When Regis O’Connor was told by his former colleagues at the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board that they had nominated him for a Justice James Higgins Award, he was honoured. When he was then named the 2012 Justice James Higgins Award winner, he was humbled.
It was his years of dedicated service to Catholic education that made him stand out as a nominee.
Taking after his grandfather and father, Mr. O’Connor continued the family tradition, serving as a school board trustee and/or chairperson for the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board. He later
served as the OCSTA President, and then became the CCSTA President from 2008-2010.
“I am honored to be named the Justice James Higgins Award winner, having my name alongside past winners who have accomplished amazing things in their time,” he says.
Mr. O’Connor received the award at the CCSTA Annual General Meeting in Sudbury last month. CCSTA President Paula Peroni presented the award to Mr. O’Connor, praising him for his years of dedication to Catholic Education and calling him a mentor.
“Paula made a beautiful speech and I didn’t realize she was using me as a mentor. I was very touched,” said Mr. O’Connor.
When accepting his award, Mr. O’Connor spoke to the AGM attendees, outlining his experiences in Catholic education and the successes and challenges each province has faced throughout the years.
“You meet people from all over Canada and hear of different problems across the country,” he says. “We’re always interested in problems of one province. What happens in one province happens in another province.”
Mr. O’Connor says he’ll always remember when Newfoundland Catholic schools lost provincial funding, and the government integrated these schools to the public system. But the determination to provide Catholic education to students has gained momentum in the province.
“The people in Newfoundland are vibrant, and they’re slowly coming back,” he says.
On a positive note, he says he’ll never forget when the Ontario province provided full funding to Catholic schools.
“Full funding in Ontario was a big event because it came out of the blue when Premier Davis made the announcement. They were able to increase resources that really helped attract people to the school. That was a big deal.”
His passion for the history of Catholic education in his hometown region is evident as he was the chairperson for the school board’s history project and has been instrumental in the commissioning and supervising of a book written about Catholic education and its roots in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma region.
“I really enjoyed helping with this project,” he says.
CCSTA congratulates Mr. O’Connor for receiving this award. Nominations for the 2013 award opens early next year.