Remembering Gerald Dunlevie

Mr. Dunlevie was a gentleman through and through. He was always dressed in a dapper suit, often with a bow tie, and I imagine he looked very much the same as he did as a first-year teacher when my mother was at Oakwood Collegiate in his very first Grade 13 Latin class. Mr. Dunlevie wrote about their relationship in a letter to her on her 70th birthday, back in 2006:

My first association with Estelle, half a century ago in 1953–1954, was a curious kind of role reversal, played out in my first Grade 13 Latin class at Oakwood Collegiate Institute in Toronto.

I was a callow first-year teacher, while Estelle was a mature seventeen-year-old whose calming and steadying presence in the class helped me through the year. My students’ whole high school careers would be made or broken by their performance in the externally set and marked Departmental Examination, so it was unheard of for a neophyte to be entrusted with the responsibility of preparing them for it. The experience was a steep learning curve for a teacher and students, but Estelle’s support and encouragement played no small part in our success; they all passed, and Estelle got the mark in the 80s that she had so richly earned.

This letter is characteristic of Mr. Dunlevie’s humility and appreciation of his students. It was no doubt his hard work, and not my mother’s, that led to the success of every single one of his Grade 13 students that year.

Years later, when I entered Grade 9 at NTCI in the fall of 1983, I had no doubt that Mr. Dunlevie knew exactly who I was. He always had a smile for me, and a wise quotation to share. I always enjoyed talking with Mr. Dunlevie, as he was a font of knowledge and supremely respectful of his students—he talked to us as if we were all very important indeed. In Grade 11, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Greece and Rome with Mr. Dunlevie and other members of the Classics Department. I remember sitting at a little restaurant in Athens as Mr. Dunlevie and Mr. Maitman took turns pouring retzina and ouzo into my glass. After all, Mr. Dunlevie did like a good glass of wine—and I was not much of a drinker. I believe he felt that part of my classics education should involve an appreciation of the Bacchic delights such as wine and other alcoholic pleasures.

In my final year of high school, I had the great honour of being Mr. Dunlevie’s final student. Once a week at lunch, I would go to Mr. Dunlevie’s office, and he would teach me ancient Greek. He clearly instilled a love of the subject in me, as I returned to it in university, where I completed a major in ancient Greek studies. Such was his impact on so many of his students.

Mr. Dunlevie and I “graduated” from NTCI in the same year—1988. Mr. Dunlevie retired, and I finished Grade 13. Both of us went on to study at the University of Toronto; I completed an Honours B.A., while Mr. Dunlevie engaged in a PhD in modern Italian. Once in a while, we would bump into each other on campus, and he would invariably invite me to join him for a refreshment at Hart House, where we would catch each other up on our lives and our studies. Mr. Dunlevie continued to include me and my mother in his life, inviting us to attend his graduation celebration and, most recently, his 88th birthday party, which we were both honoured to attend. 

In the above letter to my mother, Mr. Dunlevie, in characteristic Mr. Dunlevie fashion, quoted Louis Hémon’s heroine, Maria Chapdelaine, as saying she “knows the essential hierarchy of things that count.” We could just as easily say the same of Mr. Dunlevie. He was a man who valued the pursuit of knowledge, strong relationships, love, good food, fine drink, and music. The light he brought to the world will be sorely missed.

— Nancy Steinhauer (’88)

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