How can students make a difference? TigerPost contributor Meriel Wehner ’21 shares how youth around the world are bringing about change—and how you can get started in your own backyard.
As teenagers and students, it can sometimes feel as though there is nothing we can do to make a difference in an often-unfair world. At Ridley, we are lucky to have access to an incredible education; to have food, water, and shelter; and to be respected and treated as equals. However, in many parts of the world this is not the case; millions of people desperately need help to access and enjoy their most basic human rights. And, even if we want to help, we don’t always know how. We feel that because we are just teenagers, we don’t have the power to do anything impactful. We feel that because we are, geographically, so far from those who are suffering most, there is no way that our actions could lead to a favourable result. However, this is not true—there are several ways that students our age can help those less fortunate.
1. Volunteer locally
Oftentimes, when we think of those who are denied their rights, we imagine they live far away, however, this is simply not true. Though Canadians enjoy basic human rights more than many in less-developed countries, there are still plenty of Canadians, both at the local and national level, who need our help. A 2018 study found that there are roughly 625 homeless people living in St Catharines.
By volunteering at local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks, or hosting fundraisers and collection drives, teenagers can help protect these people, and to promote their right to access food and shelter. Often, volunteering locally is free; there is no need for an expensive plane ticket, and it allows us to help fix the problems closer to our own lives. Of course, volunteering overseas is a great thing to do, but it is often more effective in the long run to focus on the people who are geographically close to you, as the aid you deliver will be more sustained and concentrated.
2. Sign petitions
Petitions are a great way to get involved with any number of cases, and these take almost no time or energy. Websites like change.org are home to thousands of petitions tackling basically any topic of interest. Signing a petition takes less than a minute and can be a really easy way to make a difference because every signature counts! To make your petition signature as effective as possible, send them to family and friends to make sure those signatures add up.
3. Participate in Amnesty Letter Writing Campaigns
For those who haven’t heard of it, Amnesty International is the world’s leading organization which promotes human rights. Amnesty helps in myriad ways, but one of their most well-known endeavours is the Amnesty letter-writing campaign. Amnesty posts case files on various global human rights abuses, along with a letter template and information on who to address your letter. In these letters, you can put into words all the passion you feel for a certain topic and send them off to someone who can actually make a difference. Anyone can write an Amnesty letter and they can be massively impactful. In the past, Amnesty letter-writing campaigns have directly led to freeing unfairly jailed political prisoners, saving innocent people from the death penalty, and bringing about the arrests of human rights abusers. These letters may be slightly more involved than simply signing a petition, but they are an easy and free way to facilitate real change.
Although donations aren’t always feasible or sustainable for the long-term, if one has the means, making a donation is one of the best ways to help those in need. Even small donations of $1 or $2 can make a huge impact once they add up. Donations can be made to support essentially any cause and can even save a life. However, it is important to do research on the charities you choose to donate to, to be certain that your money is going directly to the cause and not being siphoned by the organization.
5. Raise awareness on social media
One great way to really make a difference is to spread awareness. People often aren’t aware of what’s going on in the world around them, but if they knew, they would do what they could to help. By spreading information in a productive manner, we can educate and encourage others to act. As teenagers, one of the most effective ways we can spread information is through social media. Everyone has it; everyone uses it—and Instagram stories, in particular, are an excellent way to share current world issues.
Instagram stories are an excellent way to share current world issues, however, it is essential to fact-check all information found on apps before reposting.
By posting to these teen-saturated apps, we are easily able to educate a generation. However, there is a definitive downside to social media activism, as basically anything can be put into a story template and reposted. It is essential to fact-check all information found on apps (like Instagram) before reposting, as spreading false information can be extremely dangerous—particularly when critical issues are involved.
6. Read the news
One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to be aware of going on, and the best way to do this is to read or watch the news. Of course, this alone does not make any difference, but the more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference. By staying up to date on current affairs and talking about them with your friends and family, we can increase global recognition of human rights crises which may be isolated to a certain geographical area and begin to build enough attention to force change.
The more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference.
It has been proven that raising awareness is only effective in making change when everyone knows—so make sure to always talk about and share what you read. Participating in meaningful, educational conversations about current affairs is an excellent way to expand understanding beyond what is written in the news, and can allow one to reflect on how to bring about change.
7. Attend a rally
One of the most involved ways to promote human rights is to attend rallies. Rallies can be held to protest any human rights abuse, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the gender wage gap. Rallies are particularly impactful as they bring together people who are passionate about change.
When faced with such large groups of people, it’s difficult for a government to completely ignore the issue. Rallies put focused attention on a specific issue, which in turn encourages the government to discuss it. Then, the issue will hopefully be addressed and rectified in a positive, fair and respectful manner. In cities like Toronto, rallies are often held for any number of issues—this is a great place to get started with peaceful protesting.
“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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
It was on a buying trip in the early ’90s when Linda Alexanian ’85 first became aware of the children working in India’s rug-making industry. “There were kids in the factories, on the looms, doing all processes of the manufacturing,” she says, remembering some as young as eight, “and the suppliers didn’t seem to care. It was just considered a way of life.”
That trip stoked in Linda a lifelong determination to get those kids off the factory floor—and she knew it would need to start with their mothers. Linda is part of the third generation of Alexanians, a family well-known for their imported rugs and floor coverings, along with a deep tradition of helping others. Her grandfather, Aris, who lost his family in the Armenian genocide, was instrumental in helping the government bring dozens of Armenian orphans to Canada.
“Anyone who brings a product into their home should be asking the questions: who made this? What is it made from?”
When she and her parents returned home from India, Linda got to work as Head Buyer for the family business and, over the next three years, weaned the company off all suppliers who used child labour. She was appalled to find there were some who didn’t take the issue seriously—but she did find one, a supplier who’d worked with her grandfather years before.
In 1996, now an outspoken campaigner for the cause, Linda was invited to be part of a government panel in Ottawa to discuss the import of products made by third world countries—countries known to turn a blind eye on illegal child labour. The timely event coincided with the new monitoring agencies starting to pop up—agencies like GoodWeave, with whom Linda works closely—who were ensuring workers were of age in global supply chains across India and Bangladesh. It was estimated there were over one million working children at the time in India’s carpet industry.
“Do you know where your clothes are made?” she asked each startled member at the meeting, walking around the room. “Do we know this was not made by a child?”
Chatting recently with the Ridleian, who’s now working from her home in Montreal, Linda’s empathetic nature comes easily across as she shares the story, as does her light and quick-witted humour, her passion for design, and her steely resolve for the cause at the heart of her career. When asked about her time at Ridley, she lights up.
“To this day, my closest friends are Ridleians. Whenever something good happens, I text my best friend, Stew,” she smiles, referring to fellow alumnus, Stewart McKeough ’85. “and he replies with this image.”
She shows a picture of a simple red circle, penciled on a white background.
“It means ‘circle the day,’” Linda explains, adding that the expression comes from Stew’s mother, Joyce (wife of former Board Chair, Darcy McKeough ’51). “We celebrate the good things that happen by taking out a pen and circling the day in the calendar. The day I started Organic Weave was a ‘circle the day.’”
The eye-catching rugs are inspired by nature, comprised of a colourful array of plant-based dyes, their details and motifs used in traditional Indian architecture.
Organic Weave came from the promise she’d made herself years before on that first trip. “No woman would send her child to work if she had an alternative,” Linda is adamant. “To fix this issue is not just to rescue kids from the looms and educate them; it’s to provide meaningful, sustainable income to women. Women need financial independence.” In 2011, she partnered with the grandchildren of Damodar Das Barnawal—the supplier in India with whom her grandfather worked—and established her custom rug company, which works with women weavers from Unnayan, a cooperative agency in rural India. Linda’s stunning carpets are not only produced in a socially responsible way, they’re helping to preserve a craft that’s increasingly threatened by automation. And, as the name suggests, they’re organic.
“The co-op is made up of a group of remarkable women who work on various handicrafts,” she says fondly. “Some knew how to weave, some didn’t, so we built looms and taught them. Since they were also making their own organic textiles, we thought, why don’t we make organic carpets?“
“We say farm to table with food, and this is farm to floor. There were beautiful rugs long before there were chemicals. We took the craft back to its traditional roots and tried to replicate the process as if we were making rugs decades ago.”
Perhaps the leap to organic wasn’t all that surprising, given that Linda started an organic shampoo business back in the ’90s with classmate, Nadine Karachi-Estrada ’86—but she hadn’t anticipated the amount of work it would take to become certified. Over the next few years, Organic Weave jumped through hoops to get the coveted Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.
Now, she’s proud to say that Organic Weave is the only certified organic rug company in the world. “And I don’t see any competition for a while,” she notes wryly. “It was not a simple process.”
“We say farm to table with food, and this is farm to floor,” Linda further explains. “There were beautiful rugs long before there were chemicals, so we had to research age-old rug-making processes. How did they moth-proof a rug? What did they do to set the dyes? To scour the wool to clean it? We took the craft back to its traditional roots and tried to replicate the process as if we were making rugs decades ago.”
And, increasingly, it seems consumers are demanding organic. “People care about indoor air quality,” Linda agrees. “They’re making the connection between a chemical-free home and better health. Do you really want your new carpet off-gassing chemicals into your home? Do you want your baby crawling on it?”
She pauses. “Anyone bringing a product into their home should be asking two important questions: Who made this? and What’s it made from?”
“People care about indoor air quality. They’re making the connection between a chemical-free home and better health. Do you really want your new carpet off-gassing chemicals into your home? Do you want your baby crawling on it?”
The eye-catching rugs are inspired by nature, comprised of a colourful array of plant-based dyes, their details and motifs used in traditional Indian architecture. And Organic Weave is also a no-waste manufacturer; each part of the process is made to order. Designed by Linda back in Montreal, her team in India dyes the raw materials at the mill before sending them on to the weavers, who return them to be cleaned, bound and shipped. “We have around 300 workers in the mill,” Linda says, “half of them women, and we work with up to 50 women weavers at a time.”
Early on, it was important to Linda that part of the company’s proceeds go back to the communities in which these women work, and she sought to find the right agency to support.
It was during an impromptu conversation with a fellow woman entrepreneur in India that Linda learned of the Sudara Freedom Fund, which helps provide safe housing and employment to women who are escaping trafficking and sexual exploitation. Evaluating its aims as similar to her own, for Linda, Sudara was the perfect fit. A percentage of the sales from Organic Weave now goes to the fund.
“We have around 300 workers in the mill, half of them women, and we work with up to 50 women weavers at a time.”
Linda returns to India as often as possible, and her business partner, Bholanath Baranwal and his family can always count on her to bring gifts that are hip, cool and, of course, Canadian. The Ridley connection, ever global, finds its way even here: nearly 30 years ago, the Baranwal family sent their sons to Ridley on an exchange programme. “The family has very fond memories of the school,” she shares. “I’m always on the lookout for gifts they’ll like.”
This winter, Linda opened January’s RCA newsletter and was introduced to Madalyn, a new luxury skincare line launched by alumnae Savannah ’11 and Tess ’12 Cowherd. She immediately went on the website and bought their beautiful face oils to take as gifts on her next trip.
For Linda, it’s another opportunity to support her community, and speaks to her general outlook as a whole. Connection. Empowering women. Investing in entrepreneurs. Giving back.
“When we take a genuine interest in those around us, we create community. And it’s those connections that give meaning to our lives.”
“Ridley taught me that it’s never just about us,” she says thoughtfully. “When we take a genuine interest in those around us—whether that means giving back in the spirit of Terar Dum Prosim, or simply taking the time to learn about and engage with others—we connect and create community. And it’s those connections that give meaning to our lives.”
Though, to us, they may seem far away—in some ways across the world, in others right at our feet—these connections are what drive her forward, as Linda works to weave together the traditions of the past, to help care for those who belong to its future. “As long as there’s one child still in this industry, there’s more to be done,” she says, suspecting thousands are still at the looms. And she’s right. When it comes to a just and sustainable future, Linda knows, more than most, that it’s all about good design—and she’s helping to build it from the ground up.
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our summer issue.
Winston Godwin talks resiliency, going global—and how he’s making waves in his home of Bermuda
If you’re new to Ridley and find yourself poking around the stories of its various members, you’ll hear time and again how grateful Ridleians are to be part of a truly global community. Each year, international students from over 60 countries flock to the school to study, soon discovering a second family, forming lifelong connections and learning, not only from classrooms, but each other. The result? A broad worldview which helps inform each journey, lighting paths that take them far beyond the Marriott gates. For Winston Godwin ’08, his years spent on campus were some of the best of his life. “It’s certainly beautiful,” he smiles. “but it’s the people who make it special. When I go back to visit, it all comes rushing back.”
Winston grew up in Sandys, Bermuda, where he’s known widely not only for his work in the marine field, but as an important voice from Bermuda’s LGBTQ community. For years, the aquarist and his Canadian husband, Greg led the fight on same-sex marriage—a battle which still continues to this day. Winston’s clear articulation of the argument for equal rights, along with his perseverance and resilience, led to his being named Bermudian of the Year in 2017, and a Ridleian of Distinction the year that followed.
Born of hardworking parents, Winston’s father worked for years at the Bermuda Telephone Company, his mother a housekeeper at the Elbow Beach Hotel. “My dad always felt education was the biggest investment he could make for his children,” remembers the alumnus, who attended Saltus Grammar School before coming to Ridley. “He had always wanted us to go to Canada and believed sending us away to school would help broaden our horizons, our minds—ultimately the world.”
“My dad always felt education was the biggest investment he could make for his children. He had always wanted us to go to Canada and believed sending us away to school would help broaden our horizons, our minds—ultimately the world.”
After high school, Winston studied at the University of Guelph, graduating with degrees in Geography and Environmental Analysis and Geographic Information Systems. As someone who now works in the marine field, having joined researchers from around the world on The Turtle Project and clean-up crews on plastics research vessel, the Sea Dragon, he’s long been passionate about marine life, and has seen firsthand the human impact on our oceans. He now works as an aquarist, caring for animals at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
A British territory settled by the English in the early seventeenth-century, Bermuda is self-governing, a parliamentary dependency which sits under a constitutional monarchy. Its small population—around 70,000 people—lean toward conservative views. Shortly after the amendment of its Human Rights Act in 2009, which ruled it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation, Bermuda held a referendum to see where the public stood on same-sex marriage. Only 45 per cent voted, leaving the question officially unanswered, but of the voters, more than 60 per cent were opposed. “Bermuda’s LGBTQ community is only a small part of the population,” Winston explains. “And when you have the majority voting on the rights of the minority? It’s…problematic.”
Winston and Greg found themselves at the centre of an historic case when the newly engaged couple answered the call to challenge Bermudian law. At the time, living in Canada, they were largely out of the fray, far away from what was playing out in Bermuda’s courts. But when his post-graduate permit expired, Winston left his job at Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium and took a position back home. Suddenly, he was in the thick of politics, finding himself alternately challenged and supported, and moving awkwardly through the world on defence.
By May 2017, the court found with the couple, concluding that marriage is a right which all citizens are owed by law. The legal success was short-lived, however; Parliament put forth a bill (a challenge rooted in religion), which soon evolved into The Domestic Partnership Act. Though other LGBTQ couples had married by then—including Winston and Greg—the bill passed into law and, once more, same-sex marriage was illegal.
Since then, as other couples have come forward to appeal the decision and same-sex marriage has, again, been deemed legal by the Bermudian courts; the government has, again, stepped forward, taking its appeal all the way to Bermuda’s Supreme Court. After three separate cases, same-sex marriage is still legal, though Parliament continues to fight it. The final challenge, which will be heard December 2020 by the U.K.’s Privy Council, will be their final appeal, the fate of same-sex marriage in Bermuda decided once and for all.
Winston and Greg have now lived together in Bermuda for three years, Winston loving his work at the aquarium, Greg an occupational therapist at the mental health hospital nearby. Both miss the freedom they had in Canada, where it wasn’t such a challenge to simply be themselves, to simply be together. As Winston put it in an interview with The Royal Gazette, “My being gay: I have as much choice in that as I do being black. In being left- or right-handed. In being a woman or a man.”
“It’s all about being visible. Just showing who you are, speaking about what’s important to you, allowing others to see you. It shows people they can be themselves too—that’s a fight in itself.”
Change may be slow to come to the conservative islands of Bermuda, but it is coming. Like anywhere, the members of its LGBTQ community work hard to be recognized and accepted. Bermuda celebrated its first Pride this past August, hosting the largest parade the islands have ever seen. “We expected a couple of hundred people,” Winston reports, thrilled with the event’s success, “but 5,000 showed up. It was a celebration of everything that’s come before it.”
Winston, who was in his twenties when he first came out, losing the support of family and friends, found its other forms of strength where he least expected. Support can often come quietly, he’s learned over the years—a like on social media, a photo, an article shared by someone he didn’t know supports the same cause as he. “It’s all about being visible,” he imparts. “Just showing who you are, speaking about what’s important to you, allowing others to see you. It shows people they can be themselves too—that’s a fight in itself.”
Winston doesn’t know where life will take him, but he does know it’s getting easier. “It’s woefully optimistic to expect everyone to love you for who you are,” he admits. “And that’s ok too.” For the young couple, their lives together reaching out ahead of them, there’s still plenty of work to be done to ensure everyone’s rights are recognized—whether in the courts or on the streets. But for now, on the islands of Bermuda, they’re learning though the water’s surface may look still, there’s always movement underneath, and sometimes farther below that, common ground.
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our summer issue.
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.
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 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 ’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.
How parents and educators can promote wellbeing and quell anxieties related to wearing a mask or face covering at school.
By Sue Easton, Director of Wellbeing & Learning
As we prepare to return to campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about the impact of wearing non-medical masks or face coverings on student wellbeing have surfaced. While wearing a mask has been proven to lessen exposure and provides us with the ability to reintegrate into society, it can be a challenge for us to accept the changes the virus has imposed on our lives. For children, this can be an even more complicated transition to understand, which is why it is vital to speak to young children about their emotions surrounding the start of school and the changes it may bring—including mask-culture.
As a positive education school, Ridley uses the PERMA-V Model to define “flourishing,” and we have used this framework to address common social-emotional concerns and to share some tips and help prepare families for September.
provide positive reinforcement for appropriate use of masks, when you are out in the community
give children choice in relation to the comfort of thier mask (some children like elastic behind the ears, while others prefer a toggle at the back)
give children choice on the appearance of their masks (for younger students, a ‘superhero’ approach has been used for years in parts of Asia and may be effective)
Communicate clearly, considering tone, expression and body language – all of us at Ridley will, too!
for younger children, use imaginativeplay to demonstrate appropriate use (e.g. with stuffed animals) and familiarize them with how their teachers may look this fall
for older children, make masks together to ensure that appearance and comfort are personalized
Practice wearing a mask while doing a task kids enjoy (such as watching TV or playing on electronics) to help normalize the feeling
“Not everyone is able to wear a face mask and many disabilities are invisible. Assume positive intent and be kind and respectful to those who cannot wear a face mask.”
model appropriate mask use – children use social referencing to decide what they should do, meaning parents and teachers can lead by example.
communicate clearly, considering tone, expression and body language – all of us at Ridley will, too!
normalize the use of masks, giving young children the opportunity to watch and get used to seeing others in masks, as well as wearing them
acknowledge feelings of discomfort, rather than telling children that they shouldn’t have a big issue with wearing a mask or seeing someone in a mask.
help children understand why we are wearing masks, and the importance of doing our best to protect ourselves and others in our community (personalize it if you can, ie: grandparents)
share information with them to further their understanding, like in this Bill Nye video
support children in creating cloth masks for others in the community who do not have access
celebrate consistency and appropriate use of masks as a way to be kind to others
encourage self-advocacy when children do not hear or understand what someone says to them
Give children choice on the appearance of their masks.
remind children that it has been repeatedly proven that we can breathe effectively through masks
teach children how to put on and take off masks so that they are avoiding touching certain parts of the mask or storing it in a santitary location during lunch or outdoor play.
McMaster Children’s hospital coined the phrase “Play, practice, prepare, and be patient” in relation to the introduction of masks to children. We appreciate your support in helping our Ridley students with this adjustment. We know that their physical and emotional wellbeing are your top priorities as parents — and they are for Ridley, too. We are here to support you in your reintegration back to school and want to ensure you feel ‘Positively Prepared.’
Help children understand why we are wearing masks, and the importance of doing our best to protect ourselves and others in our community.
“If there’s anything our school’s history has taught us, it’s that these are the moments when fresh, new ideas are born, moments when we, together, rise to the occasion.”
As the world faces one of the largest global crises on record, one can’t help but reflect on our school’s history. From the Springbank House fire in 1903, to world wars, economic turmoil, and more, Ridley has, quite literally, risen from the ashes through more than 130 years of unexpected plight. Though it may feel as though the COVID-19 pandemic has dented our amour, we know our school will once again prove its resilience and persevere in the face of this significant event.
We’ve flipped through our anthologies to illustrate the major crises and challenges Ridleians have overcome.*
Springbank House Fire (1903)
It was a cold October morning when students were roused from their sleep by shouts of “Fire!” The boys jostled each other to get outside, grabbing a random assortment of belongings in their haste, as the fire-bell rang in their ears. They stood under the street gaslight, answering, one by one, as Headmaster J.O. Miller called the roll—thankfully, all were accounted for. By the time the firemen arrived, it was clear the building would be completely destroyed; spurred on by the wind, the fire had raced along the attic before turning its attention to the main school building. The firemen concentrated their efforts on protecting the adjacent houses, and what belongings could be saved were piled on the street and in the headmaster’s backyard. The Upper School students watched, helpless, as Ridley collapsed before their eyes.
But those who knew Miller, knew that he would not give up on his beloved school. The loss of the Springbank building, though devastating, only spurred on in him a determination to build the school he’d wanted all along. Boys were temporarily rehoused, and within a month of the fire, everything was relatively normal in the academic programme and general activities; there was even a gym of sorts. Miller got to work finding and securing funds to build a brand-new Upper School and chapel on the same land as the Lower School—finally bringing the schools together on the Western Hill in 1905.
“Those who knew Miller, knew that he would not give up on his beloved school. The loss of the Springbank building, though devastating, only spurred on in him a determination to build the school he’d wanted all along.”
The First World War (1914-1918)
When the Great War broke out, Old Ridleians immediately enlisted in military services, and the school was filled with the spirit of patriotism. But what started out as a feeling of adventure—the sound of marching infantry, bands playing martial music in the streets, and students filled with the rightness of the cause—by 1916 became grim, the realities of war all too real.
The Acta Ridleianas of the era published obituaries of Ridley’s dead, their names and photographs raised on panels along Chapel walls. Tributes also went up celebrating those who were decorated for valour and leadership. Students donated pocket money to social appeals, war relief funds, and hospital wards; and the boys held a minstrel show to raise money for the cause.
They were told it was their duty to perform well at school, and the students took it to heart. They found solace in music; the Glee Club was restored, concerts held, and the gymnasium was, on occasion, converted into a motion-picture theatre, where it would be filled with laughter at the slapstick comedy of film stars like Charlie Chaplin. On the ice, the hockey team was filled with a formidable fierceness, finishing the season with 16 victories.
“By the end of the war, the school had won a high place in public regard, and the mood on campus was one of confidence—that of a firmly established institution ready to grow and expand.”
Canada lost 61,000 lives in that war, more than half of Ridley’s 800 graduates were in active service, and of them, 61 died. The Old Boys proposed a chapel in honour of the Ridleians who had lost their lives and raised nearly $50,000 by the spring of 1919. By the end of the war, the school had won a high place in public regard, and the mood on campus was one of confidence—that of a firmly established institution ready to grow and expand. Canada’s attitudes toward school and higher education grew with it; the number of applications for admittance to Ridley rose.
Recession (1922) in the midst of Spanish Flu Pandemic (1918-20) & Encephalitis Lethargica Pandemic (1915-26)
The war years, and those that followed, were plagued by worries for health, as the Encephalitis Lethargica pandemic—a curious brain-attacking disease which left its victims still as statues, in a zombie-like state, or dead—raged worldwide.
During those same years, the Spanish Flu pandemic swept the globe, killing millions. In an effort to prepare for what they worried would soon come to campus, Ridley’s governors approached architectural firm, Sproatt & Rolph to plan an isolation hospital. Construction began behind Dean’s House that September, and the new hospital was dubbed “The Pest House” by its first patients.
By October, as many as 60 boys had fallen ill. The most serious cases were reserved for The Pest House, the dorms converted to hospital bays for the overflow. Football season was disrupted, and a 10-day holiday decreed in late October to help reduce human contact. Though Ridley lost one member of its faculty and one nurse, no student died during the pandemic—a testimony to the skill and care of its medical staff. The Pest House continued to serve as an isolation hospital until the Schmon Hospital opened in 1947. With increased enrollment in the decades that followed, The Pest House was converted into a residence and renamed Governors House.
The Great Depression (1928-1932)
By 1931, as Canada’s industrial and trade situation became more desperate, it was soon evident that Ridley could face a serious crisis. By fall 1932, enrollment had plummeted, and many questioned the wisdom in building the new dormitory (which would become Merritt House). Old Boys attending the annual meeting that December were worried about the cost of the forthcoming build. Though they acted confident, Ridley’s principal and governors knew the only way they could justify the spend was to find new boys to fill its dormitories.
“We can only assume that a number of Ridley families made great sacrifices to keep their sons at the school.”
Old Boys were challenged to get to work as recruiters, and by the next fall, all heaved a sigh of relief when 27 new students started at Ridley. On campus, students became increasingly interested in current events, absorbed by questions of government, capitalism, and the various ‘isms of communism, pacifism, and fascism being debated around the world. Nevertheless, school spirit remained strong and, as early as 1933, enrollment began rising again.
Only one or two boys were withdrawn for economic reasons during the Depression, indicating that Canadians considered education important enough to be one of the last expenses to be eliminated. We can only assume that a number of Ridley families made great sacrifices to keep their sons at the school.
The Second World War(1939-45)
Still raw from the toll of The Great War, by the time the Second World War broke out, the hundreds of Old Ridleians who reported for active service did so with eyes wide open. Gone were the adventurous spirits of 1914; these men knew what it meant to be at war. Graduates of 1940 left the Prize Day presentation table went straight to the fighting forces. Many seniors didn’t even stay to graduate.
For Ridley, the war threatened to be an enormous burden; the school lost staff and students, had difficulty getting supplies, and there were problems of families divided. The mood amongst students was one of defiance, peppered by the occasional fierce display.
“During the span of the war, the administration recognized the great advances being made in industrial technology, and of the worldwide move toward science. Ridley got on board, creating the strongest physics and science staff they could assemble in order to adapt to the impending age.”
Though it was hard to concentrate—for both students and teachers alike—academic rigour was still upheld, and the boys were active in debate, public speaking, music, drama, and athletics. The new Iggulden Gymnasium revolutionized the school, the perfect site for performances and plays, and the state-of-the-art space made way for activities and sports beyond the traditional trio of football, hockey and cricket.
At the end of the war in 1945, a gesture to commemorate the dead, similar to the Memorial Chapel, was desired by all, and the Memorial Hall was planned. During the span of the war, the administration recognized the great advances being made in industrial technology, and of the worldwide move toward science. Ridley got on board, creating the strongest physics and science staff they could assemble in order to adapt to the impending age.
Recession (1950) and the Korean War (1950-53)
People had not yet recovered from the Second World War, when the Korean War broke out, and active service loomed yet again for Ridley’s seniors. The Cadets received new attention, now looked upon to train Canada’s soldiers of the future. A lavish provision of supplies filled the gymnasium’s armory with guns, rifles, drums, bugles, and signal radio equipment; the Cadet Bugle Band was upgraded with new artillery trumpets, cymbals and bell lyres. School time was spent on military training, able-bodied young men prepared to enlist for Korea or any other areas of conflict.
The numbers of Ridleians who were serving were troubling: 14 Old Boys were in the Canadian Army; five in the Royal Canadian Air Force; seven in Korea serving with the U.S. Air Force; 12 in the Royal Canadian Navy; three in the Royal Navy; and eight serving in the U.S. Navy. Though the school’s atmosphere didn’t have the same tension that was present during the major wars before it, there was a deep anxiety about what the future would hold and where communist aggression could go. Student enrollment numbers declined as the recession tightened wallets around the country but recovered in step with the war’s ending in 1953.
A Decade of Transition: The Hong Kong Flu and the 1970s
By the time the devastating Hong Kong Flu finished in 1969, it had killed over one million people worldwide, and helped kick a recession into high gear. Like many boarding schools, Ridley saw a staggering 14 per cent drop in enrollment, brought about not only by financial woes, but by major changes the country was facing at the turn of the decade: the dismantling of the conventional family; drugs; student resistance; egalitarianism; a diversifying society, and the start of the computer revolution.
“The question of the day was on everyone’s mind: how could Ridley preserve its 80-year heritage while adapting to these new realities?“
Parents were complaining, faculty and students expressed dissatisfaction, Ridley’s policies and systems seemingly out of date. The school was caught between its conservative traditions and a society which had increasingly progressive aspirations. The question of the day was on everyone’s mind: how could Ridley preserve its 80-year heritage while adapting to these new realities?
Its answer lay with a new, young headmaster, Richard Alan Bradley, fresh from the U.K., with experience leading schools that had been through similar changes. Buoyed by a willing faculty, a loyal and dedicated group of senior Prefects, and a $5 million financial campaign, over the 1970s, Bradley made changes which would pay off in the decades to come.
Aware it could no longer solely depend on expanding its boarding population, Ridley welcomed day boys to the Upper School in 1972. By the early ‘70s, Ridley went co-ed—arguably the single most radical change in Ridley’s history. Bradley’s argument was not solely based on numbers; he saw it as a logical step in a world where equal opportunities between sexes were becoming a fact of life. The first girls attended the school in 1973; by 1978, 26 female boarders were welcomed to the school, along with 18 day girls. Ridley’s numbers were rising.
Post-Gulf War Economic Slowdown Leads to Recession: The Early 1990s
There was a general restlessness that occurred in the 1990s, brought in part by the economic recession. Parents were dissatisfied, students impatient. Many areas of the school were showing signs of wear, resources limited, and renovations were slower than some would have liked. Financial aid was stretched thin and, as the demand for information technology increased, concerns about what it might mean for the school increased with it. Co-ed programmes had been launched at Lakefield, Trinity and Appleby Colleges, and Ridley’s administration was uncertain what the competition would mean for its future.
“The Planning Committee assessed all aspects of Ridley life, revisited the school’s mission statement and vision, addressed school spirit, and created a blueprint that would move the school into the 21st century.
For students, things were becoming stricter. A dress coded was enforced and rules were tightening in response to a feeling amongst faculty that the honour system was being disregarded. Spirits declined as many students chafed at the new rules; seniors felt they were losing status and privilege, and everywhere on campus people seemed to complain—whether about lagging technology, long construction projects, a disappearing Old Boys system, or something else entirely.
Students needed to feel heard and Ridley needed an ongoing, focused plan—a review cycle which would examine the school’s nooks and crannies, and take into account changing environments, new technologies, competition, and new demands. The Planning Committee ensured a wide range of Ridleians were involved in the process. They assessed all aspects of Ridley life, revisited the school’s mission statement and vision, addressed school spirit and the perceived lack of student enfranchisement in Ridley’s affairs, and created a blueprint that would move the school into the 21st century.
Changes were soon made. Seniors were given more control, more time was spent on arts and activities, Chapel service was moved to a more-convenient Friday slot, academic programmes reviewed, and changes made to student schedules. And, as the calendar pages flipped toward the late 1990s, Ridley recovered its numbers. By 1998, the school population—along with its spirit—had bounced back.
Now, another moment in time, a moment when our world feels a little off kilter, our community just a little bit raw. But if there’s anything our school’s history has taught us, it’s that these are the moments when fresh, new ideas are born, moments when we, together, rise to the occasion. Each time we’ve been shaken, we’ve stood firmer, only inspired by another opportunity to grow.
Ridley welcomes new Director of Development, Shelley Huxley
Though we’d hoped to welcome her in person, the pandemic had other plans. So, we sat down for a virtual Q&A to learn more about the Niagara native—and get a sneak peek into what she has in store for our community. With her passion for education, strong local ties, and decades-long experience working at universities across Ontario, Shelley’s ready to hit the ground running.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I was born and raised in Niagara (specifically, Fonthill), though I left for a period of time to attend university and launch my career. After my son was born, I realized there was no better place to raise a family, so we came home. It was really important to me that my kids understand the traditions of my family and grow up with their grandparents nearby — I grew up with mine and they taught me a lot. I wanted my own children to have that same experience. Now, I live in Fonthill with my partner, Iain, my two children: Evan, who’s 16, and Nathan, who’s soon to be 12. We also welcomed a new addition to the family, a now 10-month-old Labradoodle, named Coco! We’re a busy family; the kids are involved in a number of activities, so a lot of my free time is spent supporting them.
You’re coming to us from Brock University, where you were their Director of Alumni Engagement. Can you speak a bit about your professional background? It’s usually a circuitous route that gets you to Development. [laughs] Originally, I went to Wilfrid Laurier University to study Business—I wanted to be a floor trader. But a year into school, I realized I could spend all my time studying, or I could invest in the fulsome student experience that Laurier had to offer. I switched my major to English and Sociology and spent a lot of time doing various activities on campus and working in student government.
That’s what really set me up for my career path, because it introduced me to senior administrators, and those relationships ultimately led me to return to support my alma mater professionally—initially through communications, speech writing and working for the President—and that then led to working in alumni relations.
From there, I went on to work at Queen’s University. Queen’s was embarking on a $250 million capital campaign at the time, and I was responsible for setting up their Toronto office, working with campaign cabinet members and developing campaign strategy. I next had the opportunity to work at McMaster University—which is a big research-intensive school—where I was able to blend both alumni relations and development in my role. Five years later, I had my first child and it was then that I decided to move home. By happenstance, a job came up at Brock University and I was the successful candidate. Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked in all areas of development at Brock: I started as their event planner, then as their advancement strategist, which later morphed into responsibility for donor relations and stewardship and most recently alumni relations. I’ve spent the past six years as their Director of Alumni Engagement.
What led you to Ridley—and what are you most looking forward to as you embark on this new journey? I’ve been lucky enough to work for some great institutions, so when you decide to make a move it has to be the right one, and there were a number of factors at play. The top of my list was that I would be going to a place where I felt I could make a difference, and at the same time felt that Ridley really believes in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
What I love about Ridley is its level of tradition, its strong reputation and collegiality, its dedication to education and commitment to innovation. Take the recent pivot to online learning: for any school to have done this so quickly would have been a challenge, but Ridley made the transition beautifully. These are all really appealing to me and working in development will allow me to use my skills to connect with alumni and engage donors in philanthropic opportunities. I’m really just hoping to help Ridley grow and prosper.
“Together, alumni and donors provide support, foster strong reputations, contribute to our admissions, and are an essential part of the student experience. They’re a core part of the school’s mission and values—and that network is important for the health and well-being of any institution.”
You obviously have some close ties to the local community. What are your thoughts about the changes taking place in the Niagara Region—and what is your approach to fostering relationships between school and community? The Niagara Region has been steadily growing both in sophistication and opportunity—particularly over the last ten years. We had a fair amount of big business exit our region, but Niagara’s response to that has been good: both Brock and Niagara College have developed programming and outreach strategies in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth. For example, their makerspaces and the programmes they’re putting in place to help businesses develop within the community have been incredibly beneficial for us as a region.
The result is that there’s a lot of opportunity for students to participate in this innovation. I find myself thinking about cultivating the student experience, about potential experiential opportunities, and finding partners for mutual benefit. How can we engage our community partners to allow students these opportunities? How can we leverage our alumni connections both within our local community and beyond?
We’re here to build the student experience, and if we’re talking about preparing them for university—particularly our upper school students—there is a lot happening in this region from which they can learn, whether in business, tourism, or through partnerships with Brock’s Performing Arts Centre, or applied opportunities at Niagara College. There are plenty of ways we can offer experiential learning.
Your experience with events, alumni and development in the education sector is certainly impressive. What is it about this work that you find so rewarding? I find it a lot of fun. Every day is different and brings with it its own challenges. I’m proud of the work we support in alumni relations and development, and in working to educate minds. And that’s what brings me back day after day: I feel I’m making a difference and contributing to the fabric of society. That’s a pretty special thing to be a part of.
Can you speak to the importance of Development and Advancement when it comes to educational institutions? Any good school works hard to build and sustain a strong reputation—and alumni and donor engagement supports that. We think about how alumni contribute: with a sense of pride, loyalty and tradition, and a deep understanding of their alma mater. They share this not only with each other but with those around them who may want to attend or support the school philanthropically.
We think about alumni, who return to the school to engage with student life; they can be really beneficial in judging where an institution might be or needs to be. They can contribute in terms of time, talent and treasure. We think about donors, who invest in our future. Donors support an institution that knows where it is headed and the work that’s taking place now—this support is what allows faculty, students and staff to aim higher and dream bigger. Together, alumni and donors provide necessary support for our success, they help us foster a strong reputation, and are an essential part of the student experience. They’re a core part of the school’s mission and values—and that network is important for the health and well-being of any institution. For me, it’s all tied together: what’s happening on campus and what investments are taking place as well.
You’ve worked at a number of Ontario’s universities. In what ways do the approaches taken in higher education—in relation to development, events, community outreach, and alumni engagement—transfer nicely to an independent school setting? The strongest similarities, I think, will be in the student experience. Some students live on campus and others off, but together they contribute to the fabric of the school. Dedicated faculty are working hard to educate, staff are supporting students and the school at large—and when an institution is collegial and respectful of its faculty and staff, students pick up on it. A strong student experience is made up of more than what is learned in the classroom; everybody plays a role, and this creates a tight-knit community. This feeling of belonging, of family, ultimately contributes to student success, because when there’s belonging, the pride and respect come along with it. And those are wonderful nurturers for life.
We have a very diverse alumni population, comprised of different generations, who may come from or be living in different geographic locations, and who represent a range of political opinions and interests. How can we reach and keep our community strong as a whole, while also ensuring that we’re meeting the different needs of the groups within it? A diverse population contributes to a healthy environment; we learn from each other and learn to respect each other’s values and principles—and these various perspectives that students learn about at Ridley will help them to navigate life. We need to encourage open dialogue and use our vast network to reach out to each other both locally and globally. We all have stories to tell, we all have perspectives to share.
But everyone’s experience is different, and we have to approach those experiences differently. I will reach out to someone who graduated three years ago quite differently than I would someone who graduated 50 years ago; we use different platforms, we respond differently because they’re looking for different things. Each alumni is important to engage and value, to listen to, and provide with opportunity to be involved. And when we do this effectively, our alumni come forward to support us, to provide meaningful input that affects change. It’s mutually beneficial.
Welcome to Ridley, Shelley! We look forward to getting to know you over the coming months and are so pleased to have you join us—we’re sure there will be a number of exciting changes and opportunities ahead! As we introduce you to Ridley faculty, staff, parents, and alumni, is there anything in particular you’d like them to know? I am really thrilled and honoured to be joining this community and can’t tell you how much I look forward to hearing from each of you about what makes Ridley so special. For now, I will say that the Development team is here to support our student experience, to provide resources for faculty to thrive in the classrooms, and to connect alumni to one another and alumni to Ridley. We’re here to support Ridley—and you—today and in the future.
We’re wishing a fond farewell to one of our most valued colleagues, Director of Development, Susan Hazell, who will be retiring from Ridley this summer. Susan first came to our school in 1979 to teach French and Spanish; returned in 1984 as a teacher and swimming coach, becoming the official Housemaster of Arthur Bishop East the following year; and, in later years, made an enormous impact as Ridley’s Director of Development. For decades, Susan has been an integral part of our community, and we couldn’t be more grateful for her experience, leadership, vivacity, and warmth.
We asked Susan’s close friend and former colleague, Vera Wilcox—another long-time member of our community—to reflect on Susan’s career in Canada’s independent school system—and to give us a peek into what’s next. But if you’ve met Susan, you’ll know that wherever this next stretch of the journey takes her, it’s almost certain she’ll be smiling.
Sue and I first crossed paths in January 1980 when, at the suggestion of her tennis-playing fiancé Mike Hazell ’73, she came to take lessons at White Oaks Tennis and Racquet Club, where I was the tennis pro. I had met Mike a few years earlier, when my husband and I played tennis with him in Stratford.
“My first impressions include how Sue’s smile lit up her entire face, making me feel great just being around her; her eagerness to try something new—and how hard she worked to learn the skills; and her strong determination to excel.”
My first impressions from those lessons include how Sue’s smile lit up her entire face, making me feel great just being around her; her eagerness to try something new—and how hard she worked to learn the skills; and her strong determination to excel. I soon realized these were not just impressions, but Sue’s inherent essence, the enthusiasm which she brought to everyone and everything in her life. In 1984, Mike was hired to run Sports Ridley, and the couple returned as teachers and housemasters of Arthur Bishop East. The move rekindled what came to be a lifelong friendship and, for me, started a period of mentorship, as we worked together in independent schools for more than 35 years.
“Teacher, coach, housemaster, parent, administrator, mentor, friend – through her warmth, enthusiasm and her strong sense of doing what is right, Susan Hazell’s contribution, not only to Ridley but to independent schools across Canada, is immeasurable.”
— Trish Loat
As Sue moved through her career—at Ridley, The Bishop Strachan School, and later at Lakefield College School—she held a variety of leadership roles, ranging from Head of Residence, to Dean of Students, to Assistant Head of School Life—always dealing with staff, students and their families. In each role, she brought with her a curiosity and love of learning (Sue is a voracious reader and researcher), sincere listening skills, and a passion for helping others to improve and get the most out of their experience in their environment.
Sue provided opportunities for people to voice their ideas, concerns and dreams, and she would always listen intently. She made them feel validated when she integrated this information into a vision, presented the group with a plan to evaluate, and then looked to each member for ownership—not only during the plan’s implementation, but its success. A consummate team player and leader, Sue always stood in front of, beside, and behind her team, whether it was made up of students, families or staff. Her passion for teaching continued with her involvement in the Independent School Management (ISM) Summer Institute, where she worked as a workshop leader alongside Ellie Griffin, presenting sessions such as “Balance Your Contrasting Roles as Dean of Students” and “Power and Influence: Women and Leadership”.
“Thinking about my relationship over many, many years with Susan, reaching back to when I was a student at Ridley, babysitting the boys, housesitting the pets, working for her at Bishop Strachan School, working in the Hazell family business, connecting with Susan in a variety of professional roles, and recently in her capacity as head of Development, simply brings a smile to my face.
Every experience has felt like its own little adventure full of friendship, optimism, energy, laughter and purpose. Susan lifts up everyone and everything she touches with humility and heart. I am one of many women who have benefitted from her mentorship and friendship over the years.”
— Georgina H. Black ’85
Sue’s role changed in the early 2000s, when she became the Executive Director of CAIS, working with heads of schools from across Canada. Three years later, her career took another turn when she was invited to become the first Executive Director of Advancement at Collingwood School in Vancouver. Both moves were built on a solid foundation of knowledge and deep understanding of the independent school system—along with her valuable hands-on experience working with staff, students, families, and alumni. And, along the way, Sue took courses in fundraising and strategic planning, earning her IAP-S and CFRE certifications. Because she was such an effective and inspirational teacher, Sue continued to teach at ISM—now as a member of the Advancement Academy, where she worked with mentees developing action plans for capital campaigns and strategic planning.
“For over forty years, Susan has devoted her professional life to advancing independent schools, especially Ridley. I’m personally grateful for her guidance and the ways she has bolstered our school’s fundraising over the past six years. Susan’s ties to our community run deep and her daily presence on campus will be missed. I have no doubt she will remain connected to the RCA as she enters into a much-deserved retirement.”
— Ed Kidd, Headmaster
This period led Sue full circle back to Ridley College in 2014, when she became the school’s Director of Development. During her time at Ridley, Sue has not only worked in Development, but has shared decades of experience in helping to develop a number of the school’s areas, such as residential life, student leadership and more.
Not one to sit still, in addition to tennis, walking, hiking, biking, spinning, and golf, Sue has now added curling and rowing to her ever-growing list of activities. With her retirement, not only will Sue now have plenty of time for these active pursuits, but she’s looking forward to spending time with family and her boys; connecting with friends near and far; planting, working and harvesting her garden; travelling; and any other new adventures that come her way. Sadly, Ridley’s loss is everyone else’s gain!
I’m sure I speak for many when I say, thank you, Sue, for sharing your passion, your wisdom, your joy in mentoring others, and your life’s journey with all of us.
— Vera Wilcox
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our summer issue.
We all heard the announcement this week from Premier Doug Ford, that Ontario schools would not reopen for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. Though it wasn’t a total surprise, it definitely evoked many emotions in the adults and children of our Ridley community.
Some felt elated at the opportunity to spend more time with family, to continue exploring interests and passions, sleep more and have more choice and flexibility in planning each day.
Some felt neutral. They have developed a daily routine—including school or work, time with family, communicating with friends, exercising, and doing things that interest them—and are comfortable with the continuation of this schedule for the next four weeks.
Some felt distressed at the thought of four more weeks within the same four walls, with few opportunities to see friends or participate in the activities that they love.
Many of us will fluctuate between these different feelings in a day, a week, or throughout the next few weeks. Each of these feelings is normal, and part of being human. In past blog posts, I have shared many research-based strategies and practices to use on a regular basis to support us when our feelings or emotions seem stuck in the negative: focusing on relationships, using our strengths, understanding our feelings to help us navigate them, sleeping well, moving more, and eating healthy.
But what about the moments when our anger, sadness or fear seem to overwhelm us?
Research into somatopsychic (relating to the effects of the body on the mind) actions suggests that movements like the following can be helpful during these moments:
Square breathing: Picture a square in your mind. As you “draw” across the top, take a breath in to the count of four. As you “draw” down the side, hold the breath to the count of four. As you “draw” up, breathe out to the count of four. As you close the square, hold the breath to the count of four. Repeat at least three times, or as long as needed. Discover other breathing exercises for kids.
Yoga Poses:Practice these poses with your child regularly for improved wellbeing, and so that when they are feeling overwhelmed, they know just the right movement to make them feel better.
Exercise: Physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and fatigue, and to improve alertness and well-being. Thirty minutes a day, done together or in smaller time intervals, have been found to be effective. Determine what physical exercise you or your kids enjoy and take action daily. This will support daily well-being, and provide an outlet for overwhelming negative emotions.
Please remember, all emotions are normal. During this challenging time, it is important that we allow children to sit with their feelings, to notice, name and determine how to navigate them. If we see them getting stuck in negativity, however, hopefully at least one of the strategies shared here will help them move forward.
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 26th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Savouring Daily Joys.