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a tribute to Paul Lawton

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by Drew Dilkens

Paul Lawton was a student at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario back in the early to mid 1980’s. He studied Business – Advertising and completed most of the courses required to graduate. On July 19th, 2005 I sat down to eat my breakfast as usual and came across a story about Paul’s death that was printed in the Windsor Star. It was a sad story that hit home as someone who isn’t much younger than Paul.

The story mentioned that Paul had studied at St. Clair College and quoted family friend, Mary O’Neail many times. When I got to work later that morning I looked up Paul’s alumni record. It didn’t exist. I called the registrars office and had them pull his academic record which they delivered later that week. Paul Lawton was missing only one course that would have allowed him to graduate. I looked up Mary O’Neail in the phone book and called her up. We spoke at length about the tragedy and I asked her to let me know when the local memorial service was going to be held.

In late September, Mary called and stated that Matt and Christine Lawton were coming to Windsor in October for a service and ‘Irish’ wake for Paul. The dates that the Lawton’s were going to be in Windsor were perfectly timed with one major event that we hold yearly at St. Clair College; our annual Alumni of Distinction gala. There was also a possibility that they may be here during our fall convocation as well. I asked Mary how I could contact Christine and Matt to speak with them. She provided the contact number. 

Meanwhile, I raced up to the President’s office and told Paul’s story. Clearly it was compelling as the President took the lead in making a presentation to the Board of Governors just a few weeks later. At that meeting, the Board of Governors approved an honourary diploma for Paul but not in Business – Advertising. That field of study was not truly reflective of Paul’s passion or his mark of excellence.  Rather than awarding a diploma that would not really have reflected the Paul Lawton that everyone knew, they opted to award Paul a diploma in Musical Theatre Performance – the closest diploma that we offer at St. Clair College to Paul’s area of expertise.

After calling Christine in England and telling her that we wanted to honour Paul, she and Matt agreed to attend the Alumni of Distinction gala. This venue was the most fitting place to recognize Paul as it is the most prestigious event that we hold each year in the College.

We are very happy to include Paul Lawton as an alumni at St. Clair College. We only wish we had the chance to know him better during his lifetime.