Celebrate 20 Legacy Society Reception

YHS Legacy Society members celebrating 20 years since the founding of the society. Click here to view the Celebrate 20 video.

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.

Stevie (Bryson) Mitchell ’61 with retired Head of School, Mrs. Lena Clarke in June 1978, a month before she turned 87 on July 27

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.

Legacy Society members, former Head of the Junior School, Ursula Bell; Head of School, Julie Rousseau; Mary Pollock, and Mary Jean (Cooke) Otway-Ruthven ’59

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.”

Margot Keate West ‘93, YHS Foundation trustee, and great-niece of Gretchen (Meilicke) Hyland, YHS Founder, with Gretchen’s son, Christopher Hyland and Ben West.

“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.

Grade 10 scholar, Bianca delivering her speech

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.”

Legacy Society members, Farrell Eckman, Parent’s Association President; Lisa Greczmiel ‘82, former Alumnae Association President; and Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ’99, Alumnae Association President

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.”

Past Head of School, Gail Ruddy with Legacy Society founder, Barbara (Sanderson) Armstrong ’55, photographed at a previous Legacy Society event

“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!!”

R-L Margaret (Shepard) Walwyn ‘55, Class Rep and classmate of Barbara Armstrong ‘55, Legacy Society founder;  Josephine (Bellows) Chanin ‘61; Bill Sexsmith, Past Board Chair; Barbara (Lawson) Lecky ‘58, Class Rep; Pat Sexsmith, Past Parent’s Association President; and Priscilla Clark, Associate Director, Alumnae Relations

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.

Priscilla Clark, Associate Director Alumnae Relation and Stevie (Bryson) Mitchell ’61, YHS Foundation Chair with the unveiled and updated Not for Ourselves Alone YHS Legacy Society membership plaque, which now includes the names of alumnae, YHS Foundation trustees, Alumnae Association executives, Board members, past and present parents and staff, and friends.

Click here to learn more about the YHS Legacy Society. View the Celebrate 20 video:

View the York House Scholarships video:

The Legacy Society Tea: Celebrating 40 Years of the YHS Endowment

Members of the YHS Legacy Society

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.

Click here for the Legacy Society Tea photo gallery

Click here for more about the Legacy Society