Proud of you, Sean! Proud of all our ‘Seans’

Sean Manezes
Sean Manezes at the RAWC
February 16, 2016

Someone asked me last week for one thing that I liked the most about UTM. There are a lot of things I love about our campus, and I was conscious that picking one in particular may well land me in some trouble. However, without hesitation, I said “the quality of our students”. By that I didn’t mean simply the marks that our students arrive with or how well they do academically once they are here. There’s a whole lot more to their “quality”. Read on…

My weekdays generally start at the campus gym – RAWC, as it is commonly known. But weekday mornings being what they are, I’m generally rushing to finish and get to the office on time. Weekends are another matter; that’s when I get my leisurely long workout. So this Sunday, as I was paddling away on the exercise bike in what’s increasingly becoming a futile effort to cling on to some measure of youth, a young man in the trainer’s uniform approached me. Although the music in my ears prevented me from hearing what he said, I could make it out from his lips:

“Excuse me, sir.”

Pulling out the left ear-bud, I responded, “Yep?”   

“When do you think you’ll finish, sir? I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment when you’re done.”

I didn’t want to be rushed, so after a moment’s pause, I told him that I would come and see him once I’m finished. And I did.

I found Sean – as he later told me his name was – at the back of the gym, helping an elderly client. He was so totally engrossed in his work that it took him good five minutes, or perhaps longer, to realize that I was there. He appeared a little startled when he finally noticed me. He quickly introduced his client and then politely asked his permission to take a moment to speak with me.

Just as I was wondering what he wanted to talk about, he turned to me and said, “Sir, I’m going to graduate this summer and I just wanted to thank you for all that you’ve been doing to develop this campus. It makes me proud to have such a progressive Principal at UTM.”

I wasn’t quite expecting this. I had assumed he wanted to complain about something, or perhaps ask a favour. But this caught me by surprise, and it took me a moment or two to come up with a response:

“Thank you Sean. This is really special. Feedback like this keeps us wanting to work hard for our institution. I truly appreciate it.”

“And there’s one more thing”, he hurried to add.

“Tell me.” I responded, with a hint of suspicion again creeping into my mind.

“Sir, when I first arrived here, you said in one of your speeches that we could approach you if we ever wanted anything.”

“Uh oh”, I whispered in my head, “Here we go… He was just buttering me up so he could get to this… What does he want? I hope it’s only a reference or something like that… I hope he’s not going to ask for a job….”

A panoply of thoughts raced through my mind within a moment that it took me to ask, “So what could I do for you, Sean?”

“Sir”, he hesitated for a second, “I was wondering, sir, well… it would be an honour if you would allow me to give you a free training session… whenever you have a little time. I would be so honoured.”

I was absolutely dumfounded, and I’m sure I was blushing with embarrassment at the assumptions I had just been making about his motive. I found my right arm rise quite involuntarily, and as I wrapped it around Sean’s shoulder, the air in my lungs somehow found its way through my rather choked throat:

“Of course, Sean. The honour would be all mine.”