Teachers and Friends

Last week I attended an event called Miracles for Mark. It was a pub night that brought together 10 generations of journalism students in support of one person, Mark Anderson. He was my instructor when attending Algonquin College, he's also a freelance writer specializing in business and the great outdoors. Earlier this year, Mark was diagnosed with cancer.
During my two years in j-school, Mark taught me the most valuable lessons in writing and constantly encouraged students to push themselves further. He made himself available to us and has continued to do so; he treats all of his former students like old friends. I've had the occasional run-in with Mark, usually at a dingy bar, and our chats always end with the promise to keep in touch.
Since he's a freelance writer, Mark relies on those magazine gigs to keep the income steady but with the expectation that treatment would get in the way of his work, students and faculty stepped in to help out, and that's how Miracles for Mark was created.
The event began with music by Shawn Tavenier, a silent auction and a photo booth with fishing props (a theme synonymous with the guest of honour), and the evening was capped with a few speeches by students, friends and colleagues followed by squirm-inducing karaoke. Not only was it a special gathering to honour our humble teacher, but it was also an opportunity to catch up with former j-school classmates in a way that social media doesn't allow.
With the promise of catching up soon, I went for lunch with Mark and Jessica, another former student from my year, just a few days following the pub night. He's an open book when describing the process of dealing with cancer but shows great strength, in fact you wouldn't know he's been carrying this burden for the last few months. He still teaches, has plans to further improve the college newspaper and has a rather intimidating number of freelance assignments on his plate - it doesn't worry him though, he said on that rainy morning, when he should have been writing, he instead got caught up in the movie Aliens. Mark has always had an impressively chill attitude toward his career, and life in general. Having cancer hasn't changed that. I have to hand it to the guy, he's a calm and cool force to be reckoned with.
Check out the local CTV News coverage of Miracles for Mark and Mark's most recent blog post for Canadian Geographic.

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