty, who officiated at his father’s funeral, reached out and asked if he would go to a school in Belleville, namely, Albert College. Larry, knowing that his time at the nylon factory was limited due to his young age and lack of seniority, decided to take him up on the offer.
Larry arrived at Albert College soon after school had started in the fall of 1955. He didn’t know anybody and it was a big adjustment. He was given a room behind Mr. Beach’s apartment in residence and because he was older than most of the other kids, Mr. Beach made him the “night checker” in Graham Hall. It was Larry’s job to make sure that the boys were in bed and lights were out. It gave him responsibility and some freedom while in residence. It didn’t take long for Larry to figure out that there was access to electrical power near a window in his room. He wanted to have power 24 hours a day, seven days a week and using his innovative and fearless mindset, Larry rigged his room in Graham to be the only room with access to power 24 hours a day! It allowed him to listen to the radio day and night. He loved the radio and decided he would like to have his own radio station. With this in mind, Larry headed to the local radio station in Belleville. He walked right in and the radio engineer asked him what he was doing there. Larry told him he wanted to learn about radio. A deal was struck between the two and Larry was the new radio engineer on Friday and Saturday nights at CJBQ. He learned a lot and always made it home before curfew for his duties as night checker.
With the combination of his experience at CJBQ, his desire to broadcast, and a 24-hour supply of power, Larry’s radio station LJBQ was born. It was the first, and from what we know, the only illegal radio station broadcasting from Graham Hall. It was a great experience and although he was eventually caught when the Headmaster asked his daughter what she was listening to. This homemade radio station was the foundation for where he would go in the future. Sadly, his power feed was removed by Mr. Beach, but not until after it had been showcased to other local educators to brag about the skills of an Albert student. Larry continued to get into some sticky situations at school. His grades were average, he was a bit of a loner and his social skills were not the best. He bent the rules too often and did not perform as well as he was expected to. But he loved his time at Albert. He wrote poetry which was featured in the yearbooks and he played tenor saxophone in the band. He also secretly drove his motorcycle whenever he could as he had hidden it off campus in a private garage rented from a neighbour.
After nearly three years at Albert College, Larry’s luck had run out. He was finally caught riding his motorcycle and was asked to leave Albert College before he completed his final exams. The manager of CKLC in Kingston, Larry’s home town, was driving by Albert one day and heard him broadcasting on his illegal radio station. He turned around and stopped by the school and left a message with the Headmaster, that when Larry finished school he wanted to hire him. As Headmaster McKenzie was telling Larry that he was being expelled from Albert, he gave him the note from the CKLC Manager and said, “Be sure to call this man. He has a job for you.” Larry went to work the next week as Master Control Engineer at CKLC. Looking back, Larry credits Albert College and the Headmaster for helping to launch his career. On Larry’s last day at Albert College, he packed his things and peeled out on his motorcycle, leaving behind some damage on the grass.
After a few years, things just kept moving forward. From there, he moved to CKOY in Ottawa, then back to Kingston’s CKLC as the afternoon announcer. He would record his show for the afternoon and worked hard to make it almost perfect each day. He went back to CKOY and took over the all-night show. On his first week as the All Night Show announcer, he turned the microphone on and said, “Someone just told me that there are eight girls for every guy in Ottawa. There is something wrong with that. Some guy out there must have 16 girls, ‘cause I don’t have any” …then he rolled in the next record. The phone rang off the hook and Larry had more dates than he knew how to handle! He had a great time as the night DJ and was loving life. But one day, his best friend told him he needed to move to the United States. And so, he did. And that was where Larry went from radio to television production.
Larry transitioned into television production with audio and some video at a TV station in North Carolina. But then, his big break for television came in Syracuse, New York. He convinced them to let him try everything at the station. He wanted to learn about 16mm film and all the aspects of television. Every six months or so, Larry would transfer jobs and learn new skills. He mastered audio, video, lighting, 16mm film, and he eventually became a director, and Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) hired him. He started to produce documentaries for PBS. His life was fun and he was enjoying it to the fullest. And yet again, his best friend Doug, who had since moved with his wife Adele to Las Vegas, called him. He told Larry that he needed to take all his skills and open his own production company in Las Vegas.
This started the next chapter of Larry’s career. He quit his job at PBS, purchased a truck, packed up his things and drove to Las Vegas in the summer of 1970 to start his own freelance production company. The purchase of an Ikegami HL79A camera (a brand new state of the art camera) ensured he found work as a freelancer. He worked for a small company in California that sent him around the world producing travel films. He used to say, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world…I get PAID to have fun.” He worked for HBO filming boxing and also filmed the infamous Mike Tyson as he trained for big fights. Larry became a well-known camera operator running various robotic and jib arm systems. In fact, he became so well known, he won four Emmy Awards for his work running robotic cameras for the 1992 America’s Cup Yacht Races and for his handheld work on boxing at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and 1992 Summer Olympics in Spain. He also has nine Telly Awards and a 1996 Cine Golden Eagle Award for a documentary he did about developmentally delayed children. He also did camera work for the World Series of Poker on ESPN for eight years. Larry loved his job and loved all the great people he met and worked with in the industry.
By the late 90s, Larry sold some of his equipment and started to slow down in the industry so he could enjoy some retirement activities. He bought an RV and decided to see the country. Larry planned one of his trips to go coast to coast on the Trans Canada Highway in 2001. During this trip, he stopped in Belleville to visit Albert College and Graham Hall to see where his career started. He pulled his RV right up to the front of the school, where he could see his room all those years earlier in Graham Hall.
In 2018, Jennifer Kimball, Albert College’s Chief Financial Officer and her husband Dan Dickinson, visited Larry in Las Vegas. Larry took them on a tour of his home and showed them his recording studios and Emmys. Larry had photos of the radio station he set up in his room in Graham Hall and of him as a young saxophone player in the band set up in his room. Larry also showed them a video of his last trip to Albert in 2002 while on a trip to travel the entire Millennium Trail.
When asked what advice he would give to an Albert student today, Larry said “You can be an average student and still be successful. Anyone can make it, if you find something you like. When you like your work, you meet people you like, people who like what they do and you make good friends.”
Larry currently resides in Las Vegas and kindly spent a number of hours talking to us about his life and how Albert College changed it. He admits he was not a great student, but told us, “More than anything, Albert taught me how to get along with people, and I think that is one of the keys to happiness!” He still does not know the details of how exactly he came to Albert or who applied for financial assistance on his behalf, but he does know that his experience shaped him into who he is today. After some research, it seems that the Veteran’s Fund paid his tuition, but who organized that, we may never know. After speaking to Larry Wood, you can’t help but feel his love for life and expect that if you met him in person, his eyes must sparkle with his appreciation and joy for the experiences he has had.
Dr. Jo-Anne Willment ’73 EdD. C.C.C. studied psychology and sociology earning her Joint Honours BA at the University of Waterloo in 1978. She completed her Masters Degree in Psychology at the University of Guelph where she graduated in 1982. Later Jo-Anne returned to her academic pursuits and graduated with a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Toronto in 1998. Jo-Anne is a Certified Canadian Counsellor. Throughout her career Jo-Anne has had the opportunity to live and work in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Alberta, served sabbatical stints in China, Finland, and South Africa, and has travelled extensively in Russia, Europe, Hong Kong, and South East Asia. Jo-Anne currently resides in Calgary, Alberta and is an Associate Professor Emerita at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. Though Jo-Anne formally retired in January 2017, she continues to work with graduate learners and teaches graduate courses. She also continues to write. Music is an integral part of Jo-Anne’s life, and she held the position of the Royal Canadian College of Organists Festival Co-Chair for the 2018 Calgary Organ Festival.
“Academics have provided me with the flexibility, opportunities, and resources to follow my interests and passions while maintaining a learning focus throughout my career.” Dr. Jo-Anne Willment ’73 EdD. C.C.C.
“I shall always remember the kind generosity of T.K. Franklin, Bill Mathieson, and Molly McIntyre at the College. It was a place that gave me the time and opportunity to grow and to have fun. Friendships with Barbara Amos and others live on through to today. The Howard Award was icing on the cake and came as a complete surprise to my parents at Convocation!” Dr. Jo-Anne Willment ’73 EdD. C.C.C.
Kate Robertson ’83 went on to study French at L’Institute Catholique in Paris, France. Next, she completed a degree in English Literature and Letters Français at the University of Ottawa. Following graduation in 1987, Kate worked in the newsroom at the Ottawa Citizen for six months before attending Algonquin College to study journalism. In following her dream of becoming a writer, Kate became a journalist and has worked as an editor at the Toronto Star for the past 20 years. In 2008, Kate took a year off to live in Tanzania with her two daughters, Madeleine and Isabelle. Kate’s parents lived in Tanzania when she was a student at Albert College. Kate worked in the development office of the school she attended in Tanzania before Albert College, and enrolled her daughters in classes there as well.
“When I look at the other names on the Howard Award board of recipients, especially those I have known, I can see that the honour was not given for just one action -- living with conviction, being considerate of others and taking responsibility for choices and decisions all come into play. I am honoured to be in such good company.” Kate Robertson ’83
Vincent Van Gogh once asked, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"
As a Professional Makeup & Airbrush Artist, Face & Body Painter as well as Makeup Instructor and College Professor, Leanne “Lee” Whiteman ’88 has had some amazing experiences and the opportunities just keep on coming. Here is a little of Leanne’s story since graduating from Albert College.
“To answer Vincent’s rhetorical question, “Empty”. That’s what life would be. It would be empty. And boring! You need to find that courage to attempt anything and say to yourself, “Onward”. My Art Teacher at AC, Mr. Alexander, I think would be proud of who I have become and that I detoured back around to the Arts as a profession. And as all artists know...that isn’t an easy task. Usually referred to as a “hobby” more than a career, it definitely takes courage and gumption and endless hours that could potentially get you nowhere. I didn’t start on this path, however. After graduating from Albert College in 1988, I went to Carleton University in Ottawa for a couple of years and realized this was not my intended path. Back home to Loyalist College soon afterward, I graduated successfully in Advertising and headed back to Ottawa to what I thought was my first and only professional love, Marketing. After spending years in Ottawa working for Standard Radio (54 Rock and The Bear) as the Sales/Promo Assistant, I was offered a position with the NHL - The Ottawa Senators, as their Marketing Assistant. Life and family moved me to Oakville in 2000 and after a small stint working with Ericsson Telecom as the Marketing Solutions Coordinator, I left behind my marketing career to raise my three children, Spencer, Parker and Sabrina (now 20, 17 and 15). Three years later, I found myself in Whitby working from home doing part-time document editing, marketing and the occasional freelance graphic design to keep me busy. Sitting still is not one of my strong suits! My longing to be creative again and missing the arts madly, was nipping at my heels and one day I was asked by a friend if I knew how to facepaint. “You’re artsy…..”, she said. So I agreed to try face painting at her daughter’s birthday party. And as the old adage goes, the rest is history.
I started my own Face Painting business in 2011 and then felt the itch for more professional growth and went back to school to become a Professional Makeup Artist. Immediately after I graduated I became certified in Airbrushing which completed my academic journey. I have now been a Professional Makeup & Airbrush Artist, Face & Body Painter and Instructor for almost ten years. I’ve worked within the community at events and private functions and have even travelled throughout Ontario for major franchises to paint at their events. It has always been important to me to give my time to charities which I have done from the beginning to local hospitals, schools, cancer fundraisers as well as Children's Centres and the YWCA.
From a Makeup perspective, I've worked with professional photographers throughout the Greater Toronto Area for photo shoots and professional headshots and have been on set for small productions, short films and Public Service Announcements. I was even lucky enough to work with CTV's Ken Shaw for a Braveheart Spoof Commercial for the 24th Annual Providence Healthcare Silver Ball Fundraiser (see pic - he's extraordinarily tall!). Then in 2017, my experience and talent lead me to Canada's Wonderland as a Makeup & Airbrush Artist for performers for their annual Halloween Haunt, and most recently their brand new Holiday WinterFest. I am currently the Makeup & Airbrush Artist for their phenomenal production, “Tinker’s Toy Factory” at Canterbury Theatre and am working with an extremely talented pool of singers, dancers and even spectacular Cirque du Soleil Acrobats.
Finally, I've been lucky enough to use my artistic hand as an instructor. My love for this is endless. I started by teaching junior face painters and then took a position teaching a Makeup Certificate and Airbrush Course at a private college in Pickering. From there I was asked to instruct within the Durham District School Board High Schools through Art Grants and taught Special F/X Workshops. This was followed by teaching the College Makeup portion of the Aesthetics Dual Credit Program, through Loyalist College, in Durham Catholic Secondary Schools for Grades 10 through 12.
I am incredibly excited to announce that most recently I have been given what I consider the most important jump in my career as a Professional Makeup Artist and Instructor and was hired by Durham College as the Professor of Makeup and Corrective Techniques III within the Cosmetic Techniques and Management Diploma Program. I am currently teaching this second year course at the Durham College Oshawa Campus. In addition to this amazing opportunity, I was also offered the role of Professor of the Dual Credit Program within Durham College on campus, as well as at a high school in Clarington. I am ecstatic to have been chosen to represent the industry that I fell in love with a decade ago. Being able to do what I love is a gift and I feel incredibly lucky every single day.
So to you, my fellow AC grads, I say, go forward with courage, attempt all and make your life complete, self-fulfilling and happy. You’ve only got one life so....onward!”
Leanne Whiteman '88
Kevin Balmer ’90 is an entrepreneur and the owner of a successful video production company in Portland, Oregon called Diggable Monkey Productions. “Without the support of the Samuel McLaughlin Scholarship I would not have had the opportunity to graduate from Albert College and might not be who I am today.” Kevin took some time to talk to us about his four years at Albert College and his journey to where he is now.
Kevin’s connection to Albert College began long before he walked through the front door in the ’80s. His father, Spencer Balmer ’53; aunt, Faith Smith ’60; uncles Neil Smith ’59 and Thomas Ballantyne ’43; and brother, Marshall Balmer, all attended Albert College before he did. Kevin’s grandmother was also connected to the College through the Albert College Ladies Guild. It was this family connection that Kevin explains “made Albert a soft landing for me. Albert College has always felt like home to me. Even before arriving, the spirits of Albert College were with me. The school holds a very special place in my memory and my life”.
Kevin fondly remembers the faculty and staff as supportive and encouraging. Kevin began playing the drums at the age of 12. When talking with his parents about the possibility of attending Albert College as a boarding student, he raised the question, “What about my drums?” Kevin’s father promptly called the College and asked the same question. Faculty member Mr. Clyde Dawson was able to see that continuing to play the drums was important to Kevin and, wanting to encourage his musical interest, had a room in the basement of the College converted to accommodate the arrival of Kevin’s drum kit. Kevin also spoke about connecting easily with both staff and students while at Albert. He has fond memories of faculty member Mr. Michael Tansley, as well. Both Mr. Dawson and Mr. Tansley had a significant impact on Kevin. “If I were to write a book about my life, I would have to dedicate a specific chapter in my life story for these two,” Kevin says. It was not only the faculty that pushed Kevin to rise to the challenges set ahead of him but Headmaster Simon Bruce-Lockhart as well. “He was a well-respected man, who I and others looked up to. I can remember being inspired by his lectures in Chapel while at the same time finding him very easy to talk to. In my opinion he was the ultimate headmaster-type.” Kevin will be forever grateful for one specific phone call he received from Headmaster Bruce-Lockhart. During this phone call, Headmaster Bruce-Lockhart informed him that the school would like to offer Kevin a scholarship to continue attending. Without this scholarship Kevin’s family would not have been able to afford to continue sending him to Albert to complete his final two years of high school. “It was difficult to really truly appreciate at the time. Upon reflection I felt embraced, like I belonged and it was a big vote of confidence that the faculty and board at Albert College wanted me!”
After graduating from Albert in 1990, Kevin moved to the United States in pursuit of a career as a professional musician. After eight years, he and his band moved from Georgia to Portland, Oregon. The move did not work out for the band and, after some rocky times, things started to fall apart. At this point Kevin started looking for other job opportunities and found a position at Con-way Freight. Twelve years later, Kevin found himself still working for Con-way Freight as a Geographic Information Systems Analyst at a job that he thought would hold a temporary place in his life. Kevin enjoyed the work and steady income, but he missed being creative. While working full-time, Kevin attended classes at Portland University and received an Advanced Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. One of the projects Kevin is particularly proud of is The Diggable City: Making Urban Agriculture a Planning Priority. It was through this and other projects that Kevin was reminded of his affinity for the arts and decided to start his video production company called Diggable Monkey Productions. When asked about his production company, Kevin said “I’m small, but I carry a big stick! After seven years, my digital footprint is quite large. I’ve worked on a number of documentaries, film shorts and other projects with a lot of colourful characters. I think in the near future I’ll be able to leverage my degree and move my work into a realm that will help Portland, Oregon tell its dynamic story. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and I enjoy that my work is interesting and engaging. Not everyone loves what they do and I am fortunate to be that lucky!”
Kevin reflects back to his time at Albert, “What I do now has a direct tie back to my time at Albert College; my artistic sensibilities were ‘hatched’ there. I learned at Albert to take risks, be confident and was inspired to be my best self. I still try to do that every day.” Kevin continued by saying, “Albert College has always excelled in providing a palpable family vibe. Even now looking at Albertalks magazines, that same family environment still lives and breathes as it did in my day. It’s something to pay attention to and it’s at the heart of what makes Albert great. It’s a really special place.”
Kevin left us with a little advice for current AC students,
“Enjoy yourselves while you have the opportunity to discover who you are with support and encouragement in such a caring, wonderful and magical place. Remember: life is good seize the day.”