IN THIS ISSUE … WOMEN STRONG: GLORIA STEINEM AT BRANKSOME HALL THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS … A PLUCKY TEA LADY … DIVORCE, MODERN STYLE THE MAGAZINE FOR THE BRANKSOME HALL COMMUNITY WINTER 2017–18
OF THE AMAZON Ruth THOMSON’59 has spent her life working with the isolated Kayapó people in the Brazilian jungle PAGE 14
Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years IB World School
JK – Grade 12
She arrives knowing it all. She leaves curious about everything.
More than $1 million available in financial assistance for Grades 7–12. branksome.on.ca
Branksome Hall Vision To be the pre-eminent educational community of globally minded learners and leaders. Branksome Hall Mission Each day, we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world. WINTER 2017–18
Contents ON THE COVER
FEATURES 14 Ruth of the Amazon One-time Toronto debutante Ruth THOMSON’59 pursues a most unusual life through her missionary work deep in the Amazon jungle 18 Tea Lady Entrepreneur Jennifer COMMINS’93 is impressing royalty with her tasty brews as she pursues her vision to expand her fouryear-old company Pluck Tea 22 Engineering Her Future A hard-wired environmentalist, U of T Professor Shoshanna SAXE’02 is at the forefront of sustainability research in transit infrastructure 24 The Pursuit of Happiness Leslie RICHARDSON’03 and her author husband Neil Pasricha make it their priority to help people find everyday bliss 28 The Road to Wellness Having overcome depression, Melanie-Anne ATKINS’00 finds her passion in helping university students deal with mental health issues 31 Other Ways of Hearing Deaf from birth, Wendy BRUCE’84 faced numerous struggles growing up, but through perseverance, has brought about positive changes for the Deaf community
34 Divorce, Modern Style Mediator and former lawyer Christina FARKAS Vinters’93 is helping couples avoid much of the expense and some of the heartache of going separate ways
IN EVERY ISSUE 2 3 4
48 66 72
Principal’s Message Editorial School Scoop Our first TEDx Youth Conference Feminist Gloria Steinem visits Branksome Meet math teacher Andrew Schroter Classrooms of tomorrow Alumnae Update Meet your new president Alum families at play THIMUN: its heritage and impact Fun photos from Reunion 2017 Winning Women Alum Award recipients Andrea DORFMAN’87 and Sarah CLARKE’97 Class Notes* Passages A Day in the Life Editor Jennifer LAMBERT’92 is living her dream job in books
*View The READ online at branksome.on.ca/alumnae. For privacy purposes, Class Notes is not available in digital format.
Ruth THOMSON’59 holds a machete, the everyday knife used by the Kayapó people and other tribes in Brazil. It can be used to peel manioc (a starchy root) or to cut small trees and other vegetation. Ruth was photographed at her farm northwest of Toronto.
The READ Committee Tanya Pimenoff, Editor Berton Woodward, Editorial Advisor Cris Coraggio Karen L. Jurjevich Lydia Levin Karrie Weinstock Contributors Diana Ballon Wendy BRUCE’84 Miro Cernetig Chris Daniels Martin Dee Ashley Duggan Carlos Gárate Tyler Irving Jeff Kirk Per Kristiansen Jennifer LAMBERT’92 Joe O’Connor Sarah SAHAGIAN’04 Janet Sailian Caley Taylor Amy VERNER’98 Alumnae, Employees and Friends of Branksome Hall Design and Production Michael Cherkas + Associates
Branksome Hall 10 Elm Avenue Toronto, ON M4W 1N4 Tel: 416-920-9741 www.branksome.on.ca Email: email@example.com Winter 2017 – 18 Volume 57, Number 1 Canadian Publications Mail Agreement No.40010445
FROM THE PRIN CIPA L
‘Just Call Me Gloria’ Our watershed events with iconic feminist Gloria Steinem brought us together in a way that will never be forgotten BY K AREN L. JURJEVICH
he excitement is palpable in the early morning of October 23, with final preparations for Women Strong, featuring legendary feminist writer, lecturer and political organizer Gloria Steinem. I am energized by the sounds of the BH Rock Band and I feel the pulse of videographers, AV technicians, acoustic specialists and event planners transforming our gymnasium into a stage set worthy of a Beyoncé concert. Sound test — check. Hand-held microphones — check. Lavalier mics — check. Intro GLORIA video — check. I notice that we are all moving and talking to the beat of Van Morrison! It seems we are ready for our feminist rock star. Enter, Gloria Steinem.
“We are linked, not ranked,” she has often said.
Steinem nonchalantly arrives. In fact, we do not even realize she is here. Unassuming and graceful, dressed in classic black leather and red scarf, she quietly engages with students, absorbs the Rock Band and takes in the Branksome vibe. There is no need to be star-struck. Steinem
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Seated among faculty and students are, from left, Amanda Lang, Claire Zimmerman, Rachel Phillips Belash, Gloria Steinem, Karen Jurjevich and Astrid Ling.
is down to earth, totally relaxed. “Please, just call me Gloria,” she tells Astrid Ling, Head Prefect and moderator for the Gloria Steinem-Branksome Hall conversation. Students and staff are seated in their clans for the assembly. In fact, we have created a 650-girl semi-circle that feels like a big Gloria Steinem hug. We are her talking circle. Non-hierarchical, ready to listen and to engage. “We are linked, not ranked,” she has often said. “I don’t learn while I am talking. I learn when I am listening. If you are in a position of more power, try listening more. It is not humbling to learn; it is exciting.” — Gloria Steinem Listening and observing the interactions of our girls with Gloria Steinem is a scene that I will never forget. Fully engaged,
learning and laughing through conversation and questions, the students and teachers of Branksome shared an experience that brought us together in a way that will never be forgotten or repeated in quite the same way again. We were uniquely linked. Later this same day, I survey the audience that has gathered for the evening event at Convocation Hall, and realize that in this moment, Steinem was linking us together, yet again. But this time it was in a way that we never imagined. Women Strong: Gloria Steinem linked Torontonians and generations of women and men; people of diverse race and orientation; professionals, politicians and students. Tonight, we are present and linked together in our eagerness to hear the wisdom, kindness and optimism of an iconic feminist. We take comfort in
FRO M T HE ED I TO R
The Days of Living Strong Stories to learn from and identify with BY TANYA PIMENOFF
Steinem’s gentleness. We are inspired by her stories and intellect, entertained by her dry wit and humour. We are linked… just as Steinem believes is the innate calling of the human race. This Branksome Hall evening conversation with Gloria Steinem is a watershed — it’s the first time we have opened up the Rachel Phillips Belash Speaker Series to the general public and we realize that the call for gender equality, diversity and inclusion has never been greater than it is now. We understand that the news of the past few months has only solidified our need for change. Tonight, Branksome Hall committed to continue to add value to the public conversation that’s already swirling on these very important issues. I could not be more proud. Many of you reading this article were present at Women Strong, or perhaps you watched the Steinem conversations live on our website. I expect that you are galvanized to feel optimistic and excited about the future. Steinem touched us and she lit our torch with hers. We now have a shared duty not to sit still. We have a responsibility to light the way. You need look no further than Steinem’s comments at the National Press Club in 2013 to understand: “People often ask me at this age, ‘Who am I passing the torch to?’ First of all, I’m not giving up my torch, thank you! I’m using my torch to light other people’s torches…if we each have a torch, there’s a lot more light.” Thank you, Gloria! I look forward to lighting the way with you, our students, and the broader community, now and for many years to come. R
f you could do anything at all, with the purpose of fulfilling your calling in life, what would you do? And what tools would you need to prepare yourself as you build on your purpose and begin to follow your winding path, filled with forks and roadblocks along the way? For the past few months, there has been a great buzz at Branksome. If you were in the vicinity of the school, you probably saw the giant poster that graced the northwest corner of Mt. Pleasant and Elm from September to December. Words that stood out read, Women Strong: Gloria Steinem, and the date she would be speaking at Branksome. But well before Gloria Steinem came to town, this issue of The READ was already well underway and a “strong women” theme was clearly developing. So, what defines strong? I decided to conduct an informal survey to find out how people would articulate the meaning of this powerful word. I asked men, women, colleagues, neighbours, even a few children. Not surprisingly, most answers were based on society’s ideals of the professional woman — words such as assertive, confident (the most popular description), resourceful and powerful. Some said driven, flexible and even, unashamedly, fierce. But a 12-year-old boy came up with emotionally strong — someone who would help others. Glancing towards his mom, who was standing close by, I’m pretty sure he was describing her. Strong, I believe, is all of these definitions and also in the eye of the beholder. With this issue of The READ, I am delighted to introduce you to Ruth THOMSON’59, who takes her place as our cover story. Ruth is a true “woman strong” who bucked the trend and followed her calling to live and work with the Kayapó people in Brazil. A missionary, she is modest, kind, independent and a trailblazer, with life experiences and tales that would make anyone else hightail it home. And, I hope you will be captivated by the story about Jennifer COMMINS’93, who drew on her “pluck,” after personal setbacks, to become a tea expert; or Christina FARKAS Vinters’93, who resourcefully launched a much-needed service; or Shoshanna SAXE’02, an engineer and professor, who proactively works to bridge the gap between policymaking and policymakers; or Wendy BRUCE’84, who persevered to bring about change for the Deaf community. So many interesting life experiences await you in these pages – stories to identify with and learn from. And, you will see how Branksome provided the springboard into many of these interesting careers. But there is no doubt that it is our alums themselves who continue to find their way through their own resourcefulness and hard work. They are our Women Strong. R
The READ Winter 2017–18
SchoolScoop NEWS FROM THE BRANKSOME HALL COMMUNITY WINTER 2017–18
The Road After
Our award-winning keynote speaker urges students to get involved
An update from the Chandaria Research Centre BY DR. MIRA GAMBHIR
Installation, held on October 6, was brought to its feet by the candid and moving speech given by keynote speaker Sarah CLARKE’97, principal at Clarke Child & Family Law. Sarah, who is also Branksome’s 2017 Young Alumna Achievement Award recipient (see p. 46), appealed to students to get actively involved and do their very best to maintain every aspect of what we all love about our country — from its natural beauty to the rights of all its people. Here, Sarah is joined by her mom, Pat Robinson, following the ceremony.
THE AUDIENCE AT
The Impact of Accelerated Evolution Branksome’s first TEDx examines the pace of change BRANKSOME MADE HISTORY last April with its first TEDx Branksome Hall Youth Conference. Event co-directors Emma Lozhkin and Alison Dudu (then Grade 12 students), together with a team of nine students, planned, designed and implemented everything from acquiring the licence from the TED organization to branding graphics and designing a website and Facebook page. Under the theme of “The Impact of Accelerated Evolution,” eight speakers covered an array of topics: the science of rockets, neurosurgery, the
evolution of IMAX, and high performing apps — such as one that could launch an unknown author’s career and another that could provide medical advice at one’s fingertips. After months of planning, and with myriad student volunteers, including entertainment by Arla, Branksome’s student rock band, the event ran like clockwork, with members of the audience leaving both proud of the students’ achievements and better informed about the fast-paced world around them.
TEDx co-directors Emma Lozhkin, left, and Alison Dudu.
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is a time of transition, self-discovery and the pursuit of new endeavours. Yet little data is gathered about our early graduates’ experiences. As director of the Chandaria Research Centre (CRC), I consulted with the community about which projects we should pursue. After speaking with students, teachers and parents, it became clear that capturing the stories of graduates would be an excellent starting point for the work of the CRC. In June 2017, the CRC launched The Road After — an in-depth study that will document the influence of a Branksome Hall education on young women’s lives and early careers. Members of the class of 2017 are the first cohort to participate and, in spring, members of the class of 2018 will be invited to join their peers. Over the next five years, the CRC will listen and learn about how these young women’s academic and personal lives have changed since their time as students at Branksome Hall. Ultimately, their voices will guide how the next generation is prepared to take on the world. Please stay tuned. Our findings from this, and other projects, will be shared with all members of our Branksome community.
LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
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Our Beautiful Planet A Grad Year Record
How IMAX captured it on film
The 2016-17 campaign raises $83,000 for financial aid
IT WAS A record-breaking year for Branksome’s newest alums. Inspired by a classmate’s experience as a recipient of Student Financial Aid, graduating students and their parents raised $83,130 to establish a new Class of 2017 Endowed Bursary. More than 86 per cent of students, and half of their families, contributed to the fund — making it the most successful graduating year fundraising campaign in school history. The first Class of 2017 Endowed Bursary will be awarded in the fall of 2018.
guest speaker Toni TROW Myers’61 has an impressive film career spanning five decades. Last June, the IMAX pioneer talked about her career trajectory and the evolution of cutting-edge technology in the film industry. Here, she is accompanied by Principal Karen Jurjevich as they leave the year-end ceremony.
Our Athletics and Wellness Centre is an exciting new venue for cocktail receptions, sit-down dinners, product launches, conferences, weddings and parties. Come and check out the beautiful spaces for your next event. www.branksomevenues.ca 416-920-6265, ext. 181.
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Rachel Belash Speaker Series
Branksome Welcomes Gloria Steinem
The feminist leader tackled such topics as politics and gender equity at Branksome and U of T
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BRANKSOME HALL WAS proud to welcome feminist leader Gloria Steinem as our guest at this year’s Rachel Phillips Belash Speaker Series. The day began with a morning assembly for Grade 6–12 students, where Ms Steinem answered questions posed by Head Prefect Astrid Lang and a number of students. Topics included politics, gender equity and feminism. Later, at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, Ms Steinem mingled with over 200 guests, including a mix of sponsors, government officials and community organizers. Then it was on to a
“When I was a student at the University of Toronto in the 60s, Hart House was a men-only facility. Now look how far we’ve come… and how fitting that Branksome Hall, an all-girls school, is hosting Gloria Steinem in this very venue. We have come a long way! Thank you, Gloria.” Lyndy WRIGHT Heggie’58
sold-out public conversation at the university’s Convocation Hall, moderated by well-known Canadian journalist Amanda Lang. A number of audience members posed questions, to which Ms Steinem’s responses were powerful and provided inspiring words of wisdom. “Feel the fear and do it anyway, and follow the fear,” said Ms Steinem in one response. If you missed Ms Steinem’s morning student assembly or evening conversation, both can be viewed at www.Gloria2017.ca.
(left) Moderator Amanda Lang joins the audience in a standing ovation at Convocation Hall. (right) At the Hart House reception, Gloria chats with Rachel Phillips Belash and Rachel’s daughter Grace Phillips.
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SchoolScoop Students’ Profile
It’s All Sweet for Lemons and Limes Juliana Costa and Emma Gubitz have a thriving Branksome business BY ASHLEY CARTER
producing, distributing and advertising: everything at Lemons and Limes, a clothing company started by two savvy Branksome students, is done by hand — after their homework is finished. “We would come together at lunch and always show each other our doodles with little funny quotes and puns on them,” says Emma Gubitz, co-founder of Lemons and Limes. “We did it to share our ideas, work on our
art, and for the overall idea of having our own company,” adds Juliana Costa, the other cofounder of Lemons and Limes. At age 14, the two friends started their flourishing business, creating original t-shirt designs, hand printing them at home with a heat press they bought, and selling them on their website lemonslimes.ca. “I focused on coding the website using HTML and CSS,” says Juliana, who has a passion not only for
design but for computer science too. “We had already learned code when we took it in Grade 9 at Branksome. Then in the summer I spent a lot of time doing more research and learning more advanced code.” It has been a challenging project for the girls, but they both have a fierce entrepreneurial spirit and want to run every aspect of their company. “Branksome has taught us it’s important to be ambitious and how to get up when you fail,” says Emma. “These have been messages we’ve been taught since we were really young.” Most start-up companies start up with debt, and Lemons and Limes was no exception. But the girls never gave up. “Resilience is the most important thing, to be prepared for moments of failure,” says Emma. “You have to go into it with a lot of passion.” The girls’ hard Juliana, left, work paid off when and Emma model their hot selling their t-shirts caught t-shirts. the attention of their classmates. Juliana and Emma jumped on the sales momentum and immediately designed and printed 130 t-shirts for Branksome’s 2017 Spirit Week. “It was proof that we were capable of having a product that was successful. It felt so good,” says Emma. The duo were able to pay off their debt, but not before getting a taste of the corporate world. They had to pitch a business proposal to Branksome’s Student Council and work out marketing and pricing to sell their Spirit Week t-shirts at the Uniform Shop. “We’ve always learned to be independent,” says Juliana. “Branksome has definitely taught us that girls can do anything and to seek your interests.” Now in Grade 11, the girls have over 30 different t-shirt designs in their collection and are thinking about expanding production to include sweatshirts and hats. “We’ve learned how hard it is to actually have a business,” says Emma. “I feel like that’s a skill I’ll take away and use forever.” R Ashley CARTER’06 is a communications officer at Branksome Hall.
The READ Winter 2017–18
Andrew’s teaching tools don’t just include calculators and protractors. They include a guitar given to him by his father when he was a boy. “As a teacher, you always need to be a little bit of an entertainer.”
Renaissance Man Math teacher Andrew Schroter sometimes pulls out his guitar for “The Vector Polka” BY CHRIS DANIELS
math is hard for everyone and a course will really kick you,” says Branksome math teacher Andrew Schroter. But as much as it can kick you, it can also give you a high. “You can feel frustrated at not being able to solve a problem. But then there is the elation you feel when you realize something, all in a flash, and make real progress on a problem,” he says. “Math is rife with emotion.” Andrew encourages and, more than that, fosters emotion in his classroom — challenging the outdated notion that math is utilitarian, without passion and, well, dull. Last year, Andrew was honoured by the University of Chicago for his “upbeat math classes” with an Outstanding Educator Award.
“AT SOME POINT,
Every year, the university receives letters from hundreds of students describing inspiring teachers who helped change the course of their lives. A particular letter resonated with the university — from Lily REN’16, one of Andrew’s former pupils who, like so many current and former Branksome girls, found themselves engaged in his math classes. Andrew’s teaching tools don’t just include calculators and protractors. They include a guitar, given to him by his father when he was a boy. “As a teacher, you always need to be a little bit of an entertainer,” he says. He uses the guitar to break into songs he’s written about math, like “The Vector Polka,” which sets vector concepts to the dance music style. Andrew has also penned lyrics for prob-
ability, matrix algebra and the fundamental theorem of calculus — with an emphasis on the “fun” in fundamental. “The lyrics in the songs can be instructive for students, but for the most part, these spontaneous eruptions of song are about me connecting with them and bringing smiles to their faces,” he says. “I don’t do it often, and so when I do, it really puts them on their toes.” Andrew has a passion for music that started at high school in his native Peterborough, Ont. “I was an introvert and music was a useful way to meet and connect with people,” he explains. While studying at the University of Waterloo, he played trombone in the band. His interest in the arts and mathematics gave him the nickname ‘Renaissance man.’ “It was my high school music teacher who came up with that,” he says with a laugh. He also leans on his love of humanities — specifically, history and philosophy — to engage girls in math. As much a life-long student as he is a teacher, Andrew took a one-year leave of absence from Branksome in 2016 and enrolled in graduate studies at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. “It gave me time away from the classroom to think about my subject and how I can teach it in an even more interesting way,” says Andrew, who has taught at Branksome since 2006. “Math has a rich history and has occupied the minds of philosophers for years. Now I can help students engage in math in terms of what it actually is and where it comes from.” Still, he knows math is a challenge. “I don’t apologize for that, because challenging things are worth doing,” he says. “But I do hope students come through my courses with some fond memories of engaging with the material.” R Chris Daniels is a Toronto freelance writer and editor.
The READ Winter 2017–18
Classrooms of Tomorrow – Today New learning spaces, new learning styles
PER KRISTIANSEN PHOTOGRAPHY
WHEN WAS THE last time you saw a girl walking on a treadmill while working on a math problem? Can you ever remember hearing a teacher encourage her students to sketch out their thoughts with markers on their desks or their classroom’s walls? These are everyday scenes in Branksome’s new “classrooms of tomorrow.” The leading-edge spaces — two in the Junior School and two in the Senior and Middle School — are receiving glowing reviews from both students and teachers.
The READ Winter 2017–18
“I like how we can use the same classroom in different ways for different subjects. For English, we can easily set up the furniture for a teacher-led seminar and then quickly reconfigure it for small-group study in math.” Sofia Musicco, Grade 8 student
The Grade 4 “Elhaddad Family Classroom” was unveiled and the family was gratefully acknowledged at the evening Circle Reception, held on September 26.
“The new classrooms adjust to the needs of the students — not the other way around,” says Janet Pehlivanyan, Director of Facilities. “Each girl can now work in a way best suited to her individual needs and learning style.” One only needed to scan the faces of the girls as they walked into the renovated spaces for the first time in September to appreciate the level of change these classrooms represent. More than a few “oohs” and “aaahs” could be heard as students explored the flexible, modular furniture and discovered the many ways technology is seamlessly incorporated into the spaces.
“I like how we can use the same classroom in different ways for different subjects,” says Grade 8 student Sofia Musicco. “For English, we can easily set up the furniture for a teacher-led seminar and then quickly reconfigure it for small-group study in math.” “I like to work standing up,” adds Rosie MacMillan, also in Grade 8. “The new adjustable desks allow me to switch from sitting to standing in about two seconds. My friends really like the treadmill work station, too.”
The four new classrooms were realized through contributions to the 2016–17 Annual Appeal, as well as through a generous lead gift from Dr. Mohamed Elhaddad and Mrs. Alaa Matar, the parents of Maya in Senior Kindergarten. These model spaces will be carefully studied over the course of the next school year to inform future renovation plans. With the Branksome community’s further support, two more classrooms will be transformed in the summer of 2018.
The READ Winter 2017–18
Blast Off! The European Astro Pi Challenge gets kids coding IT’S PRETTY OUT of this world to think Branksome girls are creating code to send messages to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Or is it? Last fall, in preparation for the Astro Pi “Mission Zero” challenge, Grade 10 students ran a coding workshop, teaching Grade 7 and 8 students how to code a message that included a greeting and temperature reading. Seven teams of Grade 7 and 8 students participated in the challenge and their messages will run on the ISS. The Grade 10 Computer Engineering students are in an Astro Pi competition of their own, dubbed “Mission Spacelab.” The challenge has four phases; the first began last fall when three teams of Grade 10 students proposed experiments relating to Life in Space or Life on Earth. Their experiments have all qualified for Phase 2! Students are now working on writing the code, which will be submitted on February 7. On February 20, after what will be a nail-biting two weeks, the girls will find out if their code has been selected for space flight. The third phase will consist of running the code on the ISS and, during Phase 4, the students will analyze the data.
Space Mission a Robotics Flight Controller for NASA, thoroughly captivated our Junior and Senior School students with stories about her work at Mission Control in Houston, Texas. There were endless questions for her, including “how do astronauts sleep?” and “how do they feel when they land back on Earth?” Ms Lucier shared interesting photos of astronauts training underwater and on airplanes. The students were also fascinated by pictures of how astronauts eat, wash their hair and even cry in space.
Madeline Mackie, Grade 10, helps Shayla Stolberg during the Grade 7 coding workshop.
Prize Winners UNITY STARTS WITH YOU The 2017–18 Prefects’ motto encourages all students to contribute to the Branksome community by modelling the values of care, kindness and inclusivity.
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LAST JUNE, BRANKSOME was recognized with two 2017 Prix d’Excellence awards, presented by the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE). The annual competition attracts hundreds of entries from universities, colleges and independent schools across Canada. The holiday greeting video and card featuring “Dash the Robot” claimed Gold in the Best Use of Multi-Media category. The Branksome Hall viewbook, which is produced primarily for use by Admissions, received Bronze in the Best Brochure, Newsletter or Flyer category.
IT’S TIME FOR A SERIOUS
DISCUSSION ON THE SUBJECT OF:
Okay, quit the giggling. It’s time to make a momentous decision because, before you know it, summer will be here. And, Branksome Hall’s super-fun summer camps fill up fast.
So, will it be Robotics or dance? Musical theatre or tennis? Swimming or Minecraft? Multi-sport or photography?
Whichever camp you choose, your kids will have as much jollification (yes, that’s a word) as possible, right here in the heart of Toronto. Oh, by the way, did we mention that our new Athletics and Wellness Centre on our beautiful 13-acre campus is a remarkable place? Seriously.
Visit us at: branksomecamps.ca Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
The READ Winter 2017–18
FE AT URES
RUTH OF THE
AMAZON Longtime missionary Ruth THOMSON’59 left a society life in Toronto to work with the Kayapó people in Brazil
ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCK.COM / BGBLUE
BY JOE O’CONNOR PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF KIRK
uth Thomson was 13 when she fell in love with an idea. Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was largely to blame for it. Fawcett, a British explorer, surveyor and ill-fated adventurer, journeyed into the Amazon in search of the Lost City of Z with his eldest son, Jack, and disappeared in 1925. Ruth later found Fawcett in books and magazine articles pulled from the shelves of Deer Park library, near her family home at 66 Summerhill Gardens. His life and mysterious end fired her imagination, filling her head with images of impenetrable jungles, winding rivers, wild animals and warlike peoples. “I was fascinated by the Amazon,” Ruth says. “I read everything I could about these explorers. I always knew the Amazon was where I wanted to be.”
The READ Winter 2017–18
Everyone has a path in life, a journey they take from beginning to end. Ruth’s journey is unlike most any other. She was a debutante, a dazzling beauty at the 1959 Governor General’s ball with short blond hair, long white gloves, a flowing white gown, a refined vocabulary and a family with the all the right connections. She even knew how to curtsy. But the society life wasn’t the life for her. In 1965, Ruth and Mickey Stout, an American woman, flew over a great ocean of trees — “they looked like broccoli tops to me,” she says — touching down on a dirt landing strip in Xingu Indigenous Park, near the Xingu River, in a remote corner of the Amazon. “It lived up to my expectations, and sometimes life doesn’t do that,” Ruth says. The women had come as missionaries to live among the Kayapó, (continued on page 16)
Ruth models a KayapĂł headdress, made of macaw feathers, which is worn by men and women at festival time.
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FE AT URES
Photographed in the mid-1960s, Ruth, left, and friends Claudio Villas-Boas, middle, and Mickey Stout are shown with the four chiefs of Porori, a Kayapó village. To this day, Kayapó villages nearly always have more than one chief, even up to four.
(continued from page 14) a warlike people with a reputation for killing outsiders. The group they met carried clubs, bows and arrows and rifles. The adults were naked. The children stared at them in amazement. “They accepted us right away as sisters,” Ruth says. “They were mostly tall, good looking, and their bodies were painted in these beautiful geometric designs.”
uth’s Branksome chums knew her as “Ruthie.” After Ruthie graduated in 1959, she studied theology at Toronto Bible College and linguistics at the University of North Dakota and the University of Oklahoma. She could handle a rifle, mastered some judo moves and stepped off that tiny plane crackling with excitement. She was where she had always wanted to be, with the full support of her parents — Clive, a successful lawyer, and Helen, a talented equestrian. Ruth’s mission was to learn Kayapó, create a Kayapó alphabet — from scratch — and provide an ancient oral culture with a written language and a translation of the Bible. Ruth and Mickey were adopted by Ykakor, a chief, and lived in his hut with his family, sleeping on beaten earth floors. They dined on wild pig, tapir, monkey and paca — a giant rodent Ruth describes as “delicious,” as are turtle eggs served in manioc dough. (She admits that, with age, she has allowed herself some dietary indulgences, and now packs a small stash of granola for her annual Amazon stint.) Communication was rudimentary — lots of pointing and hand gestures and smiles and sighs. Ruth would write down sounds and words, and, over five years, developed a 17-letter Kayapó alphabet. It remains the basis of the written language today and is taught to Kayapó children in their village schools.
In 1990, a writer from The Explorers Journal, published by the famed Explorers Club in New York, visited the Kayapó and their adopted Canadian member. The resulting article marveled at Ruth’s “strength and courage.” Another article touted her for the Order of Canada. Toronto-based Key Porter Books approached her about writing a book. “I was too busy,” Ruth says, laughing. There was translation work to do, language classes to teach, Kayapó wounds to bandage and booster shots to give, inoculating the tribe against diseases they were being exposed to for the first time, such as measles. Ruth even buried a murdered Brazilian. “This man came into their territory unauthorized,” she says. “He shouldn’t have been there — and so he got what was coming to him, I guess.” Ruth did not judge the Kayapó for the killing. Applying Western moral standards to their actions was inappropriate. She offers another example. Ykakor’s son was abusing a dog, whacking
it with a heavy stick. Mickey Stout erupted, grabbing the child. Ykakor grabbed his rifle. “He shot the dog,” Ruth says. “The wrong done to his child had to be avenged, but Ykakor shot that dog and not Mickey. She apologized to him and he told her: ‘It’s okay. We love you.’ That, to me, spoke volumes.”
t was proof that she and Mickey were family. One of the things the Kayapó value most is generosity — individuals are only as wealthy as what they can give away. What they have given Ruth is a life most unusual; a life a young girl might discover on a library shelf, hiding away in a book, waiting to be discovered. But Ruth isn’t the only Branksome girl to have fallen for this remote people. Barbara ZIMMERMAN’73 is director of the Kayapó Project, a program of the not-for-profit International Conservation Fund of Canada that is dedicated to protecting the Amazon
Ruth’s mission was to learn Kayapó, create a Kayapó alphabet — from scratch — and provide an ancient oral culture with a written language and a translation of the Bible. 16
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rainforest and Kayapó culture. She started working with the Kayapó in the early 1990s. “It is a truly amazing story that, in 1965, a Rosedale/Branksome Hall girl bucked all the expectations of her WASP culture to head to the middle of the Amazon and live with the Kayapó,” Barbara says. “Ruth deserves huge respect for that feat alone.” Ruth isn’t done yet. She is 77, and still spends about six months a year in the Amazon. She also works with an orphanage in Kenya run by a young man named David. He is a Christian
convert on the run from a hardline Islamist father. His full name does not appear here for safety reasons. Ruth views him as a son. “He is such a lovely person,” she says, adding that, at an age when most people are slowing down, she keeps adding new things to her “mission.” Summers, then, are a time for a rest, when Ruth escapes to an old family cottage on Georgian Bay. She gets around the lake by canoe, using a rounded Kayapó river paddle. She is reed thin but strong, a physical attribute made evident when she shakes your hand.
Her other Canadian home is a 42-acre farm near the village of Varney, two hours northwest of Toronto. Ruth keeps some horses on the property, and still enjoys riding, as her mother Helen once did. The bungalow on the property is sparingly furnished but betrays several hints of its owner’s Amazon life, including a machete by the door and a brilliant-blue Kayapó headdress in the living room.
hen Ruth talks about the indignities of age, she mentions tropical diseases. She has had multiple bouts of malaria, the Zika virus, dengue fever and leishmaniasis — a nasty bug that starts with an insect bite and ends, if not treated properly, with a parasite consuming the mucous membranes of the throat and nose, killing its human host. Beyond diseases, there have been shocks — from electric eels, plus the quiet knowledge that a portion of the river she once swam through daily was home to an anaconda that, on a day when she wasn’t swimming, dragged a villager beneath the water, crushing him to death. “I changed my route after that,” she says. Last winter, she was gravely ill, felled by a mysterious bug doctors couldn’t identify. She was evacuated from the rainforest, but has since regained her strength. When fall arrived in Canada, it was time to get packing again. There were old Kayapó friends to see, new words to learn and adventures to be had. “I’ll keep going back to the Amazon as long as God gives me the strength and the health to do it,” Ruth says, chuckling. “And so far, so good.” R
Joe O’Connor is a feature writer at the National Post. He considers meeting Ruth a career highlight. Ruth leads her horses back to the stable on her 42-acre farm near Varney, Ont.
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Jennifer COMMINS’93 once turned to Branksome for help with depression. Now she’s found joy running her fast-growing business Pluck.
TEA LADY BY BERTON WOODWARD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF KIRK
t’s an odd word, pluck. We often associate it with bold young girls and boys in times past, who overcame difficult odds through sheer grit. Or more prosaically, of course, it can mean to pick something that grows — notably tea. So it seems natural that, as she embarked on a pretty scary new venture and new career, Jennifer Commins named her Toronto-based company Pluck Tea. Because she has plenty of both. Her four-year-old tea business is thriving — she showed it off to Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, last summer — but more to the point, she has overcome some dark days to get where she is. In fact, all those years ago, Branksome was a big help. That time is now well (continued on page 20)
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(continued from page 18) behind her, and having summoned all the pluck she could – and her credit card limit — she is living an entrepreneurial dream. It dates to her earliest memories of her British-born, teadrinking parents and collecting those little ceramic figurines that came with Red Rose Tea. She still has more than 70.
ow, if you didn’t have tea-drinking parents and if you don’t hang out with the hipsters in the herbal cafés of downtown Toronto, you might wonder — tea: what’s the big deal? Just ask Jennifer. “There’s a different feeling to tea,” she says. “Tea is about relaxing, tea is about sitting back and enjoying. It’s not about getting overstimulated. It’s about having this moment of reflection and calm at the end of a meal. Every conversation goes better with tea.” Sound like a passion? It is. As a longtime marketer and now a certified tea sommelier, Jennifer made her unique selling point the inclusion of local ingredients in her carefully created blends, sold primarily to restaurants and hotels but also to individuals. “It’s estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of the population are tea drinkers and don’t ever drink coffee,” she says. “So you’re leaving this 15 per cent of the population out in the cold if you don’t have a tea program at your restaurant.” Her vision is expansive — national and international sales are on her horizon. Yet it took her quite a while to get here. Far from tea, her professional background is in interior design and marketing upscale European furniture. But there was always that Red Rose side to her — as well as that rough patch. She grew up near the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club with parents Patricia
COOPER Commins’59, who taught at nearby North Toronto Collegiate, and Alistair Commins, a sales executive. She had warm memories of her first three years of primary school at Branksome, so, after a stint in the public system, she asked to come back for Grade 12. Somehow, things didn’t go quite right that year. Feeling more lonely than she expected, she found she was sleeping all the time, eating irregularly and having trouble keeping up with her academics. Bottom line: “I am a survivor of clinical depression,” says Jennifer. She hasn’t talked publicly about it before, but for a Branksome audience, she wants to. “Given that I might be able to help a student, I’d like to be
open about it.” Her most important message: she realized she needed help, she asked for it, and at Branksome, she got it. “I went to the Guidance Department, and they took it very seriously,” she remembers. “They connected me with a therapist who was very, very good. That’s how my journey to wellness began. Even before I got the first appointment with the therapist, Branksome made time in my schedule to start some therapy at the school. I’m extremely grateful for how the school handled it. I wasn’t ever singled out or made to feel anything other than supported.” She continued with cognitive behavioural therapy and anti-depressant medication through
“Tea is about relaxing, tea is about sitting back and enjoying. It’s not about getting overstimulated. It’s about having this moment of reflection and calm at the end of a meal. Every conversation goes better with tea.” 20
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On a recent visit to Japan, Jennifer tours one of the tea gardens of Shizuoka and Kagoshima.
most of her twenties, but she has been free of meds for 15 years now. “I feel like I have never been so balanced,” she says. “I exercise regularly, I eat well, and I have re-evaluated the personal relationships in my life to avoid people who might be triggers. I like to be around positive people.” She did her final high school year at a semestered public school to take some of the pressure off, and then headed for the University of King’s College in Halifax. There, she began experimenting with her own blends of loose-leaf tea — “you could only get it in health food stores back then.” She recalls how she had been fascinated by the food industry from a young age, and would draw her own menus as a kid. But at King’s, in the days before celebrity chefs and the Food Network took hold in Canada, she didn’t see the culinary arts as a career for a university student, and she finished her degree in interior design. That led to a series of positions in design, and as a marketer for German furniture firms, notably Knoll. In the early 2000s, she also tried starting her own business, For the Dogs, offering cute designer items for canines, but it didn’t do well and she sold it. “I think of it as my MBA,” she chuckles. “It cost about the same!” Continuing in furniture, she began taking culinary courses at George Brown College, near her office. One of them was a first-level tea
sommelier course. “I was totally hooked — something just clicked in me,” she says. She also saw that popular interest in tea was exploding, with retailers like DAVIDsTEA and Teaopia (now Teavana) taking off with a cornucopia of loose-leaf blends. “This tea was new and exciting, with so many varieties,” she says. Meanwhile, in her work, she was often taking architect and designer clients to top restaurants, where you were lucky to be able to order a cup of English Breakfast after the meal. “I realized very quickly the restaurant scene was completely out of step with what was happening in the retail scene.”
er entrepreneurial instincts aroused, she decided to work on her accreditation as a tea sommelier and incorporate a company called Pluck. And in the spring of 2013, she left her well-paid position in furniture and jumped into the unknown. Her initial funding? Savings of $5,000 and a credit card with a $15,000 limit. She also had the good wishes of her husband, Evan Glazer — ironically, a sales executive at a major coffee firm — with whom she was raising three children. Investors would soon follow. In her search for local ingredients, she convinced a Niagara vineyard owner to dry out items you don’t usually put in teas, creating a unique brew that contained ice wine grapeskins,
along with elderberries, hibiscus and currants. She also began strategic cold-calling — and landed famed Toronto restaurateur Jamie Kennedy as one of her first clients. “I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, you start high,” she says. Kennedy’s name gave her instant credibility with other restaurants, and she was off. She now provides a broad offering of ethically-sourced blends to industry clients and online buyers, with evocative names like Muskoka Chai, Strawberry Fields and even Ctrl+Alt+Del (a cleansing brew to help you “hit the reset button”). Growth has been fast: Pluck now services 280 restaurants — often training their staff in the fine points — and sells in some 90 Indigo outlets across Canada. Jennifer also developed strong connections in idyllic Prince Edward County, where she and Evan have a property. But she wasn’t quite prepared for a call in early 2017 from one of her clients, prominent County winemaker Norman Hardie: could she show off her wares during a visit to his vineyard by Prince Charles and Camilla? The event last June is immortalized in a Canadian Press photo showing Charles, famous for his support for all things natural, gazing intently at Jennifer as she explains what’s in his Pluck-branded glass of Prince Edward Lavender iced tea, one of her signature blends. When the royal pair walked over, she says, “the first thing I did was curtsy, because in Grade 1, Branksome taught us how to curtsy. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world — my body just kind of did it. I was floating on air for three or four days afterward.” And the joy continues. “I have never made so little money and been so happy,” she laughs. All it took was some support from Branksome, and plenty of pluck. R Berton Woodward is a Toronto-based writer, editor and communications consultant.
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Shoshanna, at the Queen’s Park subway station.
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ENGINEERING HER FUTURE U of T’s Shoshanna SAXE’02 is now at the forefront of sustainability research in transit infrastructure BY AMY VERNER
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oughly six years ago, after earning her master’s in civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and before pursuing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Shoshanna Saxe arrived at a realization: she is never not thinking about the environment. It’s on her mind if she doesn’t turn off the tap when brushing her teeth; if she takes the elevator instead of the stairs; if she buys something that has too much packaging; if she gets in a car instead of walking or using public transit. She subsequently realized that all of these
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“Civil engineers build the bridges and the pyramids and the coliseums. Not that I’ve done any of those things, but many of the things I’ve worked on in my career will outlive me.”
small daily decisions — decisions that ultimately reflect a larger value system — may not be weighing on other people quite the same way. “When you see people with non-environmental behaviour — like when they leave the room and don’t turn off the lights — it’s not because they’re being bad people. It doesn’t occur to them,” she suggests. “But it occurs to me all the time. We need to build our infrastructure system in such a way that it makes it second nature for people to be environmental.” That Shoshanna seems hard-wired with an environmental instinct makes sense. Her mother, Dianne Saxe, is considered among the leading environmental lawyers in the world and has been the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario since 2015. But the way that Shoshanna is applying that instinct to urban infrastructure, specifically as it relates to transportation, has made her ongoing research highly valuable and sought after. Since 2016, she has been an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Civil Engineering department where she currently teaches two classes, one to first-year students and the other to graduate students. A paper she co-authored on the net greenhouse gas emissions of the TTC’s Sheppard subway line was spotlighted in Wired magazine earlier this year for calling out how new transit lines will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions even while reducing them. Shoshanna graduated from Branksome in 2002 — one year before the double cohort — and she can still list off her Ontario Academic Credits: physics, calculus, math, chemistry, art and law. Essentially, she was honing in on the STEM subjects before they became such a curriculum focus.
She applied to McGill’s civil engineering program as “a best guess” that this combined all her interests — more so than architecture or the closely-related focus of mechanical engineering. “We get to build the biggest, most solid, longest-lasting things,” she says, betraying a hint of awe. “Civil engineers build the bridges and the pyramids and the coliseums. Not that I’ve done any of those things, but many of the things I’ve worked on in my career will outlive me.” ut how did she feel about being a woman entering a field still largely populated by men? “It didn’t matter to me. In a strange way, it was like I got extra points,” she says. “Certainly, when I was in school, it felt like something to be proud of. I’m still proud of it.” What followed — her master’s in civil engineering and applied mechanics from MIT in 2009, and her PhD in engineering from Cambridge ( Jesus College) in 2016 — was punctuated with time spent as an engineer in consulting for the multinational firm Arup, where she worked on the design of subways, tunnels and bridges from the Toronto headquarters. Her proximity to the London Underground while attending Cambridge offered her ample opportunities to analyze that system against the one she grew up with, the TTC. London’s approach to transit planning might be ultraambitious compared to Toronto, but the city is still dependent on coal versus Toronto’s shift to non-fossil fuel sources such as nuclear energy, hydro power and wind. Shoshanna notes this is a significant advantage to the city. What’s more, she is quick to point out all the developments underway that will be com-
pleted in the coming years — from the Eglinton Crosstown Line to increased service through GO Transit. “I spend a lot of time thinking about transportation infrastructure; this is my job and my passion,” she says. “People ask me why we aren’t building anything in Toronto. And I can list for them quite a long list of things we are actually building. It will be interesting to see, as more infrastructure opens, whether our conversation changes.” While Shoshanna’s enthusiasm for the city’s transit system seems encouraging, it wasn’t the only reason she opted to return to Toronto after years in England. Quite simply, “it’s home,” she says. “I love this city and I wanted a life that involved my family. I think there’s a lot of important work to be done here.” Settled into the Annex with her husband and their three-year-old son, Shoshanna gets around primarily by bike, joking that their cargo bike functions as their minivan. Needless to say, the designated lanes on Bloor Street have proven a welcome addition, particularly when she thinks back to riding down Mt. Pleasant on her morning route to school. And on the subject of getting from Point A to Point B, it seems fitting to ask what advice Shoshanna might have for students plotting out their careers before starting university. She refers to advice she received from her sister and fellow alum, Rebecca SAXE’97, who has achieved great success in the field of cognitive neuroscience as a professor at MIT. “I remember feeling that the decision I made next was going to determine the whole course of my life,” she recalls. “When I was 20, Rebecca told me that’s not the way life works; you continue to make decisions your whole life. If you do something and it turns out not to be right path, you pivot and it’s not wasted time — everything builds on itself and you keep making decisions.” Go figure, the takeaway from this shared sisterly wisdom: we are all building our own unique infrastructures. R Amy VERNER’98 is a freelance writer covering lifestyle and culture from Paris and Toronto.
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Teacher Leslie RICHARDSON’03 works with her husband, best-selling author Neil Pasricha, to make bliss a practical matter BY SARAH SAHAGIAN PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARLOS GÁRATE
t is no surprise that Leslie Richardson has made it her life’s work to teach people how to be happy. As a Branksome student, she was known for her cando spirit, her infectious enthusiasm, and a smile so big it could be seen from the other side of The Overpass. Now, as a teacher in Toronto, she helps her husband, best-selling author Neil Pasricha, run The Institute for Global Happiness, an organization positing that everyday bliss is a matter of choice and perspective.
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Leslie, Neil and their boys delight in family time at a neighbourhood park.
(continued from page 25) As one of Leslie’s former schoolmates, I think the story that best encapsulates her positive spirit is the time she shared her mnemonic device for understanding fractions with her fellow students in Ms O’Rourke’s Grade 8 math class: Leslie stood at the front of the classroom and proudly sang the Spice Girls’ sexy song “2 Become 1.” Her peers erupted into fits of delighted laughter. They also experienced more than a fractional improvement in their understanding of fractions. It’s also no surprise that the prefect in charge of the Horizons program became an educator. In fact, it was while she was volunteering as a reading buddy at Spruce Court Public School that now Deputy Principal Karrie Weinstock approached her, she recalls. “She saw me teaching a little girl how to read. She pulled me aside and told me, ‘What you did with that student was very special.’” Inspired and a bit overwhelmed, Leslie realized she wanted to be a teacher.
er career path set, she attended Queen’s University’s concurrent education program and eventually began work with the Toronto District School Board. She fondly recalls the thrill of being called “Miss Richardson” at her first teaching job: “When I heard that, I thought, ‘My dream came true!’” In her career as a teacher, Leslie went on to hold the position of leader of the Special Education program at Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Neighbourhood. Her face lights up as she describes her work helping students develop successful learning strategies; she uses the word “exciting” several times. Education is clearly her calling. But her professional life is not her only
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It was as the couple awaited the birth of their first child, Leslie remembers, that “we began thinking a lot about the idea of legacy.” Like so many parents, they aspired to create a better world for their children, and they became fascinated with the concept of happiness.
dream come true. Her personal life is thriving, too, thanks to her Branksome classmate Rita STUART’03. Seven years ago, Rita had an apartment-building neighbour named Neil who had become a good friend. Says Leslie: “Rita told me she knew someone she thought I should meet. She said, ‘Leslie, when I’m with Neil, I think about you; when I’m with you, I think about Neil!’” After a not-so-subtle — but successful — meeting at an art gallery organized by Rita, the matched pair quickly became inseparable. It turned out that friendly neighbour Neil was Neil Pasricha, Harvard MBA grad and the internationally bestselling author of The Book of Awesome. In 2014, he and Leslie were married. The girl voted “most likely to be supermom” by the Branksome class of 2003 wasted no time having a baby; Leslie discovered she was pregnant with the couple’s first child on their honeymoon. Today, she is proudly raising two young sons in Toronto’s Annex and avidly follows new research on child development. “I think it’s a really exciting time to be a mom,” she says. It was as the couple awaited the birth of their first child, Leslie remembers, that “we began thinking a lot about the idea of legacy.” Like so many parents, they aspired to create a better world for their children, and they became fascinated with the concept of happiness.
While Leslie was busy growing a tiny human, Neil gestated a manuscript that became The Happiness Equation. The book began as a letter for their son-in-waiting. “When we found out we were going to be parents,” says Leslie, “Neil felt a desire to articulate everything he wanted our baby to know about living well, in case he never got the opportunity to tell him.” Published in 2016, The Happiness Equation became another international bestseller for Neil. Judging by its customer reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, it’s clear he has inspired countless readers to live their best lives. The book is seemingly everywhere. When I read it on a recent flight to France, I noticed at least three other passengers were also reading it!
fter Neil literally wrote the book on happiness, he and Leslie went one step further. Together, they founded The Institute for Global Happiness, which offers seminars, books and resources to promote a positive perspective on living. Neil is the director of IGH and Leslie is the director of education. Currently, Leslie is on parental leave from classroom teaching. She considers her two sons’ development as her top priority. She does, however, make time to work part-time for
Friendship in Action, an organization that provides Grade 7 and 8 students with stressmanagement support groups. And she develops teaching materials for IGH workshops. “I’m meant to maximize the educational components of our work,” she says. As a middle school educator, Leslie is particularly interested in identifying ways for IGH to teach elementary, middle and high school students how to feel happier. She sees overall happiness as a vital component of educational success. In fact, research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education found, not surprisingly, that happy kids perform better in school. She has come to understand happiness as a “practice,” not a feeling. “Research shows only 10 per cent of our happiness is related to personal circumstances. Our intentional activities are far more of a factor,” she explains. Among her recommendations for improving one’s overall satisfaction are going for walks in nature, journaling about the things for which one is most grateful, and taking time to talk through feelings of stress. As part of her mission to spread the practice of happiness, Leslie created the teachers’ guide to Pasricha’s children’s book, Awesome Is Everywhere. The guide outlines activities that educate children on how to be both grateful and present. The objective, she says, is to help kids realize “how awesome it is to be exactly where you are.” The guide has now been used at various schools, including her own. While Leslie has grown into a dynamic woman with a multifaceted career and a thriving family, her years at Branksome still hold a special place in her heart. It is, after all, where her adventures in the field of education began. R Sarah SAHAGIAN’04 is a Toronto-based freelance writer and blogger.
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THE ROAD TO WELLNESS
Melanie-Anne ATKINS’00 draws on her own experience to drive her passion for mental health literacy BY DIANA BALLON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF KIRK
hen Melanie-Anne Atkins got her job as wellness coordinator at Western University in 2016, she was also completing her PhD full time, singing and dancing in a Broadway show choir, and teaching dance. Her ability to multi-task was already legendary, and it hasn’t stopped. On this Tuesday morning, she has already conducted a two-hour workshop for post-docs on stress management, run to the Wellness Education Centre to speak to students at the front desk, and is heading out to a training session to represent the London, Ont.-based institution at the upcoming Ontario Universities’ Fair. She will then return to her office to edit some bi-weekly wellness newsletters that one of her students has produced, before working on an award she is developing for professors who support mental health in the classroom. None of this will come as much of a surprise to her former Branksome classmates, who will easily discern the same drive, determination, strong work ethic and compassion for others that she displayed as a teenager. That passion is now funnelled into her work, where she develops curriculum, gives presentations around mental health literacy — from stress management to empowerment issues — and regularly consults with faculty on how to support their students’ mental health. She also trains and supervises the 15 students who work as peer educators in the Wellness Education Centre. And Melanie-Anne recently welcomed Blaise O’MALLEY’16, who joined the Wellness Education Centre front desk team — two Branksome grads, 16 years apart, working together to decrease the stigma of seeking help for mental health challenges. Yet while Melanie-Anne’s path in education, and particularly mental health literacy, now seems clear, it wasn’t always so. “My parents never knew what I would come up with next,” she recalls with a bemused laugh. She attended Branksome for Grades 12 and 13, with the support of a new scholarship for outstanding black students from the John Brooks Community Foundation in partnership with the school. And, in two short years, she got involved in many activities: she led the concert band, sang in both the chamber and regular choir, participated in the dance club, performed in the musical production of Anne of Green Gables and studied piano, achieving her ARCT in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She received many kudos along the way: the Spirit Award for the (continued on page 30)
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(continued from page 29) McAlpine clan in Grade 13; the tour guide award for her work showing prospective families around Branksome; and the CarterLedingham prize for outstanding contribution to the school. In fact, Melanie-Anne attributes her achievements more to her extra-curriculars than to her academic standing, but her calculus teacher, Pam Young, recalls: “Her love of learning and desire to always reach for the top made her a star in the classroom.” Still, her interests and focus on the arts were not exactly what her parents had envisioned: they hoped that she would become a doctor. Her parents had worked tirelessly to overcome lives of poverty in Jamaica, Melanie-Anne says, by immigrating to Canada and achieving a middle-
class life here. Her mother became a nurse and her father became the race relations coordinator, and then a principal, for the Etobicoke Board of Education, delivering the much-needed work around multiculturalism and anti-racism to these schools. Eager to please them, Melanie-Anne did a four-year degree in life sciences at Queen’s University, and an additional year of upper psychology classes to improve her marks so that she could then apply to do a master’s degree in neuroscience. “I chose neuroscience for the sole reason that I thought it would be almost as prestigious as medicine,” she says. She embarked on the graduate neuroscience program at Western as planned, but took a semester off when she was diagnosed with
When she was younger, there was less awareness around mental health issues, she says, and the narrative for healing was more about having willpower, working hard, praying, or, as her father would say, “putting a song in your heart.”
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depression. Although this was a particularly difficult episode, which included being briefly hospitalized, Melanie-Anne says she has suffered from low mood for as long as she can remember. When she was younger, there was less awareness around mental health issues, she explains, and the narrative for healing was more about having willpower, working hard, praying, or, as her father would say, “putting a song in your heart.” After that, she decided to drop neuroscience and pursue something she felt more passionate about — education. She recalled having loved her time teaching dance and musical theatre at summer camps. She got her master’s, then began her PhD in education, with a focus on applied psychology, in 2012. It was that same year that a close friend — and fellow John Brooks scholarship winner — died by suicide. At the time, Melanie-Anne had been studying black, Canadian, race-conscious high achievers — students who proudly embrace their African Canadian heritage and believe they can thrive despite systemic oppression. But in response to the mental health struggles she and her friend had shared, she made a big shift. “Before, I had never told anyone that I had depression,” she says. “I thought I could keep my low mood a secret. After she died, I realized that it was my responsibility to be involved in decreasing the stigma about mental illness and increasing people’s ability to seek help.” So, now, she uses this personal experience — her own and her friend’s — toward greater openness and safety for people to talk about mental health problems and steer their own path toward wellness. And, she takes care of herself by exercising regularly, eating well and getting occasional counselling when she needs it. And, of course, she continues to multi-task. Melanie-Anne dreams of making the Wellness Education Centre an applied research hub where students can be involved in every stage of the research. And in the long term? Maybe one day she’ll end up as dean of students at a university — or even a school like Branksome Hall. Chances are she’s up for the challenge. R Diana Ballon is a Toronto writer and editor.
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OTHER WAYS OF HEARING
With confidence gained at Branksome, I’ve worked to help my fellow Deaf community members in Canada BY WENDY BRUCE’84 PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARTIN DEE
ntering a new school is never easy, especially on the brink of one’s teenage years. It is full of unfamiliar people, with many there since Kindergarten and involved in their own circles of friends. Then there are the imposing teachers, the complicated traditions and the academics that get harder each year. (continued on page 32)
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(continued from page 31) So, imagine coming into this daunting new world without being able in gym class who introduced me to American Sign Language (ASL). to hear a thing. I realized that I could communicate better with ASL, which is a visualThat was me in 1977. I entered Branksome at the vulnerable age of 12, gestural language and more transparent than English. In fact, only about after my parents separated and before my mother moved to Paris, France, 30 per cent of English words can be understood through lipreading while with my sisters. I am profoundly Deaf, and have been since birth. We don’t 100 per cent of ASL signs are instantly clear. I was soon fluent in both use the term “hearing impaired” in our community — we identify ourselves English and ASL. as either Deaf or Hard of Hearing. I went on to Queen’s University where I studied biology for three years. I have since discovered that perseverance is my biggest strength, and Again, as the only Deaf student there, times could be very challenging. that has allowed me to help my community However, through my work with a national over the years. But it was hard to imagine that Deaf students’ support group and after putting future when I first came to Branksome. It was forward a request to the dean’s office, I acquired a struggle just understanding the conversations my first ASL interpreter in my third year. That in class and in the dormitory. I had learned success opened doors for other students. lipreading, but it became more difficult as I got In 1987, at just 22, I moved to B.C. to start older and kids spoke in more complex ways. a new life in Victoria with my fiancé, a Deaf Although I had taken speech lessons for years man. We were married for 20 years and had two and had been “mainstreamed” at public school hearing children. In Victoria, I took a federal since Grade 4, I could not fit into the hearing government job, working for what is now Service world at all. I was very lonely. Canada. That led me into the unionized Public So, as a new boarding student at a new Service Alliance of Canada, where I feel I have school, Grade 7 was one of my most difficult really made an impact. Eventually, I became years. It seemed no one was taking me seriously treasurer of the local branch and a strong and, at times, I even felt suicidal. My marks Last spring, Wendy and Karrie Weinstock enjoy a advocate for equality and accessibility, fighting were also affected, so the principal, Miss Roach, heart-warming reunion. to set up visual fire alarms where I worked and advised my father to come from Ottawa to see bringing ASL interpreters to meetings. me more often. Dad, who played football for the Ottawa Rough Riders, In 2012, now based in Vancouver, I assisted the Deaf community encouraged me to persevere and to try sports, as he believed this would to acquire Video Relay Services (VRS). This technology allows a Deaf boost my self-esteem. person and a hearing person to talk on the phone via an ASL interpreter He was so right — and this started my lifelong love of sports. I played who uses a video link for signing. After a pilot project, it took us a year of basketball, badminton, and clan intramurals during lunch time. Gradually, rallies and petitions to get VRS established permanently by the CRTC. my life began to improve. I made friends who accepted my deafness, Currently, I am lobbying to set up VRS in our workplaces and have ASL including classmate Julie GOLDBERG’84, who was also Deaf. And my videos embedded on government websites. Grade 9 English teacher, Karrie Weinstock (now Deputy Principal), was I am a proud alumna and an even prouder Deaf person. I encourage a positive influence, devoting time to tutoring me. For that, I am still very everyone to learn ASL. In Canada, as at Branksome, diversity and inclusion grateful. are our strengths, and I want to continue to bridge the communication gap After Grade 9, I moved back home to Ottawa. I missed my family, but between the hearing and the Deaf communities. R thanks to Branksome, I was more confident and could attend schools with Wendy BRUCE’84 is an insurance payment clerk for Service Canada in bigger classrooms. Then, one day, came the moment that changed my life: I met a girl Vancouver. She also teaches ASL to hearing people at colleges.
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AND THAT HAS ALLOWED
OVER THE YEARS.
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Christina FARKAS Vinters’93 is a pioneer in helping couples part ways amicably BY BERTON WOODWARD
hen actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced in 2014 that she and her husband, musician Chris Martin of Coldplay, would separate through a process of “conscious uncoupling,” Christina Vinters was disappointed by the public reaction. Yes, the statement had overtones of Hollywood new-age flakiness, not to mention tortured language. But to Christina, then a family lawyer, it didn’t deserve the widespread mockery it gathered in much of the media and online. “The idea she was getting at was that they wanted to have a respectful parting of ways that was going to be healthy for them and their children, which I think is admirable,” Christina says. “Yet people seemed to think that she was taking an elitist position — that she couldn’t even divorce like the rest of us.” Or, as Danny DeVito’s character put it in the classic breakup movie The War of the Roses: “A civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms.” Christina is out to change that perception — and the reality. Since 2016, when she started her firm, Modern Separations, she has been one of Canada’s only lawyers dedicated full-time to
ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCK.COM / KHALUS
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mediation, helping clients across the country and the U.S. come to a full separation agreement without need of the courts and as amicably as possible. She is the author of Pathways to Amicable Divorce, a 79-page roadmap which she now offers for download on her website along with a podcast, Divorce Well. To understand how revolutionary this approach could be, just look at the numbers. A typical divorce can cost $40,000 – $50,000, and may easily go into six figures. Christina charges $2,000 – $3,000 for a month of service in arranging an agreement, and she says 90 per cent of her clients settle within that month. Previously, she had practised family law at a leading firm in Vernon, B.C., hoping to help people as she navigated the courts in divorce proceedings. “Over time, I started seeing the really negative side effects for my clients — a lot of emotional trauma, massive expenditures of money, and most seriously for parents, more and more degraded ability to parent their children together in any meaningful way,” she says. “The adversarial process really tends to bring out the worst in people.”
Mediation has always been an option in divorce proceedings, but Vinters says it usually comes as a last-ditch effort before trial, after both sides have lawyered up and gone through a lot of strife and argument. Her alternative involves talking to both people right at the start and — separately or together — working through such issues as finance, assets and, of course, children. “Amicable doesn’t mean they’re super-friendly, or want to be in the same room together,” she says. “I’ve had people sitting across the table from each other who won’t make eye contact and wouldn’t speak to each other — just to me. But what mediation requires is that both people recognize that it’s in their own best interests to come to an agreement.” She recalls one couple who couldn’t agree through their lawyers for over six months, but settled in an afternoon working with Christina. “A lot of people fear the worst at the beginning and then, when they sit down, they realize, oh, that’s not what he or she is really saying. Sometimes, by the end of the meeting, I actually see them share a laugh here and there, which is really nice.” She notes, too, that her one-month initial
ASHLEY DUGGAN/KEYLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
term adds a convenient deadline, encouraging them to “stay focused and not argue about the vacuum cleaner.” Once an agreement is set, she encourages her clients to get their own legal opinions on it before signing. As a neutral party — and no longer a practising lawyer — she does not offer legal advice. She does her work locally or by Skype or phone, from idyllic Vernon, set on three lakes in B.C.’s sunny Okanagan region. It is a long way from Thorncliffe in Toronto, where she grew up and commuted daily to Branksome from JK through Grade 12. She lost her dad to lung cancer when she was 10, “so Branksome really provided a sense of stability for me.” She also remembers her teachers’ strong emphasis on finding solu-
tions — that there were no barriers that couldn’t be overcome. “I tend to have a problem-solving approach to most things,” she says. After Branksome, she did her undergrad at U of T, where she met future husband Juris Vinters. While he was still in graduate school in 1998, on track for an academic post, he was badly injured in a car accident involving a drunk driver. In the ensuing years — now parenting two young boys — the couple realized it would be difficult for Juris, who suffers from periodic pounding headaches, to support the family. They moved to B.C. so Christina could attend the University of Victoria’s law school while Juris took care of the boys. That eventually led to her family law position in Vernon, which fitted their goal of liv-
“A lot of people fear the worst at the beginning, and then when they sit down, they realize, oh, that’s not what he or she is really saying. Sometimes, by the end of the meeting, I actually see them share a laugh here and there, which is really nice.”
ing in a smaller town, and she began working with divorcing clients. What leads to divorce? “I find what is overwhelmingly common is disagreements over finances,” she says. “Number two might be child rearing approaches and responsibilities, but that would be a far second.” Extramarital affairs are also well down the list, in her experience. Christina acknowledges that the courts will always be necessary for some highly contentious case. But as a matter of public policy, she’d like to see provinces and states encourage mediation at the start of the process. “People think that separating couples want to fight,” she says. “In my view, that’s not what most want. I would like to see more lawyers educating clients about non-adversarial alternatives.” Not that she ever expects to need that advice. Juris now helps with the mediation business, encapsulating a continuing love story in which, Christina says, “we are both doing what we enjoy.” She adds: “I haven’t experienced divorce in my family. That may be why I am able to handle it — I don’t bring that personal baggage with me.” R
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AlumnaeUpdate NEWS AND EVENTS FROM THE BRANKSOME HALL ALUMNAE COMMUNITY
Meet Your New President Karen CORDES Woods’99 takes over from long-serving Tenley GIBSON’94
Karen CORDES Woods’99
President Karen is a director in Global Transaction Banking at Scotiabank where she has led several major technology and business transformational projects. She began her career as a financial markets economist and then moved through various roles within capital markets to build a broad understanding of the business. She holds an MA in economics from Queen’s University and a BSc (Hons) in economics from the University of King’s College/Dalhousie University. Karen attended Branksome from grades 9–13 and joined the Alumnae
Executive in 2014. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Glenn, and their two daughters, Emma and Katie. Tenley GIBSON’94
Past President and Treasurer For five years, from 2012–17, Tenley served as President of the Alumnae Association. Her leadership and guidance have been greatly appreciated and have now earned her the status of “longest-serving President” since the formation of the Association in 1908. We are delighted Tenley will continue to serve on the Alumnae Executive Committee in the capacity of Past President and Treasurer.
Thank You At the Alumnae Annual General Meeting held on September 12, 2017, outgoing President Tenley GIBSON’94 thanked retiring members Jennifer JARVIS’95 (2014–17), Deena PANTALONE’95 (2013–17), Rita STUART’03 (2016–17) and Melanie WALKER’96 (2013–17) for their service and contributions to the Alumnae Association.
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Newly Appointed Members Melanie attended Branksome for 12 years. A certified human resources professional, Melanie works at OMERS Capital Markets as a senior associate in HR. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a master’s in Industrial Relations and Human Resources and from Queen’s University with a BEd. Melanie enjoys playing tennis, cooking and practising yoga.
planner at Basis Wealth and Benefits. She leads the firm, working with small and medium business owners on their personal financial planning and their employee benefits plans. Dana has a passion for advancing education in the area of personal finance and volunteers her time to various organizations that focus on this effort. She and husband Daniel have two children, Lauren and Grayson.
Alex supervises the purchase and sales U.S. Fixed Income Operations teams at RBC Capital Markets, where she began working in 2014. She received a BA in history from Western University and has earned certificates in public relations and human resources. Alex is involved in volunteer activities with undergraduate students as well as with Amici Camping Charity. She attended Branksome from Grades 7–12 and has been volunteering at the school since 2009.
Adelaide attended Branksome from JK–Grade 12. She has volunteered as a Reunion Class Rep and a member of the Alumnae Association’s Networking Committee. While in her third year at Queen’s University, Adelaide participated in an international exchange to ESSEC Business School in Paris and graduated from Queen’s with a BCom. Adelaide is an investment banking analyst at Scotiabank, having previously gained experience at Blair Franklin Capital Partners.
Dana POSTROSNY Mitchell’99
Dana attended Branksome from Grades 7–13, and went on to study commerce and international business at Dalhousie University. After spending time working in England, Dana returned to Toronto and is now the principal
Advancement Student Rep – Junior School Carlee has been at Branksome since JK. She is a competitive tennis player and is involved in school life, having been a grade and clan rep and Junior School
ALUMNAE ASSOCIATION MISSION STATEMENT To unite, engage and grow Branksome Hall’s alumnae community of globally minded learners and leaders. ALUMNAE EXECUTIVE 2017 – 18
? ? ? volunteer. Carlee has been involved with entrepreneurship since Grade 10 and participated in Junior Achievement for three years to develop her entrepreneurial ideas. In Grade 11, she initiated an organization at Branksome — Glowing Girls — which promotes women’s education in Somalia as well as environmental issues. This year, she will promote entrepreneurship and Junior Achievement through a campaign called “be inspired.” Carlee plans to study commerce at university.
Allison ROACH’51 Honorary President Officers Karen CORDES Woods’99 President Tenley GIBSON’94 Past President and Treasurer
JJ DAVIS’03 Vice-President, Networking
A new mentoring system takes off
Jennifer GAUTHIER McEachern’99 Vice-President, Engagement
WHEN CHOOSING the right university, so many questions come to
Norah DEACON Matthews’98 Secretary
mind. What are the best residences? Are there co-op and study abroad opportunities? What are the facilities like? Wouldn’t it have been great if you could have connected with a Branksome alum for some quick, easy and candid answers? Well, now senior students can, thanks to Grade 12 students Camille Dime and Jennifer Qu who spearheaded the idea last spring. If you are the class of 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017, then please consider registering at advancement.branksome.on.ca/alumhub.
Alanna TEDESCO McLaughlin’03 Communications Members at Large Melanie ARGIROS’08 Marielle BRYCK’07 Barbara DUNLOP Mohammad’70 Carolyn HELBRONNER’79 Melanie LANGILL’03 Alexandra MORTON’09 Dana POSTROZNY Mitchell’99 Adelaide YOUNG’11 Ex-Officio Cris Coraggio Karen Jurjevich Andrea McAnally Tanya Pimenoff Carlee Olsen, R’na Shah Advancement Student Reps
Advancement Student Rep – Middle and Senior School R’na has been at Branksome since Grade 7 and has a passion for tennis, drama and public speaking. Last year, she helped to organize the first TEDx Branksome Hall Youth Conference, which focused on The Impact of Accelerated Evolution (see p. 4). With an interest in computer science, artificial intelligence and entrepreneurship, R’na hopes to pursue these subjects at university.
Ready to watch some great tennis, Marielle BRYCK’07, Zoe SHARE’07 and Shannon LEWIS’96 find their gold-level centre court seats.
AUGUST 9, 2017
A Night at the Rogers Cup Branksome Hall partnered with Tennis Canada for an action-packed Rogers Cup Women in Business Night that offered a networking reception and exclusive seating to watch top women tennis players. At the reception, held at the AVIVA Centre at York University, guest speakers addressed the hot topic of gender diversity in sports and business, and later interacted with attendees in small discussion groups. LAST SUMMER,
Stay Connected, Get Involved The Branksome Hall Alumnae Program It’s all about Community, Networking, Volunteerism, Friendship, Traditions and Giving Back www.branksome.on.ca/alumnae Please contact: Tanya Pimenoff, Associate Director of Alumnae Relations email@example.com 416-920-6265, ext. 285
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On Our Travels…
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
FEBRUARY 4, 2017
JUNE 30, 2017
JULY 13, 2017
Principal Karen Jurjevich and Cris Coraggio, Executive Director of Advancement and Community Engagement, visited with alumnae at a reception held in the Grand Hyatt. From left: Sylvia KIM’10, Annie KIM’09, Diane LEE’06, Sophia LEE’05, Jenny HUH’06 and Leah JANG’05.
In the High Holborn area of London, Emma DUNCANOVA’15 and Giulia SEGLIAS’15 catch up over lunch with Branksome Guidance and University Counselling Coordinator Cory Miller. Emma, centre, is studying bioengineering at Imperial College, and Giulia is at University College London studying history and German law.
Brigitte DUCHESNE Boudreau’79, Counsellor, Public Diplomacy, Canadian High Commission, with her husband Brett Boudreau, pose outside the Duck & Waffle Local after breakfast with Principal Karen Jurjevich, who was in London last summer.
NEW YORK CITY NOVEMBER 2, 2017
It couldn’t have been a better New York experience than celebrating Branksome friendships at the reception held at LUMBERYARD Contemporary Performing Arts. The unique office venue, hosted by Artistic and Executive Director Adrienne WILLIS’97 and Chief Operating Officer Alison SCHWARTZ’97, provided the perfect setting for great conversation and good fun.
From left: Alicia CHIU’05, Sabina MARTYN’05, Michelle PERSAD’08, Principal Karen Jurjevich, Lindsay STRANSMAN’08 and Caleigh VICKAR Silvera’05.
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Alison SCHWARTZ’97, left, with Adrienne WILLIS’97, centre, and Veronica LIU’97.
Michelle MILLER Guillot’99, Jacqueline VONG’98 and Jennifer GRANT’99 share a laugh along with Jacqueline’s husband Michal, who is holding one-year-old Serena.
The strolling magician, with his baffling card tricks, entertains all ages.
NOVEMBER 5, 2017
Alum Families at Play DORSET, ENGLAND JULY 12, 2017
It was great fun for Principal Karen Jurjevich to visit over lunch with Elspeth FAIRBAIRN Colebrook’45, left, and Agnes FAIRBAIRN Hopkins’48, along with their husbands, Peter Colebrook and Adrian Hopkins.
it was all giggling toddlers, dancing children and smiling parents at our Alum Family Fun Day. With the aroma of popcorn popping and Tiny Tom’s donuts wafting through the dining hall, the kids and kids-at-heart enjoyed a variety of activities and yummy treats. Held in the Athletics and Wellness Centre, entertainment included a strolling magician — who appeared to twist metal spoons effortlessly — bouncy castles and slides, fancy face painting and an arts-and-crafts station. For those interested in experiments, the dinosaur adventures science show was a must-see. Later, visitors enjoyed the high-energy musical entertainment of Sonshine and Broccoli. Sincere thanks to the Alumnae Association for sponsoring this event and, as always, to our fun-loving volunteers.
DESPITE GLOOMY WEATHER,
Kids get creative at the craft table.
The coffee truck was a popular spot for guests, offering specialty coffees and hot chocolate.
English teacher Diane Watson with her former students, from left, Astrid WALKER-STEWART’16, Julianna ZUCCHI’12 and Alex BEHAL’12. Heather WATT’01, with son Oliver, and Ginny AIRD Low’01.
From left: Bridget HORNE Colman’87, Susan McKENNA Schatzker’88 and Mary HERMANT’88. Sisters Jennifer MULVIHILL Lancefield’97, holding daughter Grace, and Ashley MULVIHILL McDonald’00.
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The Heritage of the Model UN It has long served as a takeoff point for important international work for our young women
ut of the tragedy of the Great War, countries including Canada set up the League of Nations, revising the design after World War Two in 1945 with the establishment of the United Nations. The mandate: to ensure international peace, security and protection of human rights. Model United Nations (MUN) is built on this remarkable foundation. Since 1990, well over 1,000 Branksome students have participated in MUNs and, since 2006, an annual delegation of 10 young women has received an invitation to The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) held in the Netherlands. There, some 4,000 students from every continent assemble to collaborate on the writing of resolutions concerning current global issues. Ambassadors are invited to attend the opening ceremony to pass their nationâ€™s flag to the delegate representative. As the only delegation from Canada, Branksome Hall has served with distinction on standing committees, the International Court of Justice Advisory Panel and in a student officer capacity. The MUN program at Branksome continues to serve as that vital first connection in forging authentic relationships between our young women and the nations and people who are redefining the course of the 21st century. JANE MARSHALL
History teacher and lead THIMUN advisor
Jane stands outside her history classroom in the Senior School.
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For THIMUN students, the experience has often inspired them to study and work in international agencies, including governments, NGOs and the private sector.
Where are they now?
Dr. Sohani AMARASEKERA’06
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Surgical Resident, Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Tel Aviv, Israel Consultant, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
London, U.K. Institute for Human Rights and Business
n 2010, Sohani graduated with a BSc in biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She then completed a master’s degree in public health at Cambridge University, England. Subsequently, she obtained her medical degree from New York Medical College. Sohani is currently completing her surgical residency in ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She has maintained an active interest in global public health and the elimination of preventable vision loss. While in college, she worked with the organization Unite for Sight in the United States and throughout South Asia, performing free vision screenings to underserved populations. She is currently working with Project Theia, a non-profit organization that aims to provide ophthalmic and facial reconstructive surgery and surgical education to communities in developing countries.
atja holds an MSc in international development and humanitarian emergencies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She also earned an MA in counterterrorism and homeland security and a BA in government (cum laude) from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. As part of the IDC team, she won the 2011 edition of the Jean Pictet International Humanitarian Law competition in France and returned to the competition in 2014 as a tutor. She was one of the founders of Model United Nations activities in Israel and led the national movement for two years. Katja was a research fellow in the Europe subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives and completed a consultancy for the British Armed Forces in Helmand, Afghanistan, creating a system to measure the effectiveness of military stabilization efforts at the tactical level. She is currently a consultant at the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories, as well as a consultant for an international payment company.
lison holds an MSc in international relations from the University of Nottingham, and completed part of her studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). Early in her career, she worked at the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment initiative, which looks at how companies manage environmental, social and governance risks. Alison supported investors in improving their sustainability practices and developed benchmarks against which to measure company performance on issues such as water risk, labour practices and human rights. With new expertise, Alison combined her longstanding passions for human rights and sport, and moved to the Institute for Human Rights and Business — the world’s leading think tank in those two areas. There, she works on the mega-sporting events program, looking at human rights risks associated with these events, including exploitation of migrant labourers, human trafficking and non-payment of wages. She is also in regular touch with such organizations as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA, as well as with the International Labour Organization. Alison has also guest lectured postgraduate students at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London on business and human rights, and conducted capacity building workshops at the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland.
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Reunion2017 A Branksome reunion is a not-to-be-missed event. On Saturday, May 27, alumnae from classes ending in ‘2’ and ‘7’ celebrated their years of friendships and common ties, and enjoyed some good old-fashioned fun at the popular photo booth, sponsored by the Alumnae Association. In addition to all the new WOW features, pop-up surprises and, of course, food and sweets galore, guests were also entertained during dinner to a humorous musical interlude performed by the 1947 duo Love and Love. 1977
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WinningWomen The Alumnae Association has bestowed its prestigious annual awards on two high achievers
Justice on the Screen 2017 Allison Roach Alumna Award: Andrea DORFMAN’87 BY MIRO CERNETIG
with a gift from her father — and unleashed her own. Flashback to the Dorfman household in Toronto, more than 35 years ago: Most teenagers wanted their parents to buy them one of the new video cameras that were showing up in stores, the first hint at what would eventually be today’s Age of YouTube. Not 12-year-old Andrea Dorfman. She had her eye on another prize — her dad’s Super 8 camera, collecting dust in a box, with an unexposed roll of celluloid film awaiting inside. “I asked my father if I could have it and shoot with it,” Andrea recalls. “Sure,” her father answered. But he had a caveat, perhaps to test his daughter’s commitment. It took money to develop those homemade 8mm films. So, if she did any filming, she needed to pay for the developing herself. And that was the moment one of Canada’s most innovative women filmmakers got her break. Andrea dusted off the Super 8 and began shooting images around her: the wind rustling through the neighbourhood trees; moving clouds above; a friend launching into the air from a playground swing. “I didn’t even know if I was shooting on colour or black and white IT ALL STARTED
PHOTO: AARON MCKENZIE FRASER
A recurring theme is women overcoming adversity, danger and social taboos.
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film,” she recalls. “I just shot and shot, to see what would come out.” A few days later, she paid for the developed reel of film, brought it back home and threaded it into the projector. “It was simply magic, that’s how I remember it. I watched my friend jumping off the swing, again and again, and it was like another world. I was hooked.” It became a passionate hobby. Fellow Branksome students might remember “that girl with the camera,” presenting her latest monster film at school assembly. “It was Grade 7 or 8. I had this little film a friend of mine and I made in a graveyard. We played piano music live to it at the student assembly. It was so cheesy and terrible — my friend was the fair maiden, putting flowers on her lover’s grave. I played a predator. It was sort of a horror film.” It was an early indication of a recurring theme in Andrea’s later work — women overcoming adversity, danger and social taboos. Andrea caught the eye of critics in 1998, when she burst onto the scene with two films: Swerve, the story of a group of friends who go on a road trip and become part of a lesbian love triangle, and Nine, a docudrama about a nine-year-old girl facing separation anxiety. The Atlantic Film Festival named the 29-year-old the most promising director of the year. Andrea followed up two years later with Parsley Days, a comedy shot on a $65,000 budget, about a young woman who hopes to end her unwanted pregnancy by gorging on parsley. The comedy premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to more positive reviews — “endlessly charming,” wrote The Globe and Mail — and signaled that Canada had a new, innovative woman director on the scene. Now based in Halifax, Andrea has become a prolific filmmaker, with dozens of documentary and feature films
in her iMDB profile. She doesn’t aim for commercial films, but rather makes films to make a difference, or show us those who do. Consider The Girls of Meru, which follows the inspiring 160 girls who take the Kenyan government to court for not protecting them from rape. “They won,” says Andrea. “What motivates me to make films? Social justice, children’s rights, environmental activism, feminism.” Want to see the power and intimacy of Andrea’s work? Go to YouTube and watch How To Be Alone, the four-minute video poem she made with her friend, the poet Tanya Davis. “We were just sitting around and thought we should do something about being alone, a topic of conversation we often returned to,” recalls Andrea. “Tanya wrote a beautiful poem. We made it into a short film.” The film critic, Roger Ebert, loved it and tweeted it out. Eight million have watched it since. “It’s the little film that keeps on ticking,” says Andrea with a chuckle. Yes, Andrea Dorfman — the girl who so many years ago opted for the old-fashioned Super 8 over going digital — has gone viral. R Miro Cernetig’s latest film is Facing Saddam for National Geographic. A former Globe and Mail foreign correspondent, he is the founder of Catalytico, a strategic branding company based in Vancouver.
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A Champion for Children 2017 Young Alumna Achievement Award: Sarah CLARKE’97 BY JANET SAILIAN
what it’s like to fall through the cracks. When she enrolled at Branksome Hall in Grade 6, Sarah could barely read — a result of several years in French Immersion and an abrupt switch into English school that left her scholastically unmoored. She found at Branksome teachers who were not only educators, but mentors. They believed in Sarah, and their compassion helped her flourish as a student and future leader. Her own struggles to find her path and her voice fed Sarah’s impassioned advocacy for the rights of First Nations children on reserves, who lack access to basic services other Canadian kids take for granted. As principal of Clarke Child & Family Law, Sarah now specializes in child protection, custody, access and adoption cases. Small talk is not Sarah’s thing. Launch a conversation about her work, her schooling, Toronto traffic, whatever, and the topic soon veers to advocacy. Within moments, she is deep into details of her latest case, representing a First Nations child who was denied funding for medically required orthodontic care. Her growing renown in legal circles began with the landmark case Sarah helped steer to victory before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Starting in 2008, first as an articling law student and then as co-counsel, Sarah stood for First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in Caring Society v. Canada. In its ground-breaking judgment in January 2016, the tribunal found that the federal government had underfunded First Nations child welfare programs, and thereby discriminated against Canada’s Aboriginal people. Sarah’s unrelenting work on this case has garnered great respect among her peers. In August 2016, she was named one of the year’s Top 25 Most Influential in Human Rights Law by Canadian Lawyer
SARAH CLARKE KNOWS
“It’s not just about money. It’s about dignity.”
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magazine. Last June, she was honoured with the President’s Award from the Ontario Bar Association, recognizing her significant contribution to the advancement of justice in Ontario. Much work remains to be done. Sarah continues to push the federal government to comply with the tribunal’s order. Changes have been slow and minimal, she says, and “there are daily, detrimental impacts on Aboriginal kids due to not following the spirit and letter of the law.” As a member of the Ontario government’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer panel, Sarah represents kids in the child welfare system and before the Child and Family Services Review Board. She speaks publicly to raise awareness of ongoing discrimination against First Nations families. On a segment of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin after the tribunal decision in 2016, Sarah’s fierce devotion to equality shone through her calm eloquence. She spoke of chronic underfunding on reserves, and of the 163,000 children brought into foster care since the infamous “Sixties Scoop” tore babies and young kids away from their families. “It’s not just about money,” Sarah says. “It’s about restoring hope and the integrity of the Aboriginal family unit. It’s about dignity.” How does Sarah juggle her compelling work and her cherished family with two young children? It’s a challenge she shares with her husband, Jim Elson, whom she met in law school. “I have working-mom guilt,” she readily admits. “I try to be present with my kids as much as possible, but I’m never there for dinner. My goal is to be home before they go to bed. I invest all my attention into those one and a half hours and our time together on weekends.” As to the origins of her extraordinary early accomplishments, her mother, Pat Robinson, reflects: “Sarah was born a leader. As a child, she was always setting the agenda for friends and family. As an adult, she still does. She is able to rally people to the cause, mentor them, inspire them and ultimately lead them to accomplish their shared goals.” R Janet Sailian is a freelance communications consultant, writer and editor.
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Marriages Sandy Sheehan, left, and Jackie Bennett received wonderful send-offs from colleagues and friends at the employee year-end celebration last June.
Sandy Sheehan Assistant to the Director of Finance (1993–96) Executive Assistant to Principal Rachel Belash (1996–98) Executive Assistant to Principal Karen Jurjevich (1998–2012) Admissions and Residence Coordinator (2012–17)
Darlene NORRIS to John Joseph Andresen on November 20, 2015, in Bonita Springs, Florida. 1999
Edited excerpts taken from speeches at the employee year-end celebration last June.
Jackie Bennett Physical Education Teacher (1989–2017) Head of Physical Education (varying years since 2003)
During her 29 years at Branksome, Mrs. Bennett has made a lasting impact on students and teachers alike. And even if you haven’t been taught or coached by her, you would have seen her incredibly bright smile everywhere around the school. Aside from teaching physical education, Mrs. Bennett has coached track and field, soccer and tennis. Particularly notable is her commitment to the field hockey and badminton teams, which she coached for 22 years, resulting in 14 various medals in badminton and 15 trips to OFSAA. As Grade 11s on the Senior Badminton Team, we experienced both her passion for sports and her ability to inspire a love for sports in others. Mrs. Bennett’s subtle jokes made each morning practice fun, and when we were having “off days”, which was more often than we’d like to admit, she always encouraged us to do our best and focus on the game. We are sad to see you go, Mrs. Bennett, but your contributions, enthusiasm and kindness have made a lasting impact on our school. On behalf of the Branksome community, thank you for everything you have done for us. We wish you all the best in your retirement. ASTRID LING and FIONA O’NEILL
2016–17 Senior Badminton Team Captains
Edited from the tribute given at the Spring Athletics Celebration last April.
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My orientation to the Principal’s Office started with Sandy in 1998. Not only did she manage the workload, but she also put out many fires. And we experienced endless construction projects together, including the new Middle School and the expansion of the Junior School. But, there is also the witty and fun-loving side of Sandy — sailor, snowmobiler, gardener, artist, cook and party-organizer! And, when it comes to remembering employees’ weddings, babies, retirements, and moments of reflection and sorrow, Sandy handled them all. Sandy, you will be missed here at Branksome! We all wish you the very best as you begin the next chapter with your partner, Mike. KAREN L. JURJEVICH
Thank you Karen, Chevon and Kimberly! Wow. Working alongside Karen for 14 years, we did mighty fine work together. I have had the best seat in the house as I proudly watched Karen grow professionally; an amazing leader, learner, risk-taker, decision-maker and more. To my teammates in Admissions and my residence family, thank you for the great working relationship we have shared these past five years; the laughter and the accomplishments we completed with gusto, energy and bravado! It takes a team to do our jobs. When I met Mike a few years ago, I knew it was a second chance for love — a “new beginning” for both of us. As I leave Toronto, one door closes, but another opens. I will miss Branksome and everyone here, but I have a huge smile for what lies ahead. SANDY SHEEHAN
Lindsay HASTINGS to Adam Jeffrey Newton on October 14, 2017, in Ottawa. 2003 Whitney COURT to Jon Cliff on June 3, 2017, in Toronto. Roya KOPFF to Michael Schmidt on July 8, 2017 in Bracebridge, Ont.
Grace LEUNG to James Laird on April 15, 2017, in Whistler, B.C.
Diana POTAPENKO to Alex DiMambro on January 29, 2017, in New York City.
Get Your Branksome Baby Bib!
Baby Henry is very fashionable in his Branksome bib. Let us know when your baby arrives, and you’ll receive this super bib right to your front door. firstname.lastname@example.org Ruth DORFMAN, a son, Munro, on March 8, 2016, in Toronto. Munro, on dad Fred’s lap, and sister Jorja at Alum Family Fun Day.
Katie BUTLER to Jason Oakley on August 12, 2017, in Collingwood, Ont. Alexandra STEVENSON to Enrico Kevin Mills on August 2, 2017, in Saanen/ Gstaad, Switzerland.
2004 Katie COURT to Dan Johnstone on September 3, 2016, in Huntsville, Ont. Ashley CARTER to Patrick Godfrey on September 16, 2017, in Toronto.
Nicole MEKINDA Weber, a son, Matthew Cole, on October 14, 2015, in Toronto.
Joanna FOSTER, a daughter, Anya, on December 9, 2016, in Toronto. Joanna, with husband Matt and Anya at Alum Family Fun Day.
1990 Michelle SEIDEL Nursey, a son, William Hugo, on December 26, 2016, in London, U.K.
Amy PEPPER, a son, John David, on October 4, 2016, in Toronto. A grandson for Karen KEIR’70; a nephew for Emily PEPPER’10.
Jacqueline VONG, a daughter, Serena Michelle Garcia, on November 22, 2016, in Toronto.
Caitlin HARRIS to Andrew Ellis on July 4, 2015, in Muskoka, Ont. Katja KNOECHELMANN to Roy Zechut on September 7, 2017, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Eliza KEARNEY, a daughter, Quinn, on May 3, 2016, in Toronto. A niece for Joanne KEARNEY’01.
Tiffany RAMSUBICK to Victor Plange on July 8, 2017, in Toronto.
Sara DUNCANSON Pick, a daughter, Kathleen (Katie) Violet, on March 18, 2016, in Vancouver. A granddaughter for Martha COCHRANE Shepherd’72; a great-nephew for Susan DUNCANSON Pigott’68.
Lindsay HASTINGS, a daughter, Lucy, on December 12, 2016, in Ottawa. A granddaughter for Louise COFFEY Hastings’55.
Leslie MALCOLM to Kit Blackburn on September 23, 2017, in Toronto.
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Laura SMITH O’Connor, a daughter, Hannah Faye, on February 9, 2017, in New York City.
2000 Leigh BOTLY, a son, Perry, on February 27, 2017, in Toronto. Vanessa NOBREGA, a daughter, Kate, on June 25, 2017, in Toronto. A niece for Kathryn NOBREGA Porter’96. Alexandra PENNAL, a daughter, Chloe, on March 1, 2017, in Toronto. Jamie Day FLECK, a daughter, Corinna Rose, on October 23, 2017, in Toronto. A niece for Erin FLECK’03 and Seymore FLECK’05. Sarah KENNEDY, a son, Mateo Rhys, on November 29, 2016, in New York City. Sarah MASSIE, a daughter, Carys, on October 12, 2017, in Toronto. Robin McCABE Cassaday, a son, Jake, on Oct 25, 2017, in Toronto. A grandson for Carol McCLELLAND McCabe’68; a nephew for Lesley McCABE Dyer’98 and Katie McCABE Cheesbrough’03; a great-nephew for Suzanne McCLELLAND Drinkwater’67.
Vanessa and Alexandra with their baby girls at Alum Family Fun Day. 2001 Ginny AIRD Low, a daughter, Sophie Elizabeth, on October 4, 2017. A granddaughter for Ginny BERTRAM Aird’74; a niece for Tanya LOW Aird’98. Chloe BECKERMAN, a son, Wesley, on August 16, 2017, in Los Angeles, Calif. A nephew for Samantha’99 and Caillianne’99 BECKERMAN. Danielle MARINO, twin daughters, Peyton and Avery, on September 20, 2016, in Toronto. Kelsey THOMPSON Sherriff, a son, Connor Leman, on June 12, 2017, in New Westminster, B.C. A nephew for Janet THOMPSON’00. Heather WATT, a son, Oliver, on June 23, 2016, in Toronto.
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Kristin CUTHBERT Kochman, a daughter, Mila, on February 27, 2016. A niece for Shireen CUTHBERT’93, Danielle CUTHBERT’07 and sandbox alum David Cuthbert.
Katy BREBNER Mulroney, a daughter, Serena Caroline, on March 23, 2017, in Toronto. A granddaughter for Mary ROBINSON Brebner’65; a niece for Robin BREBNER Ridesic’99; a great-niece for Martha ROBINSON Butterfield’59; a first cousin once removed for Nathalie BUTTERFIELD’90. Megan PRATT Ballingall, a son, Graeme Henry, on May 8, 2017, in Toronto. A grandson for former Branksome teacher Heather Pratt. 2005 Jocelyn COURT Keitner, a son, Clark Austin, on May 9, 2017, in Toronto. A nephew for Whitney COURT Cliff ’03 and Katie COURT Johnstone’04.
Laura GRAHAM, a son, Henry Kellett, on April 5, 2017, in Hong Kong. A nephew for Diana GRAHAM’03 and Marina GRAHAM’08. Lindsay WRIGHT, a daughter, Keira, on April 30, 2016 in Toronto. 2003 Andrea AMELL Rees, a son, James Armour, on May 4, 2017, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A grandson for Sandra BOLTÉ’73; a great-nephew for Carolyn AMELL’69 and Rosemary AMELL Mikitka’75.
Jaclyn SOPIK, a daughter, Ivy, on February 15, 2017, in Toronto. A niece for Victoria SOPIK’08.
Deaths In some notices, excerpts have been taken from published obituaries. 1935 Claire ENGE Niemann, on February 19, 2017, in Guatemala. 1939 Rosemary KERR Hutchinson, age 90, on January 26, 2017, in Markham, Ont. 1940 Florence HOGARTH Lockwood, on October 8, 2017, in Thunder Bay, Ont. 1941 Judith KNOX Young, on November 9, 2017, in Oakville, Ont. Judith was a vital part of her husband’s Anglican ministry. Also an accomplished artist, sculptor and author, Judith’s book, Given a Chance, celebrated her life and her relationships with her children and grandchildren. 1943 Barbara DREW-BROOK Harris, on February 7, 2017, in Toronto. Mother of Nancy HARRIS’65 and Janet HARRIS’68. After serving as a Wren in the Second World War and then raising a family, Barb pursued a lifelong love of gems and jewellery and became a certified gemmologist and fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
June WHITEHEAD Card, age 92, on October 6, 2017, in Syracuse, N.Y. June received a BA from Victoria College, U of T, and after graduating from teacher’s college, she taught elementary school in Ontario. After her marriage, she and husband Howard moved to the U.S., where June worked for environmental protection and women’s rights and enjoyed many hobbies such as photography, gardening and music. 1945 Sally BROWN Stevens, age 90, on October 14, 2017, in Mayne, B.C. Sally graduated with a BSc in nursing from the University of Toronto and worked briefly for the Red Cross. Sally was a tennis player, skier and golfer, a quilter, and piano player. Mary RITCHIE Campbell, on April 9, 2017, in Toronto. Mother of Virginia CAMPBELL’79; sister of Margaret RITCHIE Phelan’49. With an MA in political economy, and an MSW in community development and social policy, Mary was committed to the rights and empowerment of women, which was given voice through a long career at the YWCA, retiring as the director of community programs and services. 1946 Carolyn MASSEY Barrett, on December 23, 2016, in Toronto. Aunt of Heather MASSEY Dawson’85
and Seana MASSEY Moorhead’87. Carolyn was an active volunteer and served on many boards, such as the CNIB, Toronto General Hospital and the Junior League of Toronto.
She served in IODE as a member of the Victoria Cross Centennial Chapter in Toronto for 55 years. She became the Order’s National President (1978-80) and received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal.
1948 Jean CATTO Hughes, on July 25, 2017, in Toronto.
Ann MERRIMAN Mansel, on August 29, 2017, in Hindon, U.K. Ann attended Sherborne School in Dorset, U.K. during the war, and was the first exchange student to arrive at Branksome in 1946. Sally SPENCE King, on December 12, 2016. Sally was captain of Branksome’s first basketball team in the mid-40s. She graduated from the University of Toronto in physiotherapy, and practiced her art of healing before settling down. She and husband Bud were avid golfers and spent summers in Muskoka with their children. Sally was always active in the community, serving in various leadership capacities. Sally STEWART Douglas, on February 23, 2017, in Toronto. Aunt of Ann DOWSETT Johnston’71 and Catherine DOWSETT Dewey’73. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Sally was her family’s anchor.
Jerry WEIR Chitty, on January 11, 2017, in Siesta Key, Fla. Cousin of Louise WALWYN Goldring’48 and Suzanne WALWYN Winchell’57. Jerry volunteered at the Siesta Key Sheriff’s Office for many years and, in 2006, was honored as Volunteer of the Year. She will be remembered for her sense of humor, generosity and joyful outlook. 1949
Molly DORAN Pelton, on May 29, 2017, in Toronto. Aunt of Mary DORAN Johnson’84. Molly enjoyed a career in cccupational therapy. She had a deep love of volunteering, the arts and nature, and enjoyed her involvement with organizations
such as the Garden Club of Toronto, Caledon Ski Club and Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers. Jane FREEMAN Lewis, on April 25, 2017, in Oakville, Ont. Jane received a BA from Queen’s University and was a gifted piano player, able to play any song by ear. She was devoted to her family, with best times spent at the cottage on Kaminiskeg Lake with her family and dogs. 1952 Mary BARNETT Ranger, on December 28, 2016, in Orangeville, Ont. Mary received a BA and an MDiv from the University of Toronto, taught for 10 years at Branksome, then pursued a life of pastoral care and ministry at various Anglican churches in Ontario. Mary Lou CARNAHAN Robinson, on February 19, 2017, in Thornbury, Ont. Over the years, Mary Lou, a registered nurse, served as an autistic care worker, a swimming teacher for Down syndrome and autistic children, and as a teacher’s aid for children with mental illness. Gail COWIE Turner, on July 19, 2017, in Toronto. Always the life of the party, Gail became a registered nurse at Women’s College Hospital. She was a well-rounded athlete with a passion for golf, boasting many championship wins at numerous clubs.
Judith JEPHCOTT Webster, on May 11, 2017, in Toronto. Sister of Geraldine JEPHCOTT Nightingale’51; Aunt of Virginia LUKS’87, Hope NIGHTINGALE Thomas’88 and Vanessa LUKS’98. 1953 Dora JONES Harris, on January 22, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. 1954 Maureen LESLIE, formerly of Toronto, date unknown. Noreen PHILPOTT McNairn, on July 7, 2016, in Burlington, Ont. Noreen trained as a nurse at McMaster University in Hamilton and was a dedicated VON nurse and later was assistant director of home care when she retired. Noreen was devoted to St. Christopher’s Anglican Church for 55 years and was a tireless volunteer for many organizations. An environmentalist since the 1960s, Noreen was a founding member of Greening Sacred Spaces. 1955 Barbara BUNSTON Esplen, on February 2, 2017, at her winter home in Atlantis, Fla. Highlights of Barb’s life included travel, skiing, golfing, bridge and cottage life at Lake Joseph. 1957 Sally COX Millar, on December 26, 2016, in Toronto.
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Valerie PEARSON Laakkonen, on April 18, 2017, in Toronto. In 1960, Valerie began her nursing career at Port Arthur General Hospital, where she mentored and taught many nurses along the way. Following retirement, she continued to be an active member of the Thunder Bay community, with a specific focus on the Finnish community. Valerie loved to cook and entertain for family and friends, and always made time to lend an empathetic ear to anyone who needed it.
1961 Marina STURDZA, on October 22, 2017, in New York City.
1969 Lynn BARDSLEY Woods, on April 9, 2017, in Collingwood, Ont.
1976 Cynthia MORTIMER Bennell, on December 11, 2017, in Toronto.
1997 Donna MORRIS, on September 29, 2017, in Toronto.
1970 Patricia NEELANDS Gibson, on February 4, 2017, in Cobourg, Ont. Sister of Nancy NEELANDS Roy’64 and Margo NEELANDS Bush’67.
1978 Janet MORRIS, on February 3, 2017, in Burlington, Ont.
Former Employees Judith Bayly, French Teacher from 1981–99, on November 6, 2017, in Toronto.
Mimi OELBAUM King’70, on June 15, 2017, in Toronto.
1995 Patricia DONOHUE Groves, on March 6, 2017, in Toronto. Sister of Lesley DONOHUE Devine’61 and Anne DONOHUE Cumming’66. Jane McDONIC Coon, on October 23, 2017, in Cobourg, Ont. 1963
1971 Vivian KELLNER, on February 14, 2017, in Toronto. Vivian studied photography at Ryerson and travelled the world as an editorial photographer. With a newborn daughter, she settled in a beautiful school house in the country, but after 15 years, returned to Toronto to start a new life as a gardener and landscaper. 1972
1958 Sandra PRICE Jackson, on October 25, 2016, in Windsor, Ont. 1959 Wendy JACOBSEN Earwaker, date unknown, formerly of Barrie, Ont. 1960 Roberta LAUGHTON, on May 5, 2017, in Gananoque, Ont.
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1980 Margaret KEMP, on January 28, 2017, in Nassau, Bahamas. Sister of Theresa KEMP’76.
Donna GRAHAM Munro, on August 15, 2017, in Vancouver, B.C. Sister of Margaret-Ann GRAHAM McKinnon’66. 1966 Janice SMITH George, on April 27, 2017 in Newmarket, Ont.
Leslie FORBES, on July 1, 2016, in London, U.K. 1974 Sheila MacFEETERS, on April 6, 2017, in Orillia, Ont. Sister of Laura MacFEETERS’71.
The Reverend Mary BARNETT Ranger’52, Teacher from 1976–86, on December 28, 2016, in Orangeville, Ont. Judith JEPHCOTT Webster’52, Teacher from 1959–60, on May 11, 2017, in Toronto.
Heather MacLEOD, on February 24, 2017, in Toronto. After learning to ski at the Beaver Valley Ski Club, Heather attended the National Ski Academy, and went on to coach skiing in Collingwood and Whistler. She held a BFA from Western University, and did postgraduate studies in medicine at Charles University in Prague. Her fondest memories were spending summers at the cottage on Georgian Bay, where her parents taught her to waterski and where she developed a love for the great outdoors.
In Memoriam Rosemary KERR Hutchinson’39
April 25, 1944 – October 22, 2017
December 20, 1955 – April 6, 2017
Rosie was born in Montreal, and moved to Toronto when in her teens. In 1942, she enlisted in the RCAF Motor Transport Section, Women’s Division, where they marched and changed tires on the Scarborough Bluffs. She was posted to Torbay, Newfoundland, which was considered an overseas station at the time. The journey on ship aboard the Fort Amherst took two days and three nights of zigzagging to avoid German subs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Once there, Rosie drove anything that sported four wheels, including ambulances, garbage trucks and chauffeuring the ‘brass’. In 1944, Rosie was posted to HQ RCAF Bomber Command in Yorkshire, England and subsequently to London. The Second World War largely defined Rosie. She wrote stories of her experiences that were published in Legion Magazine — from a close call with a Newfoundland cliff while dumping the Torbay station’s garbage into the Atlantic to an evening out in London with severely burned young officers. Her narratives were, on the surface, light-hearted and often funny, but did not hide the tragedies and heartbreak she had witnessed. In 1948, Rosie married Rowan Hutchinson and after brief sojourns in Montreal, Toronto and Kirkland Lake, they settled in New Liskeard, Ont. (now Temiskaming Shores), Rowan’s hometown. At first, Rosie found life in a small Northern Ontario town a little foreign, but soon became involved in the golf and curling clubs and began to call herself a Northerner. Rosie is survived by a daughter, two sons and two grandsons.
Marina was born a princess to aristocrats in the Transylvania region of Romania. Following the Communist takeover, her parents fled in 1948 under assumed names. Marina remained briefly with her grandmother, but followed soon after and was reunited with her parents in Zurich. The family lived in Switzerland, France and Italy until they immigrated to Canada, eventually settling in Toronto, where Marina attended Branksome. Though the family lacked funds, they were embraced by Toronto society, and the generosity of an individual (unknown to the family), who paid Marina’s school tuition. In 1970, Marina married Denis Harvey, a journalist who went on to become editor in chief of the Toronto Star. Always impeccably dressed, Marina became a journalist herself, covering fashion and culture for major Toronto newspapers and appearing from time to time on television. She even worked briefly for designer Oscar de la Renta in New York. However, once Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed, Marina returned to her birth country and, in the mid-1990s, began promoting foreign investment in Romania and supporting child protection and palliative care programs. In 1997, Marina helped organize a business summit convened by the International Herald Tribune that was described as the first such economic development initiative in Romania. Her good work led to her receiving the European Union’s Women of Achievement Humanitarian Award in 2005, and the Avon Award for Humanitarian Work in Romania. At her death, she was president of Marina Sturdza Enterprises and Summits International, corporate strategic planning consultancies that specialize in Eastern Europe. Marina is survived by stepdaughter Lynn Harvey, a television producer in the United States and Canada, and two step-grandchildren.
The summers of Sheila’s youth were spent at Camp Wapomeo in Algonquin Park, and on Georgian Bay at the family cottage she loved so much. Those experiences inspired her to become involved in parks and natural resource management, with the early years of her career spent with Parks Canada. She then joined the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and moved to Northern Ontario, working in Hearst, Kapuskasing, Timmins, North Bay and Temagami. Sheila was particularly proud to have been the third woman appointed in the province as a District Manager in 1991. In the late 1990s, Sheila returned to Toronto to care for her aging parents and eventually left her position in the Deputy Minister’s office to devote full attention to their care. Sheila was a dedicated volunteer. She served on the Board of Governors of Canadore College and as secretary of the Madawaska Club of Go Home Bay. Her last volunteer role was helping those with other cancers in a clinic at the Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto. In the years that followed Sheila’s diagnosis of brain cancer, she adapted to each new challenge of her illness with determination and grace. She and Michael relocated to Orillia, where they enjoyed their life together on Lake Couchiching, assisted by family, friends and caregivers. Visits from Sheila’s former classmates brought her great joy and were a continuing source of support throughout her illness.
Last October, Patrick Hutchinson, Rosie’s son, donated a copy of True Canadian War Stories to the Senior School Library. The book contains selected stories from Legion Magazine, including several written by his mother.
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A DAY IN T HE L IFE
Jennifer, with some of the many books published by HarperCollins.
Fireworks in my Purse As a book editor, I work with authors — and much more BY JENNIFER LAMBERT’92
ATTEMPTING TO DESCRIBE a typical day in book publishing is like trying to tuck fireworks into your purse. It’s a job that is always surprising, often magical and a lot of work takes place to allow for the dazzling public display. I am lucky enough be an editor at a major publishing house in Toronto. I edit fiction and narrative non-fiction, which means reading manuscripts from all over the world and then working with writers, line by line, to achieve the best possible book for publication. It’s a job that is intellectual but requires empathy. And what isn’t always apparent to readers is
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that every book is an author’s blood, sweat and tears, whether it is his or her first book or seventh. An editor is not a partner in the writing process, but a sounding board and critic, and someone who will read the book as obsessively as the writer, time and again. I am as often a shoulder to cry on as I am a cheerleader. People ask me if I read all day. Sometimes, but that’s rare. Here is a typical Monday: At the first meeting of the day with senior colleagues, we talk about everything from the status of manuscripts in development to ongoing contract negotiations to the review
of next year’s budget. Next, I have a call with a literary agent about a book cover we’ve proposed but the author is unsure about. It’s been a struggle to get it right and I’m going to make my case. After coffee with an author I’ve been courting, I have a phone call with a writer in the U.K. for whom I’m in a competitive auction. I’ve made an offer, but so have five other editors in Canada, so in addition to the money, this is an audition. As I’m on the phone, an email comes in announcing the shortlist of an award, and I look for my authors’ books on the list. It’s a moment of either euphoria or sorrow, sometimes both. The news decides the tenor of my emails to come. As the afternoon continues, new submissions arrive, the literary scouts alert us to a hot new proposal, questions come in from publicity, deadlines loom. As you can see, I haven’t yet done any editing or reading in this day. That is to come, probably after everyone else in my house is asleep. Publishing has been described by many as the intersection between art and commerce. It is that. It is also the confluence of relationships, trust, craft, cultural shifts and luck. The writer, of course, is at the centre. I have worked with authors you may have heard of and many you have not, just yet, but I hope you will. In this world of media that competes for our fractured attention, there is nothing more valuable or enriching than reading a book. Being an editor has been, for me, a dream come true. R Jennifer Lambert is the Editorial Director, Fiction at HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Among others, she has published Heather O’Neill, Emily St. John Mandel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Kate HILTON’91, Charlotte Gray and Joel Thomas Hynes.
Visit branksome.on.ca/alumnae for details and registration.
Call for Nomina tions Allison Roach Young Alumn A a lu Aw m N
ard na Ach ieveme nomina nt Awa ting pro rd cess! V brankso isit the w me.on.c Deadlin ebsite a a/alumn e: 5:00 p t ae/awa .m rds Award re . on Monday, F e c b ipients ruary 12 the Reu will be h , 2018 nion Din onoure ner on S d at aturday , June 2 , 2018. ew easy
CONVERSATIONS WITH PARENTS SPEAKER SERIES Alumnae are welcome to attend. Admission is free, however, advance registration is required. Fostering a Resilient Spirit through Sport A panel discussion featuring former Olympic hockey player, Cheryl Pounder. Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:00 p.m. Athletics and Wellness Centre 6 Elm Avenue branksome.on.ca/conversations Strengthening your Daughter’s Voice Keynote speaker: Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, renowned psychologist and author. Wednesday, February 21, 2018 7:00 p.m. Allison Roach Performing Arts Centre 10 Elm Avenue branksome.on.ca/conversations
DÉJA VU Saturday, March 3, 2018 Weather date: Sunday, March 4, 2018 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 10 Elm Avenue We’ve done another early spring cleaning! More Branksome treasures and items for your home, cottage, or office — desks, lamps, tables, benches, filing cabinets, storage chests... and more. All proceeds go to support the Alumnae Association Endowed Bursary Fund.
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REUNION 2018 — NEW DATES! Your friends. Your class. Your school. Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 Decades Luncheon Friday, June 1, 2018 10 Elm Avenue Primarily for alumnae from the 30s to the 70s, and members of the 10 Elm Society. Guests welcome. Reunion Dinner Saturday, June 2, 2018 6 Elm Avenue Primarily for reunion classes from the years ending in 3 and 8.
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