On Founders’ Day, Friday, September 27, alumnae from 1950-1969 were welcomed back to school by student executives. The day began with a tour of the 3rd floor Alumnae Art & Photo Gallery including a stunning exhibit by wildlife photographer, Taylor Green ’10, and a new Museum & Archives displays of sports and drama at York House.
Highlights of the Golden Alumnae luncheon included the celebration of reunions and the presentation of the YHS Alumnae Association Lifetime Achiever Award. To mark the special occasion of their 60th reunion, Mary Jean (Cooke) Otway-Ruthven ’59 wore her full YHS uniform. Both class reps, Mary Jean and Valerie (Clark) Roddick ‘59 shared their gratitude for the lovely luncheon and a most memorable reunion, which was very much appreciated by all at their table.
The Class of 1969 celebrated their 50th reunion last summer. Those from the Class of 1969 who were also able to attend the Golden Luncheon, really enjoyed staying on for the Founders’ assembly. Class rep Natalie Clarke ’69 reported, “We were glad to see the York House values still maintained and to observe the dedication of all the staff and enthusiasm of the girls.”
Shelley (Bowell) O’Callaghan ’66 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the YHS Alumnae Association at the luncheon, where she was joined by members of her family and classmates. Shelley is an author, passionate volunteer, and advocate for social justice, who has had 30 years experience as a lawyer and recognized as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers.
She inspired all with the sharing of her life’s journey, especially the creation of a charity, Friends for Zambia Twitti School Project, to raise money for the construction of a school for 450 students. Shelley continues to visit the school every year, which now has a sponsorship program to enable disadvantaged students to attend the school. Click here for Shelley’s biography.
Before the luncheon was over, the Golden Alumnae were warmly welcomed by the Senior School Head girl, Olivia, and both the Junior School Head girl, Kate and Vice Head, Hannah, shared their thoughts on the Founders’ Day theme, “Finding Your True North.”
The luncheon ended after the most anticipated moment when the youngest Junior school students visit the Golden Alumnae and bring Yorkie chocolates for everyone.
The luncheon was followed by the annual Founders’ assembly. Highlights included the presentation of YHS Alumnae pins to the Grade 12 grads, and the presentation of two YHS Foundation Awards.
YHS Alumnae pins were presented to Grade 12 by the YHS Alumnae Association President and their alumnae sisters, mothers or grandmothers, a most cherished moment for Yorkie families.
The 2019 Alumnae Association Special Achiever Award was presented to Golnar Khosrowshahi ’89, Founder and CEO of Reservoir, a music publishing company. Golnar was named one of Billboard’s Most Powerful Female Executives and a Billboard Indie Power Player for 2017 and 2018. Furthermore, Reservoir was awarded Publisher of the Year at Music Business Worldwide, the A&R Awards in 2017. As she was not able to attend, a video of Golnar’s speech was screened during assembly. Click here to view the video.
Grade 4’s lively rendition of the York House March and the singing of the school song with the whole school brought back many memories. Alumnae also found time to explore the exhibits from past decades in the YHS Museum & Archives and enjoyed the Class Reunion Photo Boards.
We look forward to welcoming our Golden Alumnae back to next year’s Founders’ Day.
This year’s Alumnae Special Achiever, Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ’83, describes herself as “an unconventional tech leader.” From a professionally trained chef, Kirsten has navigated a significant career pivot to become one of Vancouver’s most celebrated tech execs. As she commented in a recent interview with Business in Vancouver, “I really love cooking: I love feeding people, which isn’t so different really to what I enjoy now at work: that collaborative environment, working together, creating things that are brand new.” Kirsten is also a mother and her daughter, Olivia in Grade 8, attends York House.
SAP is a global software company with 95,000 employees in 160 countries around the world. In her current position as Vice President and Managing Director of SAP Labs Canada, Kirsten is one of only two female Managing Directors within the global SAP Labs Network where she inspires innovation within the Canadian development organization and manages 3000 employees in SAP’s four research and development hubs across Canada.
She is also the Global Head of Engineering for SAP Jam, leading a multinational development team working on a cutting-edge cloud collaboration software with over 51 million subscribers. Her role gives her a prominent voice in the technology industry. This year, she was recognized as one of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business and as a YWCA Woman of Distinction, which honours individuals whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community.
Kirsten actively promotes gender advancement at her company and generously provides both formal and informal mentorship to younger women interested in the technology sector. An advocate for girls in tech, she supports education initiatives like Templeton STEM and GIRLsmart4tech. Last June, Kirsten hosted a “Yorkies in Stem” evening at SAP Labs Canada’s headquarters in Yaletown, an invaluable networking opportunity for YHS alumnae. On YHS Alumnae Day, she participated in the “Breaking the Mold” panel discussion, offering practical steps to confidently navigate and push boundaries.
As a leader in promoting diversity, Kirsten has led the way for SAP Canada’s adoption of Autism@Work, an SAP initiative to hire and integrate 650 individuals on the autism spectrum into the workplace globally. Under her leadership, SAP Labs in Vancouver was recently awarded the Rick Hansen Foundations’ Certified Gold accessibility accreditation, making it the first business in Canada to be recognized. Outside of SAP, Kirsten gives her time as a Director of the Board of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Science World British Columbia, and as chair of the Minerva Foundation, which provides leadership development programs for women and girls, and partners with organizations to advance gender parity in BC.
In her Founders’ Day address to students, staff, and alumnae as this year’s Special Achiever, Kirsten, proudly wearing her YHS blazer, attributed her success to following an unconventional path. Before enrolling in university for a degree in linguistics and creative writing, she already had 24 diverse job experiences to draw from, including private investigator, retail clerk, instructor of Business English and computers, actor, playwright, stage manager, bartender, chef and technical writer. “YHS had and continues to have tremendous influence on me and was key to who I am and how I succeed today. I didn’t appreciate it then and maybe today you don’t either. The years you will spend here are truly transformative.”
York House, was not only the place where she lived (her family home was formerly located on the school grounds where the gymnasium is now), but a place where she had been able to thrive as her unique self, to express her passion for questioning the status quo and why things had to be a certain way. She always had the insatiable desire to “break the mold,” to be a disruptor, and spin wild ideas. At the time, this was not always so well received as demonstrated from a few report cards, suggesting that she had potential and the ability to be successful, if she avoided the temptation of being easily distracted and spending time objecting to what was happening in class.
Today in her professional life, the Kirsten from 1983 isn’t much different from the Kirsten of 2018. She is championed as a disruptor, who inspires creativity and innovation, and leads her team to think differently, pushing them out of their comfort zones. Kirsten shared the 3 most important lessons she learned at York House:
“1. Be Unique: We are all Tigers (YHS Sports team) here and no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes. Every tiger in the world is unique. Being at an all-girls school wearing a uniform everyday, with everyone looking the same, studying the same subjects, competing in the same sports, engaging in the same shared experiences, you have no choice but to figure out what makes you stand out.
2. Be Yourself: Often girls feel that they have to present themselves in a certain way, like certain things or downplay their talents. To be your best self you have to be your true self. York House was a safe place for me to be me and is a safe place for you to be you.
3. Be Ferocious: We all have fears. It’s what you do with those fears that matters. At YHS you have the chance to try many things you may be afraid of. This is your time to experiment. Sink your teeth in, give it a try and be ferocious. When a tiger wants to be heard, you’ll know it, because you can hear them roaring as far as three kilometer away. Let everyone hear us roar!”
In closing, Kirsten expressed her gratitude for her time at York House and “the unique ferocious tiger that was brought out in me.” She encouraged teachers past and present, “to entertain the innovative, disruptive ideas of your students, as you never know where they may end up and the influence they may have thanks to your influence today.” Based on the spontaneous clapping and laughter of the audience of staff, alumnae and our Golden Alumnae, and students, Kirsten’s inspiring words and great sense of humour, clearly resonated with all who attended this Founders’ Day. Congratulations Kirsten on yet another achievement!
On Founders’ Day, alumnae from 1942 – 1968 came back to school and were met by student executives before being led on a fun school-wide tour by Laura Edwards ’74, Executive Director Advancement and Gillian Smith ’81, past YHS Parents’ Association President.
The Golden Alumnae luncheon began with the melodious tones of Ragazza, the YHS Senior choral group, led by music teacher Benila Ninan, in the singing of the old YHS assembly hymn Unto the Hills and a glorious rendition of Blue Skies. Head of School, Julie Rousseau welcomed the Golden Alumnae, YHS Legacy Society members, and guests.
“This is a very special day, one that honours our seven founders, trailblazing women, for whom I am truly grateful, who in 1932 had the bold vision to establish this wonderful school for girls.” Mary Raikes-Tindle, niece of founder Gladys (Morden) Jopling, who attended the luncheon commented, “This echoed my sentiments that these seven women, were way before their time and were very courageous and strong to take on such an endeavour.”
Julie introduced this year’s Alumnae Day theme, “Breaking the mold, overcoming obstacles, dismantling barriers and creating opportunities for both ourselves and others. Our founders clearly broke the mold as I am sure they surmounted many challenges along the way to making their dream a reality, this wonderful school for girls that continues to represent excellence in girls’ education, 86 years later.”
Stevie (Bryson) Mitchell ’61, YHS Foundation Chair, led grace in the words of founding Head of School, Mrs. Lena Clarke, and the first course was served, an aromatic squash soup with yam, apple and nutmeg, quite different from the meals recalled by York House boarders. 50th through 70th reunions were celebrated with the sharing of a myriad of memories from earlier times. A member of the class of 1958 commented, “What a wonderful day we all enjoyed. The tour of the school was very impressive and the speeches and luncheon outstanding….it was such great fun chatting with classmates.”
After the luncheon, Joanne Lee-Young ’90, Alumnae Association President, announced the 2018 Alumnae Lifetime Achiever, Irene (Triandis) Harvalias ’52, who has truly lived the school motto, Not for Ourselves Alone, throughout her life and was nominated by her class of 1952. For their nomination, they prepared an amazing handwritten book, including many photos of Irene tirelessly at work in the community and of her exquisite hand-made quilts, as well as those of her many students. Much of the finished work of the students, completed on donated sewing machines, is given to hospitals, homeless shelters and other deserving places.
The nomination book is currently on display in the Museum & Archives display case in the Gail Ruddy foyer as part of a 1950s – 60s Alumnae Special Achiever display. Samples of her quilts are hanging in the Alumnae Art Gallery on the 3rd floor of the Senior School.
Jessica and Sophia, Junior Head and Vice Head girls, shared their thoughts about the Founders’ Day theme, Breaking the Mold, “Mme Curie, Rosa Parks or more recently Malala Yousafzai and Serena Williams. All of these women are connected by a common thread – they broke the mold. These important women have inspired many people here and around the world to act with courage, persevere when times are tough, and be willing to break through barriers that limit us. We too, each and every one of us, can Break the Mold.”
Their passionate address was followed by a lively performance by the Grade 2 girls, who sang I’m a York House Girl to a rapt audience.
Following the much-anticipated delivery of York House chocolates by the youngest Junior students, YHS Head Girl Ava, Grade 12, welcomed the Golden Alumnae on behalf of the student executive and shared a few experiences from her time at the school. Joanne Lee-Young, Alumnae Association President, encouraged all to attend the Founders’ Day assembly after the luncheon.
The highlight of the assembly was the presentation of the 2018 Alumnae Special Achiever award to Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ’83. As VP & Managing Director, SAP LABS Canada, Kirsten is one of only two female Managing Directors within the global SAP Labs Network. She is also the Global Head of Engineering for SAP Jam, leading a multinational development team on a product with over 51 million subscribers.
As an unconventional tech leader and executive, Kirsten is also an advocate for girls in tech, and supports education initiatives like Templeton STEM and GIRLsmart4tech and has led the way for SAP Canada’s adoption of Autism@Work, an initiative to hire 650 individuals on the autism spectrum globally. Kirsten was recognized in 2018 as one of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business and a YWCA Woman of Distinction. All were inspired by her address to the whole school.
Other highlights included the presentation of Alumnae pins, which were given to Grade 12 students. This was an especially memorable moment for alumnae in attendance, who had the chance to give the pin to their sisters, daughters, nieces, or granddaughters.
New on the Founders’ Assembly agenda this year, was the presentation of two new YHS Foundation Awards in memory of two outstanding alumnae, Caroline Anne (Sexsmith) Trausch ’84 and Katherine Manders ’96.
The Caroline Anne Sexsmith Trausch Award was presented to Pepi, Grade 12 and the Katherine Manders award, to Grace, Grade 12.
The Grade 4 student’s energetic performance of the YHS School March and the singing of the school song all together by alumnae, students, staff and guests, stirred up many memories, which will remain with those who attended this special day of celebration.
Derek Francis, husband of much loved York House teacher, Joanne Francis, has set up a fund, The Joanne and Derek Francis Scholarship, to assist a student who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend the school and experience a York House education. Joanne taught at York House from 1979 until 2001 and is remembered as a most dedicated and energetic teacher and colleague and a great friend.
Derek, also an educator, shared with Joanne a deep commitment to education as well as membership in the YHS Legacy Society. He had appointments at UBC, University of Manitoba, Douglas College, and is Vice President Emeritus, Kwantlen Polytechnic University after working there for 35 years. Derek understands the significance of education for young women and wants to encourage them to take on leadership roles for the benefit of all. The gift of this scholarship truly reflects Joanne and Derek’s thoughtful philanthropy and will continue their legacy of commitment to education for students now and for future generations of Yorkies.
Alumnae Association President Joanne Lee-Young ’90, one of Joanne’s many students commented, “Our scholarship students exemplify the values Joanne nurtured in us. It’s very fitting she will be connected to them through this new scholarship. I know how much Joanne cared about YHS students who worked hard, were mindful of the school motto, Not for Ourselves Alone, and gave back to the community. She always championed them.”
It is well over a year ago that family, friends, alumnae, staff, both past and present, gathered and overflowed from the Columbus Residence Chapel in Vancouver, to celebrate the life of Franny as she was fondly known. Her husband Derek, who was married to Joanne for 48 years, shared the touching story of his first encounter with the young woman with the sparkling blue eyes. Alumnae shared heartfelt stories of the impact she had on their lives as a teacher and friend.
Throughout her career at York House, Franny enthusiastically took on a variety of roles and guided countless students through Physical Education, English, Journalism, and YHS Chronicle (yearbook) classes. She bridged the print and digital world with her students, who experienced the learning curve with her, and were inspired by her patience and generosity of spirit.
After retirement, Joanne kept in touch with many of her students throughout her life, attending class reunions, sharing her numerous travel experiences and her avid participation in the 55+ BC Games as well as her passion for two miniature Schnauzers, Tuki and Tyler. Joanne and Derek, you both continue to be a great inspiration to us all. Thank you!
If you would like to contribute to The Joanne and Derek Scholarship fund in memory of Joanne Francis, click on the link below. Under designation, select the Joanne and Derek Scholarship fund and include your tribute instructions under donation information.
Sherry’s connection to York House began with her mother, Audrey (Wilson) Robson’s alumnae tales from the early years of the school. In 1961, as the youngest York House student, she had an auspicious beginning with the chance to unveil the first building block of the Junior School with head girl Victoria (Frost) Vogrin ‘61 and Mr. H. R. MacMillan.
Twelve years later, after playing a vital role on the student council since her arrival in the Senior School, Sherry was elected Head Girl 1972-73 and gained the respect and affection of the YHS community. After graduation, Sherry’s leadership role continued as Alumnae Association President in 1974, a role she would take on two more times as her passion and commitment for York House evolved.
When her daughter Devon started kindergarten in 1989, she became a devoted class parent, spending countless hours volunteering at the school. Sherry contributed in every imaginable way including Alumnae Representative to the Board, Class Parent, Alumnae Class Rep, YHS Foundation trustee, phonathon volunteer, band trip chaperone and more. In 1996, Sherry’s exceptional dedication and Yorkie spirit were recognized when she received the Alumnae Special Achiever award for Community Service. As a special tribute, the alumnae introduced a new award named “The Sherry Robson Taylor Spirit Award,” which is presented each year to a student who emulates Sherry’s enthusiasm, energy, and love of York House.
Sherry’s Yorkie spirit and enthusiasm led her to be the initiator of many firsts. In 1993 she inspired and co-chaired the first ever York Rose Ball and in 1998, it was a highlight of the school’s “Celebrate Sixty” festivities. In 1995 she chaired the first New Parents’ dinner and co-convened the Fall Market (1997-9). After co-chairing the York Rose Ball again in 2002, she became an Honorary member of the Parents’ Association and agreed to chair the ball in 2007 for the school’s 75th birthday.
In 2002, Sherry started a long standing YHS tradition, by hosting a luncheon each year for the grads at the University Women’s Club of Vancouver at Hycroft. Her great-grandmother Dr. Evelyn Farris had founded the club in 1907 along with eight other university women and what a perfect location for the grads to be welcomed into the YHS Alumnae Association.
Always an outstanding example, Sherry constantly modelled the school motto, “Not for Ourselves Alone”, both in the greater community and at York House. During her tenure as President, the Alumnae Association Scholarship, close to Sherry’s heart, was initiated and grew to become a full scholarship in 2006. Sherry also managed the Margaret Barbeau Alumnae Uniform Shop for many years to raise additional funds for the YHS Alumnae Scholarship. Sherry was a founding member of the YHS Legacy Society to ensure the future for Yorkies and generations to come. In 2012, Sherry was awarded Honorary Executive Member of the Alumnae Association for her years of service.
Asked during a 75th birthday interview what made her so passionate about the school, she responded, “The lifelong friendships, the camaraderie, the school’s values and traditions and the confidence it instills in its graduates. I’m really proud of the accomplishments and success of York House alumnae in academic, athletic, and artistic areas and the way Yorkies hold true to the school’s motto Not forOurselves Alone. I have been so very fortunate to have a relationship with this unbelievable school. My memories are irreplaceable–how lucky am I. Thank you York House.”
After living her life to the absolute fullest, Sherry, a most beloved member of the York House community passed away on April 10, 2018. On Saturday May 5, family, friends, alumnae, YHS parents and staff past and present gathered at York House School to celebrate her amazing life. She will be remembered for her tremendous strength and courage, her welcoming smile, trademark sense humour and fun, golden hearted generosity, and unstoppable spirit. Sherry was never dampened by the challenges that came her way and never allowed her long struggle with Lupus to limit what she could accomplish.
Geraldine Santiago ’83 attended YHS from 1979-83 and was known as being energetic, fun-loving and a good friend. The middle daughter of four Santiago sisters that attended YHS, she was Vice Head-Girl, served as Class President twice and was House Member of the Year. Geraldine was also the recipient of several awards including the Senior Spirit Trophy, Parents’ Association Citizenship award, and the Joan Sorenson Memorial. Once she graduated, her interests turned to Asian Studies when she attended the University of British Columbia to obtain a degree in Mandarin. Always driven to succeed, Geraldine launched her career in real estate and became known for seminars targeted at first time home buyers. Over the past 16 years as a realtor, she has written three real estate reference books for Self-Counsel Press Ltd, entitled, “Complete Home-Buyer’s Guide for Canadians”, “Selling Your Home in Canada” and “Buy and Sell a Recreational Property in Canada”.
Geraldine is also an accomplished painter known for her use of bold colours in oil and acrylic. In addition to solo and group exhibitions in Vancouver, she has also been an Artist in Residence teaching acrylic painting to children from K-12. When Geraldine’s daughter, Luisa, was only five days old, she was rushed to the BC Children’s Hospital with a serious, potentially life threatening viral infection. Their skilled staff, nurses and doctors were able to provide critical services that resulted in her daughter’s full recovery. Geraldine’s desire to give back to these doctors and staff inspired her to use her creative talents to write and illustrate a children’s storybook.
Geraldine published, “Luisa and the Magic Star” in July, 2017, which celebrates Canadian space achievements in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman astronaut in space, who makes a cameo in the book, recently described the book as “delightful”. In true Yorkie style, the profits from the sale of the book are being donated to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and she is already working on a sequel, “The Star Thief.”
Geraldine hopes that her storybook creates an interest in both science and music in children. In fact, the main character is based on her oldest daughter Luisa, who learned to play the violin at the age of five and is now enrolled in an engineering program at the University of British Columbia. Recognizing that, as early as elementary school, many of the science and space picture books for young readers are designed for boys, Geraldine is intentionally introducing strong, relatable, female characters in her books that break stereotypes and gender boundaries.
“When I graduated, I didn’t fully appreciate how much my high school years would influence and shape my life,” says Geraldine. “Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that York House provided me with a solid foundation and the confidence to grow in whatever direction I chose. I also developed a love of learning and self-improvement. As a mother, professional realtor, artist, and spouse, I will continue to grow, mature, and evolve,” remarked Geraldine, “I know that York House has given me the groundwork to flourish. Our school motto – Onwards and upward, not for ourselves alone – has always been my credo.”
Geraldine was delighted to visit York House School on November 2nd to read “Luisa and the Magic Star” and her new sequel, “The Star Thief” to the Grade 3 classes. After the reading, students asked lots of questions and took part in fun word rhyming activities. She hopes to inspire the next generation of children to embrace space and science through her cleverly written and beautifully illustrated books.
On Founders’ Day, October 13, 2017, alumnae from 1942 to 1967 were welcomed back to school by student executives as they arrived to join the whole school for the celebration of the school’s 85th birthday. After assembly, there was much to share about the morning’s festivities at the Golden Alumnae luncheon.
“It was fantastic,” commented an alumna from out of town. “Everyone at the school was so welcoming right from the wonderful smile from the prefects who opened the door. It was fun to be at the 85th Birthday assembly and to see the family alumnae present grad pins. The Grade 4s were terrific with their singing of the School March and their speeches about exploration.” Another remarked, “It was all impressive – the ceremony, the singing of the School Song and general memories about an entire school being together, many of whom sat cross legged on the floor!”
Following the excitement of the morning, the Senior Choral ensemble, Ragazza, set a calm tone for a memorable luncheon with their melodious rendition of Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies. Head of School, Chantal Gionet, introduced the first screening of the 85th YHS Video featuring alumnae through the decades. Each alumna shared their most meaningful experiences from their times including words of wisdom for Yorkies today.
Grace was said by class rep, Nora (Mitchell) Newlands ’67, using the well-remembered words of founding Head of School, Mrs. Clarke, “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful.” Spirited conversations continued over lunch as though no time had gone by since school days. “It was quite something that after 50 years, we could reconnect so quickly and enjoy each other’s company,” mused an alumna from the class of 1967. Another felt similarly, “It didn’t feel like 50 years could possibly have passed since leaving. Oh, to be 16 again and have a couple of years in this new facility with its incredible energy and warmth.” Glasses were raised in honour of 50th through 65th reunions and there was much catching up between classmates and friends both old and new.
There was also the chance to meet some of the youngest students in the school when Junior students brought Yorkie green and gold chocolates to each table. What a wonderful surprise when young Yorkies discovered their alumnae grandmothers at the luncheon!
The day ended with a fun tour of the Senior School and the museum led by Gillian (White) Smith ’81, Parent Association President with Susannah Smith, YHS Museum Archivist and Curator. Many expressed amazement at the design of the building and what they saw—photos from their days at the school, uniforms from the early years and the discovery of the names of their whole class etched in the stairway glass.
Following the tour, alumnae left to continue their reunion celebrations late into the evening. Some were so inspired and energized by this year’s Alumnae Special Achiever, Dianne Whelan’s warmth and courage in her assembly presentation about her Trans Canada journey that they planned to return early the next morning to hear more on Alumnae Day!
On Saturday May 27th, members of the class of 1987 gathered together to celebrate their 30th reunion. Class reps Anitha (Gondi) Vasireddi and Lisa (Granger) Cunliffe reported, “The evening began with a reception at the Telus Garden Rooftop followed by dinner at Global restaurant. We could not have asked for a more spectacular venue to host our memorable reunion. It was as if time had stood still for everyone as they shared memories, laughs, and stories about each other’s families, lives, and work. We were all happy that a few of our out of town Yorkies made a great effort to attend our reunion including Michelle (Seattle), Maria (Ontario), Vanessa (Victoria), Suzanne (Kelowna), Rande (Ontario), and Mandy (Houston).
A special thanks to our wonderful teachers who were able to make it for this event. It was delightful to see their enthusiasm and interest towards all of us remains the same even after 30 years!” Mr. Doan commented, “It was great to see all of you and hear about what you’ve done in the 30 years after YHS. We teachers meet you when you’re just a few steps along on your life’s path and it is a special treat to reconnect with you and see what you’ve accomplished as you’ve moved more steps down that road. What a great and impressive group of women you are. Congratulations to the class reps for staging the event and my sincerest thanks for being included. It was great fun!”
“Our amazing venue, the Telus Garden Rooftop Garden, would not have been possible without the generous help of Jill Schnarr. Thank you Jill, and thanks to all for coming and making our reunion a great success.”
The 40th anniversary was the perfect time for the unveiling of the updated Not for Ourselves Alone Legacy Society plaque by Barbara (Sanderson) Armstrong ’55, past Foundation trustee and Lisa (Greczmiel) Roberts ’82, Alumnae Association president to reveal eighty-five members including YHS Board members, Foundation trustees, Alumnae Association executives, alumnae, YHS staff, current parents and friends.
The recognition plaque hangs above the distinctive YHS Museum & Archives display case, a gift from a three generational York House family, Margaret (Shepard) Walwyn ’55, her daughter Catharine (Walwyn) Turner and granddaughters, Megan Walwyn ’15 and Claire Turner ’17. The case enables treasured archival artifacts to be brought out and shared with the whole community. The current display, arranged by archivist and curator Susannah Smith, features York House in the 1930s including the blazer of Corinth (Eckman) Carson ’35 from the first graduating class. Be sure to take a look when walking through the Gail Ruddy foyer!
The society was founded by Barbara (Sanderson) Armstrong ’55 in 1999 to recognize donors who have made a bequest in their will or other planned gift to the YHS Foundation in support of student scholarships and the school’s future. The YHS Endowment Fund was established four decades ago and thanks to the dedication of Foundation trustees, and the generosity of our Legacy Society members and donors, the fund continues to grow.
This year, fourteen students are recipients of either full or partial scholarships.
After the unveiling, champagne glasses clinked, our very own blend of Murchie’s YHS tea served and delicate sandwiches, boarder’s fare (brown bread with butter), scones and sweets were enjoyed by all.
The best was yet to come with speakers, Caitlin Ohama-Darcus ’07, a past Foundation scholarship recipient now with Nathanson, Schachter & Thompson LLP and grade 12 student Fiona Lang ’17, the Ursula Bell scholarship recipient, who is planning to study engineering.
Fiona spoke first and expressed what being a Yorkie and scholarship student has meant to her through her experiences in the math honours, the music and computer science programs.
Caitlin began with a dictionary. “I did as most young lawyers are trained to do: start with a search for the word “legacy”…Of all the definitions, the one that stood out for me the most was this: ‘a legacy is ‘a tangible or intangible thing handed down by a predecessor or the long-lasting effect of an event or process.’
My experience as a York House student and a Foundation scholar was one of those hugely significant events – or if I think about my development as a girl and young woman, one of those many-dimensional processes, whose impact continues for me to this day. Many, many moments stand out for me from my time at the school.”
Inspired by these two amazing young women, legacy members stayed on for the Celebrate Scholars program put on by current student scholars with the chance to meet them at the reception afterwards. Each legacy member received the new gold YHS Legacy Society pin with the York rose emblem.
Dr. Robyn Woodward ’72 recently came back to York House to share her amazing and evolving career path in Senior School Assembly. A fourth generation Vancouverite and a second generation Yorkie, Robyn is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Archaeology Department at Simon Fraser University where she frequently teachers a third year course in Maritime Archaeology and numerous courses in continuing education.
After only a few minutes into her presentation, it was evident that Robyn has taken lifelong learning to new heights. Driven by her passion for archaeology, art and adventure, she has chartered her course to be able to explore these all over the world. At least two months a year, she can be found lecturing on expedition ships from the Canadian Arctic to the Mediterranean while also directing work at archaeological sites in Jamaica.
“I graduated from Queens University in 1977 with a BA (Hons) in the History of Art with a minor in Classical Studies. The interdisciplinary nature of humanities, the study of philosophy, religion, history, art and culture, have been a huge influence throughout my career. As I loved art and archaeology, I pursued a second undergraduate degree, a BSc (Hons) in Art Conservation and Restoration of Archaeological Materials at the University College in Cardiff, Wales.”
Robyn shared that after graduation in 1979, she ran up against the age old conundrum ‘You can’t get a job unless you have experience and you can’t get experience unless you have a job.’ Her solution was to volunteer. “I took up an internship with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) in Bodrum, Turkey. The experience was invaluable. Internships open doors to a whole network of people and possibilities. In my case it sent me off along a slightly different career path, the study of maritime archaeology.”
In 1980 Robyn enrolled at Texas A & M University in a new master’s program in Nautical Archaeology, which at the time was the only place in the world that offered such a degree. There are now a number of such programs (see links below).
“In the summer of 1981, I joined a team of fellow graduate students in Jamaica. This turned into a 12-year project to excavate the submerged pirate city of Port Royal, Jamaica. Several years later, I returned to Jamaica to do my research for my doctoral studies at the same site that I studied for my MA. Sevilla la Nueva is the early 16th century Spanish capital of Jamaica, which was founded by Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego Colon in 1509 and was abandoned in 1534. I excavated the first sugar mill in the New World, sugar being the industry that changed the demographics of the Americas, as it was the driver for the African slave trade. I still direct the work at this site and over the past 10 years have excavated an abbey, settler’s houses, a butchery and a 16th century sculptor’s workshop.”
An exciting five-year stint followed where Robyn worked in the Grand Caymans in the submarine tourism business. In 1989, she returned to Vancouver to restart her career. “I did so by first volunteering with organizations which had an affinity with my interests in maritime history and archaeology, the Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM), and the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC (UASBC).” Robyn went on to serve on many boards including MOSAIC, the York House School Foundation, and the Vancouver Richmond Health Board (now part of Vancouver Coastal Health). In 2000, Robyn was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Community Volunteer Award.
“Throughout my career, I have embraced the notion that learning is a lifelong activity. I had began a PhD at Simon Fraser University in Archaeology in late 1999 and re-focused my volunteer activities to serve on committees and boards of the professional societies in my own discipline, the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society for Historical Archaeology, and its Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology. I completed my PhD in 2007.
Pursuing volunteering opportunities has always opened doors to a vast array of new possibilities. While serving on the board of Vancouver Maritime Museum 20 years ago, I volunteered to do a one-week cruise up the coast of BC to present a few talks on the history of the province and Canada. When the company Lindblad Expeditions needed a historian/archaeologist to lecture on their first cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean, I raised my hand again. Over the last 16 years, I have become the company’s Mediterranean/maritime expert. I now spend two months a year lecturing on their many small expedition ships. As Lindblad also does all the cruises for National Geographic, it is safe to say that I am constantly challenged with new learning opportunities. In addition to my work with Lindblad Expeditions, I have a speaker’s agent who offers me opportunities to travel as an enrichment speaker on a number of different cruise lines, which enables me to travel the world for free – kind of a dream job!”
In closing, Robyn offered a few tips to charter a dream career:
Dare to be bold and take chances by trying something new;
Volunteer as a means to try out a career in a new field or profession before committing to a four-year degree in a subject;
Learn to write well! Regardless if you study sciences, engineering, accounting or humanities, if you are unable to describe, interpret or clarify what you have designed or discovered clearly and concisely, you will be at a disadvantage; and,
Pursue the field or profession that you are passionate about!
In 2010, Robyn was awarded the YHS Janet Ruth Mitchell Founders Spirit Award, which is presented to an alumna who has demonstrated significant and outstanding spirit and passion in her life’s work. In 2012, she received the Archaeological Institute of America’s McCann Taggart Distinguished Lectureship in Underwater Archaeology.