LHS Alumni in the News

Photographer Cindy Conlin trains her lens on nature

by Susan Scandiffio
from Leaside Life, April 1, 2020

Cindy Conlin

In the 1970s, play didn’t involve play “dates.” Kids and their friends roamed freely, played in parks, rode their bikes around the neighbourhood and beyond, and came home when the street lights came on.

They wore bell bottoms, and peasant tops, probably had shag carpet in their homes, and watched Mary Tyler Moore, and M.A.S.H.

Cindy Conlin - Clancall
Cindy in the Leaside High Yearbook, “Clan Call”

Such was the life of Leaside High 1979 graduate Cindy Conlin (née Smylie). Throughout her years at Bessborough School and Leaside High, Conlin was a shy schooler, but had a tight group of adventurous girlfriends with whom she made memories and friendships that have lasted her whole life.

Conlin, along with Linda Lesem (née Maser), Gillian McCallum, and Rosemary O’Connell, spent hours roaming Serena Gundy park, attending Leaside football games, tobogganing, going to dances, and skating at Leaside Arena on Friday nights. The girls also skied on the weekend, and Conlin took figure skating lessons at Leaside Arena and horseback riding at Sunnybrook.

All the while, she was passionate about the arts. She won the art award in Grade 8 at Bessborough School and was an extremely accomplished pianist who, according to Lesem, “could play the piano like no one else her age or even much older.”

Conlin also fell in love with photography, and at the age of 16, bought her first camera, a Pentax ME, which she used to capture memories on a school trip to Washington with history teacher Mr. Christopher.

McCallum remembers Conlin’s enthusiasm for photography and says that even if they were “bike riding downtown to the harbourfront, she came prepared with a camera in tow.”

After graduation, she and friends travelled to Banff. Taking an entire roll of beautiful scenery, she later discovered that the film hadn’t loaded properly and that she had lost every photo. This was a tough lesson.

Fox Greeting. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Fox Greeting. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

Conlin graduated with a degree in fashion merchandising. While she spent the next 20 years in sales, photography was never far from her mind. After an early retirement six years ago, she and husband Mike moved to Brighton and then Presqu’île. Conlin’s dreams of being a full-time photographer were now in motion.

Coywolf. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Coywolf. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

She took courses, retaught herself the basics, joined a local photo club and practised. A lot. She spent hours at the Toronto Zoo working on lighting, exposure, and focus. She went fully digital and researched, and invested in, more and more lenses.

Great Grey Owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Great Grey Owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

Living in Presqu’île is a dream for Conlin with Lake Ontario in her front yard and Presqu’île Provincial Park in the back. Her photography takes her well beyond her backyard. She journeys around Ontario and Quebec, often with a tip from social media to locate a unique creature. She has left her house in the middle of the night in the hopes of catching the perfect shot. She is constantly “trying to challenge myself.”

Owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

Her passion shines in her stunning works, such as photos of 11 species of owls, foxes, butterflies, birds, deer, as well as landscape photographs.

Swan with cygnet. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Swan with cygnet. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

Conlin’s work has won several awards and has been published in multiple magazines and several calendars. She sells her photographs at galleries and shows, and has a contract with Northwood Collections, which sells reproductions of her images to design stores.

Snowy owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.
Snowy owl. Photo by Cindy Conlin.

She dreams of species she would love to photograph in the future, including a spirit bear in British Columbia, puffins in Newfoundland, burrowing owls in Cape Coral, Florida, and the many animals of Iceland.

Cindy returns to Leaside biweekly to visit her mother, whom she refers to lovingly as her “agent.”

If you’d like to see Conlin’s work online, visit cindyconlinphotography.zenfolio.com.

Distinguished executive Paul Cadario showed his promise at Leaside High

by Susan Scandiffio
from Leaside Life, March 1, 2020

Paul Cadario’s Leaside High School Yearbook photo.
Paul Cadario’s Leaside High School Yearbook photo.

Open any page of Leaside High School yearbooks of the late 1960s and you’re almost sure to come across a photo or mention of student Paul Cadario. School Captain in Grade 13, member of the Reach for the Top team, editor of the yearbook, member of the formal organizing committee, and coordinator of the Leaside Centennial project in 1967, the 1969 graduate was clearly an intelligent, ambitious, and popular leader who showed great initiative.

In his yearbook summary notes as School Captain, Cadario emphasized the necessity of change over tradition and the value of communication and imagination to reach targets. “To change is to live, and to live is to change,” he wrote insightfully.

His drive and leadership skills proved to be invaluable as he excelled scholastically after high school and later in his career, especially as a leader at the World Bank.

Growing up on Sharron Drive with his parents and younger sister Barbara, Cadario attended Bessborough School for Kindergarten and St. Anselm Catholic School from Grades 1 through 8. Cadario has fond memories of summers spent at the Leaside pool and of his years from Grade 10 to university working at the Leaside Library. 

Paul Cadario’s Leaside High School Yearbook photo.
Paul Cadario’s Leaside High School Yearbook photo.

He praises his St. Anselm’s principal, Sister Benedetta, and his teachers at Leaside High School for the pride, commitment, and life they brought to their teaching, which, he says, gave him important skills that were invaluable in his future career. Their teaching is “something for which (I am) forever grateful.”

Leaside High School was, Cadario says, “always a school that had high expectations of their students.” He notes that students in the 1960s were also fortunate to be in the educational system at a time when the provincial government was investing heavily in education.

From Leaside, Cadario attended the University of Toronto, earning a degree in Civil Engineering and serving as a member of the school’s Governing Council.

A Rhodes Scholar, Cadario then earned a BA and MA in philosophy, politics, and economics from the University of Oxford, and an M.Sc. in organizational development from American University.

Cadario spent 37 years working at the World Bank excelling in a number of roles. He worked for nearly two decades with the Bank’s frontline development programs in Western Africa and China, and then in public sector management throughout Asia. He worked in the establishment of the first World Bank-financed operations in Guinea-Bissau and Mongolia, and managed the strategy, budget, and logistics for the Bank’s work in 22 former Soviet and central European states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1998, he began working on the Bank’s modernizing and streamlining of its business for the digital age of transparency and accountability.

From 2001, he oversaw the multi-billion-dollar portfolio of grants managed and disbursed by the World Bank as a trustee for governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations and private development partners.

While working internationally, Cadario maintained strong ties with the University of Toronto. Cadario sat on the Governing Council from 1985-1994 and served as president of the University of Toronto Alumni Association from 2007–2009.

Paul Cadario in more recent years.
Paul Cadario in more recent years.

Cadario also took lead roles on boards for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN), the School of Public Policy and Governance, and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

He served as a university representative on the Banting Research Foundation board and, after his retirement from the World Bank in 2012, was appointed Distinguished Fellow in Global Innovation at the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. The Cadario Fellowship in Global Affairs today is awarded annually to an incoming Master of Global Affairs (MGA) student based on financial need and academic merit.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the school and his career in international development, Cadario was inducted into the university’s Engineering Hall of Distinction in 2008, and in 2013, was awarded an honorary LLD.

According to Cadario’s Twitter header, “the world needs more Canada.” With Cadario’s long history of incredible passion and service, the world has certainly benefited from this Canadian’s success both at home and abroad.

Music Hall of Famer Phil Levitt lit up LHS’s graduating class of 1953

by Susan Scandiffio
from Leaside Life, February 1, 2020

Levitt, Ian Harvie, Jim Muzzin and Joe Amwake in the early days.
Levitt, Ian Harvie, Jim Muzzin and Joe Amwake in the early days.
Phil’s Clan Call Yearbook entry.
Phil’s Clan Call Yearbook entry.

Phil Levitt was one smart kid. In his Grade 11 yearbook, a classmate (perhaps not so) eloquently penned, “A brilliant lad is our Phil Levitt. When it comes to algebra he sure has it.” And beside his graduation photo, it was noted that “Philip is our studious classmate who loves to get high marks.”

Levitt ultimately did become a high achiever and ended up as an electrical engineer.

But little would he, or his Leaside graduating class of 1953, imagine that Levitt would also go on to become a member of a band that would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

While he did love math and science, he also developed a love of music at Leaside High. Levitt recalls that in his Grade 9 homeroom, teacher Mr. Bennett would have the students put their heads down on their desks for the first five minutes of class while he played “classic classics,” such as Moonlight Sonata.

He was especially inspired and encouraged, though, by his music teacher, Evelyn Wharram, who organized and led choirs and the boys’ ensemble. Levitt remembers the excitement of participating with the choir in the Kiwanis Festival in the Eaton Auditorium.

He also recalls with great fondness the day when Wharram, speaking quietly to him, said, “You’ll do well, Phil. You’ll do well.”

Although quite nervous to sing in a quartet in the school’s final show in Grade 13, he had nothing to fear as the audience gave him a hearty standing ovation.

In the summer after Grade 13, Levitt and his best friend Stan Fisher visited popular Crystal Beach. One evening while walking home, the two started harmonizing to the tune I’d Rather Die Young, by The Hilltoppers. Four girls ran squealing at them asking them to sing more. From that moment on, the boys were hooked on the attention and harmonized a lot more that summer.

The Original Diamonds.
The Original Diamonds.

Striking a new chord with The Diamonds

Entering the University of Toronto in the fall of 1953, Levitt met Ted Kowalski, who then introduced him to his friend, Bill Reed. With Fisher as the lead singer, Levitt, a baritone, Kowalski, a tenor, and Reed, a smooth bass, the guys began harmonizing and developing their distinctive sound.

With five songs ready to be performed publicly, the group entered the CBC’s Pick the Stars talent show. A CBC sound engineer, David Somerville, heard the group practising nervously in the hall and persuaded them to hold off performing until they had more material to sing. Interested in their talent, he also asked to be their manager. When Fisher ultimately decided to continue with university, Somerville stepped in as the lead singer.

Thus began the career of The Diamonds, the Canadian band that successfully brought rhythm and blues vocal group music to audiences around the world.

With Somerville now singing in the band, The Diamonds hired Nat Goodman as their new manager. Between Goodman’s connections and the talent of the band, The Diamonds landed contracts with Coral Records (a subsidiary of Decca Records) and subsequently Mercury Records.

The Diamonds’ recordings climbed the charts rapidly. Songs, including a doo wop version of Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and The Church Bells May Ring, earned the group multiple live shows, TV appearances, and nightclub gigs across the U.S. and Canada.

Live on the radio
Live on the radio.

The group’s biggest hit came in 1957, with a cover of the Gladiolas’ Little Darlin’. The Diamonds’ version skyrocketed to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

By the spring of that year, Levitt’s enthusiasm for show business was waning. While he loved the band’s success, he was falling out of love with the musician lifestyle. Knowing that he would want to ultimately finish school, Levitt left The Diamonds and returned to university to complete his electrical engineering degree.

In 1984, The Diamonds were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2004, the Doo Wop Music Hall of Fame.

For Levitt, it was one thrilling ride that he would never trade. From the school choir and boys’ ensemble, to a standing ovation in the Leaside High auditorium. From four girls’ adulation at Crystal Beach, to radio, TV, night clubs, and multiple appearances on billboard charts.

“You’ll do well, Phil. You’ll do well.” Mrs. Wharram clearly had it right.

The final performance of the Diamonds.
The final performance of the Diamonds.


Leaside High – celebrating 75 great years!

by Susan Scandiffio
from Leaside Life, January 1, 2020

Norman McLeod
The first principal of Leaside High was Norman McLeod.

With Leaside High School’s 75th anniversary being celebrated this year, Leaside Life will be profiling a number of notable members of the school in various positions, as students, teachers, and more, to mark the milestone.

As Julie Andrews most eloquently put it in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

A little background

In 1944, the Chair of the Board of Education for the Town of Leaside, Paul McLelland, submitted a brief to the Mayor and Council of the town recommending that Leaside have its own high school. Students at that time were attending 10 different high schools, including Jarvis, Oakwood, and Northern. After acceptance of the proposal, discussion of the location of the school ensued, with the current Hanna Road site chosen as the most suitable option.

While construction took place, the first classes of Leaside High School were held in Rolph Road School, and the official opening of the school building was marked on February 16, 1949.

Leaside High’s first principal

The first principal of Leaside High was Norman McLeod. Born in Arran Township of Bruce County, Ont. in 1899, McLeod was a graduate of the North Bay Normal School and taught elementary school in Temiskaming for several years until he entered Queen’s University. Graduating with a Master of Arts in English and History, McLeod then attended the Ontario College of Education and taught for several years at the Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational Institute and the University of Toronto.

A man with a clear dedication to education in Ontario, McLeod served as the first president of the Ontario Teachers Federation from 1944 until 1945 when he took up the role as Leaside principal

McLeod not only had a strong background in education, he was also fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage

He was president of the Clan McLeod Society of Ontario and on several occasions hosted Dame Flora McLeod, chieftain of the McLeod Clan from Scotland, at the school.Leaside School’s choir ties were McLeod tartan, and McLeod himself was often seen in the halls dressed in his clan kilt.

The Scottish theme is still present today with the yearbook, called the “Clan Call,” pipers at commencement ceremonies, and the Gaelic school motto “Seas Gu Dileas,” meaning “Stand Faithfully.”

According to records, McLeod’s first phone call upon assuming the role of principal was from a resident asking for a delivery of a four- to five-pound roast, “something that I can turn out as a well-done roast.” While explaining that he was answering from a school and not a butcher shop, he did point out that he was working to turn out well-done products.

McLeod not only viewed school as a place of education but as a precursor to a life of civic service. In a yearbook message, McLeod urged students to engage in extracurricular activities. “Where else,” McLeod noted, “can you find a better place to get some practice in this basic training which underlies our whole system of democratic government?”

While working as principal until 1964, McLeod also served on the Royal Commission of Education in Ontario from 1945 to 1950.

Upon his retirement after 43 years of teaching, McLeod received the first of the fellowship awards for teachers from the Ontario Teachers Federation.

Retirement from teaching did not end McLeod’s involvement in education and civic engagement as he served as president of the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario (now the Retired Teachers of Ontario) from 1969 until 1971, and as treasurer of the Bennington Heights Ratepayers Association, beginning his role in 1966.

While McLeod died in 1972, his legacy lives on at Leaside High School not only through the Scottish marks throughout the school, but also through a scholarship in his name recognizing the student in each graduating year with the highest average.

As his obituary noted, McLeod was known as a 3-F man – friendly, firm, and fair. And ever did he “Stand Faithfully” to education with the roots of the school that carry on his principles of high academic standards and civic engagement.