Tom Szaky, 33 - Upper Canada College, Toronto
Founder and chief executive officer of Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle, Mr. Szaky launched the company as a 20-year-old Princeton University student. Mr. Szaky's company collects used packaging and products headed for the dump and turns them into new products. TerraCycle works with more than 100 brands in the United States and has a presence in 22 countries.
"The big thing I appreciate, that was unique to the setting, were the resources, the extras. It wasn't just geography. I came up with ideas and I could test them. A big part of education is testing. I was able to run a big fashion show, that had never been done before. It was the biggest production the school had ever seen. I was able to look beyond grades and think outside the box. There was a high quality of teaching and passionate teachers who inspired me.
"I loved school. I'd go to school when I was sick. I'd be there at 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I took advantage of everything. It was the opening of one's eyes, the inspiration.
"I met families that were massively wealthy. When you meet them and know them, it all becomes real and attainable. I said, 'I want that, and I can do that.' The ones that inspired me the most were the ones who started with nothing and finished as billionaires."
Wade Davis, 61 - Brentwood College School, Mill Bay, B.C.
An anthropology professor at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Davis is also UBC's Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk. An ethnographer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, the B.C. native has anthropology, biology and ethnobotany degrees from Harvard University. The recipient of many awards and a licensed river guide was also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.
"The incredible thing was this cadre of teachers. You both adored them and were terrified of them. You were motivated by your love of them and fear of them. One teacher was Gil Bunch, who brought the English language alive. It's how I learned public speaking. He'd yell out a noun and we'd have to give a 3- to 5-minute speech on the noun. It was the most incredible training. I learned to control the podium, to use silence and lyrical flourishes ... no ummms or ahhhs. I worshipped him.
"The teachers dedicated their entire lives to the school. Some taught there for 40 years.
"I have enormous loyalty to Brentwood for what it meant to my life.
Marina Endicott, 57 - Bishop Strachan School, Toronto
Born in British Columbia, Ms. Endicott grew up in Nova Scotia and Toronto. First an actor and director in Ontario, in England she began writing fiction. Her first novel, Open Arms, was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel award and her second novel, Good to a Fault, was a 2008 Giller Prize finalist. The Little Shadows was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and longlisted for the 2011 Giller. In May, Close to Hugh was released. Ms. Endicott was a "scholarship girl," who attended Bishop Strachan thanks to funding for daughters of clergy.
"There were many benefits. The school made room for eccentricities more than public school. There was an acceptance of ideas and room for differences.
"I took a course in Grade 13 that formed the basis of my entire life, a course entirely on Canadian literature: 26 novels, four plays, poetry. It was an amazing opening of my mind, a really good grounding. If I wouldn't have taken the course, it would probably have taken me longer to come to what I'm doing."
Carol Welsman, 55 - Havergal College, Toronto
Raised in a musical family in Toronto, Ms. Welsman has been a musician and singer since she was a child. After spending several years in Europe, she returned to Canada where her jazz career took off. A six-time Juno nominee and winner of Berklee College of Music's Distinguished Alumni Award, the multi-lingual Ms. Welsman has just released her 11th album, Alone Together.
"I had such a great experience. Classes had a maximum of 20 students. In Grade 7, we read Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad. The subject matter was so advanced. The demands on excellence were very high. There was a lot of peer pressure. You had to test into school. At the beginning, I really struggled, but I soon caught up.
"There was a great sense of camaraderie, a sense of togetherness that I never felt at another school. There was team effort, team spirit for everything. It stays with you for life.
"When I get up on stage, I don't script my introductions to songs. I tell stories, make jokes. I credit the school for giving me the confidence to do that."
Sarah Stock, 36 - St. John's-Ravenscourt School, Winnipeg
Ms. Stock is a Winnipeg-raised professional wrestler and trainer who lives in Mexico City where she performs under the name Dark Angel. Formerly known as Sweet Sarah and Knockout Sarita, since the start of her pro wrestling career in 2002, Ms. Stock has wrestled throughout Canada, the U.S. and Japan. An all-around athlete, Ms. Stock also holds several bodybuilding titles.
"SJR created really well-rounded people who are successful in different environments and situations. When you graduated, you were expected to go to university. It was the kind of environment where you could become a great athlete or really intelligent. In Grades 8 and 9, debating was mandatory. It got you over your fear of public speaking. We had a great French program and Latin was mandatory. It helped spark my interest in languages, it helped me learn Spanish.
"The athletics were superior to anything I've seen in public school. We had five soccer fields, a skating rink, full basketball court. I had a wrestling class that sparked my interest in wrestling.
"We were taught respect. When a teacher entered a room, we all stood up. In professional wrestling, respect is important. You respect those who came before you. We also learned simple things, like writing a thank-you letter, skills people should know."
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