Holland College Blog

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Holland College’s Paul Phillips carries the Olympic Torch to the Confederation Bridge

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Paul Phillips (right) lights his torch from the torch of the previous runner

The Olympic Torch Relay hit Prince Edward Island last weekend, and by all accounts, runners and onlookers alike found the experience to be very touching. But my favourite story is about the last person to carry the torch on P.E.I., Holland College employee Paul Phillips, who took it for a 300 metre run on the Confederation Bridge.

Paul is the mail porter at the Aerospace Centre in Summerside. I don’t know him very well, but whenever I’ve been at the Aerospace Centre, it’s easy to see the genuine affection that staff and students have for him, and how much pride he takes in his work.

Kim Gallant, the Industrial Trades and Technology secretary, has worked with Paul ever since he started at the college. She brought Paul’s participation in the torch run to my attention and gave me some background on this outstanding employee.

“Not a day goes by that Paul isn’t bringing laughter to the staff lounge and hallways.  We are very lucky to have him on staff with us,” she told me.

“In the spring of 1999, Paul came through the Aerospace Centre on a tour. While there, Paul indicated that he was very impressed with the centre, adding that he would like to work here.  He asked if there may be a position available.“

Howard Sheppard, who was program manager at the time, picks up the story.

“I said that it may be possible and to contact me on Monday. About 8 a.m. on Monday morning he called to see what I’d found out. I asked him to send in a resumé, and before noon he and Myrna [his mother] were there with it. His resumé was very well done and included quite a lot of community work and training courses…. I forwarded his resumé, a memo recommending the creation of a new position, and funding information to Personnel and discussed it with Dr. McMillan [now Holland College’s president]. Everyone agreed that it would be well worth the effort, the position was created, and Paul was hired for a six month trial period.”

The 34-year-old has been there more than 10 years now, and is considered an integral part of the Aerospace Centre team.

Paul’s involvement in the torch relay has an element of mystery to it. I spoke with his mother, Myrna, about the experience.

“He had such a day! We don’t know who submitted his name,” she said. “We were sent the information to fill out, but we’re not sure who suggested him in the first place. We are so grateful and humbled that somebody did that for him.”

Paul and his parents on Confederation Bridge

Myrna said the organizers and people working on the relay were amazing.

“They called the night before to make sure he was ready to go, and from the moment that he walked into the school to register they were upbeat and enthusiastic,” she recalled.

Although he originally didn’t intend to buy his torch, Paul changed his mind after running his leg of the relay.

“I was just too excited,” he told me, “I had to get one.”

The torch is kept safely at home, except for the other day, when he donned his torch relay suit and brought in the torch for a picture with Aerospace Centre staff.

Paul said it was an awesome feeling lighting his torch on the Confederation Bridge and when I asked him if he’d do it again, he responded with a resounding “Yes!”

Paul and some of the staff of the Aerospace Centre

Paul was bubbling over with excitement, pride, and confidence when I spoke to him on the phone; these are traits that he shows at work every day.  His mother credits the staff at the Aerospace Centre, and Kim Gallant and Howard Sheppard especially, for welcoming Paul into the workplace.

“You need acceptance first,” she noted. She recounts how Paul’s face lit up when he saw Kent Sheen, Program Manager for the Industrial Trades and Technology programs, at the relay to cheer him on.

It’s plain to see that Paul’s a special guy. Not because he has Down syndrome, but because he takes on life’s challenges with an infectious enthusiasm, humour, and a heck of a lot of style.

I can’t wait to hear what his next adventure will be.

Many thanks to Kim Gallant and Myrna Phillips for providing me with information.


Written by Sara Underwood

November 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Staff, Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Way to Go Paul! We are all proud of you and to have had a colleague from Holland College carry the Olympic Torch is awesome for all of us. You truly deserved it and I know it will be a thrill that will last you a life time.

    Diane Richard

    Diane Richard

    November 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

  2. Congratulations Paul! What a great honour for you and it was most exciting for the rest of us to see you in your gear with the torch. Great job!

    Maria Driscoll

    November 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

  3. What an impressive achievement Paul! We are all incredibly proud of you.

    Tawna MacLeod

    November 27, 2009 at 2:12 pm

  4. Hi Paul!

    We’re all so proud of you for representing Holland College as you carried the Olympic Torch!

    Congrats on behalf of the President’s Office.


    Sandi White

    November 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm

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