Category Archives: Alumni

Alumnae Make Waves to Transform the Globe

Gillian Burt ’08 and Sarah McCusker ’08 spent the last year travelling the world, filming their documentary, Tied to the Sea – a call for greater protection of the world’s oceans. With a Ridley education deeply rooted in community service and global outreach, it is no surprise that these alumnae reconnected over their shared passion for changing the world.

Sarah McCusker ’08 & Gillian Burt ’08

About Gillian

Gillian Burt ’08 grew up with environmentally and socially conscious parents, instilling in her a lifelong commitment to community service. So much so, that when she graduated from Upper School, she had completed over 300 volunteer hours. She spent her final year of high school at Ridley; actively participating in sports, such as swimming and activities that focused on bettering the environment and the world. Her Ridley experience influenced her long after her graduation – increasing her global-mindedness and inspiring her to follow her dream of entering the education sector.

Upon graduation, Gillian went on to study Sociology and Anthropology, with a focus on International Development at the University of British Columbia Kelowna. She even volunteered abroad in Haiti and Uganda. She began her career working for notable non-profit organizations such as Right to Play, Engineers Without Borders and The Centre for Social Innovation. Gillian also spent time in Korea teaching English.

About Sarah

Coming from a long lineage of Ridleians, Sarah McCusker ’08 was well-acquainted with the school before even attending it. She began her Ridley journey in 2004, spending her entire secondary school career on campus. While at Ridley, Sarah was a part of the Environmental Club with Gillian and was a devoted Tiger athlete – leading the First Girls field hockey team and playing on the soccer team for all four years.

Like Gillian, Sarah also attended the University of British Columbia, where she studied Art History, before completing a programme in Communications Design offered by Emily Carr University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Sarah currently works as a graphic designer in Vancouver, British Columbia.

During their time in university, these Ridleians remained good friends. When Gillian left the West Coast, they lost touch; not reconnecting until 2016 through social media. While catching up on lost time, Gillian shared her vision for a short documentary she was eager to create. Soon enough, Sarah became a member of the team and they were aboard a flight to Thailand, beginning their Tied to the Sea journey.

The Documentary

Tied to the Sea Teaser Trailer from Tied to the Sea on Vimeo.

Tied to the Sea is a short documentary that explores the negative impacts that humanity has on our oceans. Through personal narratives, science and shocking footage, Tied to the Sea aims to evoke a sense of urgency and illuminate what we, as citizens of change, can do to protect the world’s marine ecosystems and water sources.

The idea for this documentary transpired while Gillian was teaching and living in Korea. She was spending most her time in or on the water and began to take notice of the marine devastation that was lying just below the surface.

“I had always been aware of the vast amount of pollution in the ocean, but I don’t think it fully hit me until I was up close to it on a regular basis and began to see, firsthand, the devastating effects on the environment. My inner academic started researching the problem and watching every documentary on the topic. I found that there were gaps in information covered by other documentaries and I recognized a need to speak directly to young people, equipping them with the knowledge and resources necessary to take action,” explains Gillian.

Over the course of the last year, Gillian (Co-writer, Director and Producer) and Sarah (Visual Designer) – along with their team – travelled to nine countries, across four continents to speak to scientists, activists and individuals with a commitment to defending the future of our planet.

“From Coastal First Nations groups in B.C. to scuba diving instructors in Thailand to marine scientists in Australia, everyone has a story to share and ideas on how we can take action.” – Gillian Burt ’08

The state of the environment is at a tipping point and an urgency exists to act now. Through their travels, the Tied to the Sea team discovered just how detrimental plastics and pollutants are to the health of the ocean. Speaking with concerned citizens around the world, Gillian and Sarah devised a plan of action to reverse these negative effects. Equipped with the knowledge of both the problems and the solutions, they hope to educate and raise awareness before it’s too late.

 

Returning home, the alumnae are now focusing on sharing their message on a global scale. To complete their film, the Tied to the Sea team has started a crowdfunding campaign, seeking support from friends, family and those who believe in the cause. The finished product will be shared online, at festivals and in schools around the world.

Support Tied to the Sea.
Follow Tied to the Sea on Facebook and Instagram.

“We want the film to act as an educational tool to use in schools as well as a catalyst for change, inspiring young people to take direct action… we are the generation with the greatest capacity for bringing about positive changes in the world.” – Gillian Burt ’08

The dedication and determination to changing the world shown by Gillian and Sarah are true traits of a Ridleian. To their fellow Tigers, Gillian and Sarah left this advice:

“Be patient with yourself and stay open to opportunities you wouldn’t normally go for – as you’re starting your career, no job is “beneath” you and you never know where you’re going to find your passion.  Don’t be afraid of an unconventional path. And pay as much attention to the person you are becoming as the career path you want to take. A strong character will often take you farther than academic achievement or bullet points on a resume… Do what you love, take time to figure that out, explore all your options and always remember you have the power to make a difference.”

TransfORming Our Globe – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ‘94

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of Ridley alumnus, Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94, who fell in love with music on campus and turned his passion into an award-winning career – producing music for Sony/ATV and many major artists.

Tawgs’ Ridley career began in 1989 and continued until 1992. During his three years, Tawgs would often find himself in the music studios, practicing on any instrument he could get his hands on. The more time he spent there, the more he fell in love with music. A Ridley faculty member encouraged Tawgs to join the orchestra, where he would have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow musicians on campus. While the time he spent honing his musical abilities left an impact on Tawgs, it was the facilities and programmes that he had access to through Ridley that put him on the right path, leading to where he is now.

Tawgs’ passion for music and the chance to succeed was solidified after a school talent show, when we received praise that made him feel he was where he belonged. Then Headmaster, Douglas Campbell, approached Tawgs the following day and congratulated him on his performance.

“It was the first time the Headmaster spoke to me in a positive way like that. That really propelled me. That was what I needed to go forward. Especially as a child, when there is someone in an authoritative position who says that, you think ‘maybe I should do [a career in music]’.” – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

When Tawgs finished high school, he spent some time pursuing other interests, but he always came back to music. At the time, he was performing in an original band named Dunk, who was then signed by Sony Music Canada. After signing he decided it was time to get serious with his passion. While he enjoyed performing, it was producing and writing that he loved most.

He began writing music and eventually, Gary Furniss, President of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada, took notice of Tawgs’ talent. He began songwriting for the publishing company and took a second position at Sony Music Canada as a Staff Producer. While he had little free time working two jobs, his exposure to an array of artists, professionals and opportunities was extensive. After he got his feet wet, he decided to work solely with Sony/ATV, under the mentorship of Gary Furniss. Gary fostered Tawgs’ career from the beginning and helped him move up through the ranks to a point where he was working with high-profile artists, including Lights and Josh Groban.

“The first song I wrote that received international praise with a big artist was ‘You are Loved’ by Josh Groban. I made the demo in my basement in St. Catharines 10 years ago,” says Tawgs. His song was picked up and he found himself at Abbey Road Studios, working with Groban and his producer.

Tawgs has been in the business for 18 years now and has experienced great success during his career. He has received an ASCAP award, was nominated twice for producer of the year at the JUNO Awards and has won awards for nine of his hit songs. Beyond his personal accomplishments, he has worked on a number of records that won pop album of the year and worked on the JUNO winning song, ‘Young Artists for Haiti’.

While winning awards and working with some of the biggest names in music are certainly perks, Tawgs says his favourite part of the job is the job itself.

“When you are a song writer or a producer you start with a total blank page in the morning. Your success for that day is dependent on what you are going to do in the next ten minutes. The best part of the day as a song writer is when you sit down to write a song with another collaborator. You’ve got fifteen minutes of awkwardness and then thirty minutes of inspiration. It is that inspiration that I wait for, and why I find my work so enjoyable.”  – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

To Ridleians who know what their passions are but are unsure of how to get there, Tawgs says this:

“It’s not easy. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wake up today and think – can I do it again today? That’s what you have to go through as an artist, telling yourself to not give up. You really have to want it and you have to silence the inner voice that tells you that you may not be able to do it.”

“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


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TransfORming Our Globe – Jillian Evans ‘06

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Jillian Evans ’06, a Toronto-based tech entrepreneur in the media and entertainment space.

Jillian began her Ridley career in 2001 as a Grade 8 student. During her five years on campus, she was a School Prefect, Editor of the Tiger Tribune and a member of the Rowing, Harriers and Golf teams. Jillian credits Ridley’s strong emphasis on developing interpersonal and public speaking skills with her success in careers that have almost exclusively involved networking and negotiation.

 

“Ridley was the best thing that could have happened to a bored and unmotivated twelve-year-old me. My teachers, coaches and friends challenged me to grow as a person every day, and I left with an unshakeable confidence and set of skills that have served me very well in my career.” – Jillian Evans ‘06

After Ridley, Jillian went on to do a gap year at Marlborough College in England as an English Speaking Union Scholar. She then returned to Canada to pursue her BAH in Political Studies at Queen’s University, where she served as President of the Arts & Science Undergraduate Society and represented the interests of over 12,000 students. Upon graduating, she headed to London to complete her M.Sc. in Political Communication at the London School of Economics, and worked in the office of a Cabinet Minister in the UK Parliament.

Having completed her Masters, Jillian moved to Washington, DC to pursue an internship in Public Affairs at the Embassy of Canada, working mainly on the educational outreach and think-tank liaison files. She also completed her U.S. Private Pilot’s Licence and Restricted Airspace designation, and once had to maneuver around Air Force One in midair!

Returning home to Toronto in 2013, she decided to pursue a career as a lobbyist at the provincial level, tackling files from special needs funding to telecom and everything in between. While she found the work both fascinating and rewarding, she had begun to pursue a side project that would soon require her full attention.

In March 2015, along with a couple of friends, Jillian founded PETE, a second-screen experience for entertainment television. Best described as “fantasy sports for reality TV,” PETE offers a comprehensive fantasy, content and engagement platform for fans of over 20 reality shows and four award shows, including The Bachelor, Survivor, Big Brother, The Oscars and The Grammys. With 20,000 users so far, PETE also offers brands and sponsors the opportunity to reach targeted, engaged audiences. As a company, PETE has raised $750,000 in seed funding and counts seven Old Ridleians (and two past parents) among its investors.

“A lot of people – even in the tech establishment – thought we were crazy. 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

As the media landscape evolves over the next several years, Jillian believes the balance will shift from one-way consumption to two-way interactivity, where consumers become active participants. She hopes PETE can play a role in this process by working with media companies to better engage viewers, and by pushing the envelope on what’s possible for fans with real-time interaction. She strongly encourages young Ridleians interested in media and/or tech to pursue it – and the more outside-the-box the idea or career path, the better.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.

 Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com

Crawford Gordon ’56, August 29, 1938 – March 3, 2017

Portrait by: John Viljoen

Today, the Ridley community mourns the loss of Crawford Gordon ’56, who passed away on March 3rd in Toronto, Ontario at the age of 78.

Crawford was amongst the most loyal and generous of Ridleians; a former Vice-President and Chairman of the Ridley Board of Governors (2000 to 2004), an active Board member, past parent and alumnus. Up until his death, Crawford held position as the Vice-Chairman of the Ridley College Foundation. He attended our school from 1947 to 1956, was a decorated athlete, member of the Glee Club, Science Club and Student Council, a Cadet Corps Platoon Sergeant, and served as a Prefect in his final year.

After graduating, Crawford became a respected businessman. He began his career at Wood Gundy in 1966, later joining Burns Fry (now BMO Nesbitt Burns). During his 29 years with the firm, he became one of their top brokers, a Vice-President and Director and a 10-year member of the Chairman’s Council. In 1997, he joined Gordon Private Client Corporation, which was acquired by HSBC. In 1999, he co-founded McFarlane Gordon Inc. now known as Industrial Alliance Securities Inc.

To Ridleians, Crawford will be remembered for his kind spirit, philanthropy and unwavering dedication to our school. Outside of his leadership roles with the Board, he and his wife Eve generously sponsor the MGI – Gordon Distinguished Speakers’ Series, an endowed fund that helps to bring notable speakers to campus each year.

Crawford will be dearly missed by a far-reaching community. Our heart-felt condolences go out to the Gordon family. Crawford is survived by his wife, Eve, and children, Crawford Jr. ’04, Chloé ’05 and Parris ’08.

A memorial service will be held for Crawford Gordon ’56 on May 6th, 2017 at 2:00p.m. in the Ridley College Memorial Chapel. A reception will follow.

TransfORming Our Globe – Margaret Coons ‘08

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Margaret Coons ‘08, who has developed a unique alternative to dairy cheese using cashew milk and is now selling her products throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Margaret began her Ridley career in 2006, as a Grade 11 student. Passionate about sports, she joined the harriers, rugby and swim team; enjoying the physical activity that was and is such a crucial part of a Ridley education. After graduating from Ridley in 2008, Margaret attended the University of Western Ontario and pursued a degree in English Language and Literature.

It was while she attended university that Margaret found a job that combined her love of cooking, vegetarianism, and acute business sense. She began work at a vegetarian restaurant in London, Ontario and quickly assumed the role of chef and restaurant manager.

“I had the opportunity to perform cooking demonstrations on the local television stations and at the annual ‘Veg Fest’… in London and over the years of working as a chef greatly enjoyed creating recipes and alternative versions of more conventionally available foods” – Margaret Coons ’08

The retirement of the restaurant owner and the imminent closing of the restaurant granted Margaret the opportunity to begin designs on owning and operating her own business. The result was Nuts For Cheese, a product-based food manufacturing company that makes artisan dairy free cheeses from cultured organic cashew milk. Margaret was making many of these cheeses for the restaurant and for her own enjoyment so, in May of 2015, she decided to open a farmers’ market booth in London to sell the five varieties of vegan cheese.

The demand for this cheesy alternative was high and Margaret soon found she was renting out kitchen space late at night to make cheese for the farmers’ market and the retail accounts she had accrued. From there, Margaret has grown her business to include its own manufacturing plant distributing to nearly 50 retail locations across the country. Margaret hopes to continue to grow Nuts For Cheese into a product that is available in specialty food shops across the country as well as show people just how delicious vegan cheeses can be.

Margaret says her time at Ridley taught her a lot about discipline and focus.

“The skills that running my own business requires are backed up by an ability to be dedicated to my work and passionate about what I put my time into.” – Margaret Coons ’08

Working with food and creating new recipes are Margaret’s favourite aspect of her career. Having been a vegetarian since age 12 and having always possessed a love of cooking, she feels this is the ideal career for her to channel those passions. Margaret also enjoys working as a business owner with her great team and connecting with the “supportive and inspiring” small business support network. Her love of great vegan alternatives continues to motivate her personally and professionally.

“Consumers of products like ours have for a long time been faced with the decision to purchase low quality alternatives, giving vegan food products a bad name, or to forgo consuming a certain type of food for a variety of ethical or health reasons. Making cheese products available to people who can’t or don’t eat dairy for whatever reason is very exciting for us.”                        – Margaret Coons ’08

Margaret’s advice to any young Ridleans about to explore their academic and/or professional careers is to throw yourself at whatever you’re doing without overthinking it too much. While she says her unique career in vegan cheese was “almost by accident”, the success she has enjoyed thus far was a result of passion and deliberate dedication to her project.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

Richard B. Wright – 1937 – 2017

Ridley is saddened to share the news that former faculty member, Richard B. Wright passed away suddenly this morning, February 7th, 2017. He was 79 years of age.

Richard was a distinguished novelist, member of the Order of Canada, and won three major Canadian literary awards – The Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Governor General’s Award – for his 14 novels and published memoir.

He was also an outstanding and beloved teacher of English at Ridley from 1976 to 1980 and again from 1986 to 2001. During his time at the School, and as holder of the first Cronyn Chair, Richard made a tremendous impact, established Voices (the literary journal) as well as the Literary Dinner. He will also be remembered for his enthusiasm in coaching league soccer.

Richard will be dearly missed by a far-reaching community of Ridleians. Details of a memorial service will be forthcoming.

Our heart-felt condolences go out to Richard’s family; his sons Christopher (Vicki) and Andrew ‘90 (Wendy), and grandchildren Gage, Millie, Sydney, Abbey and Nathan.

Listen to the 610 CKTB Interview with Wendy Darby.

TransfORming Our Globe – Nate Houghton ‘07

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of Ridley and double Ivy League alumnus, Nate Houghton ‘07, who has dedicated his life to helping Congo youth live flourishing lives through his not-for-profit, the Congo Leadership Initiative.

Nate began his Ridley career in 2005 and although his Ridley career only spanned two years, there was no shortage of lessons taught, skills learned and qualities formed. Nate came to Ridley because of the hockey programme, but soon discovered that more opportunities awaited him within the gates. As a Prefect in his final year, Nate played in the Jazz Band and went to the 2007 World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in South Africa with his fellow Ridleians.

Ridley left Nate feeling well prepared for university. He had refined his time-management skills, found an interest in social impact, was held to a higher standard by his peers and teachers and the Ridley schedule had set him up for success as he moved on to his post-secondary career.

“Ridley helped me to create good habits in order to get things done… I think that a lot of the tactical habit forming things came from the rigor of the schedule.” – Nate Houghton ‘07

Nate went on to study at Cornell, where he studied economics and policy. While there, he took a trip to Congo. He had always had an interest in post-colonial Africa, and he wanted to learn more about their culture and if he could make a positive impact on the community. His visit left a great impression on both him and the youth he encountered on his trip.

It was this trip that inspired Nate to begin the Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI). The CLI is an organization that trains Congo youth to become the leaders of tomorrow – not too unlike Ridley. Through workshops, training and grants, the CLI provides individuals with the tools needed to succeed.

“We develop the next generation of leaders to be catalysts for peace and prosperity in the Congo…If you can combine leadership values with entrepreneurial skills, you have the engine for development. It unlocks the potential that a country really has.” – Nate Houghton ‘07

CLI young leaders in a training session at our Kinshasa Lea CLI young leaders at the PEREX Leadership Institute site

For two years (2010 to 2012), Nate was dedicated to establishing a firm infrastructure for the CLI. With that, he felt confident that he could divide his time to explore his other passions. He worked in New York and studied at Harvard – where he is set to complete his MBA in September – and is currently working for the investment firm, NextGen Venture Partners. Despite his busy schedule, Nate still finds time to work and connect with CLI every day. He has recently been focusing his efforts on fundraising and operations. He hopes that the CLI will be able to extend their efforts and make a larger impact by partnering with other organizations who could then administer training to those in Congo.

Nate possesses the true spirit of a Ridleian and of our school motto – Terar Dum Prosim. He saw a community in need and has ever since dedicated his life to bettering their lives and showing them their potential. To other Ridleians who are unlocking their own potential, Nate has no shortage of advice.

“There is no reason that you can’t do these [kinds of] things. There is nothing that was different about me that made that possible. Anyone can start something…The best decisions I have made are the ones where I am thinking about what is best for other people. Whether it is within the organization or more broadly in the world. The worst decisions I have made are where I knowingly or unknowingly tried to make myself look a certain way… Just being yourself and doing things for other people is really the only thing that matters.” – Nate Houghton ‘07

For those interested in supporting the Congo Leadership Initiative, there are a number of ways to give.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.