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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.

On Board: Welcoming our New Governors

With the 2020-21 academic year officially in full swing, we’re introducing the Ridley community to the newest members of our Board of Governors.

“Ridley is delighted to welcome its new governors, who each bring a distinct representation of important stakeholder groups to our great school. It is rewarding for me to see the board continue to add to our governance structure individuals of diverse competencies, sector relevance and backgrounds.”

David K. Carter ’88, Chair of the Board

Our Board of Governors and its four Standing Committees are always on the lookout for talented members, who not only bring to the table expertise in a variety of fields—ranging from education to law, business, technology, and more—but a genuine passion for Ridley College. These individuals serve five-year renewable terms, giving generously of both time and energy as our school’s leaders and the stewards of its future.

This year, we’re pleased to introduce our community to our newest governors, each of whom bring the skill, experience, and heart needed to help advance our school. We hope you’ll join us in warmly welcoming them to Ridley.


Dr. Gervan Fearon

Gervan Fearon

In 2017, Dr. Fearon began a five-year term as Brock University’s President and Vice-Chancellor. Before joining Brock, he served at Brandon University as President and Vice-Chancellor and also as Provost and Vice-President Academic.

Prior to his time at Brandon, Gervan served several other academic positions, including as Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University; Associate Dean at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies; a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington; and Associate Professor at York University.   

Gervan received his PhD in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, after having received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Economics at the University of Guelph. He also holds a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) designation and an ICD.D designation.

Besides academic achievements, Gervan’s career includes several years in the Ontario government in roles as senior analyst at Treasury Board Division, Ontario Ministry of Finance; and executive assistant to Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He has also served on several boards, including as president of a community social services organization.

Gervan is passionate about the role of post-secondary education in supporting regional development and has served on numerous community boards and helped champion significant community development initiatives.

Dr. Suzanne Johnston

Suzanne Johnston

Dr. Suzanne Johnston is an accomplished visionary health executive, recently retired from her role as President of Niagara Health. She brings a distinctly people-focused approach to her work and calls for an unwavering commitment on the part of every leader to lead with presence, kindness and the belief in people’s desire to do the right thing.

Suzanne received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and her PhD in Nursing from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She completed executive education at the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.

Suzanne serves on the Board of Governors of Niagara College and is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University.

Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell ’98

Andrew Mitchell proudly returns to his Ridleian roots in his new role as governor—and he’ll be serving on the Finance, Audit & Human Resources Committee (FAHR) as well. As President & Chief Development Officer of Permian Industries Ltd., Andrew contributes to the oversight of Permian’s businesses and leads its M&A activities. He is also CEO and sole owner of Select Food Products Ltd., a sauce and condiment manufacturer based in Toronto. Prior to acquiring Select, he was a Manager in Deloitte’s Human Capital consulting practice, specializing in organization design and M&A integration. Andrew is a past Director of The Toronto Golf Club and Bhutan Canada Foundation. He holds a BA from Queen’s University and an MBA from the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management.


Learn more about Ridley’s leadership and governance structure—and meet our Standing Committee members.

Meet our Board Chair! Since 2018, David Carter ’88 has been leading Ridley as the 20th Chair of our Board of Governors.

Be consumed in service. The Board of Governors and its four Standing Committees are always seeking talented applicants who are energized by the advancement of Ridley College. For more information, visit our Leadership & Governance page or apply online.

David K. Carter ’88 Elected 20th Chair of the Board of Governors

The attributes of a great leader are often listed as integrity, influence, commitment, innovative thinking and clear communication. An effective leader inspires action, cultivates relationships and has a passion for a cause that is bigger than themselves. For Dave Carter ’88, that cause is Ridley College and for this loyal alumnus, all of these qualities (and more) ring true. Having contributed to several facets of Governance and proven his profound care for our school over several decades, Ridley College is honoured to welcome David Carter as the Chair of the Board of Governors, made official at the Annual General Meeting on September 21, 2018.

Dave’s relationship with our beloved school began in 1981 when he arrived to Lower School as a Grade 7 boarder from Oakville, Ontario. He admits that his first term at the school was challenging, but he overcame homesickness and made the most of his Ridley experience by forging friendships and becoming entrenched in a variety of activities. Over seven years, these included rowing, theatre, choir, harriers, working on Acta Ridleiana, Cadet Drill Team, and serving as a school Prefect in his senior year.

“[My parents] wanted me to have more peers around me, and it really did turn out to be some blind wisdom,” Dave says, reflecting back on his lasting connections and his seven years as a domestic boarder. For him, Ridley was the beginning of great things to come.

An accomplished business leader, Dave earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Western University and later completed his CA and CPA designations. According to him, it was the work ethic and self-discipline he gained from rowing, Cadets and his Prefectship that have propelled him in his career. After university, he was hired by Deloitte Canada to do his articling and ended up as a forensic investigator, where he worked nearly 10 years in both Toronto and Grand Cayman helping to litigate asset recoveries inside one of the largest global cases of bank fraud in history.

Returning to Canada, Dave pivoted into Business Process Innovation in healthcare, before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. He has since exercised proficiency in finance, strategic communications, health care, and technology by partnering in and managing different ventures across multiple sectors.

Despite his varied interests, Dave has always made time to give back to Ridley. Terar Dum Prosim resonates for him and is what inspired him to get involved with Ridley’s Board Committees in his early thirties. First joining in 2000, and eventually chairing, the Finance Audit and HR Committee, Dave was formally elected a Governor in 2009. He proceeded to volunteer additional time to Chair the Monarch Gala, and as part of the small Headmaster search team in 2011. Having been nominated as Board Chair-elect, he became Vice Chair in 2017.

“My work with the board has been continually stimulating…but the fundamental reason is to serve. Our motto couldn’t really be more appropriate in my thinking. If you have that first, chances are that the other dividends you require in life will come.”              – Dave Carter ’88

For the next four years, Dave will lead our school as the 20th Chair of the Board of Governors, the office held by Georgina Black ’85 since 2014. When approached to consider this significant position, Dave recalls, “I was humbled. I think Georgina struck a path and was transformational for many things at Ridley…and she has served honourably.” As he weighed the decision, Dave reflected on how he felt he could contribute to the school’s strategic vision, mission and succession planning. He turned to his wife Hilary, who he notes has always supported his commitment to the school—both she, and Dave’s children Angus and Clare, know the degree to which he values his relationship with Ridley. With their support, Dave could proudly accept this new role and responsibility.

In addition to bringing expertise and enthusiasm, Dave is focused on assisting school leadership to secure Ridley’s prosperity, while maintaining the importance of positive education, flourishing, and student-centeredness.

“I think one of the strengths of Ridley’s recent past has been the supportive and trusting relationship between the Head and the Chair – there is a lot of literature suggesting that this parternship is a key indicator of school strength and stability.  I have been blessed to work closely with two excellent past Chairs, and now look forward to sustaining this strength under Dave’s leadership.  He has proven himself a devoted servant to Ridley and a wise counselor to me and the management team.” – Headmaster, Ed Kidd

About Headmaster Ed Kidd, Dave notes, “being part of the search for this dynamic Headmaster was a source of pride for me, and fulfilled the Board’s most important mandate—the securing and sustenance of a Headmaster to lead the school. I’ve been proud to watch his leadership evolve and the energy and commitment he brings. The Board and I have the utmost confidence in Headmaster Kidd to continue steering Ridley through the next era.”

As he takes his seat as the leader of our community, Dave states that what he’s most energized about contributing to is solidifying Ridley’s strong position: “I want to make sure that the hard work of the board is relevant in helping the school deliver against the solid path we are on. It is a team effort, and there is no one individual who can accomplish this alone,” he says, “I’m most looking forward to seeing the school enter an exciting next chapter.”

Student design competition produces the newest Ridley accessory

For more than 125 years, Ridleians have displayed their love for our school by wearing items with official embroidered insignia. Whether for music, arts, academics or even the Houses of Ridley (that many come to call ‘home’), a number of motifs have been designed and sported over the years to honour these facets of our school’s culture.

In the fall of 2015, Board of Governors member, Mr. David Carter ‘88, decided that the Board should also sport a custom necktie and scarf of its own. Ridley’s Board of Governors, made up of 14 dedicated members, who ensure that our school continues to grow and flourish, has become an invaluable addition to the Ridley community and thus, were well deserving of this dedicated accessory.

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The 2015-2016 Board of Governors

Mr. David Carter requested that a tie and scarf be designed by a current student and that the ultimate pattern only be recognizable and understood by Ridleians. The top three students competed for a chance to make history – with the winning design being made into a tie and a scarf to be worn by the members of the Board– and were also vying for a monetary prize.

This was not only an opportunity for the Board to collaborate with the students, but also a chance for the students to express their creativity. A process such as this one required research, traditional art skills, the use of computer design software and of course, a connection to Ridley and the community.

Fifty students submitted their drawings that symbolically represented life at Ridley College. Of those 50 designs, three were chosen as finalists by Mr. David Carter along with Board Chair, Ms. Georgina Black and Headmaster, Ed Kidd. The designers of these three patterns were brought on stage during assembly to be recognized in front of their peers by Headmaster Kidd.

As each design was projected onto the big screen in the Mandeville Theatre, it was clear that each member of the audience felt a connection to the images and that these three judges had selected designs that truly evoked a sense of pride.

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In third place was Sarah Wang ‘18, with her design depicting the Marriott Gates, an iconic landmark of Ridley College. Sarah explained, “I wanted to draw something that would represent Ridley in the most simple way. The gate may not be the most obvious structure that shows the Ridley campus, but a gate indirectly suggests direction for the future and the welcoming nature of Ridley.”

In second place was Paddy Yang ‘18, with his design depicting a roaring tiger. Paddy says, “You can see the tiger was howling. It shows our bravery. I would like to say thank you to my teacher, Mr. Campbell, I couldn’t have done this without him. He helped me a lot and during the process he gave me many useful suggestions.”

The winner of the Board of Governors insignia design competition was Callum Campbell ‘18. His tie and scarf design depicted the archway that leads into Upper School, “because these gates are so iconic to Ridley, I wanted to do them justice.” – Callum Campbell

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Callum’s winning design will be used on the Board of Governors tie and scarf, being produced in September of 2016. Congratulations to all the participants, with special congratulations to our top three designers.