It was August 29, 2020, when Marcus Gibbons ’20 gallantly lost his battle with Ewing Sarcoma, just mere months from having graduated from St. Michael’s College School (SMCS). The impact he left on the SMCS community will not be forgotten.
To help ensure his legacy lives on, the family has established a memorial bursary in Marcus’s name which will be awarded for the first time in September 2021.
It has been created to specifically honour a Grade 9 SMCS student who has persevered through a significant difficulty and who requires financial assistance.
“We are blessed to be able to share the Marcus Alexander Bruno Gibbons legacy and impact on the SMCS community for generations to come,“ says Enzo Carcasole, Marcus’s Guidance Counsellor. “This will honour a special student who has displayed great resilience, determination, and effort, by rising above his circumstances to maintain his academic standing, and share his gifts with the school’s co-curricular and community programmes along with community service initiatives.”
Born on November 4, 2002, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the foundation of Marcus’s impressive endearing character could be traced back as early as the age of three.
“Educators commented on how socially aware, intelligent, and perceptive he was. He was also a music lover and started playing a quarter violin at that age,” reminisces his mother, Tania Bruno. “During his childhood and elementary school years, he was energetic, very sports-oriented, a bit mischievous, and a big ham. He dazzled audiences in several school musicals and sang with the school choir at televised sporting events. Marcus became more academically minded in junior high.”
In the fall of 2016, Marcus entered Grade 9 at SMCS, having already been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma in August at the age of 13. He quickly endeared himself to staff and students alike. Despite his harsh medical treatment regimen, Marcus persevered by focusing his efforts on his academics and his gifts as a pianist. Rather than regressing, he blossomed. Marcus was passionate about swimming, piano performance and composition, spending time with his family, as well as his studies (especially philosophy). He was an annual Ontario Scholar and a three-time recipient of the SMCS Basilian Book Award, honouring students who attain an average of 90% or greater in Grades 7 to 11. In Grade 11, Marcus was awarded the Norkus Family Resiliency Award, and was awarded the Eddie Narducci Award upon graduation. In addition, Marcus received the St. Thomas More Medal having achieved at least an 80% average in each of his high school years. Through sheer determination and grit, he achieved incredible success in high school and, when healthy enough, spent many hours para-swimming at an elite level.
“Marcus’s humbleness always shined. This innate virtue appeared to be his Providential gift to us. I clearly remember Marcus’s surprise each one of the many times others gave him something special, for which he thought he had done nothing to deserve. He had no pride, was kind, charitable, empathic, clear of thought, and honourable. Being what God expected of him was simply his way of life, his faith, his love for the other,” says Sofia Gomez Gibbons, Marcus’s paternal grandmother. “The ‘Why me?’ he often asked when he was being praised or rewarded, profoundly and with simplicity, meant not knowing why he deserved special attention from others. If only he had known how many souls he touched!”
Marcus also had a great passion for music. He took away excellent results in his Royal Conservatory of Music performance and written exams and was playing at the ARCT (Associate Diploma, the highest academic standings awarded by the Royal Conservatory of Music) level by Grade 12. Even post-surgery and during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he devoted himself to school and piano, competing in multiple local music festivals, earning many top prizes under the auspices of his esteemed instructor, Dr. Eugene Astapov. Marcus was accepted into the prestigious University of Toronto Faculty of Music for the fall 2020 term.
Marcus impressed those around him with his warmth, empathy, maturity, kindness, humility, leadership, and resilience while astounding them with his indomitable spirit, good cheer in the face of calamity and, incredible work ethic.
“He truly embodied heroism. He faced adversity with grace and bravery and was never bitter or resentful. He did not begrudge others their good health, enjoyment, or freedom from hardships. This generosity of heart is rare,” says Deanna Bruno, Marcus’s maternal Aunt. “He knew his suffering had great meaning and that the Lord was sending him on a special journey. To this end, he allowed his affliction to propel him toward God, knowledge, growth, and spiritual development. We now walk in his glowing grace and glean the wisdom and lessons he has left behind...as we strive to live our lives with honour, integrity, and to the fullest.”
Whether at home, at school, or even while in the hospital, Marcus left an indelible impression on others, and was a willing friend to share wisdom and a listening ear. He was family-oriented and a wonderful son, brother, grandson, cousin, and nephew.
“The challenge in parenting Marcus lay in how much he taught us. He continues to be an example to his family: grace in the face of disappointment; a natural drive to excellence; and kindness to all that was so effortless in its sincerity,” reflects Paul Gibbons Gomez and Sandrine Cartier, Marcus’s father and stepmother. “There is no doubt that his faith was a definitive part of him from which his strengths came. We, along with his other family members, have established this bursary in Marcus’s name to add to the St. Michael’s community and to encourage the applicants to find strength in themselves and in God.”
When his cancer recurred after a two-year remission, Marcus continued to strive for excellence in goodness, discipline, and knowledge, always wanting to embody the ideals of the 'St. Michael's Man'. He was so excited about this and never let go of this dream until his final days. His last wishes were to further Ewing Sarcoma research and help others in need.
“Marcus was a beacon of light to his friends and family. He rose to every challenge! His willingness to do the best he could, in all things, always, was inspirational,” shares Tania Bruno and Dale Robinson, Marcus’s mother and stepfather. “His love of learning and the breadth of his interests was impressive. Yet, Marcus never wanted preferential treatment. At the end of his short but productive life, he felt strongly that the most important thing was to help others and be in service to the Creator. It is principally for the latter reason that establishing a bursary in his name, to help a curious, motivated, fellow learner in need, would be a legacy he would want to leave. The bright light of his generous, loving, and inclusive spirit endures!”
The Marcus Alexander Bruno Gibbons ’20 Bursary fulfills Marcus’s desire to help others by aiding those who wish to attend St. Michael’s, to follow in his footsteps, and become a St. Michael’s Man.