The YHS Alumnae Association is pleased to announce the conferring of three Special Achiever Awards for 2021. A decision was made by the alumnae executive committee to award three nominated healthcare professionals as a heartfelt tribute to all our alumnae healthcare professionals on the front lines during this ongoing pandemic.
Dr. Camilla Zimmermann, Class of 1984 is Head and Lederman Chair, Department of Supportive Care at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Head of the Division of Palliative Care at the University Health Network, and a Senior Scientist and Chair of Supportive Care Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Research Institute in Toronto.
She is also a Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and the inaugural Director of the university’s Division of Palliative Medicine in the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Yvette Lu, Class of 1996, is a family physician, filmmaker, and actor in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Lu is passionate about projects that improve health and well-being. She was nominated for a prestigious Canadian Screen Award for her work as host of “House Call with Dr. Yvette Lu,” an award-winning show about caregivers, and has written a research-based play about chronic illness.
Dr. Alya Kamani, Class of 2001 is a critical care physician and residency site director for critical care at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. She holds this position while concurrently working as a medical toxicologist and clinical pharmacologist at the Ontario Poison Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook. She was recently appointed to the University of Toronto and is pursuing a Clinician Teacher/Educator academic track.
Congratulations to our alumnae Special Achievers and we look forward to welcoming you all back to York House for Alumnae Day on May 7th, 2022.
Golden Alumnae Luncheon, May 6th, 2022
Alumnae Day, May 7th, 2022
We are grateful for Dr. Yvette Lu ’96, one our Healthcare Heroes, for creating this video for us. We have shared this video with our Junior School and Senior School staff and students. We invite you to watch at home as well!
Our mission at York House is to inspire and enable students’ connection to the world. To help young women thrive now and into the future, we want to expose them to a world of possibilities. To do this, we strive to bring the world to the school and the students to the world in meaningful, relevant, and lively ways. The Career-Life Connections Program (CLC) at YHS is one hub for exploration and experimentation where young women can explore future pathways.
Thank you to Ita Kane-Wilson, Alumnae Relations and Annual Giving Manager, and Jaclyn Murray, the YHS Career-Life Connections and Capstone Coordinator, for coordinating the school’s first Virtual Career Fair for Grade 10 students. Thank you, also, to parents, alumnae, and community members who generously gave of their time, shared their own experiences, and brought careers to life for York House students.
Kara McDonald Director of Learning
On Friday, February 5, as a part of the Grade 10 Career-Life Connections Program and in collaboration with the Alumnae Office, YHS hosted its first virtual Career Fair. The purpose and focus of this event was to give students first-hand knowledge and information about careers in six different industries. These included: Business & Entrepreneurship, Fashion & Interior Design, and Medical & Health Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Film & TV, Law & the Music Industry. Students heard from alumnae and parents who are working in these fields and generously offered to explore with students a day in the life of their career.
The Career Fair took place during students’ Career-Life Connections 10 class where students participated in two 30-minute sessions and heard about two different industries of interest. Each online session had two guest speakers who presented to help provide either a complementary or contrasting perspective in a particular field/industry, with an opportunity at the end for students to ask questions.
Thank you to the following YHS Alumnae and Parents for making this event possible. Click on the links for bios:
Students were excited from the outset to hear first-hand from leaders and change-makers in our community. There was a buzz in the hallways in response to the engaging and informative sessions. Our hope is that students felt energized and inspired and took away insights that may inform their decision-making of next steps and future possibilities.
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).
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, 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.”
In celebration of the new YHS STEAM Lab and the theme of exploration, Dr. Roberta Bondartalked 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.
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.”
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!
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 February 19, Stevie (Bryson) Mitchell ’61, YHS Foundation Chair, welcomed guests who gathered in the Gail Ruddy foyer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Legacy Society. The Celebrate 20 reception was attended by Legacy Society members and donors including alumnae, YHS Foundation trustees, Alumnae Association executives, YHS Board members, past and present parents and staff, and friends.
Stevie shared a fond memory of her special relationship with founding Head of School, Mrs. Lena (Cotsworth) Clarke, when she was a York House boarder. As the last student boarder to travel home on the evening train to Calgary, Mrs. Clarke always invited Stevie for dinner and then drove her to the train station in her Hillman car. Each time, she would carefully admonish the porter at the train station with a tip “to take care of my girl.” It was this lasting relationship that led Stevie to become a founding member of the YHS Legacy Society (in memory of Mrs. Clarke), and continues to inspire her dedication to ensuring more students have the opportunity for a York House education.
Julie Rousseau, Head of School, thanked Legacy Society members and Foundation donors for their generous support, which has allowed the YHS Foundation to continue to be able to offer scholarship opportunities to talented and deserving students. There are 21 scholars this year, who are dedicated to the life of the school, whether it is through their studies, their participation in community service, athletics, or the arts. They each contribute so much to the fabric of York House School. To learn more, view the York House Scholarships video.
Margo Keate West ‘93 shared some of her experiences of what it meant to her to be the recipient of the Lena Cotsworth Clarke entrance scholarship, which has since grown into the Founders’ Scholarship. “I remember my initial response as one of awe at the generosity of this community. The award wasn’t large, but it made me feel not only special, but confident, and most importantly welcome. I have rarely felt as embraced by a community as I did when I first became a Yorkie. I arrived at York House in September to begin my Grade 7 year in the Senior School full of enthusiasm and unchecked glee….I did everything – sports, clubs, musicals, outdoor ed, choir, student government, and ended my run at York House as Algonquin House Captain.”
“I’m thrilled to say that on the 20th anniversary of the Legacy Society, my husband Ben and I are now Legacy Society members. I have recently become a Foundation trustee, and we are parents to a daughter in Grade 6. Eloise is now exactly the age I was when I first wrote that YHS entrance exam, and needless to say, she is as enthusiastic about the opportunities here as I was.”
Margot introduced YHS Foundation scholar, Bianca, who is in Grade 10 and has a great passion for theatre. Bianca won the Gold Medal in the Grade 6 ISABC Public Speaking tournament, received the Grade 9 Drama and Art prizes, was placed first in the Cat’s Meow recitation competition this year, and played Lady Macbeth in the March 2020 St. George’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Bianca has also acquired a lion’s share of volunteer hours making public speaking, drama and improv accessible to students who would otherwise not have this opportunity.
Bianca shared her gratitude for being able to return to York House in Grade 8. “You can imagine my joy in being granted the Maria Iuon Scholarship. I was welcomed back by the school that I felt in my heart I had never left and I am profoundly grateful. I feel like YHS is continually putting the wind in my sails and launching me into a future that I simply would not have had without this scholarship. I dream that one day I will be in a position to create such an opportunity for another student a generation or two younger than me.”
Barbara (Sanderson) Armstrong ‘55, YHS Legacy Society founder, was unable to attend and asked Priscilla Clark, Associate Director, Alumnae Relations, to read a message on her behalf.
“It began in 1999… and started with a bowl of soup. Some of you know the story. You were there, gathered around a table, sipping soup and a little wine, reminiscing, and laughing about our years as Yorkies. Twenty years ago, around that table, we decided we wanted to leave a legacy to York House – a legacy that would help to enable York House to continue to deliver a world-class education to a wide diversity of young women.”
“I am optimistic that the YHS Legacy Society will continue to grow. We can contribute to this growth by telling all the Yorkies we know about the Society. We can let them know that they can make their contributions to the YHS Legacy Society now, or in their wills – where a legacy is“only a codicil away. ONWARD and UPWARD!!”
A highlight of the evening was the singing of One Voice by Ruth Moody, by three Grade 12 members of Ragazza, Margarita, Alisa, and Sophia in honour of Barbara Armstrong ’55, the first voice and founder of the Legacy Society, which soon became two, three and many more.
Alumnae Day at York House is always a special kind of day and one that inspires and ignites interest. This year’s Alumnae Day was no exception and we thank everyone who attended.
Connections were made, friendships rekindled, and Yorkie school spirit was very evident.
On Saturday, September 28th, after early morning coffee and baked treats in the Senior School atrium, a large number of alumnae gathered together for a tour of the school. As part of that tour, alumnae were able to view the incredible wildlife photographic exhibition by Taylor Green, Class of 2010. Taylor currently lives up in Northern BC and works as a wildlife guide. Her photographic exhibition is on display on the 3rd floor of the Senior School until the end of the school year.
Before lunch, a lively energizing discussion panel that focused on the theme of “Finding Your True North” was led by four panellists, Shelley (Bowell) O’Callaghan ‘66, Dr. Sari Saunders ‘84, Amanda Weltman ‘06 and Zoe Craig-Sparrow ‘15. Moderated by Head of School, Julie Rousseau, we discovered that for all four of our alumnae, finding their true north or following their life’s passion was a combination of factors that included finding a supportive mentor, a lot of hard work, and a pinch of good luck.
In the afternoon, the second annual basketball game in the Rand Gymnasium was held. Organized by the YHS Alumnae Association, it was an exciting and skillful game. Teachers, past teachers, alumnae, honorary alumni, parents and past parents along with some of our younger Yorkies all joined together to cheer on the teams and it was a very fun-filled event.
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.
Rachel Cliff is more known for track and field running but recently, she hit a new Canadian record in marathon running. We caught up with her after her trip to Japan.
Last September you made your marathon debut at the Berlin Marathon, what was that like?
Historically I’ve had more of a track and field background – mostly specializing in the 5,000m to the 10,000m – my focus only started to shift to road races over the past few years, especially in early 2018. By the time I stood on the line for my first marathon I’d raced six half marathons in the span of a year and a half and this helped to make the transition to the marathon a little less of a shock, but it was still a huge learning experience. The workouts were longer and more rhythm based than what I was used to, the fatigue was significant, and I had to learn how to fuel during workouts and racing. I also ran the Berlin marathon after a long track season which was a little risky; I was at the end of my rope fatigue wise and we had to manage that really carefully. But despite all this, the training went well and I felt fortunate to still feel like a “student of the sport” despite being a veteran athlete. The Berlin marathon itself was amazing – it’s a huge world class marathon, the course is beautiful and fast – I don’t think there’s a single hill in Berlin – and the atmosphere was fun. I also ran on the same day that Kipchoge ran the World Record in the marathon and was sitting close to him hours before the race started in the meet hotel (see attached picture). That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! It’s not my fastest marathon ever but it was a really positive debut.
Setting a new Canadian record is an incredible achievement! Take us through your experience in Japan.
It’s important to note that a lot of work went into getting me to the start line fit, healthy, and ready to compete – not just from me but from a lot people who helped along the way – my coach, physio, strength trainer, sports psychologist, exercise physiologists, support crew (family, friends, husband) and teammates (and I’m sure I’m missing someone in there!!). In hindsight the training going into Nagoya went well, but while I was going through it I was more focused on the process and less on the result so in that sense I surprised myself on race day.
The race was held on a Sunday morning in Nagoya, Japan and I flew there alone on the Tuesday before, arriving the Wednesday night. My coach joined me a day later. Traveling to international races as an invited athlete can be stressful, especially in Japan where the food is a little different form what you’re used to at home. But there was several other athletes from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, and my coach actually lived in Japan for a few years in the 80’s so we were able to navigate it without problems. The Nagoya marathon is a women’s only race – the largest of its kind in the world – and that was a seriously cool thing to experience. Typically marathons are mixed gender. Because it’s not hard to find a man who can run a sub 2:30 marathon elite females can normally draft off of and work with the men in the race. It’s not uncommon, or in any way unethical, for a woman to have a male pace her through 30k of a marathon, but in Nagoya this was not an option. Every athlete I ran with was a female, the pace-setters who took us through 30k were female, the 14 athletes who beat me were all running 2:26 or faster, which is a solid, world class time for a female. Thousands of fans lined the streets to cheer us girls on. It was a very empowering thing to experience.
I think deep down everyone involved in my training knew I was capable of the result – A Canadian record and a 2:26:56 marathon – but actually pulling it off was something else. After the race it was really nice having my coach there to celebrate with. We had about 24 hours to eat sushi and enjoy some Japanese beer before heading back to Canada.
3. You also finished ninth in the 10,000 metres in the Commonwealth Games last April. What’s your preference?
The marathon and the 10,000m are two very different events and I love them both in their own way. Commonwealth Games didn’t play out as I would have liked but I’ve definitely had 10,000m races on the track which came together and it’s a really fun distance to race. The marathon is largely about the training and details that go into planning for the event, and then on race day you execute your plan and hope that things beyond your control (weather, pace setters, general health etc.) hold together. Of course fitness matters in the 10,000m but it’s more of a pure race – you need to respond to your competitors and make tactical moves intelligently. Running 25 laps of the track (10,000m) and 42.2km on the road are probably pretty comparable when it comes to the mental and physical demands during the race, but the type of pain you experience and focus it requires are completely different. The marathon also takes a lot longer to recover from which is good and bad – it means you can’t do back to back races but you also get to take time to celebrate your achievement after which is something you have less of in the 10,000m. I’m hoping to return to racing on the track this summer and I’m curious to see how I find it after focusing on the marathon for the better part of this past year.
Describe your training regime prior to any major running event?
With the exception of two two-week blocks of rest each year I basically train year round, regardless of the event. The details of what workout and how much volume of running I do each week depends a bit on the event I’m training for – the training program will have more speed for shorter races and marathon training involves a lot more tempo runs and high volume. In general, I run 7-10 times a week, do 2-3 event specific workouts, lift weights and pool run twice a week and do physio drills daily. My total volume varies between 65-90 miles a week depending on if I’m training for a marathon or in the middle of a competitive track season. It’s taken me years to build up to this type of training volume and now it comes fairly easily, but in order to handle it I need to dedicate a lot of time to rest and recovery between sessions.
Give us an insight into your daily eating habits.
I can’t emphasize this enough – training for endurance sport is associated with huge caloric, and micro- and macro-nutrient demands. I work hard on my nutrition and try need to eat healthy, nutrient dense, well balanced meals. It’s important to avoid counting calories, or cutting out entire food groups as in the long run this is not sustainable or healthy. Training for the marathon also requires fueling with carbohydrates during training as you deplete your muscle-glycogen storages in longer workouts, which has been interesting to learn about. Nutrition is very important in sport, and it can be expensive and time consuming to keep up with. In big training blocks I’ve found that cookies are often the most efficient way to get your calories in quick!
Last but not least, as a Yorkie, do you have any particular school memory that ignited your passion for running?
I first joined Cross Country as a Yorkie in grade 4 and, with the exception of grade 9 where I didn’t run track, was on the team every single year from then on! The gym teachers and XC/track and field coaches were all really supportive of my love for running even back then, and are probably a large part of why I’m in the sport now. I have a lot of fond memories from my days of competing as a Tiger, but specifically remember every year Mr. Jackson would design new, special technical shirts for the cross country team so we could be the “sharpest looking team” at zones. I’d look forward to seeing what he’d planned every year! In my grade 12 year our cross country team placed 3rd in the province which also stands out.
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!