Alumnae Day 2020: STEAM & Exploration

Julie Rousseau, Head of School, and Courtney Cousineau ’99, hosted Alumnae Day live from our new Senior School STEAM lab.

 Alumnae from 1948 to 2021, honorary alumnae, past and present staff and special guests attended our first-ever virtual Alumnae Day on Saturday, October 3, and what an amazing day it was! Like the year 2020, it was quite unlike any that had gone before. As an alumnae class rep shared, “I am just so impressed with the whole experience of the virtual Alumnae Day. It’s yet another example of something good resulting from COVID-19!”

Head of School, Julie Rousseau, and Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ’99, hosted the event live from the recently launched YHS STEAM Lab in our Senior School. The lab, thanks to the generosity of our community, is already becoming a vibrant hub of activity where students can explore and draw on the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

The day began with a virtual tour of the YHS Museum & Archives and the sharing of reunion photo albums for classes celebrating 2020-21 reunions. Video greetings were shared by Yorkies in cities around the world including Vancouver, South Island, New Zealand, Shanghai, Dublin, Washington, and Ottawa, as well as Hong Kong, London, New York, Groningen and LA

After welcome remarks from Julie, Courtney, and YHS Board Chair, Michelle Ostrow ’89, alums got the first glimpse of student reactions to the new STEAM Lab.

 “I could never have imagined the STEAM Lab in my York House days. What a future the school is providing for the students of today,” commented an alumna from the 1960s.

Manpreet Deol ’15, with Jeff Rosen, Assistant Head of School, in the new Senior School STEAM lab.

Manpreet Deol ’15, before embarking on her journey as a Rhodes Scholars at the University of Oxford, came to visit the new lab to share her thoughts on this new powerful space for student exploration. When Manpreet initially heard that Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space would be our Alumnae Day keynote, she exclaimed, “That is beyond amazing, I still remember my Grade 5 hero project, I chose to write and speak about her…This is absolutely incredible! York House comes full circle for me.”

Geraldine Santiago ‘83
Geraldine Santiago ‘83

 Children’s author Geraldine Santiago ’83, was honoured to introduce Alumnae Day keynote speaker, Dr. Roberta Bondar. Geraldine wrote a children’s book, Luisa and the Magic Star, featuring Dr. Bondar, to mark the occasion of Canada 150 and space exploration. 

In celebration of the new YHS STEAM Lab and the theme of exploration, Dr. Roberta Bondar talked about some of her extraordinary experiences from her childhood explorations through to becoming a scientist, neurologist, astronaut, and photographer. She shared that the best part of her exploration on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992 was looking out the windows and being able to look down at the countries below without visible borders, and to see the earth as a planet from a totally different perspective. When she returned, she wanted to convey this new perspective, using her background in science, arts, and technology to connect people back to the natural habitat and the Roberta Bondar Foundation.

Dr. Bondar out in the field today
Dr. Roberta Bondar

One of the research projects she is most deeply involved in is AMASS (Avian Migration Aerial Surface Space), which is inspired by the natural phenomena of avian migration coupled with Dr. Bondar’s lifelong passion for flight and her view of Earth. The project’s aim is to increase awareness, educate and contribute to the world’s knowledge of biodiversity, its challenges, and needs for continuous support. 

Her insightful and enlightening thoughts resonated with alumnae and were greatly appreciated by all decades. “WHAT AN INSPIRATION!!! Commented an alumna from the class of 1982. “Dr. Bondar’s key takeaway today was that we can always continue to grow and explore with our minds no matter how old we are. Growth is a mindset and we need to continue to keep growing. Gratitude for her wise words and encouragement.” 

Saara Bhanji ‘03

 Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ‘99 introduced this year’s Alumnae Special Achiever, Saara Bhanji ’03, the founder of AWARE: The Association of Women’s Action, Research, and Empowerment. This feminist organization works with young women to overcome barriers based on race, class, poverty, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In her video presentation, Saara explores issues close to her heart. 

An annual highlight of Alumnae Day is the Association’s alumnae and staff basketball game. To help us look forward to next year’s game, the association created a virtual basketball game.

“I can’t wipe the grin off my face. So much fun to watch the virtual basketball game! exclaimed an alumna,” And to sing Onward and Upward, just like I did 55 years ago!”

We were delighted to have such a great turnout and to have received such positive feedback for our first virtual Alumnae Day. We look forward to welcoming everyone back again next year, hopefully in person!

Annual Alumnae Trip East to Ontario and Quebec

Ita Kane-Wilson, Alumnae/Advancement Officer and Kimberley Harvey, Director of Senior School embarked on the annual alumnae trip to Ontario and Quebec to meet up with recent grads over dinner.

First stop was in Ottawa where they met with a small group of alums including Stephanie (Lang) Young ‘01, Helen Cassie ‘16 and Taneisha Dunham ‘15. Stephanie is expecting her second child, Helen is enjoying her 2nd year of university and Taneisha is considering a move into further studies in education. She has been working as a nanny outside of her university studies and loves children, so teaching is a natural career choice she says.

Montreal was bitterly cold but sunny, and the girls there were thrilled to be invited to dinner. A local Indian restaurant provided amazing service and all the girls left with paper bags full of leftovers. Part-time work and accommodation sources were exchanged between alumnae and everyone appreciated the opportunity to connect and trade stories. Brittne Potter from the Class of 2012 shared news about her involvement with the Centerfold Gallery. Located in Westmount, the Centerfold also provides an online marketplace for local artists.

It was snowing in Kingston, but that did not dampen the Yorkie spirit. The girls happily provided tips to Grade 12s on how to adjust to university life and the number 1 tip came from Hasti Pourriahi, Class of 2015: “ It’s not the end of the world, until it’s the end of the world!”.

Golnar Khosrowshahi from the Class of 1989 generously hosted the Toronto alumnae reunion at her lovely home and it was great to catch up with grads and let them know about latest alumnae-related developments at York House. Mercedes Fogarassy ‘13 shared her experience of having alumna Anna Baird ‘03 as her mentor and how it has really helped her with her career to date.

In London, chapter chair Skylar Gordon ‘14 kindly welcomed everyone to the reunion. She’s in her last year at the Ivey Business School and heading back to Vancouver in May to start a new job with a company in Richmond. She also talked about the benefits of signing up to the YHS Alumnae Mentorship Program, and how she’s enjoying many career conversations with her alumna mentor. Kira Hoff ‘14 and Caitlin Pitblado ‘14 also finish up at Ivey this year.

YHS Alumnae Chapter Lunch in Kelowna

 

Fifteen alumnae from 1949-2016 came together for our annual lunch in Kelowna in early April. It was wonderful to see everyone and stories were told and memories shared around the tables.  Our three recent grads were able to get time off university to attend and were welcomed by their teachers, Spencer Bach and Mary Keitel.
 
 Meg Walwyn ’15, Bree Tsui ’16 and  Arizah Karim ’15 together for lunch in Kelowna.
Later that day, a small group gathered at the BNA Brewery for after work refreshments. Tianna Alexander ’11 exchanged memories with sisters Suzanne and Janette Harrington and compared notes about their time at YHS.  Janette from the Class of 1989 proudly showed off her school Chronicles and Suzanne (Class of 1987) told us how she was looking forward to her 30th alumnae reunion at the end of May.  Tianna who is also our Kelowna co-chair will be joining faculty as an intern at York House School in September.  She passes the co-chapter position to Katherine (Mortimer) Pisiak ’79 who will share it with Bobbi (Pritchard) Coates ’52.

Celebrating Class Anniversaries

Each year, the YHS Museum & Archives has an exhibit of photos to honour graduation anniversaries of alumnae classes.

Whether your class celebrates at the school as part of Alumnae Day or the Golden Luncheon, or gathers at another time, holding regular reunions is one of the ways that YHS alumnae stay connected and create a strong community of lifelong friends.

This year’s exhibit is now installed in the museum for the classes of 1957, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, and 2002.

Class of 1987 is up first with their May 27th reunion. Let the celebrations begin!

Preparations for the Class of 1987 Alumnae Reunion

Class reps Lisa (Granger) Cunliffe ’87 and Anitha (Gondi) Vasireddi ’87 found their class names on the staircase glass panels while on a tour of the Senior School and YHS Museum & Archives last month.  Lisa commented, “The school looks spectacular!  We were especially touched by how well all of you have linked the past with the present (and the future!).  It’s truly a special
place and something to be immensely proud of.” Anitha added, “I’m so proud to have graduated from such an awesome school. A big shout out to YHS for building such a beautiful campus and constantly improving to make it an even more warm and caring environment for the girls.”

Lisa and Anita have been very busy preparing for their 30th reunion, which will take place on Saturday May 27 at 4 pm. Festivities will begin with a reception at TELUS Rooftop Garden on the 23rd  Floor. At 5 pm all will head downstairs to Glowbal for dinner followed by dessert back at TELUS Rooftop Garden. A number of teachers are expected to join the class. “We look forward to talking, laughing and sharing memories with you all on May 27th!”

Alumnae Reunion Visits Across Canada – Part 2

The Yorkies in Kingston were delighted to see us and it was great to catch up with everyone over a delicious dinner.  The new grads are settling in well and thankful to have each other.   Our Chapter Chair, Vanessa Samuel ’13 has done a fabulous job of hosting events over the past few years for the new grads and it was great to see her.  Vanessa has plans to apply to medical school at UBC so this is most likely her last term as chapter chair.

The train journey to London seemed very long the following day and it was a relief to get there and enjoy dinner with our small group of Yorkies. Skylar Gordon from the Class of 2014 has kindly taken on the role of chapter chair and we’re very grateful to her. The new grads haven’t had a get-together yet but Skylar is planning one very soon. Skylar talked about her community service work with the Habitat for Humanity organization and her annual trips to New Orleans with a group of students from Western.

From London, we headed to Toronto and to Golnar Khosrowshahi’s home for the YHS reunion. Golnar from the Class of 1989 always does an amazing job hosting this event and we always feel very welcomed and cared for.  She’s a very humble person and doesn’t like to talk about herself.  We had to fill in the gaps for everyone!

 

Laura Edwards ’74, Executive Director Advancement joined us in Toronto and it was also wonderful to see Maxine Bass ’65 and everyone else who came along that evening.  The Class of 2016 girls bravely paid tribute to their friend Kendra who had passed away recently.

Onto Halifax I went for the very first get-together of the YHS Alumnae Chapter – Maritimes.  Alix Lammie ’11 kindly met me at the hotel before heading to our gathering and we were able to catch up.  Alix is doing a Master of Science, Pharmacology and enjoying it. It was fantastic to see the girls and hear about their lives in Nova Scotia.  Miranda MacDonald ’14 talked about her interest in applying for the veterinarian program at the University of Saskatchewan while Janet Suen ’13 is looking forward to finishing her degree and moving back to Vancouver.  It was also so lovely to chat with Laura Abrioux ’14, who talked about her interest in public health policy.  It was a short and sweet visit but a very worthwhile one.

Alumnae reunion visits across Canada

Ita Kane-Wilson and Ellie Zygmunt, admissions counsellor/mentorship coordinator travelled to Ottawa on January 23rd for dinner with alumnae.  Chapter Chair Gillian (Johnson) Cartwright ’03 and Madeleine Lyons also from the Class of 2003 hadn’t seen each other since graduation so they had a lot to catch up on.

Madeleine was in flying form and regaled us with fascinating stories about her work with the Red Cross.  She talked about her emergency preparedness kits and how she has three backpacks ready to go at all times; one in her car, one at home and one at work.  She talked about how little containers of skin cream and lip balm are important as they make you feel semi-normal even though you’re in a crisis.  Helen Cassie ’16 also joined us and she’s enjoying life in Ottawa and interning currently with Dr. Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre.  It was also wonderful to see Taneisha Dunham ’15 and hear about her continued involvement with her sorority at Carleton.  She also loves her volunteer work and feels blessed to have found her community there.

Onto Montreal from Ottawa and the weather was starting to deteriorate.  The city endured a winter blizzard that morning but we were impressed with how quickly streets get cleared there.  We met our recent grads at an Indian restaurant on Boulevard St. Laurent and after a delicious meal (along with the necessary leftover takeout bags!) and lots of chatter, we bundled ourselves back out into the cold and onto Kingston.

The Yorkies in Kingston were delighted to see us and it was great to catch up with everyone over a delicious dinner.  The new grads are settling in well and thankful to have each other.   Our Chapter Chair, Vanessa Samuel ’13 has done a fabulous job of hosting events over the past few years for the new grads and it was great to see her.  Vanessa has plans to apply to medical school at UBC so this is most likely her last term as chapter chair.

The train journey to London seemed very long the following day and it was a relief to get there and enjoy dinner with our small group of Yorkies. Skylar Gordon from the Class of 2014 has kindly taken on the role of chapter chair and we’re very grateful to her. The new grads haven’t had a get-together yet but Skylar is planning one very soon. Skylar talked about her community service work with the Habitat for Humanity organization and her annual trips to New Orleans with a group of students from Western.

From London, we headed to Toronto and to Golnar Khosrowshahi’s home for the YHS reunion. Golnar from the Class of 1989 always does an amazing job hosting this event and we always feel very welcomed and cared for.  She’s a very humble person and doesn’t like to talk about herself.  We had to fill in the gaps for everyone.

Laura Edwards ’74, Executive Director Advancement joined us in Toronto and it was also wonderful to see Maxine Bass ’65 and everyone else who came along that evening.  The Class of 2016 girls bravely paid tribute to their friend Kendra who had passed away recently.

Onto Halifax I went for the very first get-together of the YHS Alumnae Chapter – Maritimes.  Alix Lammie ’11 kindly met me at the hotel before heading to our gathering and we were able to catch up.  Alix is doing a Master of Science, Pharmacology and enjoying it. It was fantastic to see the girls and hear about their lives in Nova Scotia.  Miranda MacDonald ’14 talked about her interest in applying for the veterinarian program at the University of Saskatchewan while Janet Suen ’13 is looking forward to finishing her degree and moving back to Vancouver.  It was also so lovely to chat with Laura Abrioux ’14, who talked about her interest in public health policy.  It was a short and sweet visit but a very worthwhile one.

Eastern Canada Alumnae Reunion 2017 Tour

Time is ticking and it won’t be very long before the alumnae team heads east to the cold and snowy weather once again! Starting in Ottawa on January 23rd, we will also visit our alumnae in Montreal, Kingston, London, Toronto and for the first time in a long time, Halifax. We are looking forward to seeing as many alumnae for dinner as possible. Hurry up! If you haven’t sent us in your RSVP, please do so now to alumnae@yorkhouse.ca