It was a bittersweet moment for Kim Hulan Marks when she was asked to help cut a cake to mark the end of an educational era in Corner Brook.
Hulan Marks was one of the first students who studied at the Corner Brook East School, which opened on the Humber Heights in 1975 and was renamed G.C. Rowe Junior High School not long after.
This coming academic year, G.C. Rowe will no longer be a junior high school. All Grade 7 to Grade 9 students in the city will be taught in the new Corner Brook Junior High School on Mount Bernard Avenue.
On Wednesday night, a special event was held at the school to mark its closing. Joining Hulan Marks for the ceremonial cake-cutting was her daughter Laura, who is in one of the last classes to graduate from G.C. Rowe.
“It’s sad to see the school go as it was, but this is quite the honour, given it’s the official closing of the school,” said Hulan Marks.
She was impressed to see roughly 200 people fill the school’s gymnasium for the closing event. The audience, including many former teachers and students, listened to a series of short speeches before being entertained by the school’s choir, wind ensemble and drama group.
“There’s a big crowd tonight and it was great to see the whole community come together,” said Hulan Marks.
Her daughter agreed it was kind of cool to make a little bit of local history.
“It’s pretty significant,” said Laura. “It’s kind of ironic where she was one of the first ones and I’m one of the last ones.”
The evening featured messages from former students. One of those was Cathy Payne, who is also a former vice-principal of G.C. Rowe and still teaches there.
Payne spoke about how so many things have changed through the years— like how handwritten notes have given way to text messages, yet how some things are really the same — like the teenage obsession with the fashions of the day.
Keeping all those things in mind, Payne doesn’t expect the current teachers and students of G.C. Rowe to be affected by how different things will be in the next academic year.
“Next year, we are going to have a whole new story and I bet it’s going to be just as interesting and captivating as these past 29 years have been for me,” she said.
The school’s current vice-principal, Robyn Breen, delivered a message sent by Jason King, a former student of G.C. Rowe who went on to play in the National Hockey League and still has a career as a professional hockey coach.
King said it was sad to see G.C. Rowe close its doors as a junior high school, but said the lessons learned and the memories created there will never be forgotten.
“The motivation and hard work ethic that was instilled in me in those years have helped me to achieve my goals on and off the ice as a professional,” King wrote in his message.
Helen Coleman, the school’s principal for the last nine years, reflected on the highlights of the many academic, athletic and artistic successes and opportunities G.C. Rowe has fostered for its alumni.
“We leave behind a strong legacy in sports, as you can see by our banners (hanging in the gymnasium),” said Coleman. “We have a very strong fine arts program, which we will showcase here tonight. We also have academic achievement.
“You can’t ask for any better than that.”
Jack Rigler performs with members of the G.C. Rowe Junior High Wind Ensemble during the closing ceremony for the school Wednesday.
©Star photo by Geraldine Brophy