December 1997

Remarkable Teachers


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Lloyd Robertson’s
Remarkable Teachers

The voice is instantly recognizable, even over the phone. Less recognizable is the speed and enthusiasm with which he talks, not the measured, sedate tones you hear during the CTV nightly news.

"Newman (Mike) O’Leary taught me English literature. I had him at Stratford Collegiate and Vocational Institute in the late 40s, early 50s. He was the most inspirational teacher I’ve had by far," says Lloyd Robertson. "He used to have us act out the various parts of Shakespeare. He made education fun."

O’Leary also directed the school plays. The plays were "frothy little things, easy to cast for high school," Robertson reports, and he was in most of them.

"I would be remiss," Robertson hastens to add, "if I didn’t mention Edward Neigh, my history teacher." Robertson can’t stop there. He adds "Maggie Baldwin, my French teacher."

Edward Neigh also coached public speaking. "I was into it," says Robertson, who came in second in the school’s public speaking contest. "My subject, of course, was politics ... international politics and the rise of communism and the way the world was changing.

"The important thing about these teachers," explains Robertson, "is they showed a great interest in you. They weren’t just detached computers standing at the front of the room. They were teachers who were involved. They were concerned. They encouraged. I think more than anything else that’s what I remember about them. It obviously takes more out of them to be that way but the reward, from the student’s perspective, is much greater."

Robertson was only 12 when he decided he wanted to be a broadcaster. He was standing below the broadcast stand during a parade of soldiers returning from World War II. "I thought: this is exciting. This is what I want to do. It struck me you were at the centre of things when you were in broadcasting."

O’Leary encouraged Robertson to try for that career. "Not all the teachers were encouraging because private radio back in those days paid no money, and in small towns the average life span of an announcer was about a year," says Robertson.

He had a job at the local radio station in Grade 12. "I’d been hanging around for so long bugging them they decided they’d better put me to work, so they gave me this part-time job as an operator," he explains.

One day an announcer was late, and Robertson ended up on air. By chance, O’Leary heard him. Robertson recalls, "He said, ‘You know with all the work we’ve done together in the plays and your success in the public speaking contests, I think you should continue with that, because I think you may have something there.’ "

Mike O’Leary was right. Lloyd Robertson, recipient of awards like most trusted TV journalist and favourite TV anchor, started his broadcast career with a year at the radio station in Stratford, and then another year at the station in Guelph before joining the CBC in Winnipeg. He anchored CBC’s The National for six years before joining CTV in 1976. He’s been chief anchor and senior news editor there since 1983.

Lloyd Robertson is definitely "in the centre of things."