The impact of a good mentor in his youth set his life on track, and now a Collingwood man attributes much of his personal success to the power of strong role models.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we sat down with Rod Brown, 56, former chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle.
Q: For how long have you lived in Collingwood?
A: I’m unusual because I’m one of the few who were born and raised here. (laughs)
I went to Mountain View Elementary School and then Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI).
I went to school for business administration and business economics.
Q: The person who nominated you did so due to your work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle. Can you tell me a bit about how you got involved with that organization?
A: My father died when I was a year old. When I was about nine or 10 my mom inquired at Big Brothers about me being matched with a Big.
My school teacher at Mountain View got word that I was looking to become a Little Brother, and he signed up and we were matched.
We’re still friends to this day.
I understood the importance of it and, I didn’t realize it the time but looking back, I recognize the importance having a male role model was to my development.
I became a Big Brother when I was in my early 30s. At that time, my wife and I owned a business in Stratford. We had left Collingwood and moved to Stratford for nine years.
Eventually, I became chair of their board there.
When I moved back here, I was asked to join the board here as well.
I was asked about six or seven years ago to be president and chair of the board.
Q: Do you have any really positive memories you want to share about when you were a Little?
A: Well, when I was young I used to play outside all the time, but in sports. I wasn’t really a fisherman or a camping guy.
Murray, my Big, was very much a fisherman and a camping guy.
This probably wouldn’t happen now, but I remember once he actually took me for a weekend camping on an island.
Funny story: Murray actually introduced me to my wife. My wife is related to Murray’s wife’s family. He had taken my wife there as well in her childhood.
I have this very fond memory of us on this island just the two of us, sitting around the campfire. It was probably one of the very first times I ever sat around a campfire. I was maybe 10.
It’s funny when you’re young, you have these little snapshots in your mind. I remember on the drive home, he asked me if I wanted to stop to get something to eat. I got this ice cream cone.
It was probably the best ice cream cone I’ve ever had. (laughs)
I spent a lot of time at their home. Murray was an avid Maple Leafs fan, as I was.
Outside of school, he was Murray. Inside of school, he was Mr. Coutts.
He was outstanding to me.
Q: And you still keep in touch? Does he still live in Collingwood?
A: Yes, he does. He still lives in the same place as when we were matched.
Q: What is the value of having a role model in your life in that way?
A: Having been involved in the organization for so long, the statistics don’t lie.
The outcomes are more positive coming out of a program like this when it comes to success in post-secondary education and just being more grounded in their lives.
Having a role model is just invaluable. I’m 56 years old and I still have men in my life who were role models in my teens, 20s and 30s.
It’s invaluable as a child but the value never diminishes throughout your life.
Sometimes, as adults, we think we know everything and we don’t need help or advice. But I think it’s so important to seek it out.
Q: What was the transition like from being a Little to becoming a Big? Did your perspective change?
A: Well, when you’re a little kid and you have an adult who is focused on you, it’s selfishly easy to think you, as the kid, are getting everything out of it. But, when you become a Big, I knew what to expect from a Little, but I didn’t think I would get more out of it than him.
That was one of the real eye-opening things for me.
It was more fulfilling and rewarding than I recall it feeling like when I was a Little.
Q: Are there any other causes in the community that you donate your time to?
A: I’m on the board of my church. In the past I’ve been involved in United Way. I’ve coached for many years at CCI.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: I’m not involved in BBBS operationally anymore, but any way I can volunteer to help, like at any events.
The good thing about age is you realize that new blood is a good thing. Moving on is important and having different perspectives around the table is vital to the success of an agency. The new chair is doing great. Everything I’m aware of is very positive.
Interestingly enough, when I told my wife I was stepping back, her suggestion was to do something together. So I think that’s something we’re going to get involved in.
There are so many worthy causes in Collingwood.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].