This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my Ontario Veterinary College Class of 1990 – the OVC ‘90 Penguins – 25 year reunion. Why do we call ourselves Penguins? Well, it is a longstanding tradition at OVC that one of the first things a newly formed class does together is to select a class mascot and colours. Back in 1985 when we first came together to choose our class mascot, the traditional choices were usually animals chosen for their beauty, strength or grace – ie animals such as wolves, moose or bears. To be honest, I was somewhat aghast when my class voted for penguins and was initially quite opposed to the idea. After that fateful meeting, I returned to my residence full of indignant self-righteousness and sputtered to a non-vet student friend that the choice was undignified and we would be the laughing stock of the profession. When he chuckled and said, “I’m not sure what’s funnier, the fact that your class chose penguins for a mascot or the fact that YOU are so upset about it”….. I realized that perhaps I was taking myself a little too seriously.
In time, I have come to appreciate the choice and even believe the decision to become known as the OVC 90 Penguins has been a pivotal one in our collective experience – both as OVC students and as alumni. Identifying with these quirky, funny birds set a unique tone – as a group we were not going to be afraid to embrace free thinking, individuality and marching to the beat of our drum throughout the challenging and often grueling vet school years. Becoming ‘Penguins’ fostered an exceptional sense of class spirit and unity that has resonated and remained strong though out the years.
When talk of getting together to celebrate 25 years first surfaced, it soon became clear this was not going to be just any class reunion but a “Penguin Reunion”. A flurry of emails began to circulate tracking down Penguins around the world. A Facebook page was created to post pictures and updates (even prompting some of us who have been Facebook holdouts to join – just to be a part of the fun). A few Penguins in particular went to great lengths planning and organizing a fantastic weekend.
It started with a lovely ‘Welcome Dinner’ where the last 25 years seemed to miraculously evaporate into thin air. Sure, some of us looked a little different but it didn’t take long to see past the occasional grey hair, bald head and or wrinkles and find that we were far more the same people we had been then we were different. Throughout the weekend some classmates gave lectures and there were many opportunities to chat and catch up with people. There was Penguin trivia and many sported Penguin hockey shirts and jackets that had been dug up especially for the occasion. I was both humbled and awed to learn of some the amazing things my fellow Penguins have accomplished in their professional careers. Many have been very successful in private and specialty practices while others are teaching the next generation of veterinarians. Some are making important and crucial contributions to industry, food safety and globally important scientific research. A few are no longer active in the field of veterinary medicine per se but have applied their skills to new endeavours. The Penguins have truly migrated around the world and are leaving their mark!
It was heartening to share stories and compare notes on the trials and tribulations of everyday life, including parenting adventures and the ongoing challenges of balancing work and home life. As is usually the case with vets, conversation soon turned to the exchange of often hilarious stories about our own pets – usually a motley crew of rescues – many with missing limbs, behavioural issues and or other significant physical or emotional scars. It was abundantly clear that these people are still passionate about animals and the art of Veterinary Medicine.
We talked about our families and the many milestones reached. We learned that no fewer than 10 “baby penguins” are attending the University of Guelph this fall and a get together for them is already being planned. Several of us participated in our own “Run for the Cure” in loving memory of our classmate Darya and we raised over $2400.00 for Breast Cancer Research.
In a happy coincidence, while we celebrated our 25th anniversary in Horseshoe Valley, the Ontario Veterinary College officially welcomed the Class of 2019 into the profession with the “Blue Coat Ceremony” (and one of those students is a baby Penguin!) This class has called themselves the Golden Krakens. It is my sincere hope they will foster and develop the same sense of class spirit, comradery and lasting friendships as the OVC 90 Penguins have. Golden Krakens enjoy your time at OVC – because the time does fly by and before you know it you will find yourselves celebrating your 25 year anniversary!
All in all it was a wonderful weekend and I have never been more proud to call myself an OVC ’90 Penguin!
Cheers to the next 25 years!
Robin Lewis-Palmer (OVC ’90)