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.