On Monday, September 9, an intimate reception was held to celebrate some outstanding members of the GNS community. Recently, the Yamamoto family pledged a generous gift to the school through the WONDER Campaign in honour of Deirdre Chettleburgh, the beloved Director of Admissions at GNS for 15 years. Their long-standing relationship with the school and with Deirdre and her family inspired this gift, which made it possible for GNS to dedicate the Admissions Centre in her name. Deirdre, sometimes called “the lady with the smiling eyes,” is well known in our community for her kind and caring nature, and can be credited as one of the big reasons many families have chosen to send their children to GNS. The following is a speech made by Yukina Yamamoto ’08 at Monday’s dedication ceremony.
My name is Yukina Yamamoto and I graduated GNS in the class of 2008. I’ve known Deirdre for 18 years since my brother Kazuki started homestaying with her family. I currently live in Japan, working with my family’s shipping business. Even though Kazuki and I live far away from Canada, Deirdre has always been not only our friend, but our special family member.
Unfortunately, my brother wasn’t able to make it today, but he has given me a letter remembering his time with Deirdre and her family: “I spent four years at GNS, from 2001 until I graduated in the class of 2005. I currently work as a medical practitioner of gastroenterology at the international hospital in Tokyo. Everything I experienced in my eight years of living in Canada shaped who I am as a person now. I’m grateful to have learnt new values in life and to have had a chance to live in a completely different environment, in Canada. Deirdre was the person who gave me all these opportunities. I first met her in 2000 at the GNS interview. I wasn’t fluent in English, so having an interview with a foreigner in a foreign land terrified me. I had to battle nervous stomach aches for days leading up to the interview. I remember the anxiety-filled 15-year-old me feeling so much relief and comfort after seeing Deirdre walk into the room. Deirdre spoke to me clearly so I could understand, and she always had a smile to make me feel welcomed. I thought she was an angel. I passed the interview, thank goodness, and started my homestay life with Deirdre’s wonderful family.
There is no doubt that my experiences at GNS played a huge role in forming my current career, but it is certain that the four years spent with Deirdre made me the person who I am today. Deirdre’s family lives in Metchosin, filled with miles of beautiful lush green. However, it was quite far from the city and I wasn’t of driving age, so I rarely hung out with my friends at school. Having said that, I never felt lonely. Deirdre’s husband, Peter, took me and their dog to the shores of Metchosin in front of their house on the weekend. Deirdre’s family and their lifestyle was nothing I’ve experienced in Japan—picking blackberries and making jam, making juice out of fresh apples, catching crabs off the shore near their house, sailing in the summer, and so on. I really felt loved as a part of their family and I am forever grateful for it. They called me their Japanese son, they were proud of me and complimented me whenever I achieved something. The four years I spent with Deirdre’s family is my treasure, and I’m truly happy to have a continuing relationship with her and her family now. I am very happy and can’t wait to see the admission centre having her name on it.”
We both appreciated her support and comfort when we didn’t know left and right coming to Canada and enrolling into a new school. Although I didn’t live with Deirdre, she matched me and other international students with wonderful families for their homestays. Deirdre understood very well how important it is for students to be with a welcoming family, and did everything to make that happen. Many of my international friends, including myself, still have a beautiful relationship with those families we spend our high school life with.
Deirdre’s office was like a refuge to me. In between the hectic school life, always a little tense speaking in my second language, this was where I could come to say hello, relax a bit, and regain my energy. Deirdre’s smile and kind words were always there for whoever walked in. I’m sure everyone here has seen Dierdre’s sincere, kind, polite and charming personality. I strongly believe that Deirdre has touched many people’s hearts and lives like she has for my brother and me. We are honoured to express our gratitude to Deirdre with the Dedication of the Deirdre Chettleburgh Admission Centre.
Thank you to Deirdre Chettleburgh for the many contributions you have made to the school during your years with GNS, and thank you to the Yamamoto family for making it possible for us to honour her in this special way!