Full Circle

David Reeder '83 started a business at the suggestion of a parent of RLC. He's now been running that business for 40 years.

By Glen Herbert  

David Reeder ’83 has been back on campus a number of times in the last few months. In part he’s doing all the things that alumni do when they drop in, such as touring his boarding house, having lunch with staff and students in the dining hall. Just breathing in the Lake Rosseau air.

But he’s also been working and meeting with students and providing mentorship. In the fall he worked with them on creating the planter boxes, among other things. He’s also brought some great ideas. As Mr. Landscape, a successful business he’s run in Toronto for the better part of forty years, he’s been working with operations to provide thought leadership around some upgrades in the works for the front gate.

It’s delightful to have him here of course. He’s also attended alumni events in the city, and he came to the Rhythm for Rosseau arts event at the holidays. While he’s never been that far away, it’s just felt right to reconnect.

That said, there’s a larger story, one that feels a bit like coming full circle. His business is one that began, in a sense, when he was a student at RLC in the early 80s. “We used to have parents come up every once in a while, and talk about business,” he says.  One day it was Ron Hume, father of Peter Hume '84. Ron was a successful businessman, and during his talk he challenged the students to start a summer business. David started a lawn-cutting business. “I was very, very keen on business. I wanted to make it big real quick! It was all I thought about.”

Taking a role

David worked that first summer and every summer since. He mentioned to me during an event at the holidays that many people might consider retiring at this point. He’s earned a rest. “But I don’t want to retire.” He simply loves what he does, and to bring that experience and expertise to bear on some projects at RLC, well, he loves that too.

David first arrived at RLC for summer school in 1979. It seemed like the right fit, as well as something he needed, so he stayed. Going through the yearbooks, he’s the one in the middle of the back row—he’s tall—his smile beaming out from the class photos.

He’s also there in the drama club photos. Theatre had been something that he had wanted to get into, but never had an opportunity. At RLC, he found one. Bill Bell had started a theatre program, mounting a show to take to a local competition. “It was a whole production," David recalls. They rehearsed on the stage in what is now the gym. “We eventually staged it in the town hall. I remember that like it was yesterday.” Then they took it to a theatre festival in Barrie. “We stayed at the mayor’s house. We met students—I think there were 12 or 15 other schools—and during the week, every day, we had different theatrical activities. And then at the end of the week we put our plays on. It was a big deal.”

The play he was in was called “Out of the Flying Pan” by David Campton. It was a two-hander, and at the festival, David won an award of merit. “Yeah. That was a big deal for me.”

“That’s how we learn.”

He admits, as alumni almost invariably do, that it wasn’t always easy. In part that’s simply due to the fact, as Graham Vogt rightly says, learning is hard. He pushed back at times, which maybe didn’t go so good. “Mr. Stone was my biology teacher, and I remember one time not having a report done, and he said, ‘You had all this time to get it done, what’s your excuse?’ And I said I’d been busy playing rugby. And he said—he worded it really simply—work during the weekdays and you’ll have all the time in the world for your tournaments.”

“And I didn’t think much of it then, but years later, I’d find myself doing that. Always ahead of schedule. I saw Mr. Stone at the school reunion 1992 and he and I were lining up to go to the cafeteria. He said, ‘How are you doing?’ And we talked for about an hour and a half. He asked me about my business. We just had an incredible talk. And I told him, you know, I took your advice. It stuck with me. I’m always working to be ahead.”

As he talks, the boundaries between his experience at school and his professional life begin to blur. “I made a lot of mistakes,” he says. “It was tough. Nothing comes easy. But there’s always a time one’s life that you run into difficulties, and it’s a personal challenge. … once I was able to get past those obstacles, and sometimes the obstacle was me … and once I started to think and look outside the box, that’s when things started to take off.”

“But I think that’s how we learn,” he says. When I ask him what Rosseau Lake College meant for him, he replies without a pause. “Rosseau was an opportunity for opportunity. Not every person gets to go to boarding school. It’s an opportunity, and I used to thank my mother for letting me go there. I’d phone her up from that phone in the Perry Building, and I’d say ‘Mom I went sailing today!’ It was great.”

It's providing new opportunities for him today, and seeing him on campus, working with students, is pretty great, too.

It's providing new opporunities for him today, and seeing him on campus, working with students, is pretty great, too.