Unbeknown to me, I had just cast my first magical spell… one that would forever define the course of my life. My parents may not have heard the walls resound, the wind change direction, nor witnessed the glowing lights abound as I did, but with their smiles they obliged to see where this new adventure would take me.
The next few years were filled with flying cards and disappearing objects, talking puppets, wizarding competitions, friendship, and magic. Now I know it may seem that all I’ve done was describe the Harry Potter Book Collection, but the truth is that for me, this was exactly my experience – without The Dark Lord of course. The gift of being part of this magical world may not have granted many of us at the College immunity against the challenges of real world, but it sure felt that way. There was comfort knowing that at least every Saturday, arguably the loudest ‘gong’ in the world would greet you as if to say, ‘Welcome back. Don’t worry about the other things, you’re home now. You’re safe now’, building a more resilient you with every strike.
A virtual tour would see you fly through the gates and greeted by an enchanted Victorian mansion. Making your way past Mike, and the various juggling, unicycle-riding, poi-bearing, object-balancing students and into the main building, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find Steve standing in a slick red suit, hands folded in front of him with his shoes at the perfect welcoming 45 degree angle, most times having everyone laughing uncontrollably. Stuart was the gatekeeper of magical warfare. He ensured that everyone’s tools were sharpened to his standards. There would be no pass, top-change or spider-cut without his approval. As the saying goes, ‘Flashes don’t kill you, they only make you stronger’. Catching a glimpse of Caleb, on the right, and his red magic wand that everyone wanted, as well as Craig manning the VHS library with gusto on the left, there was a constant and epic battle of self-preservation to ignore Anne and those toasted sandwiches and chip rolls. I say epic, but I lost every week☺ The finish line of this tour was always the Magic Shop and Jennifer’s demonstrations of the newest additions to the wizarding world, though the famed obstacles of Lance and Chad comedically bellowing through the hallways definitely made one lose a few seconds on your time. To this day however I still wonder how David and Marian, in true Dumbledore-esque fashion, would always appear when you really needed them, despite simultaneously teaching somewhere else in the building… weird!
I have two key highlights of my time at the College. The first was representing the College of Magic at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas in 2005 and 2006. This was a truly remarkable experience and a moment in time that I cannot express with words and one that I will never forget. Meeting Siegfried and Roy, Chris Angel, Lance Burton, Jeff McBride, Max Maven… watching Cirque Du Soleil… it’s just an endless flood of memories. The second was receiving a phone call from David saying that I would be receiving the honour of the Silver Medallion. I remember this day distinctly. I was on a vacation work lunch break during my time as a university student. This is another moment that I will never forget.
The College of Magic has been a tremendous pillar and source of support, strength and resilience for me during my life. My experiences there have been instrumental in shaping my journey through life. In addition to the pursuit of being kind, understanding, considerate, open-minded and respectful, the greatest lesson they taught me was that dreams were far from impossible. If you wanted to fly, they’d help you fly. If you wanted to make things vanish and reappear, with a simply snap of a finger it could be done. If you wanted to walk through a wall, you could do exactly that. And, if these were so easy, then surely a kid from a disadvantaged family, could be the first in his family to graduate from university, perhaps even obtain a PhD? This has been my journey. I am fortunate now to be a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cape Town where I endeavour to help students as best as I can to achieve and succeed in their abilities. I am also fortunate to be conducting research in the area of organic chemistry where myself and my students (mainly my students) try to find new ways to create molecules that can be used in the development of modern-day clinical drugs.
To close off I just want to say Thank You! to the College of Magic for everything they have done for me through the years and for all your efforts to make the world a better place for many that attend the College. Your lessons have never been forgotten and they will go with me to the bitter end. A very Happy 40th Birthday! I wish you even more success going forward and look forward to all the magic still to come.
Wade F. Petersen
(Class of 2005)
Wade and Nakeeta Petersen – 2018