The story of a great school

A History of John F. Ross CVI

The following is a reproduction of a document entitled The Story of a Great School 25 years of progress.  It has been reproduced with permission granted from the John F. Ross CVI Archives and the John F. Ross CVI Information Centre.


To watch this school develop over a quarter of a century has been a thrilling experience. Constructed on empty fields, it began humbly as a small vocational school, and during this period of 25 years grew in size and range of activities until it became one of the finest schools in Ontario.

Bearing the name of Mr. John Francis Ross, a highly respected educator in Guelph, the school over a quarter of a century has brought credit to this illustrious name, and has become a source of pride in the city. 

When he resigned as principal of G.C.V.I. for health reasons, it was said of Mr. Ross, "A good disciplinarian, he had tact and kindness. Mr. Ross spent the best years of his life and gave his health at the school. The man who fills the position will have to be a big man, mentally and morally."

Those men who gave leadership at the new school - from first principal Lorne Fox onward - have been outstanding. All of them can look back with pride to the work they did in helping build a great school. Its students can boast a little of their school's many achievements and be happy that they were a part of the growth of a fine institution. These students have been guided by teachers who often went beyond the line of duty in their dedication to their school.

As the original school song put it, "We'll cheer the gallant name John Ross."


Who first conceived the idea of building another school is not known. By 1950 educators were realizing that facilities at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute were strained, especially in the shop area where equipment was old. Projections for future enrolment in Guelph and the suburban townships indicated a pressing need in the area of vocational training. As early as April 4, 1950, the Guelph Board indicated to the Department of Labour in Ottawa that they might by applying for vocational grants - up to 25% of the cost of building if completed by March 1, 1952.

Real action got under way on March 1, 1953, when the Building Committee of the Board, plus the advisory Vocational Committee and members of the Suburban Guelph High School District Board decided definitely to build a vocational school. A dream was taking the form of reality, and moves were made to check possible sites. Urgency was provided when the authorities at the new Canadian General Electric plant said that they intended to bring 400 employees before June, 1954. Their children when added to new secondary school students from Guelph indicated a need for twenty new classrooms.

1953 brought problems. A Toronto architect was engaged. Land had to be bought. Federal assistance was sought since the school was to be vocational. The site chosen was at Eramosa Road and Stevenson Street. Proposals for the accommodations in the proposed school were submitted to the Ministry of Education. Approval for the plans was obtained from the Suburban Guelph Board whose students would attend there.

1954 brought a tussle with Guelph's City Council which, at first, disapproved the issuing of the required debentures. After six months the Council reversed itself and sought O.M.B. approval for the amount of $822,000.00.

After this hurdle had been passed, the Board in 1955 engaged Dunker Construction Co. of Kitchener to build the new John F. Ross Vocational School. Mr. Ross's widow turned the first sod. The Ministry gave its approval and construction went on apace.

Early in 1956 the school's name was changed to John F. Ross Collegiate Vocational Institute. The idea of tennis courts at the school was dropped. Provision was made for grading, seeding, a 1/4 mile track, fencing and planting of shrubs.

Furnishings and equipment were ordered. Since Eramosa Road had no sidewalks, this hazard had to be pointed out to City Council. No bus service was convenient. No parking space had yet been provided. There were problems of drainage.

Despite the numerous difficulties, the school opened in September. The only members of the original staff remaining in 1982 are George Stanson and Walter Schmidt. They, along with others retired now, including first principal Lorne Fox and John Morrison, a later principal, can attest to the problems they faced in a school uncompleted both inside and outside; however, the spirits of the 460 students and staff of 25 were high. A long-held dream had become reality; they were all part of the adventure of the beginning of a new institution which through their efforts was to achieve greatness.

First Principal - Lorne Fox

Lorne FoxLorne Fox had come to Guelph to be principal of G.C.V.I. He did not seek the arduous job of being principal of the new John F. Ross C.V.I. Finally he was prevailed upon by Director of Education, Fred Hamilton, to assume the extra responsibility of watching over the construction, equipping, and staffing problems. In September, 1956, his staff and students faced classrooms without doors, lockers piled in the hallways, and construction dirt everywhere.  
James Pirie headed up the caretaking staff until his retirement, to be replaced by Wilf Holmes in 1971. Gladys Globe joined his group in December of 1956 after working at other schools. She retired in 1975.


This was quite an affair attended by many of Guelph's outstanding citizens - Henry Hosking M.P., James Sullivan, a venerable Board Member, Harry Worton, M.L.A., Mrs. Gordon Lawson, daughter of Mrs. Ross, Fred Hamilton, Director of Education, James Clare, Chairman for the occasion, to name only a few of the 1,000 people who inspected the new school.

Regents of I.O.D.E. Chapters presented a flag and a picture of Queen Elizabeth. Harry Worton offered the first scholarship in the school's history.

The new school had been officially launched. Life within the building was already thriving. From small beginnings, was to develop one of Ontario's premier schools.


When the first students arrived for classes in 1956, everything was new. They, guided by Principal Lorne Fox and his staff, had much organizing to do. At first, because of the smallness of the school and their inexperience, the sports teams suffered resounding defeats. As the years went by, particularly after the school became a composite one and increased in population in 1959, John F. Ross teams became forces to be reckoned with. To-day the school has become a powerhouse. Rivals experience immense satisfaction when they can triumph over a J.F. Ross team.


Developments came in every area - in dramatics, in music, in excellence in the technical and commercial fields, in renowned mathematics and physics teams, in public speaking, in art, in the Reach For The Top contests of recent years, to name some.

Schools need symbols. In 1957 the first official crest was designed by William Robertson (a student who later taught in the school) with the help of John Strobl (an artist as well as teacher of physical education and organizer of a multitude of activities when he served for years as adviser to the Students' Council.). After the general courses were added in 1959, the crest was altered with the help of Donald Maudsley. The bottom was changed to permit the inclusion of the motto "Semper Procedere" - Always Progressing.

In 1957 lan Smith designed a crest for athletics. The first cheers were used. These have largely been replaced by others now.

In December, 1957, started by the technical boys, came the first of many Christmas drives, now a school tradition of helping the needy.

John F. Ross was the last school accepted into the old I.R.L. for football competition; this brought the question of school colours. At a C.W.O.S.S.A. meeting a choice of a purple and orange combination or a blue combination was offered. Lorne Fox, John Strobl, and John Morrison opted for double blue and white, since then the colours of Royals teams. The new colours were noted in a school cheer as early as February, 1958.

In 1958 Ross Fischer, then the owner of Hamilton Ticats, gave his trophy to encourage intramural competition. Many activities were run during the 1½ hour lunch periods of that time. All students were put into houses denoted by colours - and points were amassed for that house in the 4-house competition.

Late in that year, the Board authorized for the 1959 estimates the construction of a sidewalk inside the row of posts along the driveway that comes off Meyer Drive to the teachers' parking area.

1959 was a significant year. A new addition along the south side made the school a composite one. At first the general course to grade 12 was added. Grade 13 classes began the following year. There were 900 students; the scope of activities widened.

Rae Stuart, with the help of a well-known local musician, Mr. Ted Denver, who became the school's first teacher of music, wrote the original school song to promote school spirit at games and other functions. The song has been amended slightly to its present form by Music Director, Martin Bauer, who arrived in 1960 to develop the school's good name in the field of music. The original song is quoted at the end of this account

In its earliest years the school's students had published a regular newspaper, The Ross Echo. 1960 brought the birth of a larger enterprise, The Rostrum, a yearbook under the editorship of Bill Maxwell, assisted by dedicated teachers like Isabel Cowie of the English Department. The newspaper continued for some time. In recent years, yearbooks have featured pictures; the literary sections of early yearbooks were replaced by a new publication, Written At Ross.

Notable among the secretaries after the opening was Mrs. Don (Diane) Harvey, who presided over the office with quiet tact and efficiency, until in 1966 she was appointed Executive Assistant to the Principal.

In 1961 another addition was begun, this time to include a modem new auditorium - Ross Hall - and accommodation, both academic and vocational, for a total of some 2100 students. This meant 32 new rooms, as well as a large new double gymnasium at the east end of the school.

1962 was highlighted by the retirement of Mr. A.M. Laird, the first Vice Principal. Two others of the original staff. Miss Deborah Ward and Miss Ruth Freeman - also retired. Miss Ward was succeeded by Jim Milne, the present head of the Commercial Department.

In the same year the school's highest award, named after Mrs. Donald (Greta) Shutt for her long service to education in Guelph, was given to the most outstanding student in the areas of scholarship, participation, and leadership. The first recipient was Christine McKenzie; she has been followed by a distinguished array of fine young people.

In the autumn of 1963 it was decided to hold the official opening of the newly completed addition. That same year brought the appointment of George Stanson as Technical Director.

Other internal changes took place in the mid-sixties. The cafeteria had at first been operated by Miss Henson. In 1965 Mrs. John (Irene) Turner took over and the present manager, Vi Hesch, came to work for her. When Mrs. Turner undertook the handling of the cafeteria at the new Centennial Collegiate, Mrs. Hesch replaced her, working at first for Versafoods. Then in 1972 the operation of the cafeteria was taken over successfully by the Students' Council with Mrs. Hesch continuing to head the kitchen staff.

By 1965 Mrs. Ken (Kay) Cunningham had replaced Miss Lena Riddell as the school's health nurse. In that position she has quietly helped hundreds of students through their difficulties and accidents.

Major developments came in 1967, Canada's Centennial year. A flower garden was planted and a fountain placed in the quadrangle. Norman Marshall's boys did the cement work; Bernard Bell's boys did the sheet metal work. New bleachers were erected at the football field. A huge Centenorama show, with Rae Stuart as script writer and supervisor and Mrs. Dorothea Sloan as stage director, involved over 300 students and proved to be a resounding success.

John Strobl since 1957 had been an untiring worker in organizing a multitude of activities. To open the second decade of the school's life he organized an All-Ontario Basketball Tournament, soon to be followed by the first-ever All-Ontario Badminton Tournament. The school placed second, with star athlete Steve Redmond emerging as individual champion.

School Song

'Tis time to stand and sing to praise our school,
W'e Il cheer the gallant name John Ross,
Hold up our colours high for they must still be kept
Aloft in victory or loss.
Lift up our spirits, for the fray's not won,
Toil on and.up with all hearts true,
For there are heights to win today,
Hail to the fame of the white and double blue.

Rae Stuart - words
Ted Denver - music

In December 1968, Reesor Draper came on staff as the first Audio-visual technician for the Board. The next year he opened a l00-watt F.M. radio station over the school's closed cirsuit system to give students experience in that field of activity.

Lorne Fox, having seen his school become outstanding in the province, moved on in 1969 to become a Superintendent at the Board Office. He was replaced by John Morrison, who had been a Vice-Principal after working in science and athletics. His first year was highlighted by the sensational efforts of Harry Jacobi's curlers. Skipped by Fred Osburn, Rob Sinclair, Bob McGregor, and lan Robinson triumphed in the Ontario finals and went to the All-Canada Bonspiel, where they again represented their school and community well.

Occasionally the school has held exhibitions. Rossafari of 1971 was one of the greatest ever. The number of students had increased to 1900, with 105 teachers, 170 courses offered for credit, with 334 people in adult night school classes.

The former library had proved inadequate. During the 1972-73 year a new Resource Centre was built as a multi-media learning area. It was presided over by Miss Mary Purdy.

A language laboratory was also installed. Computer assistance with reporting and timetabling - arranged through Guelph Hydro - was begun.

Regular Reach For The Top Contests were begun among the schools. Teacher Ken Oldridge is justly proud of his 1981 team that set a new high record of 510 points. After winning in Guelph, they defeated Sir Frederick Banting School in London, and early in 1982 went on to soundly defeat Strathroy.

1972 saw Lorne Fox retire from academic life. Soon Principal John Morrison became a Superintendent, and was followed as principal by Keith Conrad, a former teacher under Mr. Fox and later a Vice-Principal at the new Centennial Collegiate.

By 1974 it was decided to change the intramural system. The awarding of the Fischer Trophy to the winning house was discontinued. Instead, points were to be awarded to individuals for their participation. Winners of their year divisions were to receive the trophy collectively, along with personal trophies for themselves.

That year brought a musical exchange visit by the famous band from Kingsdale School in London, England. The Ross band returned the visit the next year.

1975 was another fine period in sports. The Royals' team had become a powerhouse in track and field efforts, dominating C.W.O.S.S.A. and placing 4 squads in the O.F.S.S.A. finals. Boys won the C.W.O.S.S.A. gymnastics crown. Musical and dramatic efforts were noteworthy too.

The next year teams were so strong that they captured 28/35 District 10 plaques and some C.W.O.S.S.A. titles as well.

With Don Randall as Chairman, the school held its first reunion (20th) in the Spring of 1977, an event that saw hundreds of graduates return for a visit. As a feature for Guelph's 150th Anniversary, a great Rossafari Exhibition was held, also highly successful.

The year brought sorrow too. Greta Shutt, the grand old lady of the Guelph educational world, died at the age of 86.

In 1978 the Kingsdale band returned for another visit. There were numerous achievements in sports. Keith Conrad gave up the principalship to become a superintendent, and was replaced by Peter Durksen, who had been principal at Erin. He has been able to keep up the fine work of his predecessors.

In 1979 the school's strong basketball teams took the centre of the stage. The next year the senior boys won C.W.O.S.S.A. for the first time in the 25 years. In the last several years Ken Oldridge's Reach For The Top T.V. teams have been outstanding in this area.

In the year 1981 a girls' relay team set a new provincial record at O.F.S.S.A. On a less spectacular note, the school received honour for its 25-year support of the Canadian Save The Children's Fund.

When one looks back, the amazing record - in scholastics, in sports, in public speaking, in music, in drama, in art, in mathematics and physics, in commercial and technical skills, in languages - gives every person associated with the school reason for pride. The school has brought lustre to its name and has justified the assessment of its first principal, Lorne Fox, as "one of the finest in Ontario."

From its humble beginning, beset by problems of construction and newness, humiliated by sports defeats, with a population of several hundred, it has grown in every way. Capably led, staffed by caring teachers, its students have lived up to their motto, "Always Progressing".


June, 1957
June, 1958
June, 1959
June, 1960
May, 1961
November, 1962
November, 1963
October, 1964
October, 1965
October, 1966
October, 1967
November, 1968
November, 1969
October, 1970
November, 1971
October, 1972
October, 1973
November, 1974
November, 1975
October, 1976
October, 1977
November, 1978
November, 1979
November, 1980
November, 1981


Paul Smith
Glenn Pioveson
Peter Downes
David Tucker
Esther Pilkington
Christine McKenzie
Heather Tice
Donald Reid
Mary Lou Eaglesham
Gail Ross
Ruth Eaglesham
Peter Simpson
Nancy McGillivray
Robert Miller
Mary Waterhouse
Douglas Raisbeck
Paul Steep
George Mitges
Frederick Stride
Agnes O'Hannesin
William Cooke
Gregory Long
Barbara Watson
Anna Bortolon
Neil Dunsmore

Greta Shutt Winners

Award begun 1962
Christine McKenzie
Ian Barker
Donald Reid
Mary Lou Eaglesham
Elizabeth Black
Ruth Eaglesham
Kenneth Lendrum
Helmut Slisarenko
Glen Sutherland
Nora Znotinas
Wendy Stewart
Claudia Krause
David Card
Robin-Lee Norris
Agnes O'Hannesin
Leslie Stewart
Gregory Long
William Nelson
Doris Becket
Andrea Long

Lorne Fox - 1st Principal, John Morrison - 2nd Principal, Keith Conrad - 3rd Principal, Bruce Palmer- Board Chairman (1956). Peter Durksen - Present Principal.