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Final Exam

Profile photo of Ken Taylor.

Global Thinker

The Canadian hero of the Iran hostage crisis shares how his early years shaped his perspective.

By Laura Bickle
Photo: Anya Chibis

Keynote Speaker

On November 5, Ken Taylor discusses working in the public interest at the 2014 College Conference. For more information, visit

Name: Ken Taylor

Describe your school-aged self.

In elementary school I was tentative; comfortable but not confident. High school was a different story. I was into sports and I did OK academically.

What was your favourite subject?

English. I liked to read and write. I still do.

Who are your favourite writers?

Michael Connelly, John le Carré and Alan Furst.

Favourite literary pieces studied?

I think I’ve read every Western novel ever written. Sheriffs were my heroes.

Favourite historical figures?

I was born in 1934; World War II happened in my formative years. My favourites were attached to the military: Generals [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, [Bernard L.] Montgomery and [George S.] Patton.

Fondest school-related memory?

The fun I had with friends. It’s the essence of school — social interplay and learning to get along with everyone.

Your favourite way to spend recess?

Playing whatever game was on at the time — soccer, basketball, football.

What was your dream career?

I didn’t have one. I did, however, know that I wanted to go to university and work internationally. I marvel at the young people today who have a clear career path in mind.

What do you wish you had been taught in school but weren’t?

I would have preferred more history — Canadian and international. We live in a global world; students need to understand what is happening outside of our borders.

What was the quality that you most appreciated in a teacher?

Expecting a fair amount from students, and being rigorous, but it was equally important to me that a teacher show some empathy.

What advice did you give students when you were a chancellor?

Graduate, get a passport and leave. Sure, come back, but it is important that our students get a sense of the world early on in life.

How has your global perspective influenced your views on education?

In Canada, we’re lucky; education is a given. In other countries, it is highly improbable. What a gift it is for a young person to receive an education.

Tweet @OCT_OEEO [include #FinalExam] a selfie of you with your favourite Professionally Speaking article from our June 2014 issue for a chance to win a Ken Taylor-signed copy of Our Man in Tehran.