Raymond Moriyama’s
Remarkable Teachers
William Cavanagh and Herbert Inman

Raymond Moriyama, the internationally famous architect who was just elected to the post of Chancellor of Brock University, first decided he wanted to follow his chosen profession when he was four years old. But he achieved his dream, he says, only because he encountered two sympathetic and caring members of the teaching profession at a pivotal moment in his life.

Moriyama met William Cavanagh, the principal of Ryerson Middle School in Hamilton, and Herbert Inman, physics teacher and coach at what was then Westdale Collegiate, in 1944, at the end of a gruelling period that had embittered Raymond and made him disinclined to continue with his education. The Moriyama family had been interned in British Columbia. Moriyama’s father lost the family business, his mother miscarried, the children’s education was disrupted and the family was separated. In February 1944, the family was finally reunited in Hamilton and began to try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Raymond at 14 was faced with the decision to return to school or go to work.

“I was not feeling very secure about the situation. Before we had left our camp in B.C., I wrote an exam to see where I was academically. I didn’t have the results yet, so it was easy for me to say I didn’t want to go back to school.” Moriyama’s father wanted his son to pursue the profession he had dreamed of since childhood. He persuaded Raymond to at least visit the school. Reluctantly, the teenager agreed and met with principal William Cavanagh.

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Cavanagh seemed to understand the conflicting emotions that his family’s experiences had produced in him, Moriyama remembers. It was mid-year and the principal was prepared to put the young teenager into Grade 7 with the understanding that if he passed, he could go into Grade 8 the following September. Raymond – whether because he really thought that was unfair or because he was looking for an excuse not to return to school – insisted on going into Grade 8 right away.

“I said, what’s the difference?” Moriyama remembers. “I said he should put me into Grade 8 and if I didn’t make it, I would go back to Grade 8. If I did pass, I would be able to go into Grade 9. Mr. Cavanagh must have thought I was a bit arrogant,” says Moriyama, “but he agreed.” And he reached his goal. “With his help and encouragement, I finished Grade 8 in just a few months and then went on to high school the following year. So I owe him a lot,” says Moriyama today. Moriyama believes that Cavanagh also helped to make the other teachers aware of what the boy had to deal with outside the classroom.

“We were the second Japanese-Canadian family to move into Hamilton and at best people thought we were strange. I think he talked to some of the teachers.” The principal also encouraged him to join the baseball team, which opened the way to making him becoming something of a school hero. “I made a really lucky catch that won us the championship and I think that helped to change people’s stereotyped ideas of me.” The following year Moriyama found another mentor in his next school, Westdale Collegiate. Herbert Inman’s “generosity, understanding and encouragement,” says Moriyama, ensured that the family’s poverty and the climate of distrust in which they lived did not prevent Raymond from enjoying his high school years.

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Inman encouraged him to take part in sports, which Moriyama did, and urged him to join the army cadets, which he did reluctantly. And when Moriyama couldn’t face handling a gun, Inman had him join the cadet band instead. It’s an indication of the situation in which Japanese-Canadians lived that Inman felt obliged to warn Moriyama’s classmates not to mistreat him. “He went on record with my class saying that anybody who touched me would have to answer to him,” says Moriyama. “Not that I wasn’t capable of looking after myself, but I thought that was really generous of him.” Moriyama easily repaid his teachers’ confidence in him. The first year in high school, he was first out of 626 students, winning the school gold medal. By the third year, he was down to winning the bronze. “I had a girlfriend by then,” Moriyama chuckles. “There was a lot of discrimination then and I think that Herbie Inman tried to put things right. I think he tried to make other people understand who I was, and not see me as a stereotype.”

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