Sunday , 2 April 2023
Home News <strong>Delta Secondary School’s Wall of Excellence lives on even after schools’ closure in 2019</strong> t<strong>hanks to the efforts of alumnus Russ Evan</strong>s

Delta Secondary School’s Wall of Excellence lives on even after schools’ closure in 2019 thanks to the efforts of alumnus Russ Evans

Story and pictures by Nathan Reid-Welford

It should come as no surprise that a high school that operated for nearly 100 years in Hamilton’s downtown core would have accumulated a significant list of notable and accomplished graduates. And naturally, it goes without saying that such people are certainly worthy of being recognized for their post-secondary success and contribution to the world, whether it has been in large and obvious ways or more subtle behind the scenes and under the radar success.

Delta Secondary School was originally built as a response to predicated overcrowding at Hamilton’s Central Collegiate. It officially opened in 1925 and was quickly elevated to the status of a Collegiate Institute. The school operated as part of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board from its conception until its closure in 2019.

After a seventy-five-year anniversary and reunion in 2000, Delta graduates formed the Alumni Association with the intent of recognizing the long list of outstanding alumni from the school’s extensive history. Though it took some time, the association later created the Delta Wall of Excellence in 2007.

Located on the second floor of the building, the wall was decorated with plaques showcasing inductees, and then annually, four more graduates were voted in and added. However, the closure of the institution and the pandemic shutdowns some eight months later, hampered subsequent inductions and ceremonies. The plaques that made up the wall have since been relocated to Hillpark Secondary School—now the Board of Education Archives—while only five people have been inducted to the Delta Wall of Excellence since 2019—all in a single 2022 ceremony that was meant as partial compensation for having missed 2020 and 2021.

Russ Evans, a Delta graduate, former teacher, coach, member of the now dissolved Alumni Association, and Chairman of the Delta Wall of Excellence Committee, is determined to continue the tradition that he helped begin: recognizing and bringing Delta’s storied alumni together at yearly induction ceremonies.

Evans, whose roots run deep with Delta Secondary, feels that the school has greatly impacted not only himself but also the lineage of his family, with four generations from his grandfather to his son being involved with the school in some way.

“My granddad was a cabinet maker by trade. He made the oak wood carving features that were in the rotunda on the second floor and the auditorium doors. Both of my parents graduated from Delta. My dad played on the acclaimed Dominion Football Champions teams in 1926 and 27. Both my older sister and sister-in-law also attended Delta, and my son graduated from it in 1994.”  

Evans himself has been involved with the school in many ways throughout his life. Enrolling in 1956, he is an alumnus of the class of 1961. He later served the school as a physical education and “occasional history” teacher and coach for the cross-country team from 1965 to 69, and then again from 1984 to 87. Since 2000 he has played an instrumental role in committees such as the Alumni Association, which operated until the school’s closure in 2019, and subsequently as a chairman and integral part of the Delta Wall of Excellence.

“The committee decided to call it the Delta Wall of Excellence instead of the Hall of Fame because many people achieve great things but don’t become famous for it,” explained Evans, who believes it is important to shine light on the magnificent people that call themselves Delta Secondary School alumni and recognize their accomplishments in the surrounding area and beyond.

Some notable candidates are Doug Harrison, Jack Gauldie, and Floria Sigismondi.

A 1960 alumnus, Harrison founded the Transway Girls’ Basketball Club, which he coached for seventeen years. During his tenure, the team won thirteen provincial championships. In recognition of his contribution to local sports and community, Harrison has since been inducted to the Ontario Basketball Hall of Fame and Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame.

Gauldie, another 1960 graduate, was part of the Canadian Men’s Water Polo Team in the 1972 Munich Olympic games. As well, Gauldie went on to study at MacMaster and in England, earning a master’s and PHD and becoming a biochemistry researcher.

Sigismondi is well known as an artist and director. She was involved in directing music videos for David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, and The White Stripes. She has been internationally recognized for her work, receiving a 2003 MTV Europe award, a 2004 Juno for Best Video, the Video of the Year award at the 2013 MTV Video Awards, and the Director of the Year award at the US Music Video Association Awards that same year. 

Graduating in 1983, Sigismondi, is the most recent alumni to be featured on the Wall of Excellence. Evans remarked that “outside of one inductee [Sigismondi] from the early eighties and three from the early seventies, all the others are from the 1920s to 60s.”

Evans emphasized a desire and need to recognize younger graduates and get them involved. He noted that many alumni are now in their thirties, forties, or even fifties, but they are not being included in a manner he feels some are capable of.

“Not only do we need to receive nominations for students from these more recent years so they can be duly recognized,” says Evans, “but it is also imperative that some join the committee to bring in ‘new blood’ and keep the legacy alive.” This is a part of Evans’ desire to continue with annual ceremonies and reunions. Though awarding graduates for their accomplishments is a significant piece of the Delta Wall of Excellence, it is also about fostering the alumni community so that they can come together to keep initiatives like this going, ones that will continue to acknowledge and highlight the work of their fellow alumnus. 

In addition to the majority of inductees being part of Delta Secondary’s earlier years, Evans also notes that “when I look at the inductees, I realize that more than half have left Hamilton to pursue their careers.”

However, he’s also noticed “how many inductees travel great distances to attend the ceremonies,” something that he believes speaks to the collective community among alumni, their desire to preserve the culture, and the honour and inspiration that the Delta Wall of Excellence still carries. 

“Some nominees have travelled from Victoria, Halifax, Idaho, Los Angeles—we had a nominee who was in Scotland and was unable to attend, so his sister travelled from Portland to receive the award on his behalf.”

With Delta Secondary’s closure in 2019 and the tangible components of the Delta Wall of Excellence now located at the Hamilton School Board Education Archives, it may be fair to say that in recent years the Delta Wall of Excellence and its induction presentation have become more of a ceremonial distinction for nominees, and a way for alumni to reconnect and see their collective accomplishments. 

With that said, it’s possible that such awards and events have slightly shifted in their scope, to things that, while important to the Delta community directly, are not necessarily so to the Hamilton community at large.

Despite this potential shift due to recent circumstances, though, one should not discount the impact that the Delta Wall of Excellence may have had on subsequent students and the greater Hamilton community, specifically between 2007 and 2019, when it adorned the school’s upper hallway.

“I believe the wall certainly impacted Delta students while the building was operating,” Evans said, reflecting on these years. “Up until 2019, we held all the induction ceremonies in the school auditorium as a way to motivate students and show them what could be achieved. At the end of each assembly there were always several students that would come forward and talk to nominees.” He also remarked that teachers had told him about students stopping in front of the wall to read plaques.

“The whole process definitely had a positive impact on people.”

Now, with Evans’ efforts and dedication to bring back the annual tradition of nominations and a dinner ceremony, it is reasonable to believe that what the Delta Wall of Excellence has always represented—the hard work and success of not only Delta Secondary alumni, but ultimately Hamiltonians—can once again be put on display for the community to see and be an inspiration to future generations. .

Evans asks that nominations for this year’s inductees be emailed to him directly at Nominations are accepted from all senders, provided that their choice of nomination attended Delta Secondary for at least two years, and they will be compiled and voted on by the Delta Wall of Excellence’s current committee.

Evans is eager to not only receive nominations for some new and younger Delta Secondary graduates, but also to get them involved in the process and the committee. Evans asks any alumni interested in the proceedings, ceremony, or joining the Delta Wall of Excellence committee, to contact him for information. 

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