The Italian gardens at Royal Roads University help create an idyllic surrounding for learners

Personal recollections tell story of Royal Roads

Alumni, faculty, staff past and present invited to be part of Colwood university's Changing Lives project

Universities and colleges are places of learning, first and foremost. But besides receiving or providing an education, what kind of long-term effect does a person’s time at a post-secondary institution have on them?

Royal Roads University has undertaken a project to get to the heart of that subject, as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations.

The Changing Lives Story Project encourages alumni, former cadets, faculty and staff from Royal Roads’ 75-year history – 20 as a public university and the previous 55 as a military college – to write a reflection about their time at the school and how it shaped who they are today.

A dozen or so stories are already online at There are funny moments described, such as ex-cadet Doug Kobayashi and his childhood buddies sneaking in and fishing in the ponds; and thrilling tales like Royal Canadian Air Force Capt. Sarah Goul’s story of riding in a Snowbird jet as part of the Sunset Ceremony that kicked off the 75th anniversary celebrations at Royal Roads in April.

Most of the stories, including one written by alumnus and associate faculty member Alice MacGillivray, speak to the educational impact the experience provided and how it relates to what they’re doing today.

But there’s also a thread that runs through the submissions, says Katharine Harrold, vice-president of community and advancement at Royal Roads.

“One of the things that is common in the stories is this sense of how special the place is to them,” she says. “It’s beyond just a memory, it’s held dear to them and we really see that bridging the decades.”

There is a definite “pride of place” among alumni regarding the RRU grounds, she adds. Tucked in the middle of the forest, with the ocean at its foot and gardens and ponds sprinkled throughout, it is an idyllic West Shore icon. “There’s a sense of (the campus) taking people’s breath away and being that backdrop for pivotal moments in their lives.”

Kobayashi, the president of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce and a retired aeronautical space engineer and former Royal Roads cadet, said he’s excited and honoured to be a part of the Changing Lives project.

He’s served in various capacities with the university in the past few years, from sitting on the advisory council for the business school and being a panelist for the business case competition, to being a member of the alumni awards committee.

“All these things together have made me think, I want to be part of this,” he says. “Not just for my time as a cadet, but for the phenomenal people I’ve had a chance to work with and who are graduating from there. I’ve been able to see some real quality young people coming through.”

The Changing Lives Story Project will likely have received numerous submissions by the time the Global Alumni Weekend rolls around in September at Royal Roads. The written or recorded stories will be accepted until Oct. 15, however, when a prize will be awarded to a randomly drawn participant.

They can be shared directly online at, via email at or by calling the university at 250-391-2600 ext. 8540.

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