Members of the Class of 1999 celebrated 20 years since graduating YHS when they got together in August 2019. Having most recently gathered to commemorate our 15th anniversary in a grads only reunion, this time the class opted for a family friendly early evening BBQ at York House in the Gail Ruddy Foyer. Featuring activities for the kids and plenty of food for alumnae and partners, it was a fun evening of reminiscing and catching up with friends not seen in years; including special video appearances by Francey Russell and Andrea Wong who were unable to attend in person. There was definitely more than a few walks down memory lane as we went through old yearbooks that were brought out for the occasion.
While the Class of ’99 has had a reunion every 5 years, we enjoyed having the opportunity to host our 20th reunion at the school – albeit a very different building than when we went here and how lucky current students are to come here every day! Special thanks to Ita Kane-Wilson for helping us with logistics and setting up the venue for us to feel welcome. While it may have been 20 years since we had last walked the halls at YHS as students, seeing each other again made it feel like no time had passed at all.
Arezou Marzara and Courtney (Smith) Cousineau, Reunion Organizers
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.
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!
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!
Natalee Sinclair ’06 reports: The class of 2006 not only had one, but two reunions for our 10 year milestone! The first, hosted by Dani des Roches and her parents, was a casual backyard get-together making the most of the sunny June afternoon. We even had a special visitor drop by – Ms. Boteju! As we had some girls away in the summer that wanted to attend, we had another reunion in December with some returning and new faces. This time, a more intimate party hosted by Prathna Batra, complete with a fabulous spread of potluck food choices, drinks, delicious cake, and of course Yorkie goodie bags! It was so nice to catch up with everyone and hear about everyone’s adventures over the past 10 years. Thank you to Shiva Majidi and Roxy Karim for their help with planning. We look forward to the next reunion.
Class rep Stevie (Bryston) Mitchell ‘61 reported, “On April 17, 2017 the class of 1961 celebrated their 55th reunion over lunch hosted by Winkie (Bucholtz) Steele at her South Surrey home. A number of classmates had not been able to attend the 55th celebration at the YHS Golden Alumnae luncheon last fall creating a 2nd chance to gather for a celebration.
Thanks to the help of our head girl Vicki (Frost) Vogrin, eighteen Yorkies attended including several who left the school prior to the senior years. The weather cooperated and a wonderful time was had by all.
Everyone reluctantly headed home with promises to get together again soon. Plainly no need to wait until the 60-year anniversary!
Alumnae from classes of 1942 – 1966 were welcomed back to school by Head of School, Chantal Gionet on September 30 to celebrate 50th – 70th reunions. The day began with a tour of the Senior School and for some it was the first time back since graduation. Much excitement ensued as classmates were discovered in grad photos and on the honour roll board in the Alumnae Art and Photo Gallery. They were thrilled to see how York House has grown since their days at the school. “We ‘Old Girls’ will never cease being in awe of the ‘new’ York House!” “The school has changed since we walked the halls of history and having that transcribed onto the current walls is very special and shows we aren’t forgotten! We were and are still so proud to be Yorkies.”
A highlight in the gallery was an exhibit of marionettes and puppets from the collection of former art teacher and founder, Virginia (Moore) Mackay who taught at York House for 38 years. All recalled making marionettes in art classes and there was great appreciation for this gift from Virginia’s step-granddaughter, Catherine (Carter) Nightingale ’76. Catherine commented, “It was delightful to talk to the women who went through school in the original buildings and to hear their memories of my grandmother and the marionettes.”
On visiting the YHS Museum & Archives, alumnae travelled back to their time at York House through the many exhibits of past uniforms, the original old houses where their classes were held, and class reunion photo boards prepared by archivist and curator, Susannah Smith.
The tour culminated with the unveiling of a new museum display case in the Gail Ruddy Foyer. This most thoughtful gift from Margaret (Shepard) Walwyn ’55, celebrates three generations of proud Yorkies including her daughter, Head Girl and past YHS Foundation Chair Catharine (Walwyn) Turner ’84, and granddaughters Megan (Class of 2015) and Claire (Class of 2017). The family recognition plaque reads “Always a Yorkie” and now treasures from the archives can be brought out for display to share YHS history and traditions with the whole community.
At the luncheon, Ragazza, the Senior School ensemble performed the old school hymn “Unto the Hills” and alumnae were invited to sing along with them for the school song, “Onward and Upward.” Fiona (Gr. 12), Saskia (Gr. 11), and Jasmine (Gr. 11) sang solos from their own repertoires. Grade 4 presented a lively rendition of the much loved “York House School March“, which was composed by the late Patty (Cochrane) Bennett ’49. Golden grads commented how they “loved seeing the junior students playing outside” while they enjoyed their luncheon. Senior School Head Girl, Maggie, and Junior School Head Girl Risa shared their favourite school experiences and the ladies let us know that “we all enjoyed it so much, especially the performances and speeches by the girls.”
Lisa (Greczmiel) Roberts ’82, President of the Alumnae Association presented Helen (Larmonth) Hughes ’50 with the 2016 Alumnae Lifetime Achiever award. Helen was nominated by her class and is the first recipient of this new Association award. Although officially retired after 18 years serving on the Victoria City Council, Helen continues to volunteer and still follows the school motto “Not for ourselves alone.” She has received numerous accolades throughout her life for her community service including the Order of Canada, YHS Alumnae Special Achiever for Community Service, honorary degrees from the Universities of Saskatchewan and Victoria, the Chancellor’s Community Recognition Award from Royal Rhodes, the Maclean Award for Outstanding Service by a Woman in Municipal Politics, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Leadership Victoria, a Generosity of Spirit Award sponsored by the Victoria Foundation, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal among others.
50th, 60th, and 70th pins were presented and class reps and volunteers were recognized for their work in bringing their classes together and organizing class reunion gifts. The class celebrating 50 designated the Alumnae Scholarship and the class celebrating 60, the Founders Scholarship. The luncheon came to a close with the precious delivery of green and gold wrapped Yorkie chocolates by Grade 1 and 2 students.
Click here to see all the photos from the Golden Alumnae Luncheon.