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A Magazine for the Alumni of Crescent School

Winter 2021

Finding Hope for the Planet Crescent alumni like William (Liam) Colgan ’00 are making a difference in the climate crisis Page 16


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Professor Gabriel Leung ’90 works around the clock to protect public health

At The Epidemic’s Epicentre


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At Youth Unlimited Toronto, Scott Moore ’99 helps young people transform their lives

Making A Meaningful Impact

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 1

Words from the Alumni Chair

The Extraordinary Normal As we learned in 2020, “normal” can change quickly – and we also learned that we are capable of pivoting to a new normal quite successfully. As you will read in these pages, Crescent adapted dramatically in order to function somewhat normally through the COVID era. The results are extraordinary in their normalcy: the boys are in school all day, five days a week. At the Alumni Executive, we too have adapted. Our Alumni Speaker Series is now on Zoom, featuring expert insights on COVID-19’s impact. We launched our online Coyote Academy, with alumni sharing practical skills so we can learn something new while staying in touch. We also initiated online career talks to connect young alumni with alumni working in their fields of interest. While we miss our in-person events, these new opportunities have the benefit of keeping us connected beyond geographic locations. We are also adapting our Alumni Executive Committee with an eye to the future. We are aware of the challenge and opportunity of greater diversity and inclusion at the Alumni Executive and at Crescent. For the first time, the Alumni Executive has struck a diversity committee to look both at how the alumni body can be welcoming and inclusive for all, as well as how the alumni body’s diversity can inform and impact the school more broadly. It is an important task and one that, I know, the alumni are up for. As this new year unfolds, I am sure it will continue to seem extraordinarily normal as we all adjust, adapt and pivot to changing circumstances. When we can meet again in person, it will be a great day. Until then, I hope you and yours are safe and well. Tim Watson ’01 Chair, Crescent Alumni Executive

Past & Present is published twice a year by Crescent School’s External Relations Department to help all alumni stay connected with the Crescent community. Cover: Liam Colgan ’00 by Donald Michael Bowie Chambers

Editor: Leigh Bowser Editorial Committee: Leigh Bowser, Kathryn Foster, Leslie Pringle, Lynda Torneck Editorial Board: David Bruser ’95, Bert Fielding ’13, Philip Lloyd ’09, Dean Perlman ’15, Myles Slocombe ’92

Design Agency: Aegis Design Inc. Senior Designer: Sabrina Xiang Writers: Leigh Bowser, Pat Morden, Diane Peters Photographers: Betty-Ann Armstrong, Karenna Boychuk, Nation Wong Illustrators: Helen Green, Nick Shepherd

Comments and suggestions about Past & Present are always welcome. Reach us at: Alumni Relations Office, Crescent School 2365 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M2L 1A2 e: alumni@crescentschool.org t: 416.449.2556 ext. 260

Upfront / Experiences

They’re smiling behind their masks! There were a lot of changes on the campus this fall, but the things that make Crescent special stayed constant: dedicated teachers, strong relationships and a deep commitment to boys’ wellbeing.

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 3

Past / 2004 Class of ’07 alumni Matthew Genovese, Tommy Sorbara and Josh Hong (left to right) kept the crowd entertained at Coyote Kickoff in September 2004.

Upfront / Alumni Back on Campus

SHIFTED Digital Helps Crescent Shift Events Online With pandemic restrictions preventing Crescent’s Prize Day, Graduation and Remembrance Day events from taking place in person, the alumni behind SHIFTED Digital ensured that the ceremonies were presented as top-quality video productions instead. The SHIFTED Digital team includes Matthew Cheung ’15, Adrian Chan ’16, Jonathan Libby ’16, Thomas Johnston ’19, and Matthew Bisset ’20. Johnston has also been back at Crescent as a teaching assistant for the Upper School Media Arts course.

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 5

Upfront / Alumni Back on Campus

New Coyote Academy Keeps Alumni Connected

Cameron Hudson ’07

Willie Nelson ’01

Alumni are connecting with old friends while learning something new in the Coyote Academy. This series of onehour Zoom talks launched in October with Cameron Hudson ’07 sharing a beginner’s guide to Investing 101. In December, Willie Nelson ’02 presented a holiday-themed Wine 101 talk with Daniel Duchich. More sessions featuring different alumni sharing a variety of topics are planned for this winter.

Alumni Executive Takes Steps To Support Diversity “When you hear people’s stories, your perspective has to shift and change… Diversity is about expanding your worldview and seeing things through other people’s eyes.” That was the message Dan Pringle ’05 shared via Zoom in August during a Crescent professional development session on diversity, inclusion and belonging. Dan was invited to speak to the staff and faculty about his perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement. In October, Dan was appointed Chair of the Alumni Executive’s new Diversity Committee. The Diversity Commitee’s goals include supporting Crescent School’s diversity initiatives, building a support network for alumni who are part of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community, and supporting alumni who want to increase the diversity of their businesses.


The health of Crescent boys has always been a priority, as this Dentonia-era photo shows.

6 Past & Present / Winter 2021

Upfront / Alumni Back on Campus

Alumni Share Expert Insights On COVID-19’s Impact With a new Zoom format, Crescent’s Alumni Speaker Series has expanded its reach and tightened its focus, featuring speakers sharing expert insights on the impact of COVID-19. In September, Peter Hall ’80, Vice President and Chief Economist of Export Development Canada, spoke on the pandemic’s paramount role in Canada’s economic outlook. In October, Professor Gabriel Leung ’90, Dean of Medicine at The University of Hong Kong and one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, was interviewed by Dr. Kieran Quinn ’01, General Internist and Palliative Care physician at Sinai Health System in Toronto. Their conversation explored the uncomfortable truths that COVID-19 has exposed in the health-care system, and the part we all play in protecting isolated and vulnerable community members. The Speaker Series is open to Crescent parents as well as alumni this year, attracting a broader audience to these events.

Peter Hall ’80

Prof. Gabriel Leung ’90

Mentoring Goes Online With Career Spotlight Oleg Baranov ’11, co-founder of CleanSlate UV, spoke to university-aged alumni about entrepreneurship in the first Career Spotlight event presented by Crescent’s Alumni Mentoring Program. Presented via Zoom in November, it was an opportunity for the young alumni to gain first-hand insights about the risks and rewards of starting one’s own business. Upcoming Career Spotlight events will focus on law, engineering, investing and real estate.

Dr. Kieran Quinn ’01


There’s more PPE required now, but Jody Stapleton R.N. is carrying on the tradition of providing expert nursing care for Crescent boys.

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 7

Upfront / Crescent News

Crescent’s Safe Reopening Since September, Crescent's students have been back on campus full days, five days a week – a rare achievement among its peer schools. Crescent’s safe reopening was possible thanks to months of planning, extensive facility enhancements and a united effort by faculty, students, parents and school leadership.

Classes now average 15 students or less. Lower and Middle School student cohorts remain in their classrooms; different teachers visit as needed.

Students now eat packaged lunches delivered to their classroom instead of buffet-style meals in the Dining Hall.

No more ties! Students now wear casual Crescent clothing that can be washed daily. And all students and teachers wear masks on campus. 8 Past & Present / Winter 2021

All classrooms are equipped with cameras and microphones to facilitate synchronous remote learning.

Upfront / Crescent News

“We established our Safe Reopening Task Force the same day that the 2019-2020 school year ended. Our goal was to not only reopen Crescent safely in September, but to do everything possible to remain open for the duration of the year. To make this happen, we re-engineered the school in every way and placed the health, safety and wellbeing of our community at the forefront of every decision.” –Michael Fellin, Headmaster

Nick Kovacs, Deputy Headmaster and Head of Upper School, checks each boys' health screening app as they arrive.

To maximize physical distancing, 24 new learning spaces were created. One is a renovated squash court. The Board Room was also adapted as a classroom. Throughout the school, upgraded air circulation and purification equipment reduces the spread of airborne bacteria, viruses and particles, while new hands-free fixtures limit high-touch surfaces.

The Crescent Safe health screening app is used daily by all students, faculty and staff coming to campus. Crescent School Alumni Magazine 9

Upfront / Crescent News

Learning By Listening Anti-Racism Dialogues Foster Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

Prime Minister’s Award For Natalie Vera Lower School teacher receives Certificate of Achievement Lower School faculty member Natalie Vera is one of 16 educators across Canada who were honoured with a Certificate of Achievement in the 2020 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM. Vera has been teaching at Crescent since 2005. As a Google- and Microsoftcertified instructor, with a master's degree in curriculum, teaching and learning, she uses technology extensively to engage her students, improve their digital and creative literacy, and assess their learning. “In addition to being an exceptional educator, peer collaborator and positive driver of school culture, Natalie exemplifies our Crescent values. She is well loved and respected for her intelligence, kindness and innovation by staff, students and parents alike,” says Dr. Sandra Boyes, Crescent School’s Executive Director, Professional Learning & Research and Head of Lower School. Vera is the fourth Crescent faculty member to receive the Prime Minister’s Award in the last six years. Lower School teacher Sylvia Duckworth (who retired in 2017) received a 2014 Certificate of Excellence. Dean of Studies David Grant and Upper School science teacher Michael Jansen received Certificates of Achievement in 2015 and 2018 respectively. 10 Past & Present / Winter 2021

As Black Lives Matter protests filled the news last summer, Black students and staff at Crescent shared their stories, so their classmates and colleagues could listen and learn from their experiences. Crescent’s Diversity Professional Learning Circle (PLC) organized four anti-racism dialogues, held via Zoom in June. They were open to Middle and Upper School students, faculty and staff. The primary speakers were Black students and faculty. “Because it was a racial issue, the voices that needed to be heard were those of our Black students,” says David Grant, Dean of Studies. “It was so important to give people the opportunity to listen to other people’s voices.” Grade 12 student Kai Gairey says the dialogues were helpful. “Even though we are privileged to go to a great school such as Crescent, there’s still a sense of

separation. Other students are not fully aware of the things that we as Black students, a minority, encounter on a dayto-day basis.” The anti-racism dialogues were part of Crescent’s ongoing work on diversity, inclusion and belonging. This includes celebrations of cultural holidays, Black History Month and Pride Day; the faculty’s Diversity PLC; bias-reduction training by Crescent’s student-led Be The One initiative; the development of Crescent’s Land Acknowledgement; and projects in partnership with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. Faculty member and Diversity PLC co-chair Sean DeZilva says there is still work to be done to understand and combat racism. The next steps, he says, are to do “what we always should have been doing: having uncomfortable conversations more frequently.” For more about Crescent’s antiracism initiatives, see the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging page on Crescent’s website (crescentschool.org).

Class of 2020 (Finally) Celebrates Graduation YouTube broadcast replaced live ceremony Like almost everything about their final year at Crescent, the Class of 2020’s graduation was unique in the school’s history. Due to pandemic restrictions, the ceremony was broadcast on YouTube on October 9 rather than the traditional Field House event in June. Despite this, the ceremony was a meaningful tribute to each of the 97 Grads. “We all know what we missed out on, but what is truly vital is the lasting friendships that we have formed,” said Valedictorian Ian Devlin ’20 in his recorded speech. “Many of us have already departed for various universities in Canada, the U.S. and beyond. We have already met many interesting people, had

new experiences and likely made new friends. But what is apparent now is that none of these people can share, reminisce or relive the memories we have made at Crescent.”

Upfront / Crescent News

Getting to Know Tega Ajise A Q&A with the 2020-2021 Head Boy

What is your favourite thing to do on the weekend? Honestly, if anybody says their favourite thing to do on the weekend is anything other than sleep, they’ve got to be lying to you. What do you want to be “when you grow up”? A leader. No matter where I end up, I want to be somebody who’s able to influence the lives of others for the better.

Who are your heroes? My parents will always be my heroes. I can’t name anybody who’s capable of what they have done for me in my life. What advice do you have for Crescent’s Grade 3s? You’ve been given a boatload of special opportunities being here at Crescent! Now is the best time of your life to try whatever you’re interested in, because even if you fall flat on your face and fail, you can always get up.

To read more of Tega’s answers, see the Student Leadership page on Crescent’s website: crescentschool.org Crescent School Alumni Magazine 11

Upfront / Faculty Focus

What’s different at Crescent this year? We asked faculty to share how COVID-19 has changed their teaching practice. “Our daily routines look very different this year. A big change in the Upper School is our shift to a quadmester schedule. Instead of taking eight courses all year, students now have two courses, one per day, for eight weeks, allowing them to remain in limited cohorts. Scheduling our quadmester system took months of planning. While it is an adjustment for everyone, it protects our community and allows the students to attend school five days a week. Our faculty and staff have spent countless hours to make this year possible. Staff devoted their time and energy to new systems and routines to ensure a smooth transition to school. Faculty wear multiple hats: teacher, mentor, coach, health & safety enforcer, IT specialist, the list goes on. They are adapting curriculum and lesson plans to support health & safety guidelines, and to meet key learning targets. They are leaning into professional development and leveraging technology more than ever to support learning.”

Candace Harrison Assistant Head of Upper School – Academics Joined Crescent in 2010

Vince Volpe

Middle School Music Teacher Joined Crescent in 2004

12 Past & Present / Winter 2021

“The biggest change is not having the boys play their instruments at school. Keeping students motivated to play regularly at home has always been a very big challenge, even without a pandemic. To do this, I am using Smartmusic, an online performance tool that allows the boys to get instant feedback when they play their instruments at home. In the classroom, we use bucket drumming and tuned percussion tubes called Boomwhackers to increase students’ knowledge of note reading and rhythms. We are also diving deep into theory and learning about the history of rhythms and drumming from around the world.”

Upfront / Faculty Focus

“The Middle School Art program has responded to the health and safety protocols with adaptivity and innovation. Our art studio moved seamlessly to the Lau Family Wing. I work with my ‘Art Stars’ in their home forms, delivering ‘art à la carte’ from cohort to cohort. The boys also have their own art kits. Having one’s own art supplies supports healthy boundaries around sharing and allows us to pivot at a moment's notice successfully by promoting predictability, familiarity and continuity. Smaller class sizes offer fertile ground as we co-create magic during these unique times, and the boys’ creative experience continues to thrive.”

Michael Jansen Upper School Head of Science Joined Crescent in 1988

“We've had to get creative with how students can safely learn together. One collaborative tool we use is FlipGrid. It allows students to videotape themselves, sharing their thinking for their peers (or teachers) who then respond in their own video. Students record videos outside where they can be unmasked – seeing full faces creates a more personal connection. Because students now spend more time at their desks, I’m more intentional about integrating activity and outdoor time into our classroom routine. I schedule regular active breaks: kidfriendly yoga, dancing, outdoor explorations or running through the leaves. Students return from these breaks more alert and ready to engage in learning. It also allows us to connect with each other and have some fun!”

Harriet Wynne-Jones Middle School Art Teacher Joined Crescent in 1995

“The biggest change is pacing. With a quadmester system, boys take one class per day, on a two-day flip. AP Chemistry students are with me for close to six hours per day, including lunch and breaks. New topics arise fast and furious. ‘Lab partners’ are a thing of the past, at least for now. I’m doing my best to focus on important conceptual topics, to make an already lean program leaner. Fortunately, our incipient Men of Character are up to this challenge. They are working hard, doing what is needed to be successful.”

Amy Joliat

Lower School Teacher Joined Crescent in 2012

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 13

Present / October 2020 Middle School boys strike a pose during a break from class.

Perspective from the Headmaster

Crescent’s Mission Is More Important Than Ever


s the global pandemic continues, many wonder, will school ever be the same? Faced with the compounding threats to our health system, to economic stability and to racial justice, the reality is that while education has been significantly disrupted, it has never been more important. Arguably, so too is Crescent’s mission, Men of Character from Boys of Promise, for the way forward to a new normal will require the leadership, creativity, and resilience of our young men. As we prepared to welcome the boys back to school in September, we were steadfast in our commitment to not only reopen safely but to stay open. No stone was left unturned to ensure a safe campus experience. Every possible feature was re-engineered to comply with or exceed public health guidelines, including adding 24 new learning spaces, 10 new faculty and staff, and building three distinct school zones with enhanced air filtration, cleaning protocols, and food services. We are proud to be among a select few schools in the Conference of Independent Schools (CIS) to have students back for full-day, in-person learning, five days a week. While much has changed, much remains the same. Faculty continue to provide a challenging and relational environment for our boys, students continue to strive toward personal excellence while forging strong friendships, and parents continue to partner proactively and supportively with the school. Likewise, our alumni continue to make their mark. Their impact on our school, and upon their local and global communities, is significant. Many of these stories are covered in this issue of Past & Present. I hope you enjoy the read. Michael Fellin P’24 Headmaster, Crescent School

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The threat of climate change can seem overwhelming but Crescent alumni are optimistic, engaged, and making a difference By Pat Morden

The Greenland ice sheet is now losing approximately 9,000 tonnes of ice every second Photo by William Colgan ’00

“What really gives me hope is the ‘litigate to mitigate’ movement and shareholder activism.” —Liam Colgan ’00

18 Past & Present / Winter 2021



01 Liam Colgan on the Greenland Ice Sheet 02 The "bath ring" on the valley walls of the Harald Moltke Glacier in Northwest Greenland shows how much the glacier has deflated since c. 1900 03 Colgan measuring ice-core density in the high interior of the Greenland Ice Sheet. In a warming climate, more meltwater is percolating into the ice sheet each year


04 Maintaining an automatic climate station on the ice sheet to record meteorological measurements throughout the year, including polar night when temperatures drop below -40C PHOTOGRAPHY BY BAPTISTE VANDECRUX




Imagine the massive volume of water that cascades over Niagara Falls. Now imagine more than triple that volume of water. That’s how much melts from the Greenland Ice Sheet and flows into the ocean every second. Greenland is considered a canary in the climate change coal mine. As the planet warms, melting is accelerating rapidly. “The numbers are really hard to comprehend,” says William (Liam) Colgan ’00, senior researcher with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Colgan and his colleagues study the ice sheet, using satellite observations, field measurements and computer models to monitor how much the melting is contributing to sea level rise. Colgan’s work is part of a much broader effort to document, understand and respond to the threat of climate change. The statistics are concerning: 19 of the world’s hottest 20 years have occurred since 2001. Warmer global temperatures bring more and more damaging hurricanes, flooding and droughts, devastating wildfires, and faster melting of sea ice, among many other impacts. Colgan admits there are times when he feels overwhelmed by climate change. But he and other Crescent alumni find hope by focusing on solutions. Some have built successful earth-friendly businesses, while others continue to study, teach, and raise awareness about the issue. → Crescent School Alumni Magazine 19

The Business Case for Renewables “Using fossil fuels is destroying the world, and we need to quickly reset,” says Martin Ritchie ’92, chief risk officer and co-founder of JCM Power. “Renewable energy is a very large part of the solution.” Ritchie and Geoff Stoker-Lavelle ’99, managing partner with Venn Energy Inc., are tackling the problem by creating companies that produce energy economically from renewable sources. Both men started in renewables in Ontario when the Green Energy Act guaranteed high prices, but they have grown their businesses in other markets. JCM now develops solar and wind projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America, displacing dirty fuels such as diesel. The business case for JCM is powerful, says Ritchie. In near-equatorial markets, the “fuel” for solar energy is free and readily available. Wind and solar farms can be built quickly and on budget, and tariff contracts often run for many years. JCM’s projects are underwritten by the World Bank or comparable entities, reducing the financial risk significantly. Ritchie is proud that by being “first movers” in emerging markets, JCM is helping to set developing countries on a trajectory of renewable energy.

The company is beginning to develop microgrids, smaller systems that serve areas where electricity grids currently don’t reach. It is also planning to install a large lithium battery in a utility-scale solar project in Malawi, the first solar project on that continent to have storage. “Batteries are the Holy Grail for renewables,” he says. “It flattens out intermittency so you can deploy solar energy at night and when the wind doesn’t blow. We’re at a turning point as costs continue to plummet.” Stoker-Lavelle grew up with grandparents who were passionate environmentalists, and a father whose career involved land development – two interests that don’t always align. “It made for really spirited Thanksgiving dinner conversation,” he says. “But I always had a deepseated feeling that the two concepts of growth and environmentalism didn’t necessarily have to be at odds.” He worked with JCM in its early days, helping to develop its international outlook, then later went on to co-found Venn Energy. Venn is developing renewable energy assets in electricity markets with advanced regulatory frameworks. The company is developing nine solar farms in Australia, each with battery storage. Australia is an



“Batteries are the Holy Grail for renewables. It flattens out intermittency so you can deploy solar energy at night and when the wind doesn’t blow.” —Martin Ritchie ’92

20 Past & Present / Winter 2021

01 Martin Ritchie in Toronto at his home outfitted with solar panels 02 & 03 Geoff Stoker-Lavelle inspects a solar park in New South Wales for potential investment 04 Stoker-Lavelle at on-site planning for a new solar development



“I always had a deep-seated feeling that the two concepts of growth and environmentalism didn't necessarily have to be at odds.” —Geoff Stoker-Lavelle ’99



attractive market, Stoker-Lavelle says, because it is an AAA-credit rated economy with a privatized electricity sector and aging coal infrastructure. “We see these dynamics as a perfect storm of opportunity to transition the market quickly away from coal-fired generation to a renewable-led economy, without the need for government intervention.” Australia also provides easy access to markets throughout Asia, and Venn has early stage development happening in South Korea and Japan, among others. Driven by Market Forces Ritchie and Stoker-Lavelle are using market forces to drive environmental

action. “Governments can only do so much,” says Ritchie. “We need trillions of dollars to solve this problem. It’s up to governments to make these markets attractive and mitigate some of the risks, but we need private capital too. This can start with directing your own personal investments towards clean energy solutions and divesting away from fossil fuels.” Stoker-Lavelle agrees, adding that the private and public sectors have different roles to play. “In the early stages of our industry, it was helpful to have governments provide subsidies to get things moving. Now we’re at a stage where renewables can and must stand on their own.” → Crescent School Alumni Magazine 21

01 Basil Demeroutis at FORE’s Windmill Green building in Manchester 02 The innovative bike room at Cadoworks, Glasgow



03 FORE supports Brompton's cycle hire scheme 04 Windmill Green, Manchester’s most sustainable office building 05 A rendering of the terrace at FORE’s Tower Bridge Court, a net-zero carbon office building

“I want to demonstrate to every building owner out there that it is not only possible but actually profitable to create truly sustainable buildings.” —Basil Demeroutis ’87

Sustainable Buildings Basil Demeroutis ’87 is managing partner with FORE Partnership, a U.K.-based property investment firm he helped found and another example of using market forces to drive environmental action. FORE is a B Corporation – a certification given to companies committed to social and environmental impact as much as profit – and is one of just a few U.K. real estate firms to achieve this. FORE retrofits and builds environmentally sustainable office buildings. “We are especially passionate about retrofitting,” says Demeroutis. “‘Embedded carbon’ that sits within the frame and fabric of a building can be 80% of the carbon footprint.” Demeroutis says there’s no single silver bullet to making or remaking sustainable buildings, but rather “a hundred small things,” from solar panels and energy efficient glass to cement-free concrete, steel with high recycled content, heat exchangers, 100% renewable energy, bike parking, and more. FORE’s buildings are attractive to companies who want to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, Demeroutis says. “Ultimately, a company’s physical space is one of the most visible manifestations of its values.” → 22 Past & Present / Winter 2021


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“I don’t really think Tesla will solve the problem and we’ll all fly to Mars together. But I get hope from the fact that there are people like me who believe that the future is real, and that it is an ecological, interconnected, interwoven future of the Earth.” —Tim Martin ’07

24 Past & Present / Winter 2021


01 Tim Martin in one of his favourite places: Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park 02 Martin conducts participatory research at Cedar Haven EcoCentre in Hamilton in March 2019 03 Leading an environmental education group for the Operation Wild program in Hamilton in July 2019 04 At Tommy Thompson Park in October 2020

Teaching and Learning About Climate Change Of course, education remains a key strategy for generating positive action on climate change. Tim Martin ’07 taught science and geography at Crescent for several years. Intrigued by questions that arose through his teaching, he completed a master’s of environmental studies (with a research focus on environmental education) at York University and is currently working on his PhD there. Martin researched community-based environmental education for his master’s degree. He monitored and assessed a Hamilton-based program designed for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. In the process, he explored and advanced the concept of ‘ecological identity.’ “Western environmentalism largely sprang up as a movement against something, and it still is,” he says. “Ecological identity is thinking about the Earth as something we are in relationship with.” Martin believes that environmental action starts by nurturing that relationship. “Forget the ‘nature selfies’ and just go fishing or hiking,” he

advises. “Then we can think about politics and policy based on our connection with the Earth.” Upper School teacher Geoff Green is, like Martin, personally invested in sharing knowledge and inspiring action around climate change. “Given that we’re going to need to restructure our economy after the pandemic, the environment needs to be on the table,” he says. He admits, though, that many students have experienced “climate fatigue” and feel helpless in the face of gloom and doom predictions. Green developed a course that focuses on environmental solutions, rather than problems. He and his students explore issues around resource management, the history of environmental action, loss of biodiversity, and invasive species before focusing in on climate change action. Recently, a student reported on a carbon capture technology in development that pulls carbon dioxide from the air and combines it with hydrogen to create a clean fuel. “I want students to see there’s a lot of potential to both find great business opportunities and help out the planet," says Green. →







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01 Crescent boys volunteer at a Don’t Mess With The Don ravine cleanup in October 2020 02 Geoff Green’s Upper School students assess the health of the Don River in the ravine next to campus


“I think it’s important for the boys to be aware of the legacy they’re leaving behind. It’s easy to think that somebody else will come behind you and take care of the problem.” —Sheryl Murray, Director of Outreach

“It’s going to take a culture shift to solve this problem. It’s also going to take some major innovations from our leaders – and Crescent kids are going to be leaders.” —Geoff Green, Upper School Teacher 26 Past & Present / Winter 2021

Sheryl Murray, Crescent’s director of outreach, is also passionate about climate change education. Among other community projects, Upper School students have worked with students at Crescent Town Elementary to study pollinators and volunteered to clean up Don Valley ravines on the weekends. Crescent students have also done projects on recycling, solar energy and food waste. “I think it’s important for the boys to be aware of the legacy they’re leaving behind,” she says. “It’s easy to think that somebody else will come behind you and take care of the problem.” Room for Hope So, faced with the dire predictions and immediate impacts of climate change, is there room for hope? Despite what his research tells him, Liam Colgan thinks so. “What really gives me hope is the ‘litigate to mitigate’ movement, and shareholder activism.” He is especially inspired by the lawsuit brought by the State of New York against oil giant Exxon Mobil, claiming it actively hid climate risks from its shareholders. Although lower courts rejected the argument, Colgan and many others believe the litigation path is promising. Shareholders can also pressure companies to divest corporate investments in fossil fuels. “Divestment played a key role in ending apartheid in South Africa – climate change is a bigger social justice issue, so it needs a bigger divestment response,” Colgan says. Martin Ritchie is inspired by young activists like Greta Thunberg and encour-

aged by developments in technology. He points to the international effort to reverse the thinning of the ozone layer, saying, “There is a precedent for coming together to solve international problems.” Basil Demeroutis is encouraged by technological advancements and feels he can help by sharing what he has learned. “I want to demonstrate to every building owner out there that it is not only possible but actually profitable to create truly sustainable buildings.” Stoker-Lavelle is also hopeful, citing growing global awareness, technological advances, and pressure from stakeholders to create greener supply chains. “There are signs we’re starting to turn the ship around,” he says. “I just hope it happens quicker.” Geoff Green believes he is helping to empower the next generation. “It’s going to take a culture shift to solve this problem,” he says. “It’s also going to take some major innovations from our leaders – and Crescent kids are going to be leaders.” Green’s colleague Sheryl Murray also finds hope in the students she works with. “The boys are open to change,” she says. “With the right information, they respond positively.” Tim Martin calls himself “the most pessimistic person” about climate change, but still finds reason for hope. “I don’t really think Tesla will solve the problem and we’ll all fly to Mars together,” he says. “But I get hope from the fact that there are people like me who believe that the future is real, and that it is an ecological, interconnected, interwoven future of the Earth.”



Crescent School Alumni Magazine 27

Professor Gabriel Leung ’90 works around the clock to protect public health By Diane Peters

On January 22, 2020, Professor Gabriel Leung ’90 got a phone call from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Can you get on the first flight to Beijing tomorrow and bring a team?” As the Dean of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, and Asia’s most renowned public health expert and epidemiologist, Leung had been expecting this request – he’d been tracking reports of a flu-like illness emerging from Wuhan since New Year’s Eve. And while Asia and other parts of the world would soon close their borders and discourage travel, Leung flew into the emerging pandemic. “We’re kind of like firefighters,” he says. “We’re used to flying towards the epicentre.” →

AT THE EPIDEMIC’S 28 Past & Present / Winter 2021


S EPICENTRE Crescent School Alumni Magazine 29

“It’s a very full plate but I’m very blessed with a good team of people who support me. I work hard but it’s because I find what I do so worthwhile.” —Gabriel Leung ’90

30 Past & Present / Winter 2021


As he’d done during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 and the first SARS epidemic in 2003, Leung got to work investigating the basic epidemiological nature of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Three marathon days of research led to an understanding of how long the virus incubates, its likely reproductive number, the death rate, and how quickly it might spread. (Working 24/7 is part of the gig: Leung lost 35 pounds during SARS-CoV-1.) The team published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 29. The data from this report continue to inform public health policy around the world. “I’m not sleeping very much,” admits Leung, who has kept up a nonstop pace ever since. He’s published numerous articles in high-impact journals on forecasting the virus’s likely international spread, viral shedding, superspreader events and face masks. Meanwhile, he has his day job of running the medical school, which has 5,000 students, plus faculty and staff, all dealing with a move to online learning and new hospital restrictions for residents. Leung is a coveted media spokesperson in Hong Kong as well, sought after for his deep understanding of both public health and epidemiology, plus his ability to speak clearly and calmly on complex issues. Gabriel Leung was born in Hong Kong and received much of his early education at U.K. boarding schools. In his final year of high school, when his accountant father was transferred to Toronto, he enrolled in Grade 12 at Crescent. It proved a culture shock, but a pleasant one. “Everyone was much more informal, much more friendly.” A geometry test that year referred to a baseball diamond, which made zero sense to him. “I came from a cricket culture,” recalls Leung. The teacher quickly explained what it was so he could answer the test question.



He then went to the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) where he eventually enrolled in medical school. He had plans to study neurosurgery, but pivoted to family medicine and then specialized in public health, doing a residency in Toronto. He wanted both a longterm relationship with patients and also the ability to prevent illness. “I didn’t want to see late-stage lung cancer. I wanted to do something in public health, to do tobacco control.” Professor Leung completed his master’s in public health at Harvard University and then a doctorate at the University of Hong Kong. He was a faculty member there in 2003 when he got a call from Hong Kong’s director of health to drop everything and help work on the epidemiology of SARS.



01 Residents are evacuated from a Hong Kong public housing building 02 Gabriel Leung with Hong Kong University students in 2015 03 Leung sees patients at the clinic every week


04 Leung at a news conference on March 6, 2020

He told her, “I don’t know anything about infectious diseases beyond what they teach in medical school and graduate school.” “You are a public health doctor. Bring your brain and the first principles you learned, and get to work,” she replied. He has been leading research on epidemiology ever since and has taken on a range of leadership roles in medicine, working on projects with groups such as the World Health Organization. He was named dean of the medical faculty in 2013. These days, Leung still works around the clock – speaking via Zoom at a Crescent Alumni event at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, for instance – but is fine with that. “It’s a very full plate but I’m very blessed with a good team of people who support me,” he says. “I work hard but it’s because I find what I do so worthwhile.”

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 31

MAKING A MEANINGFUL IMPACT At Youth Unlimited Toronto, Scott Moore ’99 helps young people transform their lives By Diane Peters

Scott Moore ’99 is accustomed to working with young people who struggle with food insecurity, education challenges, poverty and the consequences of systemic racism. But for the last 10 months, the executive director of the non-profit Youth Unlimited (YFC Toronto), known as YU, has seen those ongoing difficulties turn to dramatic crises. “Our youth are feeling it,” Moore says of the pandemic. So when COVID-19 restrictions halted YU’s range of communitybased programming across the Greater Toronto Area, Moore and his team of 60 staff pivoted. They launched a program to deliver care packages, ran several downsized summer camps, offered youth programming at a homeless shelter and provided online listening circles in place of YU’s usual fall fundraising event. → 32 Past & Present / Winter 2021


“From the board to the staff to the volunteers, how do we make sure we’re representing the voice of those we are serving? Some look to us and say we’re doing extremely well with that. But we still have a long way to go.” —Scott Moore ’99

The 70-year-old organization has a mission to help Toronto-area youth transform and achieve their full potential through a faith-based lens. Normally, Moore runs programs developed with considerable community input, but after working with YU for 12 years, and serving for the last seven as executive director, he knows how to move quickly, but with empathy. And while the father of five daughters can’t unwind with cycling due to an injury or take off for his usual day-a-month spiritual retreat because of the pandemic, that’s okay. “It’s very meaningful work,” he says, and he’s fine with seeing gradual results. “Most people change slowly over time,” he says. “Our vision is holistic transformation.” Moore attended Crescent from 1990 to 1999 and grew up largely unaware of poverty and discrimination beyond hearing about these issues at church. As a teen, he and a friend would play basketball in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. “I was a privileged white kid in a pretty great situation growing up,” he recalls. “What I learned was that my everyday was not the everyday of many other people in this city.” He studied at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, expecting to follow his father’s career as an accountant. “I was very focused on getting my accounting designation and pursuing a career in business.” He joined the university’s rowing team and excelled. After graduating in 2003, he trained with Canada’s national rowing team in Victoria, preparing for the 2008 Olympics. A year later, Moore found he didn’t want to row anymore. “One Saturday morning, I just said, you know, I’m tired of being tired all the time. There are more important things in life than trying to go to the Olympics.” He further describes this need to change as “an unsettledness in my spirit.” The messages of his faith now resonated. “When I read scripture, I saw that God’s heart was always with the poor.” With plans 34 Past & Present / Winter 2021

to become a pastor, he enrolled in the Master of Divinity in pastoral studies program at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. The executive director of YU at the time approached him before graduation, offering him a job as the organization’s North York area director. “I wanted to make an impact,” says Moore, and realized he could do that through a communitybased organization even more effectively than through a church. Today, YU runs programs across the Greater Toronto Area. For instance, its DOXA Journeys program (doxa means glory in Greek) connects youth in Scarborough with young people in Serpent River First Nations, an Anishinaabe community west of Sudbury. The urban youth run camps on the reserve, and youth from both communities have volunteered together in the Dominican Republic. Moore acknowledges religious organizations have had a problematic history with Indigenous peoples, but YU has built a strong partnership in this community. “When you keep coming back, that builds trust.” YU’s new strategic plan sets the aim of more intentionally engaging vulnerable youth, including supporting Indigenous youth who live in the city, as well as young people who have been incarcerated. “These are very connected things. It’s something we want to explore more,” he says. Moore says the rise of Black Lives Matter has got youth and the team talking, but “this is not a new conversation for us.” YU has been working with racialized youth and grappling with the impact of systemic racism for years. However, Moore says BLM and truth and reconciliation conversations have made YU scrutinize its own internal workings. “From the board to the staff to the volunteers, how do we make sure we’re representing the voice of those we are serving?” Moore thinks they can do better. “Some look to us and say we’re doing extremely well with that. But we still have a long way to go.”

01 Campers dance on stage at YU's Seeds of Hope summer camp in North York 02 Scott Moore chats with a camper in the Camp Imani program in Toronto's Victoria Village neighbourhood 03 YU staff member Willy Kim shows how to change engine oil in the YU's marketplace initiative called The Shop in Newmarket 04 YU staff member Paul Bartley (right) demonstrates basketball skills in Hoop 2 Hope, a YU sport and mentoring program in one of Toronto's priority neighbourhoods 05 YU staff members Melat Hailu and Loreli Cockram (both in top left) with some of the mothers and children involved in YU's programs for young parents 06 Moore (right) prepares to go online for a Listening Circle with YU Board Member Kaarina Hsieh (left) and Doxa Team Leader Calvin Russell (centre)








Crescent School Alumni Magazine 35

Expert Advice

George Reinblatt ’95 is a comedy writer who has written multiple Comedy Central Roasts, the stage show Evil Dead The Musical, and even more impressively – he used to be the Crescent Coyote. We’re all forced to do Zoom meetings nowadays. And we all hate them because they’re SO BORING. But they don’t have to be. So from someone who makes a living finding humour in literally everything, here are my tips to get you fired… I mean… uh… have fun in Zoom meetings. Stay safe everyone! And when this is all over – support the arts!


How to have fun in your next Zoom meeting By George Reinblatt ’95

PAY TO ZOOM WITH MORE INTERESTING PEOPLE The main reason your Zoom meetings are dull is because you’re talking to dull people. (I mean, if your co-worker Kevin had anything interesting to say, he would have said it back in March.) That’s why you should pay to Zoom with people who are actually funny. Comedians and magicians are doing live Zoom “crowd work” shows where they interact with you – and they’re not only awesome, they’re the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like you’re back at an actual live event.

PUT SOMETHING IN YOUR BACKGROUND THAT MAKES YOU LOOK CRAZY And no, I’m not talking about putting up a virtual background like a certain co-worker does for every status meeting (we know you’re not at the beach, Kevin – stop trying to be amusing). Instead, you should put something behind you that you “pretend” was left there by accident. Maybe it’s a clown outfit on a hanger, as if that’s what you were planning to wear later. Maybe it’s a handwritten list taped to the wall labeled PEOPLE TO SEEK REVENGE ON (and yeah Kevin, you’re definitely at the top of that one). Or better yet, you can “accidentally” place yourself in front of a mirror, so everyone can see in the reflection you’re wearing Justin Bieber-themed pyjama pants (nobody’s worn real pants since last winter, might as well have some fun with it). 36 Past & Present / Winter 2021

DO MULTIPLE ZOOMS AT ONCE In 80% of your Zoom meetings, you just nod and smile while you scroll Twitter in another window. So if you have three meetings in a day – why not do ’em all once? Set up one on your computer, one on your phone, one on your iPad. And as long as you throw in a few generic phrases like, “We’ll have to circle back on that, Kevin” – it will work equally well for all three meetings.

Expert Advice

How to make working from home easier on your body By Dan Pringle ’05

OPTIMIZE YOUR DESK HEIGHT Ideally, your desk should be at elbow height when sitting upright, so your forearms are parallel to the desk. Use a chair that goes up and down if you don’t have a suitable table, and do your best to avoid coffee tables, couches, laptops and high-top tables.

Dan Pringle ’05 is a physiotherapist and clinic director of Endeavour Sports Performance & Rehabilitation in Toronto.

ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER SETUP Consider using a computer monitor, with the top of the monitor at eye level. If you are using a laptop, tilt it far enough back that you can see it clearly with a minimal chin tuck. Use an external mouse and keyboard when possible.

SIT BACK IN YOUR CHAIR Most people try sitting at the edge of their chairs to maintain upright posture, but they end up slouching as their postural muscles tire. Sit all the way back in a chair with lumbar support (ideally mesh-backed), or use a pillow to support your lower back.

While some people were already working from home prior to the global pandemic, millions more had to adjust to makeshift workspaces, multiple family members working in close proximity, and virtual office and classroom dynamics.


Just as our minds adapt to changes in how we operate, our bodies do the same. Whether we’re brutally aware of it or not, working from home for the better part of the year has forced our bodies to endure new physical demands. The way we move and position ourselves plays a significant role in mitigating those demands, particularly when working in environments like home offices, kitchen tables and couches. Here are my Top 5 Tips that I give to my patients and anyone looking to manage the physical stresses of working from home.

CHANGE POSITIONS FREQUENTLY There is no such thing as one single, perfect sitting posture. Even someone who sits with picture-perfect alignment will end up with problems if they stay in that position all day. The key is movement variability: make small adjustments every hour to shift pressure and tension to different areas. GET OFF YOUR BUTT We all know that sitting for prolonged periods is bad for our bodies, yet it’s so easy to forget when we get deep into meetings and desk work. I recommend:  etting an alarm to remind yourself S to get up and stretch briefly  tanding, pacing or stretching during S calls without video  rinking lots of water so you are forced D to get up for bathroom breaks

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 37

The Dentonia Era

Dentonia Alumni share their wisdom We asked some of the esteemed alumni who attended Crescent when its campus was located at Dentonia Park (1933-1970) to share their advice for younger alumni.

Ed Saunders ’37 Ed Saunders, who served as a judge for 20 years, lives with his wife, Louise, at the Belmont Retirement Home in Toronto.

“Work hard and do your best, whether it is academics, sports or extracurricular activities, and try to do right by people.”


Fraser McKee ’37 Fraser McKee served in the Navy Reserves in Ontario and Montreal until his retirement in 1975 and wrote or co-wrote six books on Canadian naval history. He lives in Toronto.

“Aim high, but not impossibly high – life isn’t an Olympics for the very few. You’ll have a good shot at managing a department, a company, a ship, a political party. Aim to acquire skills that will get you there: interpersonal, learning and real life. Get around difficulties or reverses that will happen; it’s just a rock in the road, nothing more. Keep going and growing. Details aren’t all that vital – just be good at what you DO. Look for ways to enjoy what you’re doing. You’ll do better in jobs or hobbies that please you than ones that simply provide a deposit in your bank account. At the end, you’ll look back in pleasure at things you liked AND did well in. They go together.”

38 Past & Present / Winter 2021

Bill Greer was a partner at the architectural firm Shore & Moffat and Partners and is well known for his heritage consulting work. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Rina.

“Always consider others – a very basic concept often overlooked.”

Tom Symons ’39 Tom Symons is the founding president of Trent University and served as its president and vice-chancellor for 11 years until 1972. He lives in Peterborough with his wife, Christine.

“My advice for younger alumni is to pursue the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake, which may well be, nevertheless, invaluable as your life progresses.”

The Dentonia Era

Remembering the Dentonia Years In 1933, Crescent’s campus moved from Rosedale to Dentonia Park, the 40-acre estate in east Toronto donated by Susan Denton Massey. During the 1930s, Crescent offered boarding as well as a day school and took in boys in Grades 3-8. Crescent’s “Dentonia Era” continued until 1970, when the school moved to its current campus on Bayview Avenue.


01 Young students enjoying a meal at Crescent in the 1930s





02 Crescent students in the 1930s 03 Crescent School hockey team, 1938 04 Crescent School rugby team, 1931 05 Students with Headmaster Walter Williams in the 1930s

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 39

Life After Crescent

Milestones and Celebrations Have family or career news to share? Send your Life After Crescent updates to alumni@crescentschool.org.


Jesse Wente ’92 was named Chairperson of the Canada Council of the Arts in July 2020.

Jesse Berger ’02 recently published his book, Magic Internet Money: A Book About Bitcoin. Jesse has his MBA, is a certified blockchain professional, and worked in financial services for over a decade. He is currently an independent consultant based in Toronto.

Aleem Janmohamed ’96 started a new position as Vice President & Estate Planning Advisor at TD Wealth

Clark Davis ’02 and Marisa Iacono were married at Toronto City Hall on July 31, 2020

Jason Melbourne ’90 joined the Board of Directors of Restaurant Brands International as an independent member in September 2020.

Charlie Mills ’99 released a new song called “Gathering Storm” in October 2020.

2000s Michael Kay ’00 and his wife, Serena Chiu, have been living in Wellington, New Zealand since 2016.

Stuart Mercier ’00 and his wife Jen welcomed their son, Thomas Willem, on January 13, 2020. Their daughter Charlotte has adapted well to her new role as big sister and is, thus far, happy to have him around! Stuart and his family live in Shanghai and are always happy to connect with alumni.

40 Past & Present / Winter 2021

Life After Crescent

Willie Nelson ’01 started a new role this past summer as Business Development Manager for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

Bobby Koutsaris ’03 started a new position as the Associate Director of Cloud and Digital Transformation leader at Cushman & Wakefield.

Andrew Boozary ’03 started a new position in February 2020 as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York in addition to his work at University Health Network in Toronto.

Ryan Ballard ’05 and his wife, Julie Ballard, welcomed their second daughter, Catie Mackinnon Ballard, on April 28. Her proud big sister is Charlotte Anne.

Jay Shah ’06 and his wife, Sarah Ali, welcomed their baby girl, Lana Morgan, on September 11, 2020.

Ryan Austin ’04 and his wife, Lauren Austin, welcomed their daughter Avery Grace on July 17, 2020.

Hussein Jaffer ’04 and Lana Majid were married on August 1, 2020 in the backyard of his childhood home in a socially distanced ceremony. While his best man, Sherif Guirgis ’04, had to Zoom-in from LA, other close family and friends were able to attend in person, including fellow Class of ’04 alumni Rob Shaw, Mike Loughry and Matt Burke. Hussein has recently joined the William Osler Health System as a staff Interventional Radiologist.

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 41

Life After Crescent

Blair Livingston ’07 and his wife, Jessica Livingston, welcomed their first son, William David, on October 2, 2020.

Alyn Nanji ’14 is doing his Master of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Ryan Newman ’15 started a new role on June 1, 2020 at Google in Waterloo where he is responsible for increasing Gmail Performance. Joey Lindsay ’15 co-founded a company called Atlas Life Systems with the goal of building the first education-based virtual health-care system. Its first app is called Caregiver, which specializes in mental health education and tracking. Ryley Mehta ’16 starts a new role at Boston Consulting Group in January 2021 after completing his degree at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.

Remi Ojo ’08 started a new job as a Business Intelligence Operations Engineer at STACK in September 2020.

2010s Jonathan Brickman ’12 is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) in Ontario and for the past three years has been working as a consultant in the growing field of infrastructure.

42 Past & Present / Winter 2021

Andy Mavroudis ’18 is working with Novo Mediplus to develop high-tech hand sanitizer dispensers. Andy is in his third year of a dual degree in Software Engineering and Business Administration from Western University and the Ivey School of Business.


Graham Rotenberg ’12 started law school at the University of Toronto in September 2020 after having completed his first year at the University of Michigan Law School. Baron Alloway ’14 left New York City and is now working as the Executive Director and Sales Representative at ReaLawState Realty in Toronto.

Gorav Menon ’16 graduated from UCLA in June with a BA in Business Economics and Cognitive Science and is now working as a Business Development and Strategy Intern at Snap Inc. He recently launched a new podcast called Linen Suit and Plastic Tie, which focuses on the art of storytelling.

Nolan Aziz ’20 helped raise over $80,000 for Food Banks Canada as part of the Canoe4Covid challenge this summer. He and five friends completed a 60-day canoe trip that covered 2,000 km, starting north of Thunder Bay and landing in Ottawa. Eugene Wong ’17 and Jonathan Ng ’17 started at Western Law September 2020 and were placed in the same small group. They both plan to graduate in 2023 with a JD and Ivey HBA through Western's combined degree program.

Life After Crescent

In Memoriam

Fraser Grenville Gooderham ’06 Fraser Gooderham passed away at age 32 on September 19, 2020 after a short, very courageous battle with cancer. He will be sorely missed by his parents Michael Gooderham and Susan (Susie) Wright, and his younger sister Carolyn. Fraser will forever be remembered as a kind, loving and generous young man – known by many as a gentle giant or a big teddy bear. His family is grateful for the unwavering support of family, friends, the Crescent School community, and his colleagues at Toro Aluminum, where he enjoyed working in research and development. Prior to his death, Fraser told his Crescent friends that some of his most cherished school memories were from his time as a member of the Team 610 robotics team. In his memory, his friends established the Fraser Gooderham ’06 Scholarship Fund to help support tuition at Crescent for a Robotics and/or STEM-minded student whose family might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Stay Connected Join the Crescent Alumni Network Site. Go to crescentalumni.org to find mentoring opportunities, internship positions, reunions and networking events, news from your former classmates and ways to get involved at Crescent. Find alumni news on our social media: CrescentSchoolAlumni @CrescentAlums @crescent_alumni Crescent School Alumni Group Have questions? Contact alumni@crescentschool.org

Crescent School Alumni Magazine 43

Catching Up With...

Aldonna Stremecki: Making dramatic connections

By John Racioppo ’07

Aldonna Stremecki joined Crescent School in 1980, teaching French, English and Drama. She was Head of Drama when she retired in 2011. We caught up with her in October.

JR: Did moving from the Hyland Hall theatre to the Centre for Creative Learning (CCL) change your perspective on teaching or directing? AS: Hyland Hall was an amazing space for classes and productions. What changed with the CCL was the technical part: the lighting, sound and sets. The shows were greatly enhanced, which was exciting. But some of the most powerful moments were in the classroom. It is about that incredible moment when a student actor authentically responds to a role and deeply moves his audience, wherever he performs. JR: What brought you to teaching in the first place? AS: Growing up, I loved the idea of becoming an actor. I thought if I could teach drama then I could have all the magic of an acting career without the worry! I love teaching and Crescent gave me the opportunity to do both. JR: What did you learn as a teacher? AS: One, at the end of the day it’s about the atmosphere and about relationships. When you find yourself sitting in a circle talking about something that extends beyond the class or the curriculum, that is important. The


John Racioppo: What was it like when you first started teaching at Crescent? Aldonna Stremecki: They were looking for a French teacher in the Lower School and someone to run an extra-curricular drama program. I was just out of university. It was a much smaller school and I was the only female teacher.

classroom is a space to connect. And two, it’s a great profession because you are working with a group of unpredictable students and learning to navigate that. You are always a little bit on alert because you’re not always sure what is going to happen. Be organized and be a planner, but be in the moment because things can happen and you need to lean into them. JR: When I talk about my memories of Crescent, I talk about the connections with other students; the relationships I had with students and teachers after I graduated. We check in with one another all the time, these teachers who became mentors. AS: You took advantage of everything and threw yourself into it, and that is important.

JR: What advice do you have for alumni today? AS: We are all suffering from COVID fatigue. When we’re not in control, it is disorientating. But, challenge is almost always a good thing. This is going to make us all stronger. And this experience has opened up a lot of big conversations that have made us think more about who we are and how to respond to things. Like when you are developing an unfamiliar character on stage, you are going to be a bit wiser, more empathic.

JR: What have you been enjoying most about retirement? AS: I love keeping busy. I am part of an organization called Friendship in Action, running conversation circles in schools where kids can open up about what’s going on in their lives. I have connected with the Toronto Writers Collective, working

JR: I will be forever grateful to you and Crescent. I knew I loved acting when I was young, so thank you for nurturing and encouraging that. I would not have had the courage to go to theatre school and move to NYC if not for you and the other teachers. AS: Thank you; it goes both ways!

John Racioppo ’07 is a professional actor in New York City. He will never forget his first stage experience in a production of Oliver! at Crescent.

44 Past & Present / Winter 2021

on moving marginalized adult writers’ words from page to stage. And, I have been an art assistant at Crescent for the past three years and am supply teaching. I cannot keep out of the place! I just love going back and seeing old colleagues.


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