By David Grossman

Chip Barrett will never forget his days as a student at Upper Canada College. There was the quality education, the superb coaching, the experience and teamwork gained from playing sports and the numerous lifetime friends.

And there was something else.

“I was 15 years old and lost my mother to cancer” it was something very difficult to deal with and I remember being angry, confused and my grades had dropped,”says Barrett.

“The people at UCC, the resources, they got me focused and grounded. I really believe they saved my life.”

Barrett, now living in Surrey, B.C., is a design architect and for almost four decades has been doing a variety of projects for firms. Elected to the governing council of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, Barrett said he always thinks about his time at UCC.

“My parents had applied to UCC for me,”he says. “I was a disoriented kid back then, not a very good student. But I remember that things changed for the better while at UCC. Soon as I got there, I just took off. Teachers were great. UCC was so enriching and inspiring.”

It didn’t take long for Barrett to draw attention in sports. First, as a winger on the Blues hockey team, also throwing the javelin for records and as a running back in football.

But it would be the gridiron that the Toronto native would pursue while studying in the School of Architecture at the University of British Columbia and playing for the Thunderbirds. Earlier, he earned his first degree in English and fine arts.

“Sports at UCC was very special to me and football was just something you did,” says Barrett. “Gosh, UCC was an opportunity of a lifetime and a foundation for success. In many ways, you don’t realize the wonderful experience until it’s over.”

Drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 1967, Barrett was traded to Winnipeg where he played for two years before finishing his pro days with three seasons in Toronto and remembers 1971 – the year his team lost the Grey Cup. A defensive back, he intercepted 17 passes for 309 yards in his career.

“UCC for me, I seized the opportunity. There were so many lessons learned,” says Barrett. “It was a challenging environment to be in with amazing athletic opportunities and education at the highest level.”