Saskatchewan teacher keeps his word, mails former students’ letter to themselves 20 years later

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
A dog walker posts a letter in a Royal Mail post box in Maybury near Woking in southern England March 25, 2014. Britain's newly-privatised postal operator Royal Mail said on Tuesday it would cut around 1,300 operational and head office jobs in order to deliver annualised savings of 50 million pounds ($82.45 million). REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS EMPLOYMENT)

In 1994, Grade 9 teacher Bruce Ferrer at Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, had his students write 10-page letters to their future selves.

He let each student choose when they'd like to receive the letter — in 10, 20 or 25 years — and promised he would mail them on their chosen date.

It was an exercise he'd been doing since the early '60s, at the beginning of his teaching career.

"I was trying to think of some assignment that would be special," Farrer told CBC Morning Edition host Sheila Coles. "It just sort of came up."

Now retired, 73-year-old Ferrer has kept his word. After doing his best to track down his former students — a process that was a lot of work, he said — he recently mailed out the letters written 20 years ago.

Scott Fulton is one of the former students to receive a surprise in the mail.

"It kind of faded from my memory," Fulton, now a teacher, said. "To receive it again was pretty special."

He read some of his 20-year-old letter on the Morning Edition:

"So, anyway, are you married?" his 14-year-old self asked. "To who? I've always wondered if I would get married to somebody I already know now or somebody I'll meet later on in my life ... Did you got to university? Which one?"

DJ Anardi, 36, received his letter last month.

It began: "Hey you good-looking guy, how is your life?"

Fifteen-year-old Anardi wrote about wanting to go to college, play football, and have three or four kids when he grew up.

Anardi works at a steel mill and has two boys. He did, however, end up marrying the girl he had a crush on as a young teen.

Farrer said the letter-to-future-selves project was the most memorable thing he did as a teacher. In his four decades as a teacher — and the decade of retirement that's followed — he's mailed out thousands of hand-written letters to his former students.

"I think our society now is a society of non-commitment," Farrer told the National Post."We say we're going to do something, whether it's in a marriage, or with our kids or maybe even with our organizations we join, and some little thing ticks us off and we think, 'Enough of that, I'm walking out.'...I think it's important to have a sense of commitment, and maybe in a minor way, the kids see I value that."

Fulton hopes he can live up to his inspirational high school teacher:

"I was just feeling honoured and grateful," Fulton said about receiving his letter. "Amazed and inspired at the work of Mr. Farrer."

"I hope other teachers do it," Anardi said.

On the bottom of Anardi's letter, he wrote that if he received the letter in 20 years as promised, he would call Farrer to say thanks.

"I'm going to call him tonight," he said on Tuesday.