Flourishing in These Challenging Times, Vol. 5

Keep Moving!

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

“If you eat, sleep and move well today, you will have more energy tomorrow. You will treat your friends and family better. You will achieve more at work [or school] and give more to your community.”  — Tom Rath, from Eat Move Sleep

This powerful advice is even more important today than when it was written—and more challenging when much of our day is spent inside, sitting and often in front of a screen.

So, what can you do?

  1. Ensure you and your child(ren) spend time each day outside, preferably in nature. There is a strong connection between time spent in nature and a reduction in negative emotions. Need some ideas? Here are 31 classic outdoor games for you and your family to play.
  2. Be sure each member of your household gets up and moves at least once per hour. It’s a great opportunity to get a glass of water (another important aspect of well-being!), check in with others (remember, relationships are important!), and reduce the risk of many long term health concerns. Here are some simple stretches to try during your day.
  3. Speak with your child(ren) about screen time. Its forms are definitely not all created equal. We’re now using screens in so many different ways: to communicate, create, work, and explore. It’s still important to have a balance of screen and unplugged time. Keep in mind, however, given how important relationships are for well-being, screen time spent communicating with others needs to be considered. Talk to your child(ren) to better understand how they’re using their screens, and determine together a reasonable amount of daily screen time.

And please remember, parents, eating, sleeping and moving is not just for children. Look after yourselves, too!

REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 12th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Cultivating Optimism.

Link to join: https://zoom.us/j/169769784

Password: 098733


Additional Resources

“The Pandemic Gave Me My Teenage Daughter Back” — by Katrina Onstad, for Chatelaine magazine

Tuesday Tips: Time Management (April 14th)

Tuesday Tips: Coping Skills (April 21st)

Family Guild Meeting: Tips for Parents (April 16th)

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.

Flourishing in These Challenging Times, Vol. 4

Focus on Your Strengths

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” — L.R. Knost

This quote is a reminder to us all that we will get through the “awful” and that life will be “amazing” again. One way we’re encouraging students to get through life’s challenges—in addition to its more “ordinary…mundane…and routine” parts—is to use their strengths. Beginning in Grade 3, each and every Ridley student learns about the VIA Character Strengths. Classes talk about identifying both character and performance strengths, and how to use them, not only to succeed, but to flourish.

Ridley College became a Visible Wellbeing School after spending two years working closely with Dr. Lea Waters. Her research-based book, The Strength Switch, focuses on the need for parents and educators to focus on children’s strengths in order to build resilience, optimism, and achievement. There is no more important time than now to focus on our strengths.

So, what can you do?

  1. Discuss your child’s strengths with them. Reference the VIA Character strengths survey (for more information, check out these videos), and also discuss the strengths you see in them every day. Remind them how important it is that they know and use them.
  2. Reference their strengths every day. One great activity that can be done around the dinner table is “Three Good Things,” which helps children reflect on what went well that day, why it went well and which strengths they or others used.
  3. Choose a daily activity to do together. (Here are 101 from which to choose.) Talk about the strengths you used to complete these activities, and discuss how knowing and using their own strengths will help them during this challenging time.

And please remember, parents, you are using your own strengths to navigate these challenging times! Recognize all that you are doing—and please be kind to yourself.


REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you next Tuesday, April 28th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Nurturing Social Relationships.

Link to join: https://zoom.us/j/169769784

Password: 098733


Additional Resources

Tuesday Tips: Time Management (April 14th)

Tuesday Tips: Coping Skills (April 21st)

Family Guild Meeting: Tips for Parents (April 16th)

Flourishing in these Challenging Times, Vol. 3

The Importance of Relationships

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

This is a short week at Ridley, but another week of adjustments — and enhancements — for us all. To support our important work of ensuring students feel connected to the Ridley community, we’ve incorporated division-wide Assembly in Upper School, weekly Advisory times, class meetings in Lower School, and school-wide opportunities for student check-ins with teachers and Heads of House. Ridley, at its core, is built on relationships. We want to continue to maintain and grow these, knowing that they are a vital part of flourishing lives.

With relationships in mind, I share my current top five resources to support parents and introduce opportunities for them to build relationships and learn remotely with Ridley.

Top Five Resources for Parents:

  1. 7 Guiding Principles for Parents Teaching at Home (article)
  2. How to Turn your Home into a school without Losing your Sanity (comic)
  3. Who do I choose to be during COVID-19? (infographic)
  4. Get Through This: Self-Care for Parents (1 hr recorded ZOOM webinar)
  5. Coronavirus: A Book for Children (book)

In addition, we look forward to launching our Flourishing for Parents virtual connections next week. Please join us for learning and community!

Opportunities for Parents for the week of April 13th

Tuesday Tips with Hanna Kidd & Sue Easton:  8:00a.m. & 2:00p.m. This week’s topic is Time Management. How can you support your child in achieving during this challenging time? Let us share some tips to support our Ridley family!

Thursday Sip and Chat: 8:00a.m. & 2:00p.m. Join us with a coffee or tea for a chat and a break from the day. We need to stay in touch!

Coming Next Week: We’ll be sharing daily activities and practices to support your whole family in flourishing during these challenging times.

Be well and Happy Easter!

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.

Flourishing in these Challenging Times, Vol. 2

Support for Parents

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

This past Thursday, our community embarked on a new adventure through Ridley Remote Learning, or R2L. The initial response from students, teachers and parents was resoundingly positive. Every member of the community was excited to reconnect, share their experiences and emotions, and begin to bring some normalcy back into their lives through the addition of regular learning and new opportunities to connect. We know that Ridley is built on relationships; these will help us get through these challenging times.

But how best to thrive when we are surrounded by change? Please consider these five inspirational statements about change—along with some resources to help support you and the Ridley community.

  1. Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.

How can you create the space in your home for your child(ren) to create or do something to support or inspire others?

Recommended Resources:

Corona: Artist Illustrates the Matterhorn

Charitable apps and websites

Kid-staffed Newspaper

2. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

How can you model or support learning during and beyond R2L?

Recommended Resources:

Building Growth mindset in children

Virtual Marine Biology Camp – free for kids

The Top 100 Documentaries we can use to change the world

3. Embrace change. Emerge positive.

How can you ensure that your child(ren) uses their identified VIA character strengths to stay positive? (If you haven’t read Dr. Lea Waters’ Strength Switch, now is a great time!)

Recommended Resources:

101 Strength-based Actions to Connect, from a Safe Distance

Ideapod: Complaining properly

How School closures can strengthen your family

4. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

How can you ensure there is still fun and challenge in your child(ren)’s day?

Recommended Resources:

Games to play collaboratively online

ESF Breakfast of champion challenge

Poem: Gone Viral

5. Change is a process, not an event.

How can you ensure your family builds practices to endure this change process?

Recommended Resources:

Sleep Better, Do Better (infographic)

Science-backed strategies to build resilience

A Simple Exercise to stay calm in the face of Coronavirus uncertainty

Our lives have changed. But is our response to those changes—both as individuals and as a community—that will ensure we continue to flourish.

Flourishing in These Challenging Times, Vol. 1

Keeping Your Well-Being in Focus

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

The Ridley community is moving into uncharted territory, with new Remote Learning for students, and most of us either practicing physical distancing or in isolation—even quarantine—wherever we are in the world. Though this may be a time of uncertainty and change, our well-being doesn’t need to suffer. It may take more conscious, deliberate work than usual but, in keeping with Ridley’s vision to inspire flourishing lives (as defined by PERMA-V: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, and vitality), each of us can benefit from incorporating the following five behaviours into our days—until we see each other again.

1. Connect with others.

Whether you’re spending time with those you live with, be it to share a meal or complete that jigsaw puzzle, or you’re reaching out via video call to family and friends, or playing a shared game of online Scrabble, connecting is important. We are practicing physical distancing, not social distancing, since we know that relationships are vital to support our well-being.

Recommended Resources:

Discover well-being videos on Facebook’s ESF Discovery College.

Got gamers in the house? Common-Sense Media features family-friendly games and other helpful resources.

New in The Guardian, Dr. Lea Waters shares videos to support families who are in isolation.

Balloons at Pep Rally

2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day.

Mindfulness helps children become more self-aware. Knowing how they are feeling during this unsettling time not only promotes conversation but helps them nurture self-compassion. Mindfulness also helps students learn self-management and develop important decision-making skills. These skills support us in being present and engaged in our new reality—and ready to participate in learning and living activities.

Recommended Resources: 

Greater Good in Education offers well-being resources for both adults and children.

Clear your head with Headspace — a free site which features a variety of meditation practices.

GoZen includes family-friendly videos and activities to support anxiety, resilience and more.

Celebration of the Arts

3. Seek beauty to savour and appreciate.

Immersing ourselves in art, music or nature—be it inside, outside or virtually—boosts our positive emotions. By exploring the resources available to us, we learn where our interests lie, which in turn increases our engagement and helps give us a sense of control over our new situation.

Recommended Resources:

Google Arts and Culture is a virtual treasure trove, providing visitors with tours of hot spots, street art, museums, and more.

Listen up! NPR offers this comprehensive list of live concerts to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Go on your own ‘home safari’ via webcams from your favourite zoo. Learn more in this handy guide from The New York Times.

4. Get physical.

We all know that exercise helps with our physical health, but it is also one of the best ways to build positive emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and support healthy sleep. Exercising outside while practicing physical distancing is a great way to get the benefits of being in nature while moving our bodies. But if that isn’t possible, there are many ways to get physical while keeping indoors.

Recommended Resources:

Get moving with one of these active apps highlighted by Common Sense Media.

Your kids are sure to love these movement and mindfulness videos from Go Noodle.

Stretch it out with classes from YogaDownload.com — the perfect size for any space.

Cross Country Run

5. Find your purpose.

Every human benefits from a feeling of achievement—often connected to what we believe is our purpose in life. For students practicing physical distancing, it may at times feel like academic work provides their sole sense of purpose. It is important that they know they make a difference in the lives of others, within their families, communities and beyond. For inspiration, consider some of these resources.

Recommended Resources:

Reach out via one of these great ideas from Random Acts of Kindness — be sure to check out their kindness calendar!

From practicing gratitude to building optimism, Positive Psychology is offering great resources and activities you’ll want to try.

Keep it close to home with Operation Warm — a website highlighting online volunteer opportunities.

We’ll be sharing more resources in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please remember that as part of the Ridley community, you’re only an email away! Feel free to reach out for support and to learn more.

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.


News & Stories from Campus