When asked about Tom Browne, principal at Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich from 1980-1998, longtime teachers Tara Beaucamp, Mickey Fitzgerald and Jose Tudella didn’t skip a beat in describing him as a “true gentleman,” “honest,” and “professional.”
“Tom was like a dad to me because I was so young when I was hired,” said Beaucamp. “I’ve never had a principal like him. Ever again. Not even close.”
Beaucamp was hired by Browne directly out of university and she remembered his love of sport.
“I remember having 7 a.m. practices in the morning and he would come in early and sit and watch my practices and whenever the girls played in a different school he would be there. I remember one time the kids were saying ‘oh, they wanted to put things up in the change room and make it their locker room’ and the next day he went out and bought us paint so that we could paint the change room and make it our own.”
Athletics were a huge part of Browne’s life. Born in Ireland, Tom Browne was a national-level rugby player before becoming an educator. He was a coach with the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club, where his nickname was “The Bullet” for his speed.
Browne continued to support Parkland long after his retirement, showing up until this May for grad transitions, where graduating students are interviewed by community members about their school experience and their goals after graduation. Since Browne retired before current Parkland students were even born, Beaucamp said that “those kids would just think of him as another person from the community, probably not really understanding his impact here.”
He came to the showcases to promote the school “and he came to every single one.”
Browne was also very supportive of teachers in their personal lives, even visiting a teacher in the delivery room.
“There’s a picture of him and [vice-principal Joe Milligan] with Marg Metcalfe when she was in the hospital giving birth to her first child. That’s how caring they were,” said Tudella.
Milligan is out of town and could not be interviewed but in an email said that Browne “was very popular in his community.”
Greg Bunyan, who succeeded Browne as principal, also worked with him as a vice-principal from 1980-1986, and called Browne a “major mentor” of his career.
“Tom was perhaps one of the most ethical and caring people that you would find. He was always concerned about everyone. Students, staff, parents, everybody that he worked with,” said Bunyan.
Fitzgerald’s last meeting with Browne was in June. They went to Urban Cup on Shelbourne St. in Victoria.
“He knows I taught history so he brought a book on the Leechtown gold rush. ‘Mick I think you could use this in your classroom. Here.’ This is June and he brought stuff to help me out. I was going to give it back last week.”
A memorial for Browne will be held at the University Club of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd., on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.