Lasallians Unfiltered – Mr. John Voutsinos – De La Salle College “Oaklands”
One would never think that a casual conversation between two twelve-year-old friends would shape the rest of one’s life. It did for me…
I vividly remember playing video games at a friend’s house when he turned to me to say that he’s applying to a school in the city called De La Salle and asked me if I wanted to tag along. Being a typical twelve year old boy, who didn’t give things much thought, I casually replied, “sure why not?” I often think about what my life would be like if he didn’t ask me that question. At the time, I had never heard about De La Salle; I didn’t know where it was or what it was all about and I especially didn’t know how closely connected to it I was.
I went home that night and asked my mom if I could apply. She agreed that it was something worth pursuing so we went through the application process. I clearly remember being interviewed by Dean Davies; I instantly felt at home, there was something about the school that I felt connected to, I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. As the months went by, I began preparations for attending my local high school, as I hadn’t heard from De La Salle. One day, my mom received a phone call from a lady named Anna saying that I was accepted. I was at that same friend’s house when my mom called me to tell me the news. Her exact words to me were, “maybe this is something we should try for a year”; again, without giving it much thought, I said, “sure why not?”
My first year at De La Salle College in Toronto, Canada, was in 1995; I was in grade 9. I had no idea of the legacy and tradition I was carrying with me. I never knew that behind me were generations of family members who also attended Lasallian schools in various countries around the world.
The one connection that I did know about when I was a student was that my uncle attended De La Salle in Thessaloniki, Greece. My uncle is a very proud man and enjoys speaking fondly of all the things he’s done. The fact he attended De La Salle was no exception. I regularly heard about his experiences with the Brothers in Greece. I always enjoyed hearing his stories as he had similar experiences that I had with the Brothers. It was as though he was speaking about the school I was attending. I later learned that my father also attended the De La Salle school is Syros, Greece. One would think my dad would have mentioned this to me. He was more humble and didn’t brag about much. He allowed me to make my own decisions so he never pushed or even asked me to attend the school; somehow I landed there on my own. It wasn’t until I starting working at De La Salle that my uncle one day said to me, “By the way, your grandfather also attended De La Salle in Turkey at a school called St. Michel.” I was shocked! My grandfather passed away before I was born so hearing this made me so happy. I was proud that we had this special connection, especially considering we had never met. I was also named after him.
Shortly after I learned about my grandfather, my uncle told me about another connection I have with the Christian Brothers. As if having two generations before me attend Lasallian schools wasn’t enough, it turns out, I actually had three family members who were Brothers of the Christian Schools! These connections actually come from my grandmother’s side of the family and they were all her first cousins.
My grandmother’s parents were named Maria and Iosif. Maria had a sibling named Markos, who had a son name Antonis Rousos; he was a Brother at the school in Thessaloniki, Greece. His community name was Frère Polycarpe (Brother Polycarpe); it was a French speaking school at the time.
On Iosif’s side, he had a sibling named Giorgos who had two sons who were also Brothers of the Christian Schools: George and Louis Freris. (Freris was their last name and my grandmother’s maiden name)
Louis left the Brothers for personal reasons, but George retired as a Brother and passed away in 2004. George is the most prominent of my three relative Brothers and the one I know most about. His community name was Frère Timothy. (Brother Timothy) Brother Timothy was educated in schools across Europe including Greece, France and Italy. He taught at many Lasallian schools but left the biggest impression at the school in Thessaloniki, Greece. He served there for 26 years as a teacher, director, and Head of School. He was well known and respected there. I was able to have a short biography about him sent to me from the school.
Then there’s me; I attended De La Salle in Toronto, Canada from 1995 to 1999. After completing my university degrees, I was fortunate enough to have a position open up at De La Salle that I was qualified for. I began teaching there in 2006 as a Math and Physical Education teacher. In 2011, I began work in the Student Services Office and in 2014 I became the Director of the department; this is the position I currently hold.
Attending De La Salle was one of the best experiences of my life. The teachers were caring and supportive and the Brothers provided the structure and discipline that I needed to get me through my adolescent years. It is without a doubt that De La Salle helped shape the person I am today and I owe large amount of gratitude to De La Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools for that.
Through my practice, I do my best to offer the same caring support to the students today that I was fortunate enough to receive back then. I’m looking forward to having my children attend De La Salle and becoming fourth generation Lasallians. Attending Del happens to run in my family, but you don’t need three generations to feel a part of the De La Salle Family. Whether you’re a teacher, a student, or affiliated in any other way with the school, De La Salle is a special, unique place and it truly is a family.
What’s your uncle’s name?