Tag Archives: women of ridley

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

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.