Laurier Grads Soar is a multi-part series that has returned for the 2017-18 year. The segment features former Wilfrid Laurier University athletes and student-leaders in the Athletics and Recreation Department, and the success they have enjoyed since leaving Laurier. Written by award-winning journalist David Grossman, different features will be released throughout the year that will emphasize the role Athletics and Recreation played in helping them achieve succes.
Wayne Kemick- BMO Wealth Advisor: BBA, B.Ed, MBA
It would have been very easy for Wayne Kemick to throw his hands in the air and give up.
But many people don’t know this man, his tenacity and determination to be successful and become a role model for others – including those with physical disabilities.
At the age of 24, his life changed.
Kemick fractured his neck and spine in an accident in 1978. When doctors informed him that he would have paralysis of all four limbs the rest of his life, the former multi-sport athlete knew he would have to get used to a wheelchair.
It took some time to adjust, but that he did.
Many years since the accident, Kemick has become a cooking fanatic in his spare time, but more important pursued, and developed, a very successful career as a BMO wealth adviser. For the past three decades, Kemick has led a highly qualified and experienced team helping others manage their funds and finances.
Born in Cambridge, football was special to Kemick as a youngster. He was a running back and defensive back at Glenview High and later chose Wilfrid Laurier University to achieve two goals: to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and also play football.
“I wasn’t the most talented athlete – but I made an effort at out-working everyone,” said Kemick. “At Laurier, the atmosphere of being at a small university appealed to me and it helped in my studies. My first year (at Laurier), there may have been 2,500 students – and the funny thing is my high school was bigger.”
Not many can boast about being on back-to-back Laurier teams that won the Yates Cup championship, a symbol of football supremacy, but Kemick was on both the 1972 and 1973 teams.
“What I also remember about Laurier is learning, understanding and the importance of discipline,” he said. “Three of my four years, Laurier was rated as one of the top teams in Canada.
“I was fascinated at how the team celebrated everything together. In sport, it’s one thing to win – and another to share. I was so impressed with the football team, I referred to them as my other family, and I really believe a great deal had to do with the leadership from coaches.”
After graduating from Laurier, Kemick’s dream as a youngster came true. In 1976, he signed with a Canadian Football League team – and it was the Toronto Argonauts. However, in training camp, Kemick suffered a knee injury and he knew his pro career was done.
Kemick then attended Teachers College at the University of Toronto and went on to teach in Belleville. When he sustained the serious injury, Kemick found much of his time rehabilitating in Kingston and taking double sessions of therapy.
As if that wasn’t enough, Kemick decided he was not far away from Queen’s University and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Business. That was at a time when accessibility to places was a huge challenge.
“For me, a different life started in 1981 – I entered the investment world,” said Kemick. “I worked very hard, but a lot of people helped me and a great deal goes back to my days at Laurier. By having a foundation of support from so many people, it gave me the encouragement and drive that kept me going.
“It’s not an easy thing to go through and I get a great deal of enjoyment talking with people, helping those who are physically challenged find jobs. People need to understand that those who are handicapped are not a drain on society and that a wheelchair is not a disease – it’s a mode of transportation.”
David Grossman is a veteran award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 40+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.