Category Archives: Alumni

Talent, Time & Treasure

Ridley welcomes new Director of Development, Shelley Huxley

Though we’d hoped to welcome her in person, the pandemic had other plans. So, we sat down for a virtual Q&A to learn more about the Niagara native—and get a sneak peek into what she has in store for our community. With her passion for education, strong local ties, and decades-long experience working at universities across Ontario, Shelley’s ready to hit the ground running.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I was born and raised in Niagara (specifically, Fonthill), though I left for a period of time to attend university and launch my career. After my son was born, I realized there was no better place to raise a family, so we came home. It was really important to me that my kids understand the traditions of my family and grow up with their grandparents nearby — I grew up with mine and they taught me a lot. I wanted my own children to have that same experience. Now, I live in Fonthill with my partner, Iain, my two children: Evan, who’s 16, and Nathan, who’s soon to be 12. We also welcomed a new addition to the family, a now 10-month-old Labradoodle, named Coco! We’re a busy family; the kids are involved in a number of activities, so a lot of my free time is spent supporting them.   

You’re coming to us from Brock University, where you were their Director of Alumni Engagement. Can you speak a bit about your professional background? It’s usually a circuitous route that gets you to Development. [laughs] Originally, I went to Wilfrid Laurier University to study Business—I wanted to be a floor trader. But a year into school, I realized I could spend all my time studying, or I could invest in the fulsome student experience that Laurier had to offer. I switched my major to English and Sociology and spent a lot of time doing various activities on campus and working in student government.

That’s what really set me up for my career path, because it introduced me to senior administrators, and those relationships ultimately led me to return to support my alma mater professionally—initially through communications, speech writing and working for the President—and that then led to working in alumni relations.

From there, I went on to work at Queen’s University. Queen’s was embarking on a $250 million capital campaign at the time, and I was responsible for setting up their Toronto office, working with campaign cabinet members and developing campaign strategy. I next had the opportunity to work at McMaster University—which is a big research-intensive school—where I was able to blend both alumni relations and development in my role. Five years later, I had my first child and it was then that I decided to move home. By happenstance, a job came up at Brock University and I was the successful candidate. Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked in all areas of development at Brock: I started as their event planner, then as their advancement strategist, which later morphed into responsibility for donor relations and stewardship and most recently alumni relations. I’ve spent the past six years as their Director of Alumni Engagement.

What led you to Ridley—and what are you most looking forward to as you embark on this new journey? I’ve been lucky enough to work for some great institutions, so when you decide to make a move it has to be the right one, and there were a number of factors at play. The top of my list was that I would be going to a place where I felt I could make a difference, and at the same time felt that Ridley really believes in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

What I love about Ridley is its level of tradition, its strong reputation and collegiality, its dedication to education and commitment to innovation. Take the recent pivot to online learning: for any school to have done this so quickly would have been a challenge, but Ridley made the transition beautifully. These are all really appealing to me and working in development will allow me to use my skills to connect with alumni and engage donors in philanthropic opportunities. I’m really just hoping to help Ridley grow and prosper.

“Together, alumni and donors provide support, foster strong reputations, contribute to our admissions, and are an essential part of the student experience. They’re a core part of the school’s mission and values—and that network is important for the health and well-being of any institution.”

You obviously have some close ties to the local community. What are your thoughts about the changes taking place in the Niagara Region—and what is your approach to fostering relationships between school and community? The Niagara Region has been steadily growing both in sophistication and opportunity—particularly over the last ten years. We had a fair amount of big business exit our region, but Niagara’s response to that has been good: both Brock and Niagara College have developed programming and outreach strategies in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth. For example, their makerspaces and the programmes they’re putting in place to help businesses develop within the community have been incredibly beneficial for us as a region.

The result is that there’s a lot of opportunity for students to participate in this innovation. I find myself thinking about cultivating the student experience, about potential experiential opportunities, and finding partners for mutual benefit. How can we engage our community partners to allow students these opportunities? How can we leverage our alumni connections both within our local community and beyond?

We’re here to build the student experience, and if we’re talking about preparing them for university—particularly our upper school students—there is a lot happening in this region from which they can learn, whether in business, tourism, or through partnerships with Brock’s Performing Arts Centre, or applied opportunities at Niagara College. There are plenty of ways we can offer experiential learning.

Your experience with events, alumni and development in the education sector is certainly impressive. What is it about this work that you find so rewarding? I find it a lot of fun. Every day is different and brings with it its own challenges. I’m proud of the work we support in alumni relations and development, and in working to educate minds. And that’s what brings me back day after day: I feel I’m making a difference and contributing to the fabric of society. That’s a pretty special thing to be a part of.

Shelley is virtually introduced to Ridley team members.
Shelley is virtually introduced to Ridley team members.

Can you speak to the importance of Development and Advancement when it comes to educational institutions? Any good school works hard to build and sustain a strong reputation—and alumni and donor engagement supports that. We think about how alumni contribute: with a sense of pride, loyalty and tradition, and a deep understanding of their alma mater. They share this not only with each other but with those around them who may want to attend or support the school philanthropically.

We think about alumni, who return to the school to engage with student life; they can be really beneficial in judging where an institution might be or needs to be.  They can contribute in terms of time, talent and treasure. We think about donors, who invest in our future. Donors support an institution that knows where it is headed and the work that’s taking place now—this support is what allows faculty, students and staff to aim higher and dream bigger. Together, alumni and donors provide necessary support for our success, they help us foster a strong reputation, and are an essential part of the student experience. They’re a core part of the school’s mission and values—and that network is important for the health and well-being of any institution. For me, it’s all tied together: what’s happening on campus and what investments are taking place as well.

You’ve worked at a number of Ontario’s universities. In what ways do the approaches taken in higher education—in relation to development, events, community outreach, and alumni engagement—transfer nicely to an independent school setting?  The strongest similarities, I think, will be in the student experience. Some students live on campus and others off, but together they contribute to the fabric of the school. Dedicated faculty are working hard to educate, staff are supporting students and the school at large—and when an institution is collegial and respectful of its faculty and staff, students pick up on it. A strong student experience is made up of more than what is learned in the classroom; everybody plays a role, and this creates a tight-knit community. This feeling of belonging, of family, ultimately contributes to student success, because when there’s belonging, the pride and respect come along with it. And those are wonderful nurturers for life.

We have a very diverse alumni population, comprised of different generations, who may come from or be living in different geographic locations, and who represent a range of political opinions and interests. How can we reach and keep our community strong as a whole, while also ensuring that we’re meeting the different needs of the groups within it? A diverse population contributes to a healthy environment; we learn from each other and learn to respect each other’s values and principles—and these various perspectives that students learn about at Ridley will help them to navigate life. We need to encourage open dialogue and use our vast network to reach out to each other both locally and globally. We all have stories to tell, we all have perspectives to share.

But everyone’s experience is different, and we have to approach those experiences differently. I will reach out to someone who graduated three years ago quite differently than I would someone who graduated 50 years ago; we use different platforms, we respond differently because they’re looking for different things. Each alumni is important to engage and value, to listen to, and provide with opportunity to be involved. And when we do this effectively, our alumni come forward to support us, to provide meaningful input that affects change. It’s mutually beneficial.

Welcome to Ridley, Shelley! We look forward to getting to know you over the coming months and are so pleased to have you join us—we’re sure there will be a number of exciting changes and opportunities ahead! As we introduce you to Ridley faculty, staff, parents, and alumni, is there anything in particular you’d like them to know? I am really thrilled and honoured to be joining this community and can’t tell you how much I look forward to hearing from each of you about what makes Ridley so special. For now, I will say that the Development team is here to support our student experience, to provide resources for faculty to thrive in the classrooms, and to connect alumni to one another and alumni to Ridley. We’re here to support Ridley—and you—today and in the future.

A Tribute To Susan Hazell

We’re wishing a fond farewell to one of our most valued colleagues, Director of Development, Susan Hazell, who will be retiring from Ridley this summer. Susan first came to our school in 1979 to teach French and Spanish; returned in 1984 as a teacher and swimming coach, becoming the official Housemaster of Arthur Bishop East the following year; and, in later years, made an enormous impact as Ridley’s Director of Development. For decades, Susan has been an integral part of our community, and we couldn’t be more grateful for her experience, leadership, vivacity, and warmth.

We asked Susan’s close friend and former colleague, Vera Wilcox—another long-time member of our community—to reflect on Susan’s career in Canada’s independent school system—and to give us a peek into what’s next. But if you’ve met Susan, you’ll know that wherever this next stretch of the journey takes her, it’s almost certain she’ll be smiling.


Sue and I first crossed paths in January 1980 when, at the suggestion of her tennis-playing fiancé Mike Hazell ’73, she came to take lessons at White Oaks Tennis and Racquet Club, where I was the tennis pro. I had met Mike a few years earlier, when my husband and I played tennis with him in Stratford.

“My first impressions include how Sue’s smile lit up her entire face, making me feel great just being around her; her eagerness to try something new—and how hard she worked to learn the skills; and her strong determination to excel.”

My first impressions from those lessons include how Sue’s smile lit up her entire face, making me feel great just being around her; her eagerness to try something new—and how hard she worked to learn the skills; and her strong determination to excel. I soon realized these were not just impressions, but Sue’s inherent essence, the enthusiasm which she brought to everyone and everything in her life. In 1984, Mike was hired to run Sports Ridley, and the couple returned as teachers and housemasters of Arthur Bishop East. The move rekindled what came to be a lifelong friendship and, for me, started a period of mentorship, as we worked together in independent schools for more than 35 years.

“Teacher, coach, housemaster, parent, administrator, mentor, friend – through her warmth, enthusiasm and her strong sense of doing what is right, Susan Hazell’s contribution, not only to Ridley but to independent schools across Canada, is immeasurable.”

— Trish Loat

As Sue moved through her career—at Ridley, The Bishop Strachan School, and later at Lakefield College School—she held a variety of leadership roles, ranging from Head of Residence, to Dean of Students, to Assistant Head of School Life—always dealing with staff, students and their families. In each role, she brought with her a curiosity and love of learning (Sue is a voracious reader and researcher), sincere listening skills, and a passion for helping others to improve and get the most out of their experience in their environment.

Sue provided opportunities for people to voice their ideas, concerns and dreams, and she would always listen intently. She made them feel validated when she integrated this information into a vision, presented the group with a plan to evaluate, and then looked to each member for ownership—not only during the plan’s implementation, but its success. A consummate team player and leader, Sue always stood in front of, beside, and behind her team, whether it was made up of students, families or staff. Her passion for teaching continued with her involvement in the Independent School Management (ISM) Summer Institute, where she worked as a workshop leader alongside Ellie Griffin, presenting sessions such as “Balance Your Contrasting Roles as Dean of Students” and “Power and Influence: Women and Leadership”. 

“Thinking about my relationship over many, many years with Susan, reaching back to when I was a student at Ridley, babysitting the boys, housesitting the pets, working for her at Bishop Strachan School, working in the Hazell family business, connecting with Susan in a variety of professional roles, and recently in her capacity as head of Development, simply brings a smile to my face.

Every experience has felt like its own little adventure full of friendship, optimism, energy, laughter and purpose. Susan lifts up everyone and everything she touches with humility and heart. I am one of many women who have benefitted from her mentorship and friendship over the years.”

— Georgina H. Black ’85

Sue’s role changed in the early 2000s, when she became the Executive Director of CAIS, working with heads of schools from across Canada. Three years later, her career took another turn when she was invited to become the first Executive Director of Advancement at Collingwood School in Vancouver. Both moves were built on a solid foundation of knowledge and deep understanding of the independent school system—along with her valuable hands-on experience working with staff, students, families, and alumni. And, along the way, Sue took courses in fundraising and strategic planning, earning her IAP-S and CFRE certifications. Because she was such an effective and inspirational teacher, Sue continued to teach at ISM—now as a member of the Advancement Academy, where she worked with mentees developing action plans for capital campaigns and strategic planning.

“For over forty years, Susan has devoted her professional life to advancing independent schools, especially Ridley. I’m personally grateful for her guidance and the ways she has bolstered our school’s fundraising over the past six years. Susan’s ties to our community run deep and her daily presence on campus will be missed. I have no doubt she will remain connected to the RCA as she enters into a much-deserved retirement.” ­

— Ed Kidd, Headmaster

This period led Sue full circle back to Ridley College in 2014, when she became the school’s Director of Development. During her time at Ridley, Sue has not only worked in Development, but has shared decades of experience in helping to develop a number of the school’s areas, such as residential life, student leadership and more. 

Not one to sit still, in addition to tennis, walking, hiking, biking, spinning, and golf, Sue has now added curling and rowing to her ever-growing list of activities. With her retirement, not only will Sue now have plenty of time for these active pursuits, but she’s looking forward to spending time with family and her boys; connecting with friends near and far; planting, working and harvesting her garden; travelling; and any other new adventures that come her way. Sadly, Ridley’s loss is everyone else’s gain!

I’m sure I speak for many when I say, thank you, Sue, for sharing your passion, your wisdom, your joy in mentoring others, and your life’s journey with all of us. 

— Vera Wilcox

Reimagining Urban Space: Brian Wannamaker ’82

Having redeveloped Portland neighbourhoods for two decades while creating living and work spaces for artists, alumnus Brian Wannamaker ’82 can be most fittingly described as a passionate ‘artpreneur.’


An Oakville, Ontario native, Brian relocated to Oregon in 1986 following his studies at Ridley and York University. He recalls not being entirely certain where his path would lead, but began saving his earnings in order to acquire property. With a strong creative compass and solutions-oriented mindset, he soon found himself working in real estate redevelopment. Brian recalls that in the early 1990s, his then business partner exposed him to art collecting, which served to reignite an appreciation he had always had for artistic expression.

”There seemed to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people.”

In the years that followed, Brian was drawn to reimagining properties of cultural and architectural significance around the west coast city, and eventually discovered Falcon Apartments, a diamond-in-the-rough for which he saw immense potential.

When Brian bought the property in Portland’s north end in 1997, it was a languishing, partially inhabited apartment building with low- and fixed-income tenants. However, he was able to envision how it could evolve into a hub for working artists without displacing the existing tenants. Brian felt compelled to breathe new life into the neglected building and to support the struggling tenants living within.

Soon, his plan to transform Falcon Apartments shifted from a business opportunity into a vision to build and empower an arts community. Brian came up with a value strategy to blend the higher renovated apartments rent with the existing tenants rent and the midpoint being profitable without rental increases to fixed income residents. The “cost average “ approach allowed judicious rent to existing resident and artists, while directing a portion of the market rent to support a 14,000-square-foot multi studio space in the lower level. This way, creators (painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and more) could work in dedicated studios and feel connected to a broader creative community. The building and guild of artists are now aptly named Falcon Arts Community.

“My insight for Falcon Art Community came from spending so much time living at Ridley. It’s that basic concept that you want to be around people who you enjoy being around and who you find inspiring.”

Brian recognizes that his care for the community comes in large part from his seven years at Ridley. “It’s a compassion piece that happened at Ridley; it’s about having a big enough perspective to want others to succeed,” he explains. ”There seemed to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people,” Brian adds, demonstrating his embodiment of our school motto.

Throughout his career, Brian has found countless innovative ways to integrate urban renewal with his passion for artistic creativity—whether he’s beautifying a stretch of Portland’s North Mississippi Avenue, leasing converted cold storage unit spaces to a general arts college, conceptualizing an inspiring venue for musicians, or as owner of the stunning Wannamaker Estate Vineyard in Washington.

When asked what advice he has for current Ridleians and youth exploring careers in the arts, Brian imparts, “I think it’s critical to learn how to be inventive…If you learn how to be a creative problem solver, that will help take you further in whichever endeavour you follow through with.”

Alumni Serving The World

How Ridleians Are Embodying Our Motto During COVID-19

During these uncertain and challenging times, it can be hard to find the points of light, those moments when the sun spills in through the cracks. However, since the onset of this global pandemic, we’ve heard countless light-filled stories of our own alumni working on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Their contributions are sure to fill you with pride and hope.

Check back in for updates as we bring you the stories from alumni who are working to make our world a better place, at a time when things may seem a bit dark.

If you or an alumni you know is embodying our school motto, contact development@ridleycollege.com. Be sure to include photos, if possible.

On the Frontlines

As the pandemic threatens the health of people all over the world, our frontline workers are responding with care and working on a solution.

Sir John Bell ’71, one of the U.K.’s leading immunologists and life science champions, has been named to Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. The Canadian-born Oxford professor and physician has been making headlines for his leadership in improving testing practices and for his cutting-edge immunization research. Knighted in 2008, Bell also continues to be a key parliamentary advisor.

New York State has been hit particularly hard during this pandemic and its healthcare workers are working around the clock to care for their patients. One of those workers is Joshua Miller ’04, an E.R. nurse at Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY — the embodiment of our school motto, Terar Dum Prosim.

Local alumna, Ellen Stevens (Went) ’07 is stepping up to support our community. The Public Health Nurse is serving the Niagara Region as part of its COVID-19 response team. Prior to government recommendations that healthcare providers should only work at one facility during the pandemic, Ellen spent her days off working at the local hospital NICU.

Sisters NurNisa (Nuri) ’21 and MehrNisa (Mehri) ’25 couldn’t be prouder of their father, Dr. Mamoon Bokhari who’s working bravely on the frontlines in both Canada and the US.

A warm thank you on behalf of our community goes out to anesthesiologist, Jordan Meyers ’12. Jordan is busy caring for patients in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room at Vancouver’s St. Paul Hospital.

Helping Hands

Food banks, health care workers and underserved communities are needing help more than ever, and our savvy alumni are stepping up in generous—and ingenious—ways.

When Christopher Edwards ’87, along with co-owners of their newly expanded Dallas clothing company, was forced to lay off workers, he knew they had the means to help. The trio soon re-tooled the manufacturing side of their 13,000 square-foot store and got to work producing face masks. What started as one or two soon turned to 100 face masks a day. “We still can’t keep up with the demand,” he reports.

Clean Works co-founder Paul Moyer ’84 is using a machine built to safely and effectively sanitize fruits and vegetables to sanitize the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by health-care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. The company’s Clean Flow machine can sanitize as many as 1,200 masks—including N95—an hour, destroying up to 99.99 per cent of pathogens on surfaces. Learn more.

The Giffin family, which includes Alison ’98 and Doug ’07, are working hard to support the COVID-19 effort. Their solutions-based business has teamed up with the Ford Motor Company to help convert Ford’s Michigan-based components plant, so that its employees can safely work to produce 7,200 ventilators per week. Doug has proudly joined his father, CEO and Founder, Don Giffin in the family business. Learn more.

Rally and Rise

It’s easy to feel helpless during times such as these, but these motivated alumni are raising funds and finding ways to ensure communities have the resources they need.

Megalomaniac winery owners, John Howard and daughter, Erin Mitchell ’90 are helping us raise a glass to our brave frontline workers. Proceeds from their new wine, Much Obliged will be going to Food Banks Canada—but they aren’t stopping there. The Beamsville-based duo will soon be out delivering 720 bottles of their best to workers at hospitals and care facilities across Ontario. Learn more.

Kelsey Peters ’10 has written and illustrated a children’s book, Where Has the World Gone? to help explain the pandemic to little ones. All proceeds raised through Amazon sales will be donated to charitable organizations requiring an extra boost during COVID-19.

A conversation on dwindling PPE compelled community member Ryan Dorland, (son of Scott ’73), to get involved. Ryan set up a Go Fund Me page to help purchase 3D printers which can, in turn, produce the bands used to hold the plastic shields for protective masks in place. He’s raised more than $5,000 so far, has donated hundreds to Toronto East General and Milton Hospital, and currently has eight machines running. Future funding will go to pay for the plastic rolls the machines require. Learn more.

Off The Grid: Sandy Rasmussen ’07

Abstractionist, Sandy Rasmussen is proving to the art world that his has staying power.

“The grid started out as a pattern resembling my mom’s tablecloth,” Sandy laughs. “We would have dinner outside, and she’d put a tablecloth on the counter and tell us not to make a mess. I’d wonder, why have it? But that tension, that feeling of do not spill anything—I love that.”

Abstractionist and Old Ridleian, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Rasmussen ’07 always knew he would work in the arts. His grandfather, an artist and set designer at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), encouraged Sandy from a young age, and his time at Ridley was largely spent hanging around the art department, fascinated by stories of the abstract expressionists who broke visual traditions and found new ways to communicate.

Rasmussen's exhibition at the Christopher Cutts gallery

From his mother’s tablecloth, to the famous grids of Agnes Martin, to the linoleum tile floors of the gas station in which he used to paint, the Niagara-based artist is looking to explore that tension, earning kudos from critics at his recent show at the Christopher Cutts gallery for his “riveting works” and “delectable passages of paint that almost shimmer.”

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? What if I do this? It’s totally subversive,” he concludes. “I’m going to do what I want.”

After graduating from Ridley, the St. Catharines native left to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, but soon realized he was looking for a different kind of experience. “As much as art can seem welcoming and nurturing, it can also be a towering history of knowledge that you may not possess,” he admits. “It’s a steep hill.” The following year, Sandy headed east to take Sociology at St. Francis Xavier University—but he didn’t leave art far behind. “I started seeing parallels between the things we were discussing in class and in art,” he says, looking back. And, a year into his degree, painting pulled him home.

Fat Chance

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? It’s totally subversive. I’m going to do what I want.”

Sandy came back, borrowed $500 from his dad for supplies, and got to work. He sold pieces and secured commissions. He travelled home to paint on weekends and school breaks. He immersed himself in art history. After graduation, Sandy started painting full-time in his parents’ garage, then rented out space at an old rural gas station before spending two tough years working in a cold, dim-lit barn out in Jordan Station—an experience which he says hardened him as an artist.

He now paints in a light-filled barn not far from campus, the rustic surroundings informing his work in pleasant, unexpected ways. And a barn is likely the best place for him to spread out. For Sandy, painting is a sport—and he likes to play large, whether he’s physically stretching across a wide expanse of canvas or stretching out an idea twenty feet. He points to influential artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Bradford and Joe Bradley, artists whose physicality enters their work.

“The thing I loved most about basketball was doing layups during warmup, feeling hyped and excited,” he explains, looking back to his days on the Ridley team. “And with big paintings I get that same shiver down the back of my neck; I’m anxious to get going.”

You can see that energetic sprawl across Samosas, the 8-by 24-foot abstract which now hangs at Brock University. Sandy donated the painting to brothers Taylor ’07 and Clark ’09 Robertson in memory of their parents and sister, Joe, Anita and Laura ’11, who were tragically killed in a plane crash the summer of 2018. Their loss was felt across the Niagara Region; the warm-hearted Robertsons were known widely as philanthropists and community leaders, and they were generous supporters of both Ridley and Brock.

Sandy speaks at the unveiling of Samosas at Brock University. Image courtesy of Brock News.

“When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.”

The family was very familiar with Samosas, having admired its progression at the gas station where Sandy painted, and then rolled out on his barn floor mere days before the accident. “They’d seen it so many times,” Sandy recalls. “When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.” Taylor and Clark chose to display the painting in Market Hall, now a permanent memorial at the university where Anita volunteered and whose Board of Trustees Joe had served on for nearly a decade.

“I had nearly exhausted the look by the time I got to the right side of that canvas,” Sandy smiles. “It was like finishing a marathon.” If you see it, you’ll see why. Standing in front of that painting is like going on a contemplative journey; its pathways and rivulets thread across the wide expanse, and you can’t help but follow—all the way off the canvas edge. Samosas was unveiled at Brock this past April. 

Sandy’s paintings often slip to matters of time and nostalgia, his large-scale abstractions christened with playful names like Fresh Fresh (a nod to the woman who makes his favourite samosas), Horse Play (a sweet response to his late grandmother’s living room warnings), or Fat Chance (the gamble that is all art, really—and the piece that kicked off his Toronto show).

Alexander Rasmussen

“My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains. “And I just have to trust that, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact.”

His work incorporates memory, but he’s also conscious of it as a deliberate reflection of the present, with the occasional happy accident of an unplanned gesture, the quick scoot of a brush in an unexpected way. “My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains thoughtfully. “And I just have to trust that, I suppose, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact. To get an ego about a particular piece—that’s not going to last.”

But as time goes on, Sandy’s proving to the art world that his has staying power. “Rasmussen is already some way on his journey into figuring out those techniques that give his paintings the desired emotional content,” noted Toronto critics this past spring. “He is definitely onto something.”

As for the up-and-coming artist? “There’s no turning back,” he says resolutely. And there may be some delicious irony in that statement, as Sandy’s paintings often capture a textured and abstract past, even as his brush keeps going.


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

All That’s Real: Jane Lewis ’90

With her new album recently released, singer-songwriter, Jane Lewis shares how she found her voice—and is helping others find their own.

The chapel light travels warmly along the pews, coming to rest on the rich curves of the piano. A woman sits at its keys. She’s slight, fair, her face framed by a riot of silver curls. Her eyes are closed, fingers moving deftly along the instrument as she sings, softly at first, then with increasing emotion: “Here we are at the end, here we are, no regrets, just gotta take that one last step off the edge.” Above her, the stained-glass beckons, a reminder of things beyond the chapel space.

Jane Lewis Piano

The singer in the video is Jane Lewis ’90, and the song, Carry You Home, is dedicated to her late father, Paul, a teacher, coach and historian whose name many Ridleians will recognize. For the daughter of two long-time faculty members—her mother, Janet was the first housemaster of Dean’s house the year girls started boarding and eventual Assistant Head of Upper School—it was the perfect place to be. “I started writing it when he was sick, and we knew his time was limited,” Jane responds, when asked about the song. “It was really special to be able to film it in the chapel.”

The girl who once wrote poetry and was one of Ridley’s first environmental activists is now a musician based in Guelph, Ontario. Her passionate vocals and piano accompaniment have been compared to legendary singer Carole King, her songs described as “intelligent, poetic and cinematic.” (You’ll want to get to know her playful Beatles cover of Come Together—it won the Independent Music Award for Best Cover Song in 2015.)

All That's Real Album

“It might not be the way you initially imagined, but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

Speaking to her, it’s easy to see why. She’s thoughtful, reflective, empathetic—and if you read through the yearbooks, you’ll see that early writer’s voice slowly take shape; listen to her lyrics now and you’ll still find those echoes. It’s unsurprising that she finds inspiration in confessional songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and perhaps even less so when she says she’ll often choose silence, as it gives space for the ideas to come. When she’s not busy writing, singing solo, or teaching vocals in the popular workshops she runs, Jane is half of award-winning folk duo Gathering Sparks. Their compelling new album, All That’s Real was just released this fall.

For Jane, the road to music was a winding one. A philosophy major in university, she was already working in publishing when the opportunities to perform started popping up. And, by 2009, Jane found herself wandering a different, surprisingly natural path—“a decision that came out of what was already happening,” she eloquently puts it.

As someone who herself was at first shy to perform, Jane kept hearing from people who wished they could sing. She soon realized she could fill a need. “If you don’t go to church or aren’t a musician yourself, if you don’t have a family that sits around the piano, then where’s your outlet for singing?” she asks.

Jane founded All Together Now, a singing workshop series in Guelph. There’s no pressure to attend, no public performance; it’s simply about being in the moment, about embodying music. “It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked,” she says. “But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage. That really motivated me.” For some, these workshops have become a place where they learn to use that voice; for others, it’s a place to stop in and just let it all out. “I’ve had people say this is better than therapy,” she laughs. “And cheaper.”

Jane is also co-founder of the Women’s Music Weekend, an annual retreat where women of all musical abilities can perform in a supportive, inclusive community. There are powerful moments at these events, moments where a woman gains confidence, where she feels brave enough to step out front and sing on her own.

Jane Lewis Headshot

“It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked. But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage.”

The Women’s Music Weekend also has a bursary programme, now in its third season, where women can apply for financial aid. Having herself received assistance for a workshop she’d once found challenging to attend, the musician quickly saw an opportunity to pay it forward. “That definitely ties back to my time at Ridley,” she recognizes. “The motto, ‘may I be consumed in service’—that’s important.”

Ridley feels those ties pulling right back. Last year, Gathering Sparks performed as part of an artistic lineup at the Toronto Branch Reception at the AGO. “It was a celebration of the arts,” remembers Jane, “and felt like a recognition that this is an important career path a lot of people are taking.”  

When asked what advice she has for Ridley’s budding musicians, she takes a moment to reflect. On where she came from. On the work she puts in now. On the new album that’s taken years to come together—and the recognition that’s already trickling in. “It might not be the way you initially imagined,” she muses, “but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

And, if she’s learned anything, it’s that you never know what’s next. Looking back at the road which led her to this point, in some ways not where she thought she’d be, in others right back here at home, Jane seems content.

“Maybe the road is still winding.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

Canada’s King of Theatre

Award-winning actor, Colm Feore ’77 talks Canada’s arts scene, giving back—and how his time at Ridley helped give him his start.

Even when he’s travelling, he’s working. But after forty odd years in the business, Colm Feore ’77 will tell you it’s the key to his success. With Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics at one elbow, and a thick history of the Bard at his other, we spoke with Colm this past August when he was visiting his wife—acclaimed director, Donna Feore—while she directed Bernhardt/Hamlet at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. “She promised me a birthday dinner,” laughs the Stratford-based actor, who just turned 61. “So, I came to collect.”

These days, Colm is delving into the ways in which Shakespeare explores the lust for power in his plays—and how society suffers at the hands of his ‘fictional’ kings. One of Canada’s most celebrated actors, the proud Old Ridleian has played many of Shakespeare’s leading characters at the Stratford Festival, and will be taking on the role of Richard III this upcoming season. The play is poised to inaugurate the Tom Patterson Theatre Centre, a stunning, 100-million-dollar space that positions the Festival at the forefront of theatrical innovation. For artistic director Antoni Cimolino, choosing Colm to utter the powerful first words at the new theatre was easy, touting the thespian as “part of the Festival’s DNA” in a recent press release. And, though rehearsals are still months away, for Stratford’s latest king there’s plenty of reading to be done.

But if you haven’t seen him on the stage, you’ll know him from the screen. “To make a living in Canada as an actor, you have to be able to do everything,” Colm imparts—and over the years he’s proved he has the chops. His impressive career has taken him from stage to film, television and Netflix, where you’ll catch outstanding performances in everything from Chicago, Bon Cop, Bad Cop and Thor; to the critically acclaimed Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould; to his award-winning performance as Pierre Elliot Trudeau. You’ll also find him capturing TV audiences in a number of popular series: think The Borgias, The West Wing, House of Cards, 24, The Umbrella Academy and more.

Colm and Donna Feore at Governor Generals Awards

“The whole point of my job is to disappear,” he says simply. “That’s the job. Be something else.”

It’s a diverse body of work that reflects his mantra—just show up—in many ways developed here at Ridley. “That was always the lesson: you’ve got to be here to play,” he reflects. “And it became a very simple mantra. If you show up, you’ll learn; if you learn you’ll get better.”

Though Colm had a diverse career on campus—becoming a Prefect, taking an active role in public speaking and debate, participating in a range of sports, and becoming editor of the Acta’s sports and literary sections—it was the acting bug that got him. Colm credits Ridley’s teachers with instilling in him a genuine love for words and the stage. “We weren’t just doing the standard production of West Side Story, or whatever was making the rounds at school gymnasium plays,” he remembers. “They engaged us in a serious commitment to drama, and to the idea that there might be a life in the arts. And when you have masters and students, fellow students, above and below you, who are all into the same thing…” Colm trails off. “Well, a guy could dream.”

Colm Feore on stage at Ridley

“That was always the lesson: you’ve got to be here to play,” he reflects. “And it became a very simple mantra. If you show up, you’ll learn; if you learn you’ll get better.”

And as his parents returned to Ridley time and again to see him act, they were learning just how good their son really was. “Once someone leaned over to them during a play and said, ‘This is very good, but it’s not really fair for them to bring in professional actors,’” he smiles.

But it was when he was applying to post-secondary school that Colm really received their endorsement, learning they’d accepted an offer from Montreal’s National Theatre School on his behalf—and suddenly the dream was off and running.

That Ridleian mantra kept Colm showing up right through theatre school and onto stage and screen, helping him navigate the requisite ebbs and flows of the biz. “Ridley’s a school that’s based on hard work and determination—your effort is going to matter just as much as your talent,” he shares. “Because for every six miracles in this industry, there are a thousand people behind them who just keep doing the work. Professionally, that pays dividends.”

Colm Feore accepts Governor General award

And as the accolades keep coming, with peers and critics alike applauding his ability to “disappear into roles,” it’s clear both talent and hard work pay off. In 2002, Colm received a Gemini for his performance in Trudeau, and the Gascon-Thomas Award by the National Theatre School of Canada in 2013. That same year he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, for “bridging Anglophone and Francophone cultures as a fluently bilingual performer.” This past spring, Colm was recognized for Lifetime Artistic Achievement at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Gala in Ottawa. But the popular actor takes his success in stride. “The whole point of my job is to disappear,” he says simply. “That’s the job. Be something else.”

“There’s a great application of these skills we learn communicating in the arts: speaking to one another, showing and telling our stories, exploring each other’s histories and lives. We learn from each other. And one of the best ways to do that is to take a risk, to stand up in front of people and to say, ‘I think this’—and I trust that you will find some value in it.”

In true Ridley fashion, Colm is also giving back, raising awareness of the importance of studying Shakespeare as a guest in Marvin Karon’s summer camp, Shakesperience, and as a board member of REEL CANADA, a unique programme which engages and inspires youth, and promotes Canada’s cultural identity. “REEL CANADA brings Canadian film into Canadian classrooms,” he explains, clearly passionate about the project which connects students with directors, writers, actors, and producers. “It says, ‘Here’s our story. Here’s who we are—and you’re going to see yourselves reflected in these spaces.’”

Colm on stage

And as he sits in his Chicago hotel, thinking back to his time on the Ridley stage, of the hallways he once walked, Colm hopes his story will inspire the students who walk them now. Because he knows, perhaps more than most, that telling stories is what brings communities together. “There’s a great application of these skills we learn communicating in the arts: speaking to one another, showing and telling our stories, exploring each other’s histories and lives. We learn from each other,” he concludes thoughtfully. “And one of the best ways to do that is to take a risk, to stand up in front of people and to say, ‘I think this’—and I trust that you will find some value in it.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.


CHAPEL TALK: THANKS-GIVING

Written by Head of Upper School, Michele Bett

With our Thanksgiving break rapidly approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon why we should give thanks. In this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” in the words of English poet John Keats, ripened fruits and swollen gourds signal that the wondrous bounty of mother nature’s harvest has arrived. And yes, we have much for which to give thanks.

We give thanks that at Ridley:

our teachers have high expectations of their students;

our students come to school ready to be stretched and challenged;

our teachers support and scaffold curiosity in their classrooms daily;

our students are inherently curious and motivated learners;

our teachers arrange their learning opportunities, carving out space for imagination, wonder and reflection; and

our students flourish when they find passion and relevance in their studies.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk writes on the power of gratefulness. He encourages us to see each new day as a gift where the only appropriate response is gratitude. He urges us to open our hearts to all our blessings.

It is quite radical to see each new day as a gift. If you were caught thanking the sun for rising each morning, people might wonder about your sanity. Normal people don’t go around being grateful all the time. But why not?

I believe that it behooves us to show respect for – and be grateful to – nature, other people, and the past.

We have all stood transfixed and filled with awe in the presence of nature’s marvels – Niagara Falls is an obvious and near-by example. At moments like that, it is not hard to feel a sense of gratitude and to think to ourselves, “what a wonderful world!” The feeling is probably like that of a child playing in the garden. The difference is that, unlike us, the child does not need a raging cascade to get her attention. Here is how John Keats’ older contemporary William Wordsworth put it:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

The poet goes on to say that this time is gone: “The things which I have seen I now can see no more.” And yet, despite our obliviousness and routine and normalcy, nature does not stop being the miracle that it is. As a later 19th century English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins put it: “And for all this, nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Even in this time of climate change and global warming, an appreciation for the blessings of life on this earth is still the right way to respond. In fact, I wonder if things might be different on our planet if more people felt more grateful to nature.

At Ridley, we frequently emphasize the importance of thanking each other as often as we can. By doing so, we are recognizing the worth and significance of other people. It turns out that admitting the reality of what is outside ourselves is a necessary step toward well-being. Furthermore, by thanking others, we are acknowledging the other’s presence as a gift. We are saying to the other: “You have given me something that I did not deserve; you have been to me more than a friend.” What almost inevitably comes next is: “I will do the same for you when I can. I will try to be a gift to you.” It is a virtuous circle that fosters and celebrates loving relationships.

Being thankful for the past might seem somewhat strange, even suspicious; some of us might feel much more inclined to reject the past in our struggle for a better world. But human civilizations and cultures throughout all time have universally honoured those who have lived and died in earlier times. Similarly, our society commemorates heroes and martyrs and wise people who have done or said things that remain meaningful to us today. One of those we remember is Martin Frobisher, who in 1578 arrived in Canada and held a formal ceremony in which he gave thanks for surviving the long voyage from England. (Some 43 years later, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts and did something similar.) This nation began by opening its heart in gratitude to the blessings of life.

And that’s why I am so grateful to be part of a community that has opened its heart to all its blessings. Every student in our community is a blessing, and regardless of their academic trajectory, they are cared for and valued. They are loved.

As in so many of my chapel talks and conversations with parents and students it is the character strength of love that I find myself returning to so often. Love, it seems, underpins nearly everything we do at Ridley.

In the gospels, God tells who we are, and we know that it can be the hardest thing in the world for us to receive love, especially the love of God. Whether you are a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist, non-believer, let’s be united in the idea that love is the strongest thing in the world, and to receive it demands that we begin by loving ourselves.

Unlike the bees in Keats’ ode to “Autumn,” we know that these warm October days will cease, but giving thanks at Ridley is not limited to the season of thanksgiving. At Ridley, we practice gratitude daily, all year round. May I wish all our families at Ridley a Thanksgiving break filled with joy, appreciation and, of course, much love.

10 Inspiring Alumnae to Celebrate

Driven, ambitious and passionate are a few words you may use to describe an inherently inspirational woman in your life. Today is International Women’s Day and we’d like to celebrate a few of Ridley’s alumnae who have made their mark on the world.

Georgina Black ’85

Georgina Black ’85: As the first female Chair of the Board of Governors at Ridley College, Georgina has paved the way for young women to succeed in both leadership and governance. In addition to her role at Ridley, she is a Partner at KPMG Canada and was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2016.

Michele-Elise Burnett ’86: Michele-Elise founded the Indigenous festival, Celebration of Nations, which takes place every September. In addition, during the 18th annual Women in Business Awards this past November, Michele-Elise Burnett ’85 was recognized for her commitment to helping the arts thrive in Niagara; winning the Cultural Arts Award.

Sarah Eyton ’86: As Vice President of Fund Development at Special Olympics Canada, this alumna has dedicated her career to supporting those with intellectual disabilities in realizing their dreams of competing in sport. In addition, she serves Ridley College as a member of the Board of Governors and the Advancement Committee.

Nadine Karachi-Estrada ’87: Passionate about social justice, this alumna was appointed the Honorary Consul for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016. In addition, she has served on a number of Boards, including Ridley College, Patrons of Contemporary Art in Mexico and MEXFAM. She was also a founding member of Camp Deen, which is a camp that empowers Muslim Canadians to be proud of their heritage.

Michele-Elise Burnett ’86 & Nadine Karachi-Estrada ’87

Wendy O’Brien ’88: This alumna started her own casting company in Los Angeles, Wendy O’Brien Casting, and has been the Casting Director for hit television shows such as: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchyand Prison Break.

Hilary Caters ’89: Hilary was once an entrepreneur and marketing agency owner, until she realized her path was leading her down a different direction. Now, she is a passionate life coach and motivational speaker. During the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women in October of 2018, Hilary spoke to aspiring leaders about taking control of ones’ life and the importance of seeking and uncovering both passion and purpose.

Jane Lewis ’90: This Canadian singer-songwriter has always been involved in the arts. While she began her career as an author and editor, she shifted towards music in 2009. Since then, she has honed her skills, released a number of CDs and launched both a solo career and her band, Gathering Sparks. She will be performing at our Toronto Branch event, Curating Connections, on April 2nd.

Jane Lewis ’90

Alison Loat ’94: This alumna co-founded Samara Canada, a charitable organization that works to improve political participation in Canada. In addition, she has published several notable books, is the Managing Director at FCLTGlobal, serves on both Ridley’s Board of Governors as well as Ai-Media and has been named one of WXN’s most influential women in Canada.

Jeanette Stock ’09: This alumna is paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse tech landscape through Venture Out. Venture Out is an initiative launched by Jeanette and her peers in 2016, with the goal of connecting LGBTQA+ people, working in technology, with career and networking opportunities. In 2017, Venture Out held its first conference; welcoming over 450 individuals to Canada’s first conference for LGBTQA+ students and professionals, seeking careers in the tech industry.

Jeanette Stock ’09

Laura Court ’14: After a unanimous vote, former Ridley rower and current Brock Badger, Laura Court ’14 was named Brock University’s OUA Female Athlete of the Year—the first coxswain to receive this honour. With a number of gold medal wins behind her and a promising future ahead, it is no surprise that she was recognized for her grit, determination and skill.

 

TOP 10 Pieces of Advice for Graduates

As the Class of 2018 prepares to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, we compiled 10 pieces of advice from young alumni, that will help our graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

1. Find Your Passion
“Great ideas come from great passion. When you do what you love, you will never look back. The positive light from doing what you love will unknowingly motivate others to do the same!” – Marina Radovanovic ’14

2. Set Goals
“Set goals and then reset them regularly. Stand behind your ideas. Even if the first ones don’t take, keep an entrepreneurial spirit alive. Think outside the box. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that break the mold.” – Colt Iggulden ’03

3. Believe in Yourself
“One of the biggest things that current and future Ridleians should remember is to never stop believing that they can do great things. Anybody can do anything that they set their minds to. No matter how much adversity one must face to achieve greatness, it is important to never lose sight of what you want and to never give up. If there is something you want, go for it and don’t hold back.”
Luc Brodeur ’14

4. Seek Mentorship
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be patient. If I had never asked my coach what my next steps were, I wouldn’t have been able to take them. Then I had to be patient and wait for the right time. It’s all about the process, enjoy it. If you have a passion for something, don’t be afraid to pursue it.” – Laura Court ’14

5. Strive for More
“Follow your curiosity and always look for ways to improve. This may require further education and certification, volunteering with people different than you, or taking on a side-gig, but compounding curiosity will open you up to opportunities you may have never thought of.” – Radley Mackenzie ’03

6. Embrace Change
“You can’t rest on what you have done before, what you did last month, or five years ago. You really have to every day try and create something new that is going to help you out down the road.” – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

7. Be Fearless
“If you believe in your idea, get out there and make it happen. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out, you learn an absolute ton, and you nail it the next time. So many decisions are driven by the fear of failure – don’t let yourself fall into that trap and keep taking big risks!” – Jillian Evans ‘06

8. Take Risks
“Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Test out different subjects and hold on to what does not let your mind rest.” – Marc Seitz ’08

9. Be a Part the Bigger Picture
“Remember what it means to be a positive part of a community. Don’t get caught up trying to clamor to the top. Build strong supportive relationships with your peers and your competitors, think globally, act locally.” – Jordan Fowler ’05

10. Be Patient
“Take your time in figuring out what you want to do. There is a lot of pressure to pick something and stick with it, but I think careers and passions grow and evolve just as we do.” – Megan Breukelman ’11

Oh and… “Thank your parents. Seriously.” – Jeanette Stock ’09

Many Ridley College alumni have gone on to enjoy successful careers in their respective fields. The Ridley College MentORship Programme offers these Old Ridleians an opportunity to contribute to the Ridley mission by advising younger alumni who have graduated within the last ten years. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or would like to take advantage of this programme as a mentee, visit here.