Category Archives: Alumni

Good Messaging: Don McMurtry ’82

Retired VP Sales at RIM Don McMurtry ’82 knows playing in the tech industry is a full contact sport—and players need to be quick on their feet. Now, the Ridley Board member offers his take on the competitive sector and shares how strong communication and giving back have been fundamental aspects of his life.

If during the early 2000s you found yourself scanning the room for a flashing notification light, tapping happily on a tiny keyboard, or feeling phantom alerts in your pocket for the first (but not the last) time, chances are you’d jumped on the BlackBerry train—and we’d garner a guess you quickly became addicted to BB Messenger too.

The wildly popular device that dominated the market (and infiltrated our culture) had been in the works since researchers at wireless data tech developer Research In Motion (RIM) found a way to not only receive messages on a pager, but to send them back. From there, it was only a matter of time before RIM launched the first BlackBerry, a wireless handheld computer capable of email, browsing and paging—and addictive enough to soon earn it the nickname, “Crackberry.”

And if you’re unfamiliar, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that it wasn’t born in Silicon Valley; RIM was based in nearby Waterloo, Ontario—and Ridleian, Don McMurtry ’82 was its Vice President of Sales, joining the company in 1993 just as the wireless data market was emerging.

As we chat earlier this summer, Don comes across as thoughtful, down-to-earth and distinctly outdoorsy—he canoes and kayaks and it would seem he’s happiest pitching a tent in the most remote parts of Canada. On dry land, Don’s also passionate about running, occasionally still nostalgic for his days on Ridley’s track and harriers teams and running down the country roads near campus.

Originally from Fort Erie, Don followed his brother John ’78 to Ridley in 1979 when their parents decided he should improve his university prospects. Soon after settling into Gooderham House, Don discovered the computer lab, and he laughs that being viewed as a computer nerd minimized competition for a scarce resource; at that time, only three other students had any interest. When he returned for Grade 12, Don brought along his own computer; by then, learning to programme had become an obsession—one which led him to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York. 

Don started classes at RPI a bit early, taking the opportunity to dabble broadly in introductions to philosophy, medical ethics and metaphysics, and he was soon on the lookout for a research project. “I had a broad interest in science from a young age,” he says, “and almost everyone at Rensselaer was studying either engineering or science. There were endless opportunities to explore new ideas and technologies.” The next summer, Don was hired as a database developer by a professor in the chemistry department. The research work would last throughout his time at the school.

When he returned to Canada, Don moved to Waterloo, where he spent three years working as a Product Manager before accepting a job running sales and marketing for a nearby communications manufacture. But as his new ‘early-stage’ employer struggled to put additional financing in place, they kept delaying his start date, and Don took matters into his own hands. He contacted a few of the Waterloo-based companies listed in the local technology guide, and soon found himself deep in conversation with RIM founder, Mike Lazaridis. Don walked out with a job offer.

“I hope the pandemic will encourage more kids to build a deep appreciation and fascination for the methods and tools of science and engineering. Regardless of what career path someone takes, this is an incredible opportunity for parents and educators to help young people see how science and engineering are woven into all of our lives.”

It really was a no-brainer. Inspired by the exciting potential of wireless data, Don quickly dropped the other—higher-paying—offer and started working for co-CEO Jim Balsillie as RIM’s first salesperson. “You gotta skate with your head up,” Jim warned; the tech industry was highly competitive and required its players to be agile and to relentlessly innovate—those who slowed, suffered defeat. Within a few years, Don became VP Sales and helped the company launch the BlackBerry in 1999. It would create an entirely new category of product for network operators; until that point, the market had been dominated by Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia (at times referred to as ‘The MEN’).

“That first year, we didn’t spend a dollar on advertising,” Don remembers, “but we had a very active PR campaign and gave out a lot of free demonstrations, making it easy for customers to test our product. Initially, we didn’t have ‘sales’ people; we had ‘wireless email evangelists.’ Wireless email revolutionized how people could conduct business and manage their lives.”

As the BlackBerry took off, Don marvelled at how the small device changed users’ day-to-day routines: the senior executive who slept with it under his pillow so he could wake in the middle of the night and reply to emails from his colleagues in Japan; or the CIO of a Fortune 100 company who could be at her child’s Little League game while attending to corporate responsibilities—and that was before you could browse the web or make phone calls. During the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, the portions of the U.S. government that had deployed BlackBerry were more resilient and productive, results that substantially accelerated its adoption in many government organizations.

“BlackBerry wasn’t the first wireless email solution,” explains Don, “but it was the first that connected you to your existing company email address and it was transformational because we made it very easy to adopt—we could gain users without working with the IT department, which became a common strategy for all of the cloud-based software platforms that have emerged in the last twenty years.”

The initial wireless network had limited coverage compared to what we now enjoy, but BlackBerry used it efficiently, and battery life was nearly two weeks. As they expanded onto cellular networks around the world, RIM helped operators to retain or acquire new customers. From the start, the company had known it would need an enormous scale of distribution and plenty of strategic planning went into making those powerful partnerships.

Don retired from RIM in 2006, but a year later, armed with millions of subscribers and an agreement to distribute BlackBerry smartphones in China, the company was worth a whopping $68 billion, making it the most valuable in Canada. Users hopped cheerfully from the Curve to Bold model (a resolution jump that matched Apple’s iPhone), and subscriptions kept on rising.

Over the next few years, however, Google and Apple made headway fast. Google was building its own platform and operating system and Apple had learned to play hardball after it had lost the PC battle to Microsoft—and it sure wasn’t about to repeat the mistake in the smartphone wars. And though RIM tried valiantly to pivot, purchasing new software systems and rolling out stores, models, apps, and tablets—even changing the company name to BlackBerry in 2013—things never did bounce back. Hindsight points to hasty engineering choices and the competition dumping billions into technology that RIM was slow to match. Leaders stepped down, staff was cut by the thousands and BlackBerry eventually exited the phone-manufacturing business altogether.

“Momentum is a really important thing,” Don remarks wryly. “The computer industry has always been a fascinating place to play. But it’s a full contact sport; everyone is trying to put everyone else out of business. And when the whole industry plays by those rules, it moves incredibly quickly—because if you don’t, you get crushed.”

Today, BlackBerry is competing for the software systems that run the current and next generation of cars—which are themselves becoming ever more mobile communication devices.

Don still lives in Waterloo with his partner, Andrea, his time spent in nature and working as a self-proclaimed ‘voluntrepreneur’ (a term he coined to describe his entrepreneurial approach to volunteer work).

Conservation is a large part of his focus. Don has served on the boards of Ontario Nature and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). “I once heard it said that there are three causes for acting unsustainably: greed, ignorance and desperation,” he says. “For most people, our unsustainable behaviour comes from a lack of understanding or from lacking the capacity to monitor how the countless things that we depend upon impact our natural world. I think of conservation organizations as businesses that I pay to make sure our local, provincial and federal governments are meeting the ecological needs of the plants and animals that cannot speak for themselves.”

He has also served on the Ridley’s Board of Governors since 2016 and has been Chair of the Advancement Committee since 2020. When asked where his penchant for service comes from, Don recalls his grandparents and parents always volunteered their time and resources to community service organizations, and his university education was paid for largely by an endowed scholarship. In turn, he created a scholarship at RPI which helps undergrads conduct research each year. Don has a system in place to keep track of organizations who are doing good work, and looks to fellow members of Ridley’s board who inspire him as they seek to fill in society’s gaps—like Ridley’s Scott Paterson ’82, who’s not-for-profit, ComKids provides underserved children with computers and teaches digital literacy.

“Being a volunteer is a good way to expand your compassion for others in society and to increase the number of communities you are involved with,” Don suggests. “The best not-for-profit organizations help their supporters participate in something of substantial value—they create a sense of community.”

“Exploring what is interesting and important to you beyond your career leads to many opportunities to contribute in your communities—and I say communities in the plural because we all develop a diversity of associations which are each a unique community. Helping those communities flourish by volunteering your skills, your time and your financial resources will expose you to even more communities that will enrich your life and others.”

Since 2007, Don has also been volunteering with Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), which was founded by two engineers who’d graduated from the University of Waterloo and sought to solve complex, system-wide challenges. Right away Don knew they were doing something big. “I liked their approach to helping young people (especially engineers) develop their capacity to make substantial changes to public policies that were perpetuating poverty in the world,” he explains, positing that EWB has delivered the biggest return on investment of any charitable donation he’s made. The organization has shaped several impactful changes to Canadian public policy, unlocking millions of dollars per year that help businesses around the world build their local economies, and has mentored a long list of social entrepreneurs along the way.

“Two words,” Don replies when asked what advice he can offer fellow science enthusiasts and voluntrepreneurs. “Study people. Studying how people communicate and make decisions is as essential as air—if you can’t do it then your career will suffocate.”

That focus on communication really is key—no matter your sector. “When I was young, I naively though I only needed to have the best or most innovative idea but being able to communicate well with others is absolutely essential,” Don advises. “The computer industry encompasses a huge breadth of careers now. Technical innovation and scientific discoveries almost exclusively rest on collaboration with colleagues. Managers will fail if their teams aren’t working together to create great products and deliver valuable services. And entrepreneurs will never see their ideas prosper if they can’t influence the opinions and desires of customers and investors.”

After the past year-and-a-half, which brought with it both stories of inspiration and harsh societal lessons, Don is more determined than ever to support the initiatives that will help move society forward. “The most simple and profound marvels in our lives are due to an enormously interconnected network of ideas and innovations,” Don says, hoping the pandemic will encourage students to build a deep appreciation for the methods and tools of science and engineering. “This is an incredible opportunity for parents and educators to help young people see how these are woven into all of our lives.” 

And as the world shifts shape into something new, whether he’s paddling through Canadian landscapes or working with the causes he hopes will protect them, you can be sure Don is thinking of ways to keep reaching out. Communication, ever widening, only increases our ability to understand the complex issues facing our world, making global outreach possible, strengthening our relationships and organizing our day to day lives. It’s a good thing, and one he’s watched happen before.

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 the Fall 2021 issue.

Hey Google: Nancy Ting ’94

Head of Consumer and Brand Marketing at Google Hong Kong, globe-trotter Nancy Ting ’94 knows innovation and new technologies really can make the world a better place—and she’s focused on bringing them to market. We checked in with the impressive alumna to see what’s next in tech and ask what advice she has for those who want in.

Whether you’re checking in on Gmail, down a virtual rabbit hole, or asking your Google Home to convert ounces to grams, there are few of us whose lives haven’t been touched by the online powerhouse. More than 3.5 billion searches are conducted on Google each day—that’s 40,000 per second—and it accounts for over 92 per cent of all global internet searches. Somewhere along the way, Google even co-opted our language, switching silkily from noun to verb. “Google it,” has become a go-to phrase, regardless of which search engine you’re on.

“Climb the mountain not so that people can see you, but so that you can see the world.”

So after a year where we spent more time on screens than ever before, we spoke with alumna Nancy Ting ’94, Google’s Head of Consumer and Brand Marketing in Hong Kong, who works for the company that, literally, has all the answers.

Nancy started with Google after moving to Hong Kong in 2010 where she now lives with her seven-year-old daughter. Though her role keeps her busy, Nancy makes sure to prioritize their time together, playing tennis and golf and, most recently, picking up skateboarding.

The alumna graduated from Ridley in 1994, alongside her brother Newton. Their parents had sent them to Ridley to broaden their perspectives; Newton lived in Merritt South and Nancy moved into Gooderham House West. Though it was her first time living away from home, Nancy quickly settled in, recalling fond memories of learning Caribbean dancing from her roommate Philice Davis ’94, her mentor, Mrs. Williams—the first female pilot in St. Catharines—and gathering with the rest of the GWest girls at the home of their House mother, Mrs. Close, she called her ‘second home.’ Nancy still keeps in touch with classmates via social media and catches up with some of them right in Hong Kong.

“I’ve always wanted to solve problems to make the world a better place, so I decided to pursue an engineering degree. I went from not knowing how to turn on a computer to programming circuit boards in four years! So never be afraid to pursue disciplines that seem daunting. If you have the passion, there is always a way.”

After graduation, Nancy attended Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, where she studied Electrical and Computer Engineering. “I’ve always wanted to solve problems to make the world a better place, so I decided to pursue an engineering degree,” she explains. “I went from not knowing how to turn on a computer to programming circuit boards in four years. So never be afraid to pursue disciplines that seem daunting. If you have the passion, there is always a way.”

Nancy may not have known exactly what the end goal was at the time, but accruing a strong, transferrable skillset enabled her to work toward what she did know she wanted: to make a difference and be able to travel.

“Having a background in science and maths helped me land jobs and projects in different parts of the world,” she says. For Nancy, living in new places is an exciting way to get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures, and it enables her to appreciate different points of view. She’s lived so far in Toronto, London, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Austin, San Francisco, and Beijing.

“The challenging part is that one needs to re-establish one’s social circle,” she responds when asked how she settles into a new spot. “But I’ve found that if you follow your own interest, be it music, yoga or sports, you’ll be able to establish new circles pretty easily.”

The key, she adds, is to be willing to try something new. For example, when she was living in New York, Nancy was drawn to comedy, so she joined improv classes at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. It was an opportunity to meet people outside her work environment—and to have a good laugh while she did it.

That willingness to explore and try new things served Nancy well as she built her career, which has taken several unexpected turns along the way. Nancy’s first job was in Toronto as an eCommerce programmer at IBM, where she programmed internet applications from eCommerce websites to mobile apps to internet banking. Two years later, wanting to learn more about business, she moved to New York and worked for Deloitte Consulting as a strategy and management consultant. She also pursued an MBA at MIT, gaining skills in areas like accounting, finance and marketing and switched industries, becoming an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. Next, Nancy started her own company, Mode Republic, a user-generated magazine which showcased international fashionistas’ daily outfits. The magazine offered a ‘Shop This Look’ feature so you could shop for similar items from online stores.

But it was after moving to Hong Kong that Nancy was offered a position on Google’s marketing team, and she started out doing working for the Ads business in Greater China. “Working for years in different industries and functions, only reinforced my passion to use technology to make the world a better place,” she says. “Google is a company that’s constantly innovating, and it encourages employees to explore new positions and geographies every few years.”

Two years ago, she switched to B2C marketing, and now looks after products like YouTube, Google Play, Google Classroom, Android, and more. “Marketing is a great mixture of arts and science,” she remarks. “We focus on quantitative data analysis as well as identifying true user insight—then we come up with creative campaign ideas and bring them to market.”

The pandemic certainly affected how consumers and businesses alike use technology—a steady progression toward online options was sped up out of necessity, and traditional businesses recognized an urgent need for digitization. As foot traffic was reduced, small businesses were forced to build websites, up their social media game, and figure out digital ads so they could still be found. And, what’s more, they needed to deliver their products and services via those online channels.

“Wellbeing has different definitions for people. It’s important to go through the exercise of making it clear to yourself what makes you happy, what wellbeing means to you. Then you need to openly communicate that to your boss, your co-workers, your family—especially what is your ‘non-negotiable.’”

And it wasn’t only commerce that was affected; day-to-day life still relies on digital tools, be they for work, remote learning or entertainment which, as Nancy notes, brings with it tremendous opportunities in all areas.

Those opportunities mean that roles like Nancy’s are incredibly busy, so of course we have to ask how she manages her time and keeps on top of her own wellbeing—juggling motherhood, managing marketing for a company that’s constantly churning out new products, and tackling the year’s tougher realities like remote work and school.

“Wellbeing has different definitions for people,” she replies. “It’s important to go through the exercise of making it clear to yourself what makes you happy, what wellbeing means to you. Then you need to openly communicate that to your boss, your co-workers, your family—especially what is your ‘non-negotiable.’”

For Nancy, it’s important that she keeps healthy and spends quality time with those who matter. The pandemic was an opportunity to get in shape and keep her immune system strong, and she’s worked over the past months to focus on eating well and exercising. “I turned my biological age back to 25-years-old!” she laughs.

With days filled with meetings, she also sets aside time where she turns off and just focuses on her work, and makes it clear to her colleagues that being there for her daughter—particularly in important moments—is her ‘non-negotiable.’

“It certainly helps that I love what I do for work,” Nancy says. “Even when I have some spare time, I’d be reading about the tech industry or the latest innovations. I’d recommend young Ridleians strive to land a job in a field that aligns with their passion as soon as they can. When your work is something that you enjoy, the wellbeing challenge is significantly reduced.”

“In the coming decades, there will be job titles we’ve never heard of before. Equipping yourself with strong foundational skills in math, science and coding will better prepare you for exciting new job options.”

As students look ahead to their own careers, many of them considering jobs in the tech industry, Nancy recommends they equip themselves with strong foundational skills—like math, science and coding—that will give them plenty of room to pivot when required and to move around.

“In the coming decades, there will be job titles we’ve never heard of before,” she advises. “Those foundational skills will prepare you for exciting new options. And don’t worry if you aren’t good at these things now. I failed Maths and Physics in Junior High. The turning point for me was at Ridley when I had amazing teachers who helped me understand how things work. Seeking great mentors and information will help you to master the latest knowledge—you just need to be inquisitive and invest the time and effort.”

It’s sound advice. As opportunities expand, and with them, our ability to connect with and impact others across the globe, Nancy is the perfect example of someone who has approached her career with a strategically open mind and adventurously open arms. And as we conclude our conversation, each a world away from the other, connected only by a few of clicks, she leaves off with the words she’s always lived by: “Climb the mountain, not so that people can see you, but so that you can see the world.”


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 the Fall 2021 issue.

Data Driven: Jeff Bell ’88

Ridley students and employees spent the past year connecting largely via Microsoft Teams, so we just had to sit down with longtime MS expert, Jeff Bell ’88 to talk tech. Now, the alumnus shares his take on the future of work—and how Microsoft kept us clicking during a global pandemic.  

Jeff takes our call from his home office in Seattle, Washington. “Well, it wasn’t a home office until a year ago,” he explains practically, looking out at the Olympic Mountains, “it was our guest bedroom. But that’s the way the world has changed.” Like many of us, Jeff, too, has been working from home during the pandemic.

Back in 1991, the numbers minded Ridleian took on a summer internship at Microsoft. At the time, Jeff was working on an adaptation kit for companies to put MS-DOS 5.0 in their handheld devices (which he nods to as an essentially early ancestor of the iPhone). His officemates were busy working on Windows 3.1 and employees one door over were tackling applications. Jeff returned to Princeton University that fall to finish up his senior year, then moved out to Seattle as a fulltime Microsoft employee.

“There were always people who worked remotely—we just tended to ignore them. Now we’ve all been that remote person for the past year-and-a-half, there’s that much more awareness of how to make it work for everyone.”

He’s worked there ever since, challenging the ‘Bay Area stereotype’ that people in tech tend to hop from company to company. Over the years, Jeff’s been able to move within the organization and dive deep into a variety of projects that speak to his skills and interests, including type and typography; digital rights management; digital payments and wallets; tools for early e-commerce; and eBooks and ePub standards. And if, like us, you love the ‘Save as PDF’ functionality in Office Suite, you can thank Jeff—he led the small team that worked with Adobe to add it as a built-in feature.

Today, Microsoft employs more than 175,000 people worldwide, and Jeff is an expert on Microsoft 365 subscriptions. The quick pace of technology means they’re always rolling out new features and waiting for customers to renew can be a real drag—for creators and consumers alike. But with people now automating everything from music to razors to poultry, a simple subscription ensures users will always get their mouse on the most current iteration. 

“Think of Netflix as an example,” Jeff explains. “If I were to buy a hard disk or a chip with all the shows on it, but it doesn’t update itself with anything, how exciting is that? People producing a new show would have to wait for viewers to upgrade their Netflix or buy a new TV.” 

“In the software world, we’ve long had this challenge—we’d build all these great new features we really like, but our customers were still using this thing from five years ago that they’d buy new only when they’d buy a new PC. We want to get the updates to everyone faster, and if we can help make that easy, we can give everyone a better experience and a better product.”

“There are a whole lot of paths to being successful. There are smart people everywhere and it takes a lot of people—and a lot of types of people across the board—to deliver products in tech.”

Since March 2020, discussions of secure, collaborative products and ‘work-from-home ergonomics’ have taken on new life as employees perch at kitchen counters, occupy dining room chairs and hunch over coffee tables. 

Though we may have had to keep an eye on our steps, many of us were undeniably lucky to be able to work remotely during a time when the world, in large measure, shut down. Technologies like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet kept us connecting, celebrating, and producing. 

MS Teams saw a huge uptick in users over the pandemic, and was one of the fastest growing apps, adding a whopping 95 million users in 2020. More than 500,000 organizations worldwide now use it as their default messaging platform, including over 183,000 educational institutions.

Though he may be working from home these days, for Jeff, connecting virtually is old hat. “At some level, that’s how my old world was. I spent two years where my manager and immediate team actually sat in Dublin, Ireland,” he recalls. “And Microsoft is a decent-sized campus. When I’m working with the commerce team or the payments team and they’re a 10-to-20-minute shuttle ride or walk away, you meet with them on Teams. So much of my work was done on Teams and via email already.”   

Microsoft has been thinking about the future of hybrid work for years. One of the projects Jeff worked on, now nearly a decade ago, was meeting technology and hybrid meetings, with the team considering such things as collaborative notetaking. “We didn’t end up solving the problem at the time, but we made a little headway,” he muses, “and the world moved on. But there’s certainly an interest in watching how things played out once everyone had to go virtual.”  

And in many ways, Jeff’s been in on the experiment, as his own family learned to operate remotely this past year—which included everything from the logistics of virtual orchestra to scrambling to find a Nintendo Switch to play Animal Crossing. Jeff lives in Seattle with his son, Andrew, who’s going into Grade 12, and daughter, Elizabeth, who will be entering Grade 10. His wife, Anna, a lawyer by training and a former JAG officer, is a romance writer. Though there was certainly some trial and error in the day-to-day, the pace slowed for everyone; a smaller stride meant more frequent video calls with Jeff’s Ottawa-based parents, his extended family in Alberta, and his sister, alumna Jensa Morris ’90, who’s now a doctor based in Connecticut. 

He’s also continued to keep active in his downtime, golfing throughout Seattle’s long season and still serious about running—he’s run 20 marathons to date, a passion which goes back to his days as a harrier at Ridley. 

Jeff came to the Lower School over Christmas in Grade 7, having started French immersion earlier that year and wanting a different kind of education. A conversation with family connection Reverend Hunt soon led the young whiz to Ridley—and, once there, Jeff never looked back. He spent the next seven years as a day student. In Lower School, he played cricket, soccer, squash, tennis, and hockey. When he transitioned to Upper School, now a student of Merritt South, he focused on playing hockey and competing both as a harrier and on the tennis courts. He was a Cadet sergeant, a House Prefect, and received both the TR Merritt Matriculation Gold Medal and the Governor General’s Medal. 

Jeff’s impressive skills in mathematics were known widely, so it was of little surprise that he sought a future career in engineering. “There are lots of domains in which you can solve problems, but I was strong in maths and sciences,” he remembers. “Engineering just felt like a place where there are always fun problems to solve and good tools for doing it.”

It was simply a question of where. Jeff was in Grade 12 and applying to Ontario programmes when his teacher, Brian Martin approached him and asked if he’d considered any American schools. He hadn’t, thinking those kinds of plans were years in the making. But it was a late decision which paid off; Jeff got in his applications just under the deadline and was accepted to the engineering programme at Princeton University. 

“It used to be fashionable to talk about how everyone should be fluent in coding—and the expectation of numeracy and comfort in data modelling might sound equally dated in 20 years. But right now, it feels like the easiest people to work with are the ones who can have a conversation about the data.”

What comes across as he talks about his work, however, is that it’s clearly about more than math alone (though he certainly spends his time deep in the numbers): Jeff is essentially a storyteller, contextualizing the data and using it as a tool to gain insight into what consumers are doing (or aren’t), how the business is working (or isn’t), and what’s going to be good for both. What impact are we having? Are we touching people at scale? How can we build the right thing? 

“That fluency is almost more valuable than code,” he agrees, “It used to be fashionable to talk about how everyone should be fluent in coding—and the expectation of numeracy and comfort in data modelling might sound equally dated in 20 years. But right now, it feels like the easiest people to work with are the ones who can have a conversation about the data.” 

And after the past year-and-a-half, the data has a lot to say. Today, Microsoft’s signature problem-solving efforts continue as a workforce contemplates its return to the office. How do workers use the chat function? How do things function when half the meeting’s attendees are remote? Is the chat channel more visible to those who are remote—and is it then ignored by those in the room? As we all inch closer to a new working model, mock-up solutions are popping up across the Microsoft campus. Their teams have been busy learning from what we’ve been doing these past months—and envisioning what a hybrid future might look like. 

“I think we’ll get to a place where we have more of a recognition of those who are remote,” Jeff predicts. “There were always people who worked remotely—we just tended to ignore them. Now that we’ve allbeen that remote person for the past year-and-a-half, there’s that much more awareness of how to make it work for everyone.”

“I have a lot of appreciation for the data scientists; the best ones are artists who understand the numbers and do a great job of storytelling and making sense of the world, making sense of the work we do.”

And, notably, these changes bring with them important conversations about diversity, accessibility, and opportunities to broaden the hiring pool. “While Redmond and Seattle are lovely places, we don’t need to move the whole world here,” Jeff points out practically, citing his organization’s recent hires who will be staying put. “There are smart people everywhere and tons of opportunity. In tech, it takes a lot of people—and a lot of types of people—to deliver products.”

Speaking with Jeff, you can’t help but be excited by what’s to come, knowing these technologies will only expand our reach across both office and globe. And though we’ve each had to pivot over the course of this pandemic, to park our cars and watch our work clothes hang in our closets like question marks—we are the lucky ones. There’s plenty of promise in the ‘new normal,’ status unknown, even as it’s still coming into focus.


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 the Fall 2021 issue.

Tech Savvy: Alex Clark ’06

Alumna, Alex Clark talks good policy, giving back—and how she’s bringing opportunity to a new generation of entrepreneurs.

If you spent a good part of the past year seeking small business gems on social, listening for the comforting sound of the delivery truck, or contemplating the items in your virtual cart, you’re in good company. With consumers bereft of their bricks-and-mortar go-tos, online shopping hit an all-time high during the pandemic—and it looks like it’s here to stay.  

For alumna Alex Clark ’06, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Canada’s e-commerce powerhouse Shopify, the ability to support retailers beyond your local mall is exactly the kind of diversification the system needs.

“Consumers over the pandemic embraced online shopping, wanted to support local businesses, and cared about the ‘about us’ stories more than ever before. My hope is that this continues. More voices, more power in the hands of the many and not the few … we’ve rediscovered the online version of Main Street and it’s exhilarating.”

“More voices, more power in the hands of the many and not the few—we’ve rediscovered the online version of Main Street and it’s exhilarating,” she explains earlier this summer. “If the government can use the momentum we’ve seen through this pandemic around supporting entrepreneurship, we could have a much more diverse, interesting and stable economy moving forward.”

It seems Alex has always been keen to bring fresh talent to the table—and that means fighting for good policies; finding innovative ways to expand reach; and providing opportunity to those who, historically, were often overlooked.

“If the government can use the momentum we’ve seen through this pandemic around supporting entrepreneurship—bringing them to the table and addressing the real barriers—we could have a much more diverse, interesting and stable economy moving forward.”

“Looking back, I was able to leverage my education, my network and even life experiences to get me through the door,” she shares. “It’s an advantage to have one of those, let alone all three, so I’ve always believed in finding ways to allow more people to participate that otherwise couldn’t.”

It’s a community mindset she comes by honestly. Her grandfather, Old Ridleian Ian Reid ’44 and grandmother, Margot instilled its importance in their family; both received the Order of Canada in recognition of their community service.

Alex is part of a long line of Ridleians: her grandfather, Ian; uncles, Tim ’78 and Ross Reid ’71; aunt, Sarah Cameron ’84; and sister, Jillian Clark ’03 all attended Ridley. When she was 16, Alex decided to turn her focus from competitive tennis and considered where to spend one final, adventurous year—and, having listened to plenty of Ridley stories around the dinner table, Alex knew the school would check the right boxes. She enrolled for the 2005-06 academic year.

“Some of this [service mindset] comes from self-awareness of opportunities I’ve had that are not available to everyone. Looking back, I was able to leverage my education, my network and even life experiences to get me through the door. It’s an advantage to have one of those—let alone all three—as you go through life and your early career, so I’ve always believed in finding ways to allow more people to participate that otherwise couldn’t.”

And from the moment she arrived on campus, she made the most of it, serving as captain of the First Girls Rugby team, House captain of Gooderham West (she’s held on proudly to her House ring), and assistant captain of the then newly formed JV Girls Hockey team, which she helped create. “It was a bunch of us that had never played hockey—most of us had never learned how to stop on skates. The boards absorbed a lot of our momentum!” she remembers. “But by the end of the season, we were a dream team. I was surrounded by these badass women who just wanted to have fun and compete.”

The arts soon came calling, too. Alex played Béline, Aragon’s fortune-hunting second wife in the Upper School production of Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid (Le Malade Imaginaire). “A special dedication to my grandfather,” Alex wrote in her sunny Acta entry later that year, “without him blazing the Ridley trail, I worry I would have missed this influential year … Thank you, Ridley for opening your doors to me and welcoming me into the family.”

Though Alex left after graduation to pursue a degree in Political Science (first at University of British Columbia and then Carleton University), she kept in touch with her peers in the years that followed—and the Ridley family afforded her some new connections along the way.

These days, Alex lives in Ottawa with her husband, Jarett and their eight-year-old dog, Boomer. When we spoke in June, she and Jarett were expecting their first child and predicting life would soon be busier than ever—and that’s certainly saying something. The proud alumna currently sits on the leadership board of the Women’s Training Camp with the Ottawa REDBLACKS and is on the Board of Directors for Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women and helps them to re-enter the workforce. And as Shopify’s VP of Strategic Initiatives, her day job keeps things hopping as well.

Knocking down barriers to success seems to have always been at the core of her career, which from the start has followed an impressive path. Alex started out in politics, working for the Liberals when they were the official Opposition under Michael Ignatieff. Following that, she took what she learned and applied it to helping businesses navigate the system. She spent the next five years working with global clients across all sectors, developing their strategic communications and stakeholder plans, and lobbying on their behalf.

But in helping these companies, it never did feel quite like her win, and she wanted to have more of a direct impact. Alex transitioned in-house at Microsoft as their Director of Corporate Affairs, dividing her time between Vancouver and the company’s headquarters in Seattle—and ultimately working with the B.C. government to build the Centre of Excellence.

“Failure is part of the journey and will only make you a better entrepreneur if you take the time to learn from it. Never skip over understanding why something failed. As we say at Shopify: Failure is the successful discovery of something that did not work.”

That’s when Shopify came calling. “It was a no brainer for me,” she laughs good-naturedly. “A Canadian company supporting small businesses and they have a slide in the office?!”

Though an admittedly excellent selling feature, the company sure boasts more than a slide. If you’re still unfamiliar with the popular online platform, Shopify provides independent business owners with ecommerce and point of sale features to help them start, run and grow their business. More than two million merchants from over 175 countries use it—and they’ve created 3.6 million jobs and contributed $307+ billion in global economy impact.

In 2016, Alex joined Shopify’s team as Director of Policy and Government Affairs, creating the company’s first Global Affairs team and advocating for policy ensuring governments around the world remove barriers for entrepreneurs to be successful.

“It was a unique time for tech and government,” she recalls. “Government is accustomed to a dynamic with the private sector that’s based around value exchange. But if you were like Shopify five years ago, you historically had never needed government—but quickly they were showing up in your backyard making crucial policy decisions, while not always fully understanding the unintended consequences of those decisions.”

As ‘innovation’ became the new buzz word across the country, with solutions being drawn up around everything from attracting talent to supporting young businesses, it became clear that Shopify needed a seat at the table. “That’s what I came to solve,” Alex explains. “It was less about lobbying and more about education.”

From that role, Alex was asked to become Chief of Staff to CEO, Tobias Lütke. She moved deeper into the business, working alongside the Executive team as Shopify went through an exciting period of hypergrowth. Their workforce doubled each year, global expansion took off and their merchant base now sits at over two million. This past year, Alex took on her current VP role, which covers Shopify’s Corporate Development and the SHOP app; she’s also advisor to the Executive team and CEO.

But her passion for small business doesn’t end at their office door. In recent months, Alex co-launched Backbone Angels, a collective of ten active angel investors who invest in women and non-binary founders. These angels—all women who bring years of experience in everything from legal to UX to marketing—prioritize investments in Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour led companies who deserve the capital and support to build the companies of the future. Alex is a founding partner.

“We realized our collective experience was incredibly powerful and by launching ‘Backbone’ we’ll be able to support more companies. We’ve spent most of our careers on the front line of entrepreneurship,” Alex says. “We know the story of the journey and the individual matters just as much as the final product.”

“The future is for the makers.”

More people are choosing entrepreneurship, she posits—and it’s paying off. In the past months they’ve reviewed hundreds of decks, met with founders and have invested in some exciting companies. But though there’s plenty of hope for a new generation of entrepreneurs, there’s work to be done; the pandemic shone a spotlight on the vulnerabilities we have as an economy.

“Canada can sometimes be referred to as ‘laggards’ when it comes to technological adoption,” explains Alex, “and some of that became painfully obvious when we didn’t have the right systems in place to address the needs of individuals and businesses through this pandemic. Businesses that survived were those that quickly shifted to online because now you could no longer depend on your brick-and-mortar store for foot traffic, and you needed to expand to a larger or global market.”

“The silver lining of this is that we’re seeing small businesses doing really well because they removed the dependency of in-person,” she adds.

Now, it’s all about using that momentum to bring those entrepreneurs to the table to address what are some very real barriers. It’s only through inclusive conversations and good policies that the country will move forward and live up to its potential—and Alex is hopeful. One way to bring about change? People need to get involved.

“Getting involved in politics was once seen as this honourable way to serve your country, and now I think it’s seen as this thankless, dirty job that no one wants. We really need to change that narrative,” she says. “We need people shaping this country that embrace the potential of the future and understand where we’re heading—and we need women.”

As we wrap up our conversation, it seems like the perfect opportunity to ask Alex if she has any advice for Ridley’s young entrepreneurs. “It’s really hard,” she replies. “Expect to fail…a lot. But recognize that failure is part of the journey and will only make you a better entrepreneur if you take the time to learn from it. Never skip over understanding why something failed. As we say at Shopify: Failure is the successful discovery of something that did not work.”

So, good reader, following a year filled with uncertainty but lined with the silvery promise of something new, go forth and find your passion—whatever that may be—and go for it. And while you’re deciding, hit ‘buy’ on that shopping cart.


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 the Fall 2021 issue.

In Dedication: A Century of Giving, Growth & Breaking Ground

“The past has walked these very halls, strode across this campus, each Ridleian contributing in important ways to the Ridley of today, the Ridley of the future. It’s why change—born of both necessity and innovation—nods respectfully to our roots; they are the basis from which we grow.”

Through the gates, across sprawling lawns and stately buildings, the unmistakeable prints of Ridleians are everywhere, generous marks of hope that go back more than 130 years—back to when Ridley was simply an idea, and then later, as it became so much more.

The darker moments from our past have often led to periods great giving and innovation, and this year is no different. As our community rouses from a global pandemic, we turn toward a new moment in time, filled with thoughts of fresh ground, fresh plans. We do so, in part, by celebrating our past, those moments when, faced with difficulty, Ridleians looked determinedly ahead.

This year marks the hundred-year anniversary of the Memorial Chapel, the beating heart of campus that stands in honour of those lost to the Great War. In 2021, it’s a spiritual hub that welcomes students of all faiths, providing comfort and instilling values and purpose. The year also marks a century since Gooderham House was built, a dormitory which was intended to house boys old and new. Now, Gooderham bustles with the bright laughter of flamingos and crocodiles, girls who are poised to become the empowered women of tomorrow. What hasn’t changed, however, is that both Chapel and Gooderham House are still about gathering, about community, strength and, importantly, coming home.


The Memorial Chapel

Following the First World War, Ridley’s mood was confident, secure. It had won a high place in public regard and had established itself as an institution that was ready to go on to greater things. Canadian attitudes toward higher education were quickly changing, and the demand for place at Ridley grew each year. Expansion was in all minds as new applications rolled in—and Gooderham House and the Memorial Chapel were the most notable items in the school’s enlargement.

At the end of the First World War, alumni had proposed a chapel in honour of those Ridleians who had lost their lives. It was a cause close to their hearts and by the spring of 1919, nearly $50,000 had been raised to support the build. It was simply one more piece of evidence that the school had matured: it had its own martyrs to mourn and to honour, its ideals and traditions fixed firmly in place.

Ridley Chapel in the morning,

Incarnation fresh and pure

Of those souls who, this life scorning,

Fought to make the issue sure.

Ridley Chapel, hallowed dwelling

Of the spirit of the dead:

We have made you as a temple

For the sacred flame they fed.

There was a sense of urgency as the building went up, with Old Ridleians pressing the architects and builders to complete the work efficiently. It would seem they listened; a cornerstone ceremony was held on June 4, 1921, and construction neared completion by the spring of 1923. 

While the Chapel was being built, services continued to be held in the Prayer Hall in School House—and the last of the services held there meant a lot to the students. Knowing they would soon move to the newly designated space, on the second-last Sunday, Mr. Griffith recalled all the humbler rooms which had served as chapel since 1889: the Springbank Sanitorium’s reception room, the dining room of the old Stephenson House, and the Prayer Hall in the new school building on the Western Hill. Moving forward, the latter would be known as the Assembly Hall.

The Memorial Chapel stood apart when complete, a majestic stone monument that served as a symbol of spiritual Ridley. Architects, Sproatt and Rolph, were awarded a gold medal by the American Institute of Architects for their educational and institutional architecture. The citation stated that the chief features of their exhibit were the designs for the University of Toronto’s Memorial Tower and for the “noble Gothic Chapel at Ridley College.”

It was a beautiful construction to be sure, raised in a perpendicular Gothic style, the exterior and interior built of Georgetown stone; with windows, copings and doorways constructed of Bedford. The standing structures were joined by a passageway, starting beside the tall arched entrance. Its interior was striking; grand stones laid on edge; nine mullioned windows carried along the two sides, with small windows in the entranceway, and a large window rose above the altar. At the chancel end, a door led to the vestry, and an organ screen of Bedford limestone lent further beauty.

Seating throughout was solid oak, paired with hand-carved chancel furniture. The ceiling was comprised of warm B.C. cedar, and stained-glass windows added soft translucent colour to the space, their richness reminiscent of the glassmakers of centuries before.

And throughout, there were the memorials. The west window on the south side stood in memory of Ridley’s war dead and other dedicated windows stood in bright solemnity, along with an oak eagle lectern and an archer’s desk, the organ screen, the Chapel Bible, the communion service, an alms basin, and a communion table. Each given in memory, each given in honour of someone who was loved and lost.

For the Chapel dedication, Ridley’s Cadet Corp opened the ceremony, marching into their seats. Behind them, the procession came down the centre aisle, led by the Lower School choir. Then came the officers of the Old Boys Association and the principles, Mr. Griffith and Mr. Williams, who were followed by the clergy. These included Principal emeritus, Dr. Miller; His Lordship the Bishop of Niagara; the Reverend; the Provost of Trinity College; and the rectors of St. Catharines’ churches.

Association President Colonel Douglas Mason OR’01 made the formal presentation of the Chapel to Ridley College, and it was accepted by Vice President of the Board, the Hon. Mr. Justice A. Courtney Kingstone OR’92. Principal Griffith read the names of Ridley’s war-dead in alphabetic order, his voice carrying through the quiet space. The buglers played.

From that point on, the Chapel became the heart of Ridley; it has always evoked great love from our community, which has sought to keep up its care and maintenance. In 1924, an ‘anonymous’ gift was given by Ross A. Wilson, the Cadet Corps Commander and 1917 Mason Gold winner. His gift—intended to reward the governors for their own generosity—was designed to erect a reredos, provide a new organ and pay off outstanding debts from the Chapel build.

The Ridley College Women’s Guild (now Family Guild), which had been organized in 1923, soon ‘adopted’ the Memorial Chapel, with their first project to be the completion of the chancel furnishings. By their second annual meeting, their Winnipeg branch donated a beautiful oak sedilia, the London brand provided cushions, and the Toronto group pledged a chancel rug.

Throughout the 1930s, the Chapel received new additions in memory of various Ridleians who had been lost. The Old Boys presented a prayer desk in memorial to Colonel Thairs. Other additions included a new baptismal font, a water cruet, a stained-glass window, a silver chalice and paten, a glass and cruet for wine, a purple superfontal and bookmarks, and a framed illuminated verse from its author, Colonel the Venerable Archdeacon Frederick George Scott, which reads:

In honour, chivalrous,

In duty, valorous,

In all things, noble,

To the heart’s core clean.

By the 1964-65 academic year, special events were planned in celebration of Ridley’s anniversary. The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Fund had been launched the year before under the general chairmanship of Hamilton Cassels. The project, undertaken by the board, set a target of $700,000 to expand and renovate facilities and provide additional scholarships—it was exceeded by $150,000.

“No school exists in the world where former students display more loyalty to their old school than do the [alumni] of Ridley.” — Principal Griffith

Through their generosity, Ridley’s donors enabled a Chapel expansion, which had been in discussion since the 1940s. Due to space limitations, the Lower School had worshipped separately from the Upper School since the 1930s, and an extension was needed that would be built in absolute harmony with the rest of the structure. Naturally, the job was turned over to Ferdie Marani OR’12, who had, coincidentally, trained at Sproatt and Rolph, the Chapel’s original architects. The seamless expansion was completed in time for the Old Boys Weekend of 1964 and was dedicated by the Bishop of Niagara, The Right Reverend Walter Bagnall.

The 75th anniversary celebration also offered the first opportunity to purchase Chapel pews, and to begin the establishment of an endowment for Chapel maintenance and initiatives. By 1966, the Chapel was providing funds to send Ridley boys to work abroad in local churches as young missionaries—a Ridley version of the Peace Corp and an extension of the school mission to serve.


GOODERHAM HOUSE

Around the same time the Chapel was being conceived, governor Ross Gooderham OR’92 initiated a gift of his own: a new boarding house for the Upper School. When his brother’s generous act was reported to board president George H. Gooderham, he quickly exclaimed, “The Gooderham brothers will build your dormitory for you.” Together, the brothers paid the $288,000 needed to build the new dorm, which was completed a century ago, by the summer of 1921. Boys spilled into the residence that fall, which was designed to accommodate 50 students and three resident masters.

Sproatt and Rolph were the architects who took up the project, designing the building in the Collegiate Gothic style. It stood three stories tall, built of red brick with white stone facings. Later that year, the building was formally presented to the school.

Parents, Old Boys and friends of Ridley came from across Canada, converging to celebrate the official opening of Gooderham House. Mr. A. Courtney Kingstone formally accepted the new building on behalf of the board, and Principal Emeritus, Dr. Miller, offered the prayer of dedication. Both Principal Griffith and Principal Williams spoke that day, the former announcing that a wing of the building would be reserved for the Old Boys to use whenever they visited the school.

“No school exists in the world where former students display more loyalty to their old school than do the Old Boys of Ridley,” Principal Griffith proclaimed in his moving address.

“Our school will continue to be dedicated to flourishing and to growth—made possible by the generosity of our community and our collective commitment to tomorrow.”

These buildings remain a place to celebrate and to share. The values for which the Memorial Chapel stands are common to all the world’s great religions. To a new, international Ridley, it remains a shrine, a spiritual place of remembrance and contemplation. Here, students from Upper and Lower School support one another and hold on to tradition. It is a place where community is formed, and where students, families and faculty can come together to pay their respects to those who have come before. Musicians perform, speeches are given, Prefects lead, and alumni are married.

Now long occupied by Upper School girls, the Gooderham Houses are divided by East and West, each filled with its own personality and pride. Each hardworking student makes up the beautiful fabric of our community. Both girls boarding Houses strive for excellence and both lead with compassion and heart.

Today’s residents, in both Chapel and the Gooderham Houses, are a testament to how far Ridley has come, how much has changed over the years. New voices have been brought into the fold, offering diverse and global perspectives. And yet, our traditions and values, our history remain at our school’s foundation.

The past still walks these very halls, still strides across this campus; each Old Ridleian continues to contribute to the Ridley of today and of the future. It’s why change—born of natural necessity—nods respectfully to our roots; they are the basis from which we grow. After all, it is in those spaces in which we grow together, that we’ve always forged our most timeless bonds as Ridleians. And it is why Ridley’s past will always inform its future.

Now, following a turbulent year, we look to our grounds with an eye to expand and improve, to breathe new life into campus. These changes will transform Ridley for the better and will take us sure-footedly into the next century. Our school will continue to be dedicated to flourishing and to growth—made possible by the generosity of or community, and our collective commitment to tomorrow.


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 the Fall 2021 issue.

Ridley’s Architect: How an Old Boy breathed new life into campus

As we look to our grounds with an eye to expand, we remember that Ridley’s past will always inform its future—and that transformation sends ripples of change, not only across campus, but across time.

In 1919, a young group of architects gathered almost daily at Bloor Street’s Diet Kitchen Tea Room in Toronto, to “complain, plot and dream of a better city.” Fondly referred to as “The Diet Kitchen School of Architecture,” the eclectic group included Ridley’s own Ferdinand ‘Ferdie’ H. Marani ’1912—an up-and-coming architect who would change the cityscape in the years to come.

Ferdie Marani Manulife Building

The son of an instructor at the University of Toronto’s (U of T) School of Architecture, you might say Ferdie came by it honestly. For over fifty years, the Vancouver-born, Toronto-based architect was “amongst the aficionados of the postwar period of Toronto architecture and city building,” known widely for his Neo-Georgian style. The geometric, modular aesthetic became the main architecture of the public realm in the U.K. during the period of the 1920s to 1960s; its influence quickly reached North America and was soon seen popping up everywhere in the form of banks, shops, universities and military buildings.

Ferdie founded a succession of firms credited with the design of hundreds of well-known buildings, from Ottawa’s Bank of Canada, to the Canadian Forces Headquarters in Washington D.C., to Toronto’s famous Medical Arts Building, Sheridan College and the CNE grandstand. And, as you walk the paths of Ridley’s campus, you’ll see evidence of that classic Georgian style everywhere you look. Because Ferdie was not only an Old Boy and a Toronto trailblazer—he was also Ridley’s architect.

Ferdie Marani, c.1909

“I was constantly pestering [Lieutenant-Colonel George Thairs]. I would go into his office one day to ask, ‘When are the uniforms coming,’ then ‘When are the rifles coming,’ then another day, ‘Why not start a Bugle Band?’ and many other questions more ridiculous.”

Ferdie was part of a virtual Ridley dynasty of Maranis that attended the school. His grandfather, J. Herbert Mason was responsible for setting up the Mason Gold Medal, still awarded every year, not only at Ridley, but also at Havergal and UCC. Ferdie, himself, won the medal in 1912. During his time here from 1901 to 1912, he proved to be a dedicated student, “a very fair tackler, and one of the hardest workers on the line” on Ridley’s football team, and a self-proclaimed military enthusiast. He joined the Cadet Corps the day it formed and was a member for six years, becoming Captain the year Ridley competed in the Imperial Cadet Competitions at the Toronto Exhibition.

“I was constantly pestering [Lieutenant-Colonel George Thairs],” Ferdie laughingly admits in his 1924 In Memoriam for the Colonel. “I would go into his office one day to ask, ‘When are the uniforms coming,’ then ‘When are the rifles coming,’ then another day, ‘Why not start a Bugle Band?’ and many other questions more ridiculous.” But his persistence paid off: by 1912, Ridley’s first bugle band was formed, “organized through the hard work and interest of Cadet Captain F.H. Marani.”

Cadet Officers, 1911

Ferdie was studying architecture at U of T when the Great War broke out, and he left school to enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. He became a captain in the Third Battalion of the Toronto Regiment and was posted overseas, wounded in June of 1916. From 1932 to 1936, Ferdie served his country again as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Canada, and then as Group Captain of the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Colonel Ferdinand Marani was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his war service in the summer of 1945. 

Throughout his life, Ferdie’s passion for the military remained strong. In 1946, the War Memorial Committee of the Osgoode Law Society approached the architect who had served his country so faithfully, seeking his recommendation for a way in which to honour members who had lost their lives during the Second World War. Ferdie’s suggestion, a moving memorial by leading sculptor Cleeve Horne, still lives in the lower Rotunda of Osgoode Hall.   

Lt_Col_F.H._Marani

Ferdie served his country again as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Canada, and then as Group Captain of the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.

Though he left campus in 1912, Ferdie never strayed too far from Ridley, and became the Honorary President of the Old Boys Association. His wife, Constance, was also deeply involved in the Ridley community, presenting prizes for Sports Days in the postwar years, and an active member of the then Women’s Guild. Her detailed history of the Guild not only acted as a tribute to its hardworking women—mothers, wives and sisters who were also considered “staunch Old Ridleians”—but served as an important document for the Ridley record. The Guild’s aim, as Mrs. Marani expressed it, was “to help in making Ridley a greater power for good in our country.”

As you wander the grounds, you’ll find Ferdie’s trademark Georgian style dotted becomingly across our lush campus: he led his firms in designing the Lower School (Alumni Hall) in 1926, remodelled the Upper School (School House) in 1930, and completed Merritt House in 1932, merging it into the quiet impressiveness of the older buildings. The distinctive Marriott Gates went up in 1934, their arch an ornamental wrought-iron over-throw, with the shield of Ridley’s Coat-of-Arms as the centre-piece, topped by a bishop’s mitre.

In the late-thirties, Ridley turned to Ferdie to design a new gymnasium, later named for the Iggulden family, in response to an urgent need for indoor playing space. Built of red brick with white stone facings, the 1939 build was as good as that of any on the continent—and it quite literally revolutionized the school. Ridley enriched its athletic offerings beyond the traditional trio of football, hockey and cricket, giving way to a wider opportunity to represent the school and develop different talents; the impressive space also had all the bells and whistles needed to revive drama. A decade later, The Schmon Infirmary and Memorial Great Hall both rose up under Ferdie’s watch.

  • Memorial Chapel, 1926
  • Merritt House
  • Cadet Corps, 1907
  • Lower School
  • Iggulden Gymnasium

By the 1960s, nearly twenty years of discussion about expanding the Memorial Chapel turned to action. Due to space limitations, the Lower School had worshipped separately from the Upper School since the 1930s, and an extension was needed that would be built in absolute harmony with the rest of the structure. Naturally, the job was turned over to Ferdie, who had, coincidentally, trained at Sproatt & Rolph, the Chapel’s original architects. The seamless expansion was completed in time for the Old Boys Weekend of 1964.

Over the years, Ferdie’s firms won multiple awards, including an Honorable Mention at the 1948 London Olympics in the Architectural Design category, and one of the first Massey Silver Medals for Architecture in 1950. He was elected as Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, became a Full Academician of the Royal Canadian Academy, chairman of the Ontario Association of Architects and a member of the Governing Council of the Ontario College of Art, serving two terms as Chair—OCAD now has an award given in his name.

Ferdie Marani was part of an old age of architecture that’s now gone, “a time in which the mayor phones up Ferdie or Ron Dick and says, ‘We need a courthouse, University Avenue, OAA fees, okay, good, click.’” notes Bob Goyeche, a current principle at the firm Ferdie once founded. “That era changed.” The firm still stands, though it has since shuffled partners, now less Georgian and more concept-driven and elite. However, that’s one of the most amazing things about architecture: Ferdie’s unmistakeable prints are all over this country, its cities and its suburbs, and all across this campus.

And, as we now look to our grounds with an eye to expand and improve, to breathe new life into the Iggulden Gymnasium Ferdie Marani designed nearly eighty years ago, it’s a good moment to remember that Ridley’s past will always inform its future—and that the transformation of the gym and surrounding buildings will send ripples of positive change, not only across our campus, but across time.  

To learn more about The Campaign for Ridley, as well as plans for a reimagined campus, visit us online.

This article was printed in the winter 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.

Going the Distance: Jim Butterfield ’70

Raised on rowing by Ridley’s best, Jim Butterfield ’70 knows how sport can inspire, support and bring people together. Now, the Bermudian businessman shares how he keeps moving forward—and is giving back to his community.  

Jim Butterfield was on the soccer field when Coach Mark Gallop came up and asked if he knew how to row. “I’d only seen rowing in the movies,” Jim remembers. “I knew how to row a dingy; I knew how to row a punt—I had no idea he was talking about something that was 63-feet long. But I fell in love with it right away.”

“I’d only seen rowing in the movies. I knew how to row a dingy; I knew how to row a punt—I had no idea he was talking about something that was 63-feet long. But I fell in love with it right away.”

Until Mark came to Ridley, rowing hadn’t been taken all that seriously. The Englishman had arrived just two years prior and had been busy overhauling the school’s rowing programme. Having rowed at both Hampton School and Cambridge University, Mark knew exactly what a competitive rowing programme entailed.

“The guys would get on a bus and go into Port Dalhousie. One group would go off and have some cigarettes and the others would row, and then they’d switch off,” Jim explains. “Then Mark came in and said, ‘The bus is being sold. If you want to row, you’ll need to buy a bicycle and you’ll need to ride down to the rowing shed and ride back. And don’t be late for dinner.’ Suddenly rowing was demanding.”

As part of his vision, Mark recruited local Olympic oarsman, Neil Campbell who, at the time, was living in nearby Vineland. “You’re a Ridley boy,” Mark entreated the athlete. “We’ve got rowing now. Would you come and coach us?” The rest, as they say, is history. Between Mark and Neil, what had once been a casual pastime soon became a big deal on campus, a challenging sport to which students aspired.

And, Jim quickly became one of them. He had come to Ridley in 1962 when he was just 12 years-old, fresh from Hamilton, Bermuda and following his older brother, George ’57. Jim’s brother, Tom, who was just slightly older than he, was sent to St. Andrew’s College—there was room for only one new Butterfield at Ridley that year, and their parents decided that Jim would benefit from having George nearby.

“I wrote six letters home that first week,” Jim laughs, looking back. “It was a bit shocking and I couldn’t just jump on a train and head back to Oakville or Toronto; I was homesick.”

But Jim soon settled into school, making friends and exploring the athletic opportunities he hadn’t had back home. And he was careful to heed George’s advice. “You’re from Bermuda—they’re going to want to put you in the pool,” he’d warned. “Don’t get in that pool! Take up ice hockey.”

So, Jim tried it all, from soccer to cross country to track and field—politely passing on cricket and football—and, as his brother had suggested, hitting the ice. “I loved ice hockey,” he smiles. “We used to break into the rink at two or three o’clock in the morning and skate until the night watchman kicked us out and sent us back to bed.”

Jim served on Ridley’s Board of Governors for 10 years and was active in the Bermuda community, fundraising, working to connect and rally Ridleians for the Old Boys meeting each year and organizing accommodations for the school’s visits to Bermuda.

But when he got to Upper School and started rowing, the sport took over. “We accomplished a lot, and would have died on our swords for Neil Campbell,” Jim remembers fondly, then the smallest of Ridley’s heavy eight at five-foot-ten. “He was an amazing coach and mentor, an idol for most of us. He would get out of the coach boat and into the heavy eight with us; he’d train with our crew after training with his own Olympic squad, then would show up perspiring in his track suit and say, ‘Ok, let’s get started.’”

Theirs was the first crew to go to Washington, D.C., the first to go to The Royal Henley. Each meet was a success—and their competitors were taking notice. Soon, Ridley became a powerful player in the high school rowing arena, their oarsmen the ones to look out for. Jim went on to win the Neil Campbell Oarsman of the Year.

“Our football coach, Reverend Hunt, used to say to us, ‘Keep your head up and keep your feet going. It was good advice.”

After Prize Day, Jim enrolled in Business Administration at Boston’s Northeastern University, a school known for its strong rowing programme. He ended up rowing in a single, due to his height, and became friends with classmate, Jim Dietz, who was the number one U.S. oarsman at the time. “He became a bit of a coach and mentor,” recounts Jim. “I would just do what he told me to do. We rowed together prior to Munich and he said, ‘Jim, I’m trying to get to the finals’—so I knew where I was going to end up.”

Jim represented Bermuda in the Men’s Single Sculls at the Munich Olympics in 1972—the only Bermudian ever to do so. That same season, he’d casually ‘popped in’ to run the Boston Marathon, showing up without any training or even a registration number. Because he was in such great shape, he ran the race in an impressive three hours, then spent the afternoon training and rowing.

“When I got back to my apartment that evening, I called Ed Pilgrim, Ridley’s headmaster,” Jim shares. “He’d once told us these stories from when he’d ran the Boston Marathon and it had struck me as something that would be cool to do one day. That always stayed with me.”

When Jim returned to Bermuda, its windy weather and big tides soon made it clear that it wasn’t a place to row. Recognizing he’d need to pivot, Jim sent his rowing shell back to Boston and took up cycling, hoping to qualify for the Olympics in Montreal. However, during a rather disappointing trial in North Carolina, he realized that, without a team, he didn’t have a prayer. “I was an individual in a team sport,” he shrugs. “It wasn’t going to happen.”

Debbie would go on to place fourth in the 1985 Boston Marathon and participated in the U.S. Olympic trials. She’s run many impressive races and has become an inspirational figure in distance running, helping to bring women into the sport.

It was then that Jim took up running seriously, training for marathons with his wife, Debbie—who’s an athletic powerhouse in her own right. Back when Debbie had first announced she was going to take up marathon running, they’d laughed. But, inspired by the runners she’d seen in Boston, she soon proved her doubters wrong, training every morning before work. She would go on to place fourth in the 1985 Boston Marathon and participated in the U.S. Olympic trials. Debbie has since run many impressive races and has become an inspirational figure in distance running, helping to bring women into the sport.

It was 1976 when the pair moved back to Bermuda; they enjoyed road running as a couple and understood the sacrifices required to excel. An early morning or late for dinner was easily forgiven, as each pushed themselves to get their miles in for the day.

“Debbie and I were among the first white people doing any sort of road running. It just wasn’t done. People would see us running down the road and yell, ‘Hey! Are you late? Do you need a lift?”

However, their training was proving to push cultural boundaries as well. Bermuda is a friendly, yet conservative place, with a history of slavery and segregation of which its citizens are mindful. In the late seventies, sport was still quite segregated—soccer and cricket were for black athletes and fans, while sailing was for the white population. Road running was one of the ways this divide was bridged, and today sports in Bermuda is very much integrated.

Jim and Debbie earned spots on the board of the Bermuda Track & Field Association and the Butterfields soon became synonymous with running; they were among a group that started the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Club. In the years that followed, Jim ran the Boston, Deluth, New York and London marathons, and competed at the Commonwealth Games.

“[The Hawaiian Ironman] was the result of a guy I knew giving me a magazine. He said, ‘Jim, you’ve gotta read this; these guys are sick. But I didn’t think they were sick—I thought, this sounds so cool, and I started training in earnest.”

As back trouble forced him to incorporate more swimming and cycling into his routine, Jim brought triathlon to Bermuda; he was organizing races as far back as 1979. In 1981, Jim finished the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in seventh place.

In 1999, when Jim turned 50, he cycled 100 miles a day from Irvine, California to Boston, Massachusetts to raise money for P.A.L.S., a cancer care centre in Bermuda. It took him 30 days. Seven years later, he was inducted into the Bermuda Sports Hall of Fame.

Since Jim’s semi-retirement in 2018, Spencer runs Butterfield & Vallis, the family’s fourth-generation food import business. The company was founded in 1918 by Jim’s grandfather, H. St. George Butterfield.

That passion for sports runs in the family: his wife, daughter-in-law, and niece have all competed on the international sports stage, and Jim’s sons are both highly athletic. 38-year-old Tyler is based in Colorado and is a professional triathlete, finishing seventh and then fifth in Hawaii. Spencer, now 40, competes in triathlons in his downtime, and heliskis, wakeboards, and surfs. Since Jim’s semi-retirement in 2018, Spencer runs Butterfield & Vallis, the family’s fourth-generation food import business. The company was founded in 1918 by Jim’s grandfather, H. St. George Butterfield.

That passion for sports runs in the family: his wife, daughter-in-law, and niece have all competed on the international sports stage, and Jim’s sons are both highly athletic.

For Jim, who has worked there for more than forty years, stepping back has offered him the perfect opportunity to focus on philanthropic endeavours. It seems that generosity also runs in the family—and Jim comes by it honestly. His grandfather awarded scholarships to four different schools in Bermuda as early as the 1930s.

It’s clear Jim’s service and contributions mean a lot to those around him. He’s widely recognized as a generous leader in the community, who works to improve the social, economic and environmental conditions of his country. He was honoured by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2015.

Photo published November 15, 2015 on Bernews.com.

Jim is modest when speaking about it, however. In a small place like Bermuda, he reasons, it’s easy to see where the need is, and it’s often simple to resolve—whether that means replacing the church’s appliances so they can feed those who need a little help, or rebuilding the living conditions at the Salvation Army—A project Jim completed with fellow Ridleian, Kirk Kitson ’58). Jim is also on the board of the Sloop Foundation—a cause close to his heart that sends at-risk youth out to sea for a week on board a hundred-foot ‘floating classroom.’ 

“As I’ve gotten older, it feels good to be able to give back, to participate. I look at those Houses—Merritt House and Gooderham House—and I think about those Old Ridleians who gave to the bricks and mortar so that people like us could attend Ridley, could create those great memories and friendships.”

Speaking with this Old Ridleian, it’s clear how sport can serve one’s life in so many positive ways: breaking down barriers, bridging communities and bringing a family closer together. And, as time goes on and goals change, the athlete’s journey might shift, might even go from land to sea and back again—but that demand for excellence, that drive to meet a challenge, never does quite fade.

“Our football coach, Reverend Hunt, used to say to us, ‘Keep your head up and keep your feet going,’” Jim says good-naturedly, as we finish our conversation. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Bermuda, and he’s heading out for a bike ride around the island. “It was good advice.”

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 the Spring 2021 issue.

Community Centre: Jamie Massie ’76

“Decide early on: are you a giver or a taker?” It’s the advice that has always carried him, both as an athlete and in business. Now, hockey enthusiast, Jamie Massie shares how he’s helped grow the city of Barrie—and helped raise a new generation of leaders.

On the ice, he may have played defence, but when it comes to his city, Jamie Massie ’76 is definitely at the centre. The businessman and long-time hockey player moved to Barrie a year after graduation from Northwood University, intrigued by an opportunity to acquire Barrie’s General Motors dealership and advance the community he’d grown an affection for from childhood. In 1929, Jamie’s grandfather, a First World War veteran who lost his leg at Vimy Ridge, came to the city with four fellow amputees, and set to work building the lake-front cottages where Jamie would spend his summers.

When Jamie moved to the city in 1981, it had a population of just over 25,000 people. Today, Barrie is booming, boasting 160,000 residents and on track to reach over a quarter of a million in the next 15 years. Thanks to Jamie’s leadership, Georgian Chevrolet has prospered right along with the city and has since gone on to become one of the top five Chevrolet dealerships in Canada.

Jamie still lives in Barrie with his wife, Wendy and their sons, Andrew ’03, 36; James, 32; Jeffrey, 30; and their youngest, Alex, 26. If the name, ‘Alex Massie’ sounds familiar, you might know him from sport. Alex is a well-known Paralympian; he lost his leg in a wakeboarding accident in 2011. After an intense year of recovery, Alex returned to high school to play football as a starter on the offensive line. He also went back to snowboarding, adapting so well to his prosthetic leg that he decided to pursue a competitive career. Alex raced for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and is the number one ranked Para-snowboarder in the world, winning the World Championships in 2019.

The three eldest work with their father at Georgian International, a company which grew out of the businesses Jamie took on over the years and is widely recognized as one of Simcoe County’s most influential. Today, it’s a leader in the automotive industry and a dominant real estate investor in residential and commercial land opportunities. Amongst other points of pride—including being an instrumental part of the local hospital, airport, library, and more—Jamie helped found the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College, of which Jamie sat on the Board for many years. 

Georgian College Auto Show

Many of the friendships Jamie made on campus at Ridley he maintains to this day. He still works alongside good friends Ward Seymour ’74 and Dave Bunston ’76. He met Dave during childhood summers on Lake Simcoe more than 50 years ago. “We played hockey together at Ridley. Dave never passed the puck,” Jamie laughs good-naturedly. “He always said if he passed to me, I never passed it back.”

Georgian’s most recent project, a sprawling golf club in close proximity to one of their developments, was purchased in 2017 and has since undergone substantial improvements. The Braestone Club is now home to a new club house and a restaurant called ‘The KTCHN,’ a high-quality build which blends with the land from which it emerges. Its atmosphere is timeless and serene and, for Jamie, it’s more than a business; it’s a place he wants to be.

The Braestone Club’s atmosphere is timeless and serene and, for Jamie, it’s more than a business; it’s a place he wants to be.

Chatting with the friendly alumni this past fall, Jamie is clearly whip-smart when it comes to his business endeavours, but he’s comfortably casual about them, too, and his care for those in his community is genuine. To put it simply: business that does good, makes good sense.

“I’m not just a philanthropist. I’m a business guy. But I’ve always found that if you give to your community, they give back to you.”

“I left Ridley with the belief that you could be a giver or a taker in this world,” Jamie explains, quick to credit his time at the school with his service mindset. “So, we look at the bigger picture, and invest in things which improve quality of life for our family, for the people we work with, and the community at large—over the years, I’ve found that if you give to your community, the community gives right back to you.”

J.C. Massie Field

If you knew Jamie at Ridley, you’d remember that he’s a hockey lover through and through—he started playing when he was just four—and his passion has followed him throughout his life. “Ridley was ideal for someone who loved sports and hockey like I did,” Jamie remembers of his time in Upper School, citing mentors like hockey coach, Keith Mawhinney, Bill Montgomery and David Mackey.

For Jamie, the traits formed through a lifetime of hockey—qualities like leadership, sportsmanship, competition, and being a good teammate— have served him well beyond the rink. And, when the opportunity presented itself, he worked to ensure others could have that same advantage. In 1991, when he and his friends learned that the local Jr. B Colts were going to forfeit their season due to a lack of funding, the three former players were determined to help. They stepped up and paid off the team’s debts—and found themselves the new owners of Barrie’s junior hockey team.

As it turned out, there were some fantastic players on the Colts—John Madden would go on to win three Stanley Cups—and when the team won the Sutherland Cup that first season, the new owners were motivated to do more. “We thought, Barrie’s a hockey town. We can do this,” Jamie remembers. “It had an OHL team in the 1950s, so the question was, what can we do to bring an OHL team here now?”

They approached City Council with the idea and found the answer was a bit tricky: Barrie would need an arena to host a team, but they’d first need a team to argue for a new arena. So, they worked with the Ontario Hockey League and the City of Barrie to accomplish both. Soon, they were researching and finding creative ways to fund a new arena.

The project resulted in the Barrie Molson Centre (BMC) — renamed the Sadlon Arena this past March — which was the first junior franchise in Canada to introduce private suites, a club seat programme, a restaurant at ice level, multiple entertainment venues, and a permit to sell liquor at games. “Our overarching idea was that it wouldn’t be just for hockey fans,” Jamie reasons. “This would be for the community at large, so that families could come together to support their junior team.”

“The community loved it,” he says, looking back. “We sold out suites in the first 48 hours they were on sale and had 800 club seat holders in the first month. The support from the community paid for [the arena] within its first ten years, and the children of Barrie grew up seeing these local idols who became more important to them than the NHL players.” Since its build, the cities of London, Kingston, Mississauga, and St. Catharines have all built arenas based off a similar model—the BMC venue has changed the OHL and CHL landscape.

“We taught our players how to grow, to be in leadership roles as young players. They’d come in as 16-year-olds and leave to pursue a hockey career or go to university to become doctors, lawyers, contributors to society. Inherent in our philosophy was that development in people that would ultimately give back to their communities.”

As time went on, many of Barrie’s players graduated to the NHL and a number now boast Stanley Cup rings. But Jamie used the sport platform to not only give kids the chance to play, but as an opportunity to teach them about service. “Inherent in our philosophy was that it would result in people giving back to their communities,” he says simply. “So, we taught our players to grow, to take on leadership roles. We believed that our responsibility wasn’t just to develop great hockey players, but to inspire amazing human beings.”

Jamie Massie skydiving

“Find things to work at that enhance your life. Don’t work for the sake of a dollar; work to make your life your life.”

Amongst other initiatives, the team ran a programme called Colts & Cops; each player was paired with a police officer from either the OPP or the Barrie Police. The officers would mentor the player and the player would visit the local schools—there are 143 in Simcoe County—where they’d speak with students about everything from the importance of strong values to peer pressure to drugs and alcohol. It put the hockey team, looked up to by so many local youths, right at the heart of the community.

In 2007, Jamie sold the team. He’d watched his four boys grow up at the arena and knew it was time for someone else to take over. But to this day, some of his fondest memories were from those years with the Colts. “My favourite was in 1999,” he recalls. “We’d had five NHL first round draft picks on that team, and those five players—I remember each of them—were out playing hockey with my four sons on my backyard rink. It’s 9:00 o’clock at night and it’s snowing out and they stop the game to shovel the rink and keep playing.” 

Mayor Jeff Lehman takes a quick drive in a vintage Jeep as he inspects over 1000 Canadian solders from Base Borden after they arrived at City Hall during the Freedom of the City Parade.

Two years later his career meandered again when Canada’s Minister of Defence, Peter McKay appointed Jamie Honorary Colonel of Canadian Forces Base Borden—a role dating back 300 years in military history and intended to build a strong esprit de corps among the community and the base. For Jamie, whose grandfather had sacrificed so much in the Great War, it was an incredible honour, and he took his new responsibilities seriously. For the hundred-year anniversary of the base, he spearheaded the creation of a monument in honour of the million-and-a-half soldiers who had served Canada and trained at Borden over the century.  

The initiative resulted in The Borden Legacy Monument, a stunning memorial comprised of two walls and a standalone statue. The first wall, 32-foot long and eight-foot tall and built of black and white granite, reads in both French and English, “Through these gates, the sons and daughters of a grateful nation pass, serving Canada with honour, duty and courage, so that all may live with freedom, democracy and justice.

The second holds a brass urn. In 2015, Jamie raised money to take 75 people with him to Vimy, France. With permission to patriate the soil, they collected samples from the various battlefields and ceremoniously placed them in the urn. Jamie and his family took soil from the spot where his own grandfather had lain bleeding so many years before.

A statue of a bugler stands six-foot tall on a five-foot high black granite base. He faces east, calling to those who were lost on the battlefields of Europe. In 2018, on the 100th anniversary of the war’s end, Jamie and his family returned to Vimy and placed an identical bugler, six-foot tall on a five-foot high black granite base, facing west. This statue stands in the shadow of Alward’s monument and calls to Canadians to remember their sacrifice.

Unveilling of Borden Legacy Memorial at CFB Borden
The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and CFB Borden Honorary Colonel, Honorary Colonel Jamie G. Massie unveil the Borden Legacy Monument at Legacy Park, Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden on June 9, 2016. Photo by Sergeant Pierre Thériault, CFB Borden Imagery

Legacy Park was built at the entrance of the base, and the finished monument was unveiled June 9th, 2016 by Prime Minister Trudeau and Hon. Col. Jamie Massie. 11,000 people were in attendance that morning, and 8,000 troops marched on parade. It was an effort of great significance that shows what matters to Jamie most: family, history, community, and resilience.

It’s a service-oriented mindset that has always been key to his success and it’s still fuelling him decades later. For those just starting out? “Decide early to be a giver,” he advises. “Look at the bigger picture, ask how can I help move the world forward? Then run hard. Push yourself. Get out in front of your peers and be that contributor who builds your life early. You’ll find society will help push you along the rest of the way.”

Now looking towards a time when his children will put their own stamp on the city they love, Jamie looks forward to seeing where the journey will take him next. But if there’s one thing his story makes clear from the start, it’s that he’s always forged his own path.

As our conversation concludes, Jamie offers one final tidbit for Ridleians—and they’re words to live by. “Find things to work at that enhance your life,” he suggests simply. “Don’t just work for the sake of a dollar—work to make your life your life.”


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 the Spring 2021 issue.

Right on Track: Sam McGlone ’97

Sam has always loved a good challenge—the secret is to keep one step ahead. The retired triathlete shares her experiences at Ridley, what’s keeping her running these days, and the conversation she wishes more young athletes would have.

These days, Sam McGlone is taking life in stride, albeit at a quick pace. The Olympic triathlete may have retired from competition, but as an emergency physician with two little ones at home, Sam has more than enough to keep her running—and, in case you were wondering, she’s still as active as ever.

The San Diego-based doctor just started working at Sharp Memorial hospital, following residency at the University of California. Her husband, Brent, is an emergency physician as well, and the two have a five-year-old son, Cole, and a daughter, Alex, who’s three. “It’s a little hectic,” she says cheerfully, but she’s clearly enjoying every minute. “The kids are high-energy, funny, active—they’re everything you’d imagine.” They come by it honestly. Their parents met through triathlon; Brent was an elite athlete and swim coach, who, like Sam, transitioned to medicine later on.

Dr. Sam McGlone with PPE on

“It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.”

As we speak, it doesn’t take long for the elephant in the room to be addressed: Sam is working as a doctor in the midst of a global pandemic, and she is at turns empathetic and frustrated. “It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.” She pauses. “But I’m also sensitive to the fact that people are over this and just want to see their families. They’re not ready to make those sacrifices indefinitely.”

The upshot of California living, however, is that their family can be outdoors year-round, whether that means being active, taking a break, or socializing safely outside. The seasonal perks of San Diego are, admittedly, quite different from St. Catharines, where Sam and her sister, Karen ’95 grew up, right near Ridley, where they attended Upper School. “My parents always felt education was a priority, so when it came to high school, we started looking at different options,” she remembers. “Ridley immediately stood out because of the breadth of opportunity there. To have that in your own backyard and be able to go as a day student was amazing. We loved our time there.”

From dabbling in music and theatre, to exploring new sports and writing for the school newspaper, Sam enjoyed the diversity she found on campus. She rode horses, was a harrier, joined the swim team, was on the First Girls hockey team for a time, and was the 1993 Midget Girls Cross Country Run winner, earning a Tiger Tie for her athletic achievements. “When your kids are young, you think about putting them into one sport or another, but I’d encourage them to try a variety,” she offers, thinking of her own sport-loving little ones. “In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.” 

“My parents always felt education was a high priority and when we started looking at options for high school, Ridley stood out because of the sheer breadth of opportunity there. To have that right in our own back yard was amazing.”

It was Ridley’s cross-country coach, Maggie Swan who first encouraged the 14-year-old to look into triathlon. “She said it was a great way to stay in shape during summers for the track and cross-country seasons,” Sam recalls. “So, I borrowed a wet suit and a bike and did the Grimsby Triathlon. I don’t think I did terribly well that first one, but it was challenging and a lot of fun. I decided, ‘I want to get better at this.’”

In the summers that followed, Sam participated in races across Ontario, but it was her training with a team in Australia that really helped up her game. “Australia has strong teams and training programmes,” she explains, having gone for a gap year after high school,“and I took a big jump up in my level. When I came back to Canada, I made the Junior National Team, and that launched me to international competitions.” 

Sam McGlone running mid race

From there, she was, quite literally, off and running. Having always intended to go to medical school, Sam moved to Quebec to study kinesiology at McGill University and trained with a club while she completed her degree. When she was presented with the opportunity to make Team Canada, Sam decided to postpone med school to see where her talents could take her. She knew there was only so long she’d be able to compete in a tough endurance sport like hers, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.” 

After graduating from McGill in 2002, she moved to the Canadian Training Centre in Victoria, B.C. It was a smart gamble which led to a successful 10-year career as a professional triathlete. Sam raced in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup Series, won the Canadian National Triathlon championship in 2004 and 2005, and represented Canada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

“It was the highlight of my life,” she remembers of her time in Athens, that first call to her mom back home drowned out by the cheers in the stadium. “In terms of the race itself, it was like any other: the format’s the same, the officials, the competitors—and in some ways, that was reassuring. But everything surrounding the Games was so much bigger than anything I’d ever seen. Triathlon is one of the smaller sports, so we don’t get a lot of mainstream publicity. We’re not used to the crowds. Walking into the stadium for the opening ceremonies where there were 80,000 people and media and cameras flashing was just on a different scale.”

Shortly thereafter, Sam transitioned to competing in Ironman races and won gold at the 2006 World Championships—she’s the only Canadian to ever win. “Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes,” she says proudly. “Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.” Sam would go on to finish second at the 2007 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and took home the Ironman title in Arizona in 2009.

Sam McGlone running mid race

“Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes. Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.”

And, along the way, she wrote, contributing a monthly column to Triathlete magazine where she tackled questions on training, racing and lifestyle. For Sam, it was a great way to communicate with the pre-Twitter triathlon population, in a time before social media was what it is today. Days were tough but satisfying for the young athlete, on a perpetual loop of eat-train-sleep-recover. A solid race performance was her reward.

“At the time, you’re not striving for balance,” she recalls, though that’s admittedly changed over the years. “You need to have that singular focus. You might train 30 to 40 hours a week, but then there’s another 20 that’s dedicated to recovery so you can do your next session—stretching and sleeping and nutrition and massage and physical therapy and lifting weights. It’s the difference between those who do triathlon recreationally and those in the professional ranks; all those peripheral things that give you that extra edge.”

Despite the challenging work, spending her twenties racing and in training camps was an opportunity to travel and make friends with athletes from around the world. “I was 22 when I started full time, 24 when I competed at the Olympics,” she explains. “And you may miss out on some social aspects of day-to-day life, but I never regretted it. I went to Australia and Thailand and Japan and all over Europe—and you can’t do this forever. You have to retire at some point.”

“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career, but of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else.”

The topic of retirement warrants more serious attention, Sam posits, and is part of ongoing conversations around mental health. For many athletes, the focus is on performance, their identity bound up in their sport, their confidence contingent upon their success. When the time comes to transition out, many feel aimless.

“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career,” she says simply. “But of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else. It’s very emotional.”

Dr. Sam McGlone in scrubs with sunglasses

“Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”

Sam completed her final race, the 2012 Antwerp 70.3, just ten days before becoming a first-year med student at the University of Arizona. “I deliberately chose something all-encompassing to throw myself into,” she shares. She’d always known she’d go to med school and the time it would take to complete that, in large measure, dictated when she left competition. “Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”

“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes, triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”

In many ways, med school was as time consuming and competitive as triathlon ever was, and with a well-laid out path ahead of her, she was able to improve and track her gains in a similar fashion. The same grit, mental focus, and determination Sam used for competition, was now channeled into a new vocation. 

Dr. Sam McGlone holding a sign with three fellow graduates standing in front of a helicopter. Sign says "Congratulations Class of 2020" with a logo from the UC San Diego Health System.

“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes,” she muses. “Triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”

As for the physical adjustment, the decreased physical activity was a bit of a shock. She eased herself out of the heavy, training-focused weeks and into a more sustainable lifestyle, enjoying the opportunity to explore new sports and return to others. These days, Sam goes on ski trips in the winter, paddle boards and mountain bikes and runs along the beach. Regardless of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, Sam and Brent make certain the other has that time to unwind and decompress.

What’s clear from this Ridleian and Athlete of Distinction is her dedication to life-long personal development. Sam has always set the course, tracked a pace set by her own watch, and persevered on the uphill. These days, the path is more about balance, as she raises a young family and tends to those within her care—but that drive, that gold-standard mindset, hasn’t changed one bit.


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 the Spring 2021 issue.

The Evolution of Ridley’s Dress Code and School Uniform

As Ridley moves towards a new uniform design, Archives Intern and Queen’s University Concurrent Education student, Ella Foss ’16 takes a look back on the traditions, functionality, and design trends that have inspired more than a century of our school’s dress.  

Since the establishment of Ridley, it has been clear that uniformity was an intentional way to create a sense of community, to place all students on an even playing field, and to foster a strong sense of belonging. The first headmaster, J.O. Miller was determined that, “Ridley College from opening day would be meticulous about the students’ school dress.” In staying true to Miller’s vision, a dress code has remained a constant, while changing with the times as Ridley itself has matured. To understand how the school has arrived at the uniform’s next update, we must first revisit the trends from decades past.


1889 to 1910s

During the early years, when the packing list for boarders included “knickerbockers” and “pocket handkerchiefs,” a Ridley College cap with an embellished orange Ridley crest was issued to students for weekday wearing. At this time, the remaining garments of the dress code did not include the emblem but promoted a professional style—the boys sported suits on school days, consisting of trousers, button-up shirt, tie, and blazer). Given the church services, Sundays in the late 1800s were even more formal; the boys wore black suit jackets and black waistcoats (suit vest).

Images of the First Cricket Elevens decorate our ACTAs, with Ridleians sporting white blazers which would eventually inspire the Prefect blazers of more recent times. This nod to Ridley’s British roots dates back as early as 1900 and remained through to the last year of cricket in 2001. As early as 1919, the Second Cricket Team can be seen wearing the black blazers with orange piping, which would soon become part of the Lower School uniform.

1920s

Ridley’s British independent school roots were also evident in the boys’ post-war attire. “Eton collars were the bane of the Junior’s existence…[they] found so many excuses to avoid wearing the collar that it amounted to passive rebellion.” Due to the perceived discomfort of the garment, older students were permitted to instead don Marlborough sack coats.

1950s to 1970s

Twenty years later, “blues and greys” became the number one dress, to be worn on Sundays and for Chapel.

As indicated in the ACTA of the era,  “This term has seen the School emerging in new blue flannel blazers with an embroidered Ridley crest on the pocket.” At the same time, the Arts Tie was introduced, with thin, widely spaced orange and white stripes on a black background, still worn today by our thespians, musicians and artists alike.

It must be said that Ridley’s long-standing Cadet Programme has had significant influence over aspects of school dress. Our traditional military uniforms have progressed from army green to navy, khakis and maple leaf red. 

At this time, the regular uniform of the Lower School students included the black blazer adorned with orange piping, a white, grey, or light blue dress shirt, the Lower School tie (orange, black, and sliver) and either grey or black pants. Blues and greys were worn only on Sundays, with strictly grey, black, or navy blue socks. Unbelievably, at the time, every clothing item had to be labelled with the students’ name, down to the individual sock!

Perhaps the most casual shift during this time was the introduction of “summer dress,” which became an alternative option for the Lower School students during the warmer months. A golf shirt and grey or navy Bermuda Shorts worn with navy blue or grey knee socks made the heat and outdoor play more enjoyable.

In 1971, a new disciplinary code was put into place,  based upon several firm beliefs: “that the individual student must be given increasing responsibility for his decisions and his actions; that the order and efficiency of the School should be maintained with a minimum of oppressive interference upon a boy’s freedom; and that good discipline does not depend necessarily upon absolute conformity, nor does it mean that a student’s cherished individualism need be sacrificed.”

The students of Merritt House North can still be found marking Frau Day each year to nod to Josselyn’s self-described “eye-sore” look.

While older students continued to wear a plain jacket or one with small checks, some of the students found their individually in loud, colourful ties. It’s no surprise then that ‘Frau Day’ has its roots in this decade, when Merritt House North student, Mark Josselyn ’76 “set about to make his own ‘fashion statement.’” Back then, he would be found wearing contrasting patterns, stripes and plaid, from his tie to shirt, to his jacket, pants and even socks. The term ‘Frau’ (Josselyn’s nickname) was used to “describe anyone messy, disheveled or dirty…” The students of Merritt House North can still be found marking Frau Day each year to nod to Josselyn’s self-described “eye-sore” look.

In the fall of 1973, Ridley welcomed female students for the first time. The dress code, previously written for all male students, was amended to state “or equivalent” for females. There really were no clear standards outlined for the young women: what was seen as within the rules varied between faculty members. For the first Ridley women and staff alike, it was difficult to determine what fell within the rules. It was a time unprecedented in Canadian independent schools, and Headmaster Richard Bradley’s progressive decision to go co-ed meant Ridley had to chart new territory—including with its uniform.

Students have always worked to show their individuality through the uniform and in this liberal era some students elected to wear three-piece suits, while others pushed the limits of “trousers” by wearing corduroy pants. Summer dress was only an option for the boys.

It was a time unprecedented in Canadian independent schools, and Headmaster Richard Bradley’s progressive decision to go co-ed meant Ridley had to chart new territory—including with its uniform.

1980s

By the 1980s, the majority of Ridleians abandoned the busy and bright ties and began sporting popularized thin monochrome versions. The College’s first cohort of girls could wear pants or a skirt/dress which went below the knee with socks or nylons, and often displayed their individuality by way of their jewelry and hairstyle. It did, however, take some time for a formal female uniform to be formalized.

At the end of the decade, the Lower School updated its uniform. The black and white kilt, white button-up Oxford shirt or turtleneck, and black sweater or vest are cited as staples for the younger Ridleians.

“Change is needed everywhere one goes, and luckily at Ridley, most things simply got better [with change].”

– clipped article found in the 1988 ACTA

1990s to 2000s

During the 1990s the Upper School female students continued to push the limits of the dress code; wearing babydoll dresses, Mary Janes, and small hoop earrings (studs alone being permitted previously). Headmaster Doug Campbell, among others, sought to improve the standards of the students’ daily dress and resurfaced the discussions surrounding the dress code. The fruits of those ongoing debates came to fruition in 2000 when the Upper School gained its first official classroom uniform.

By the 21st century, the daily classroom dress included grey or blue trousers, the blue plaid kilt, a white button up shirt, tie, and a blue or grey pull-over sweater or vest. Blues and greys remained the number one dress. With dwindling competitors in Ontario, 2001 marked the final year of cricket at Ridley, and the white sport coats with orange piping were reassigned as Prefect blazers—this distinctive addition complementing the existing Prefect Tie and an homage to Ridley’s history.

The last year of the white Prefect blazers was 2016: a new system of recognition was adopted the following year: white piping along the lapel of the of the Prefect.

2010s

The last year of the white Prefect blazers was 2016: a new system of recognition was adopted the following year: piping along the lapel of the of the Prefect (white) and House Captain’s blazers (respective house colour).


Fashion Forward

Along with the changing times, Ridley has experienced many positive transformations, cementing its position as one of the top independent schools in Canada—the introduction of co-education, technology, younger grades, the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, and positive education have been among the most notable. It’s no wonder then that our student attire has remained a strong marker of our connectedness.

As we can garner from the evolution of Ridley’s dress code and uniform, every once in a while a refresh is necessary. In the coming years, our alma mater is planning for another redesign that nods to our storied past but serves the current era. A Uniform Committee, made up of students, faculty and staff, has been working to restyle the look and functionality of the uniform. In speaking with key members of this group, the update is said to be inspired by Ridley’s traditions and history—and we can’t wait to see future generations of students continue to proudly sport our insignia and that telltale vibrant pop of orange.

By Ella Foss ’16

Special thanks is owed to interviewees:

Ken Hutton, Trish Loat, Geoffrey Park ’80, Zack Jones, Gary Atack, Michele-Elise Burnett ’86, Wendy Darby ’99, Janet Lewis, Lance Postma, and Hanna Kidd.


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 the Spring 2021 issue.