Tag Archives: Ridley College

Trendy Tigers: Ridley College Uniforms  

Alumna Geena Prestia ’21 shares some of the top-ranked uniform items, available at Hanks, that students can wear both in and out of the classroom. 

By: Geena Prestia ’21

Wearing a uniform allows our students’ personalities to shine from within while strengthening our community through a collective sense of belonging. Not to mention, it makes our students’ morning routine as easy as one, two, three!  

Last year, we unveiled our new uniform, which has a look that feels like Ridley. They brainstormed new styles that incorporated the Ridley orange and black, whilst still maintaining a fashion-forward look. Over the course of the year, our students have added their own personalities to their uniforms by mixing and matching their favourite pieces.  

Are you a new student looking to learn more about how to add spice to your new school fit? Fear not, Hank is here to help!  

Our campus store has more to offer than just tasty snacks and stacks of textbooks. So, make your way down to Hank’s and use this Trendy Tigers list to help you find all the student favourites that will be sure to elevate your on-and-off-campus style.   

Here are some of the top-ranked items that students can wear both in and out of the classroom. 

Bucket Hats  

Starting off with one of the trendier pieces offered in the on-campus store, bucket hats are a huge hit with our Tigers! They are offered in different styles and, although not acceptable to wear during class, are perfect for our outdoor activities in the Spring term. Try one out and stay protected from the sun when running around A Squad.  

Plaid Kilt  

A staple piece in the new uniform design, the plaid kilt is the perfect blend of sophisticated and stylish! This item is typically worn by female students during the school day, and pairs nicely with the new black and orange blazer for Chapel. The plaid kilt can be worn year-round, as Hank’s offers nylons and kilt shorts for our Tigers to wear underneath during the cooler months! 

Winter Accessories  

Speaking of the chillier months of the year, Hank’s has tons of options for students to keep warm. Whether you’re tobogganing on the back fields or watching our Prep Hockey team at a spirit night, a Ridley tuque and pair of gloves are the perfect accessories!  

Cadet Sweater Coat  

One of the longest-standing articles of the Ridley uniform, the cadet sweater coat is the perfect layer for any occasion. This piece can be worn with the cadet practice uniform, as well as in your wardrobe outside of school. Many alumni return to campus in this iconic sweater during the homecoming season. So, head down to the sewing room and start adding on your sports badges and cadet pins until the back of your sweater is covered in Ridley pride!  

With such an incredible team of designers, the Ridley brand has been seamlessly incorporated into the school uniform this past year. Ridley is dedicated to keeping every Tiger looking funky, fresh and fun. We cannot wait to see you rocking some of Hank’s favourite pieces on campus!  

Finding Wellness Through Healthy Eating

At Ridley, we want our students to feel good and do good. As a leader in positive education and wellbeing education, our educators intentionally teach the habits of mind, body, and spirit so that students are primed for learning and success — now and long after graduation. An integral part of training the habits of mind, body, and spirit is the teaching of healthy eating and sleep habits, which features prominently in our health and physical education programming, itself guided by the belief that a healthy body is the pathway to a healthy mind.

A number of recent studies seem to confirm these claims. As physician, author, and former Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Eva Selhub explains, “what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.” However, not all food is created equal. High-quality foods, that is, foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourish the brain and provide fuel for the body, while conversely, low-quality foods (e.g., processed or refined meals) can impair brain function and worsen the symptoms of mood disorders such as depression. With regards to academic performance, another study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that students who eat clean and are physically active “tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviour.”

Each day at Ridley, our students are nourished with a considerable selection of healthy and delicious food options, which are served in our inspiring gathering spaces, Williams Hall and The Great Hall, and prepared by the expert staff at Chartwells Canada. Chartwells’ dedicated chef and kitchen staff strive to ensure that Ridley students, faculty, and staff alike have access to healthy and delicious snack and meal options each day. At Ridley, snack breaks and meal times are built into the day, allowing students to refuel and nourish their bodies for maximum performance. Additionally, these daily experiences allow teachers to develop deeper connections with students while also modelling and teaching appropriate table manners and etiquette.

After a long COVID-19 break and an overwhelming shift to remote work and learning, Chartwells’ staff found themselves asking how they could re-engage members of the community with new healthy food initiatives as the pandemic halted to a close. “We started with a blank slate wall, then asked ourselves, ‘how can we incorporate nutrition and wellness into this picture?’” says Maggie Bartold, Director of Operations for Chartwells at Ridley College.

This formerly empty canvas has evolved into a rich tapestry of initiatives which promote healthy eating and wellbeing across the Ridley community—two of which are detailed in the sections below.

Healthy Paws

In November, Chartwells officially launched its Healthy Paws programme, which teaches the foundations of Canada’s Food Guide and the different food groups represented within it to our Lower School students.

Far from simply explaining the groups, these weekly sessions, led by Chef Grant Spencer, engage students through compelling imagery and storytelling. Each food group is symbolized by a leaf on the “Tree of Growth,” itself modelled upon the Chartwells logo, with each weekly session dedicated to the respective food groups. Appropriately, these sessions began with water—an essential facet of growth, both for plant and human life. From there, the groups will proceed through the food groups, with students walking away with the knowledge of how to build a healthy plate and nourish their minds, bodies, and souls through food.

An additional symbol in this programme is the figure of Hank the Tiger (Cub), adding another dimension to the nourishment piece. By starting with Hank as a growing Tiger cub, the children can identify with him and watch him grow as he is “fed” over the course of the year until, at the end of the school year, he is fully grown, providing a valuable lesson about the advantages of healthy eating. Together, these two images create a powerful visual for our Lower School children, providing a simple and colourful message that will keep them engaged and interested while providing the necessary foundations for them to lead healthy and sustainable lives in the future.

The “Snack” Programme

There are a number of reasons we get “snacky” at nighttime. Studies suggest these cravings sometimes come as the result of overly restricted food intake in the daytime. They can also arise from habit or boredom and, in some cases, have been linked to various eating disorders. Regardless of the cause of these urges, it is imperative that when we choose to eat late at night, we make healthy choices.

With the rapid expansion of online food delivery platforms, such as Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, and Doordash, the temptation to opt for fast food late at night can be overwhelming. To empower students to make good choices, Chartwells and Ridley have implemented a late-night snack programme in our boarding houses.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Chartwells staff delivers and stocks our boarding house kitchens with healthy, balanced snacks—items such as fruits and veggies, yogurt, freshly baked items, etc.—in order to ensure that students have what they need to stay healthy and develop good habits. These snack deliveries consist of five snack options each run and are currently on a three-week rotation, at which point students and Heads of House are consulted and asked to let us know what they would like to see next. In addition to deliveries, Café Nights run twice a week, every Monday and Wednesday, in the Great Hall.

Eating healthy should not feel like a punishment, so we are delighted to work with our community members to best provide them with delicious, nourishing fuel for their busy lives!

Chartwells will continue weekly Teaching Kitchens with Chef Grant on Saturday mornings, with its Fit+ balanced plate initiative at the core, as well as continue to drive and expand local food and sustainability initiatives on campus. Keep an eye on our blog for more stories about these exciting events in the future, as well as on the Chartwells website, which contains vital information about the organization and its various initiatives.

Why Ridley? Spirit, Service, Students

What makes Ridley College exceptional? In our latest blog post, young alumna, Geena Prestia ’21 explores three areas pivotal to Ridley life—spirit, service and student life—and how they contribute to an extraordinary Ridley experience. 

By: Geena Prestia ’21

Spirit and service and student life, oh my! Ridley is well-known for the stellar academic curriculum it has to offer; however, there are a vast number of opportunities for students to try new things and develop useful skills outside of the classroom.

This blog will explore three areas pivotal to Ridley life—spirit, service and student life—and how they contribute to an extraordinary Ridley experience.

Spirit  

Go Blacks Go! One of the many beloved Ridley cheers sung at spirit events, where our student body is full of orange and black pride. No matter how athletic or artistic you are, there is always a place where you belong at Ridley. As a tight-knit community, the Tigers always look forward to exciting school events such as Snake Dance and Pep Rally, where school spirit is at the forefront of it all. “Some of my favourite memories from my time at Ridley were spent decked out in orange and black gear with friends; we always had a blast cheering and dancing at spirit events,” said alumna, Geena Prestia ’21. This school spirit will stick with you long after you leave the Ridley campus. Once a tiger, always a tiger!  

Service  

At Ridley, there are endless opportunities for you to serve our community, as well as those outside of Ridley. From the Santa Claus Parades across the Niagara region to weekend dog walking on campus, or even March Break service trips, Ridley provides several options for students to choose from. “I went on a service trip to Guatemala in grade nine, and it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had,” said Geena. We are so fortunate to belong to a safe and welcoming community at Ridley, and this we recognize as we encourage our Tigers to give back to those less fortunate.  

Students  

Our students bring life to campus. Ridley facilitates an environment beyond just a school; for most, it is a second home. With over half of the Upper School population being made up of boarders from all over the world, the students truly rely on one another for support and fun at their home away from home. “Even as a day student, I always found the students at Ridley, especially the girls I spent most of my time with in G-East, to be like my second family,” said Geena. At Ridley, it doesn’t matter what your favourite sport is, how many instruments you can play or if you know how to spell International Baccalaureate; every student has a place where they can be themselves and share that with their peers. The bonds our students make at Ridley are long-lasting during their time at the school and in the years to come.  

When she reflects on her eight years at the school, Geena said, “Ridley is a special place, and I know that I will always have a home there.”  

Why Ridley? Because it is where you belong.  

Top Things to Do in the Niagara Region

Alumnae, Geena Prestia ’21 and Angela Finn ’22 share their thoughts on the best places to shop, snack and explore in the Niagara Region.

By: Geena Prestia ’22

Calling all Ridley explorers! Ridley is proud to be a part of the bountiful Niagara Region, and we know that when our students want to stretch their paws, they love to explore all that the outside community has to offer. From the plethora of restaurants in the area to the many beautiful sights, like Niagara Falls, there is always something for our Tigers to do when class is not in session. Recent graduates, Geena Prestia ‘21 and Angela Finn ‘22 share the best places to shop, snack and explore in our latest blog post.   

When Geena remembers her many years spent at Ridley, there is a collection of fun memories, both on and off campus. Here were some of her favourite things to do in Ridley’s surrounding community:  

Clifton Hill & The Falls  

As a Niagara Falls native, one of Geena’s number one recommendations for an exciting day trip is visiting Niagara Falls itself at the bottom of the infamous Clifton Hill. “With arcade games, mini golf, haunted houses and the big Sky Wheel, there is so much to explore in such a small area!” she says.

At the very bottom of Clifton Hill is where you can overlook the amazing waterfalls. It’s a view you will not want to miss!  

Pen Centre & Landmark Cinemas  

When winter rolls around, it can get quite chilly in Niagara, making some outdoor spots a little tricky to visit. If you’re looking for a way to stay warm on a cold day but still have some fun, we suggest you visit the Pen Centre mall and Landmark movie theatre in St. Catharines. Just a short drive from Ridley’s campus, there are plenty of trendy stores for you and your friends to spend the day browsing in. Conveniently built right next door to the mall, Landmark Cinemas always has great movie showings, and you can enjoy the show with a nice buttery bag of popcorn! 

Apart from the various places you can visit in Niagara, the region is home to several incredible restaurants for you to try. Angela Finn shares some of her top recommendations for the foodies of Ridley: 

Wind Japanese & Thai  

If you are a sushi fan, this restaurant will not disappoint! Just a short walk over the Burgoyne Bridge, Wind is the perfect lunch or dinner spot for our Tigers. “My friends and I always loved going to Wind for dinner, they have so many options and the food is delicious!” says Angela. If you do decide to go, we recommend wearing some loose bottoms, because this all-you-can-eat style restaurant will have you stuffed for hours!  

Mahtay Café & Lounge  

If you’re looking for something a bit more casual, or even a new study space, Mahtay Café is the perfect spot for you. The urban vibe of the restaurant is a hit among our students, and their creative sandwich recipes are to die for! Next time you’re feeling a little restless on a Sunday afternoon in the dorms, bring a good book and an empty tummy down to St. Paul Street for a tasty snack and refreshing iced coffee at Mahtay.  

Niagara has so many opportunities for Ridley students to explore new places, try new things and take a break from their busy school schedules every now and then. So, put your explorer hat on and immerse yourself in all the excitement that Niagara has to offer!  

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – In Memoriam

The Ridley community is deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th, 2022.

We have been inspired by her dedication to a life of service, leadership and kindness. Her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of our community and the world. Along with the rest of the Commonwealth, we mourn this tremendous loss. Our flag is lowered to half mast in her honour and memory.

Earlier this week, Headmaster Kidd shared his heartfelt reflections on this monumental event in Chapel. We share them with you below.


On Thursday morning, just after lunch, we heard the news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at her beloved Scottish home, Balmoral Castle. It was one of those historic, “where were you?” moments, and I know that I will never forget where I was — standing on the shores at Camp Onondaga watching a strange student competition known as ‘greasy watermelon.’ It was there, in the warm sunshine, I was approached by Mr. and Mrs. Bett asking if I had heard the news – the Queen was dead. Like so many people around the world, not only British and Commonwealth nations, but also informed citizens from around the world, I was surprised to find myself instantly flooded with so many strong feelings of shock and sorrow. I had to pause — I was literally stopped in my tracks. It seems strange to consider now. I knew that she had been ill, and I also knew that she was 96 years old. And yet, like so many people around the world experienced, the news was jolting and filled me with sorrow. It choked me up. In the days that followed, this common response has received more than a few reflections.

Perhaps the news triggered a flood of sorrow from memories of recently passed loved ones. I thought of my aging parents — my mother shared a birthday with the Queen and they are ardent monarchists.  

Perhaps it was an unsettling epiphany that a constant star in our lives ceased to exist; that a very important thread connecting us to our past was now severed? Perhaps it was that her death represented the passing of an era. Some have said she was the last of the great leaders of the 20th century — her name, her image, and her legacy is ubiquitous, from the coins and bills in your wallets to the highways we drive on and the schools, hospitals and institutions we attend.

Or maybe it was the melancholic and very personal recognition that this very public family had just lost their matriarch — their great grandmother, their grandmother and for King Charles and his siblings, their mama.

My explanation is that this feeling is a very complex sadness — part nostalgia, part anxiety. I am most certain the Ancient Greeks had a name for this feeling that we moderns can’t quite define — a realization that with the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we experienced the passing of some part of our collective humanity — the best part of our collective humanity, the parts that we seek to recreate and adopt. Perhaps in her, we sensed the very best of us, embodied and manifested in a life and a reign of 70 years as monarch, sovereign and head of state for millions of people around the world.  

As French President Emmanuel Macron quipped to the British people, “To you, she was your Queen, but to us, she was The Queen.” I think what he meant was that she was The Queen – the pinnacle of human values that we so admire. She was values in action – values such as duty, service, humility, dedication, stoic resolve and calm leadership.

At the age of 25, with the death of her father, King George VI, she was called to the throne; called to lead not only a nation but through her redefinition of the role, to lead an entire commonwealth of nations, including Canada (less than a century old at the time). Her life was the history of the 20th century — WWII, post-war recovery, economic austerity, unrest in Northern Ireland, the independence of former colonies such as Hong Kong and most recently Barbados, wars in Argentina and the Middle East, and most recently, COVID. 

I have a chapel homily on the topic of death and funerals (I’ll save it for the darkest day of the year, just to cheer you all up). In it, I admit that despite the pain of loss and mourning, I sometimes enjoy attending funerals and finding myself inspired by the eulogies — the uplifting insights into lives well lived. Indeed, when a great person passes (whether a famous Head of State or a close relative), we have an opportunity to learn, to marvel, and hopefully, to emulate the best aspects of their lives, the values that informed their actions and how they chose to spend their time on earth. As King Charles noted in his address to the nation — “In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.”

So, what can we learn from the light of Queen Elizabeth’s example? Duty, service, dedication to the task she was called to, humility.

On multiple occasions, facing crisis, she reassured us that all would be well. “Keep calm and carry on” was a British government wartime message and was not coined by the Queen, but nevertheless, these five words of Stoic advice very much capture the dignity with which she lived. As a 14-year-old, amid the darkest hours of WWII, she delivered a radio address to her British people, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. Boris Johnson reflected on this moment in his tribute to the Queen in parliament on Friday:

“She said then: ‘We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.’ She was right.

And she was right again, in the darkest days of the COVID pandemic, when she came on our screens to tell us that we would meet again.

And we did.”

In the last few weeks, it is now clear that the Queen was slipping away, her life energy no doubt sapped by the loss of the love of her life, her late husband Prince Philip. But in one last act of service, duty and dedication, last Tuesday, she rose from her bed in Balmoral to preside over the departure of outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to greet her new Prime Minister (her 15th), Liz Truss. 

In a special session of the House of Commons on Friday, British politicians and leaders took turns paying tribute to the Queen, capturing what she meant to the British people and to the world. 

The Prime Minister, Liz Truss remarked:

“Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.

She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne — at just 25 — in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war. She bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign.

The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.”

Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party noted: 

“She did not simply reign over us; she lived alongside us, she shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times and our bad.”

And then, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, remarked:

“Over her reign she has seen unprecedented social, cultural, technological change, through it all she has been the most conscientious and dutiful monarch.

But whilst she understood the unescapable nature of duty, which sometimes must have weighed upon her heavily, she also delighted in carrying it out, for she was the most devoted monarch.”

This week, in tribute to her Majesty the Queen, our flag will fly at half-mast until sundown on the day of her funeral, which will occur on Monday, September 19th. The Government of Canada has declared 10 days of national mourning. On Saturday past, the Government of Canada and Governor General Mary Simon issued a proclamation of King Charles III’s ascension as Canada’s new sovereign and Head of State.

And finally, once again in UK Parliament on Friday, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith concluded his tribute to the Queen with these words: 

“If the House will indulge me, I want to quote a W.H. Auden poem with a few changes:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drums

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”

She was our North, our South, our East and West,

Our working week and our Sunday rest,

Our noon, our midnight, our talk, our song.

We thought that love would last forever: we were wrong.

May God bless her and keep her, and hold her in our hands, and may we bless the royal family.”

I ask that you join me in a moment of silence, honouring the life, the leadership, and the very human values embodied in the actions of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Headmaster Kidd’s Summer Reading List 2022

There’s nothing like curling up with a good book on a hot summer day.

Is there anything more gratifying than relaxing in the shade or sprawling out on the beach with a crisp paperback in hand? Or an eReader, if that’s your thing? Or even an audiobook?  

No matter what the medium, storytelling is a fundamental part of our humanity—it is what connects us to other people and the world.

Stories can transform how we see the world, and the world itself, while also conveying the culture, history and values that unite us. By appealing to our emotions, stories help us to build empathy and gain a deeper understanding of other people’s experiences, as well as our own. Studies show that listening to stories read aloud during childhood plays a significant role in memory construction and can even trigger positive emotions later in life.

And with more than 1.6 million books published globally in 2019 alone, there is certainly no deficit of quality reading material to consume!

But with so many new books in the marketplace, how do you know what to read? We can help with that!

Each summer, as part of Ridley’s ongoing commitment to flourishing and personal growth, our stalwart leader, Headmaster Kidd, curates his aptly titled Headmaster’s Reading List—a short programme of transformative texts that captivate and inspire while also supporting our flourishing and wellbeing initiatives.

This year, Headmaster Kidd solicited suggestions from members across the Ridley community and narrowed the list down to these five electrifying titles:

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

In her latest masterpiece, Susan Cain, author of the bestselling phenomenon, Quiet, reveals the power of a bittersweet, melancholic outlook on life, and why our culture has been so blind to its value. Here, Cain employs her signature mix of research, storytelling, and memoir to explore why we experience sorrow and longing, and the surprising lessons these states of mind teach us about creativity, compassion, leadership, spirituality, mortality, and love.

As an accompaniment, Cain has also included a special Book Club Kit, which includes a letter from the author, discussion questions, writing prompts, a list of takeaways, and a Bittersweet playlist!

Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion by Dr. Wendy Suzuki

Hundreds of millions of people suffer from everyday, low-level, non-clinical anxiety. Popular science suggests that this persistent anxiety is detrimental to our health, performance, and wellbeing. But what if our preoccupation with avoiding anxiety is costing us something? What if we could learn how to harness the brain activation underlying our anxiety and make it work for us, turning it into superpowers?

In Good Anxiety, Dr. Wendy Suzuki unpacks the cutting-edge science that will help readers channel their anxiety for positive outcomes—accelerating focus and productivity, boosting performance, creating compassion, and fostering creativity—transforming our understanding and experience of everyday anxiety forever in the process.

How People Matter: Why It Affects Health, Happiness, Love, Work, and Society by Isaac Prilleltensky and Ora Prilleltensky

Mattering, which is about feeling valued and adding value, is essential for health, happiness, love, work, and social well-being. We all need to feel valued by, and add value to, ourselves, others, co-workers, and community members.

How People Matter shows not only the signs, significance, and sources of mattering, but also presents the strategies to achieve mattering in our personal and professional lives. Using research-based methods of change to help people achieve a higher sense of purpose and a deeper sense of meaning, this book equips therapists, managers, teachers, parents, and healthcare professionals with the tools needed to optimize personal and collective well-being and productivity and explains how promoting mattering within communities fosters wellness and fairness in equal measure.

Rest, Refocus, Recharge: A Guide for Optimizing Your Life by Greg Wells, PhD

In a 24/7 world, it can be a real challenge to get proper rest and give your mind and body the opportunity to fully recharge.

In this new book, Dr. Greg Wells outlines how small changes in the way you rest, refocus and recharge can help you improve your mental health, prevent illness and deliver optimal results, offering simple and practical techniques that you can easily incorporate into your existing routine.

Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn by Barbara Oakley, PhD, Beth Rogowsky, EdD, and Terrence J. Sejnowski, PhD

Neuroscientists have made enormous strides in understanding the brain and how we learn, but little of that insight has filtered down to the way teachers teach. Uncommon Sense Teaching applies this research to the classroom for teachers, parents, and anyone interested in improving education. Topics include:

  • Strategies for keeping students motivated and engaged, especially with online learning
  • Helping students remember information long-term, so it isn’t immediately forgotten after a test
  • How to teach inclusively in a diverse classroom where students have a wide range of abilities

Drawing on research findings as well as the authors’ combined decades of experience in the classroom, Uncommon Sense Teaching equips readers with the tools to enhance their teaching, whether they’re seasoned professionals or parents trying to offer extra support for their children’s education.

***

Great teachers see themselves as great learners—and they see learning through the eyes of their students. That’s why our dedicated faculty and staff are thrilled to dive into this list, so we can model curiosity, intellectual humility, and a zest for lifelong learning for our students. But also, because reading is great fun!

We encourage all in our community to read along with us, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on these fascinating titles!

Until then—happy reading and happy summer!

Learning Moral Courage with Professor Irshad Manji

We live in divided times, and our world is more polarized than ever before. While social media platforms today allow us to communicate instantaneously and effortlessly anywhere in the world, they have engendered a new crisis, ironically, of communication—the effects of which we could not possibly have anticipated.

At present, the prospect of communicating across divides—political or otherwise—seems an impossible task. As our lives become increasingly isolated and insular, we feel more distant from our friends and neighbours, and from the world at large. The American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt offered a poignant assessment of our contemporary social affliction in a recent article for The Atlantic: “We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.” Yet, recent data published by Gallup reveals that our society was more cooperative, with intergroup relations perceived nearly twice as positively, only ten short years ago. So, how can start to bridge our modern divide and begin to heal collectively, as a society?

Professor Irshad Manji (University of Oxford) proposes a simple, yet satisfying, answer: by learning to communicate with each other—again.

Last year, Ridley College joined the growing ‘moral courage community’ by partnering with Professor Manji’s non-profit Moral Courage College (MCC), an organization that empowers and works with institutions, including K-12 schools like ours, to engage in honest diversity work rather than simply rushing to adopt the trendiest framework out of fear of appearing unresponsive.

In September 2021, we invited Professor Manji to host a series of virtual workshops with students, faculty, and staff to teach us about moral courage and set out on a path together, as an institution, to develop the skills to engage constructively about contentious issues without sowing division.

Of course, Professor Manji is no stranger to Ridley College. As many in our community will no doubt recall, she was the inaugural speaker in our MGI-Gordon Distinguished Speaker in November 2005 during the tour for her controversial second book, The Trouble with Islam Today, which had been released the previous year. Seeking a dynamic speaker who could spark discussion and debate around big ideas, she fit the bill perfectly and, as with her latest visit, she certainly did not disappoint.

This year, however, Professor Manji returned to Ridley in a new capacity—as our first Global Leader in Residence, sharing her wealth of knowledge and insight with our students, parents, faculty, and staff, as well as some of the intimate biographical details that inspired her to establish the Moral Courage Project.

Before joining the University of Oxford’s Initiative for Global Ethics and Human Rights, Professor Manji served for many years as a professor of leadership at New York University. Prior to that, she held a number of positions under Canadian New Democratic politicians—as a legislative aide, press secretary, and speechwriter—while somehow also finding time to moonlight as the host of a television program about queer issues and author multiple New York Times bestselling books, most recently, Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019.

But despite her many accolades—including Oprah Winfrey’s Chutzpah Award for “audacity, nerve, boldness, and conviction”—Professor Manji remains completely authentic, wholly unpretentious, and down to earth. She moves fluidly between registers from session to session, deftly navigating a spectrum of big—and often controversial—topics in a way that is engaging and memorable, masterfully modulating her message to command the full attention of her audience, whether comprised of Kindergarteners, teens, or adults over 50.

Stepping out onto the Mandeville Theatre stage in person for the first time in nearly two decades, she addresses the packed crowd on Monday morning with humility and grace—virtues she credits to having her proverbial butt kicked in the early years of her career. “I wanted to change the world without recognizing that I had to change myself,” she reflects. 

“Back then, the voice in my head told me if you don’t fight back, your opponents won’t know that you mean business. […] But this was the biggest mistake I ever could have made because it made my critics more rigid in their thinking and made my sympathizers question my sincerity.”   

But this change did not come easily. After nearly a decade of “digesting toxic energy,” experiencing clinical depression and panic attacks, she collapsed just moments before the biggest interview of her life. Then, her doctors presented her with an ultimatum—either she quit her book tour, or they quit as her doctors. “It was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” she explains. “My body was trying to tell me something, but I was not listening. Then my body showed me who was boss.” 

Today, she is no longer the incendiary, confrontational figure who “used to walk on stage with her metaphorical fists clenched, ready to punch back at her opponents,” but instead, strives to be a thoughtful and respectful adversary to those with whom she disagrees—a power she claims is entirely within reach for those who are willing to “speak truth to the power of their own egos.”

Drawing on the principles of neuroscience and positive psychology, she started the MCC to help educators and leaders communicate and develop relationships across divides by learning to modulate their emotions in situations where they are forced to confront difficult, often emotionally charged, issues. This instinct to fear and lash out when we are confronted with views different from our own, and the related impulse to subdue this perceived threat by labelling others, is a fundamental part of how we are wired, she explains. However, letting our emotions—primarily fear—guide us tends to produce only fast, often temporary, fixes that only deepen existing tensions and polarization.

 “Instinctually, we are always scanning for threats. When we perceive them, the primitive region of our brains—the amygdala [part of the Limbic System]—starts to take over. […] When we disagree on subjects that we feel passionately about, our brains make us believe others are attacking us. We perceive disagreement as an existential threat. But in reality, we are only experiencing mere discomfort.” 

In those decisive moments, we are forced to make a choice. We can let fear overtake us and become defensive—usually at the expense of being heard by our opponents—or we can choose to listen, which requires us to acknowledge and respect the singularity of the individual we are facing, despite our initial instinct to reduce them to a set of labels.   

“There is no shame in categorizing,” she continues.  

“The trouble with labels is not that they exist, but the baggage that goes with them. But we must remember that we are also owners of a more evolved part of the brain. Rather than letting emotion bully cognition out of the picture, we must find a way to let cognition and emotion peacefully co-exist.” 

A problem arises only when we let our assumptions—and our emotions—take the wheel and shut down rather than engaging with our opponents as equals. In these moments, we deprive others of their humanity by reducing them to caricatures rather than engaging with them as our equals with complex thoughts, opinions, and emotions, at which point, Manji emphasizes, “social justice becomes anti-social, and justice is reduced to ‘just us.’”

True justice, she counters, manifests when we recognize that individuals who belong to the same demographic group are not identical, and we are impelled to create space for that individual to express their unique point of view.

“I am a Muslim. But does that mean that I think like every other Muslim? Not all Muslims think alike. And if that’s true of marginalized groups, it is also true of the so-called straight white guy. […] If you’re going to [make the conscious effort to] know me, [rather than] of me, you are going to engage with me, not make assumptions based on this or that label.” 

So, how do we outsmart the limbic system which causes us to react this way? The answer might surprise you: take a deep breath. “We must give our bodies the time and oxygen to transition from this hyperemotional ego brain to the more evolved pre-frontal cortex […] where cognition and emotion can cohabit and coexist,” Manji claims. This is not to say we need to banish emotion. “Good luck trying,” she scoffs. Rather, it is coming to the realization that our biggest obstacle is not the other person, but our own egos.

“By lowering our emotional defences, we are using our power wisely to motivate the other to follow in our footsteps,” she explains. But unfortunately—in the age of cancel culture and reactive social media platforms—many social justice advocates and educators have lost sight of this noble ambition. 

As governments, businesses, non-profits, and other institutions around the world continue to direct considerable effort and resources to creating or revising DEI or JEDI mandates, Manji emphasizes the need for creating organizational cultures that respect and encourage a diversity of viewpoints, which she suggests is both a cornerstone of our pluralistic, liberal-democratic way of life. Recent events show, however, that this way of life is increasingly threatened by a creeping homogeneity driven by a fear of appearing ineffective, behind the times, or worse—prejudiced.

“There is a tendency to frame free speech as antithetical to social justice and social justice as contradictory to free speech. You can have one or the other but not both. I’m calling B.S. on that. You must have both.” 

In response to changing tides, administrators in K-12 and higher education have deployed various “inclusion efforts” and “inclusion training” programs over the last decade which Manji claims have only “inflamed the culture wars” and fuelled an “us versus them” mentality—usually in service of “speaking truth to power,” a slogan that Manji partially takes issue with.

This statement, and the term “moral courage,” she explains, are usually attributed to the same source—former U.S. Senator, Robert F. Kennedy, who was an advocate for the civil rights movement and fought against corruption before his tragic death in 1968. When we are called upon to “speak truth to power,” we are being asked to take a moral stance on an issue and stand up for what is right, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular, or our position might be perceived as unnecessarily critical or offensive. But in our current climate of “us against them,” Manji claims, “the way we speak truth to power matters as much as the truth we think we are speaking.” 

“Speaking truth to power is not enough. We must appreciate that we have power. Moral courage today has to mean speaking truth to the power of your own ego, even as you are speaking truth to powers external to you.” 

One of the key tactics deployed by the civil rights movement that ought to be leveraged by today’s educators and social justice advocates is the capacity to educate one’s emotions. She explains: 

“During the civil rights movement, facilitators of activism taught young people to educate [their] emotions. If you simply lash out, you are not going to make your point in a way that motivates the other to hear you. These moments spent so much time building resilience and antifragility. We have lost that today.” 

Doing moral courage work today, therefore, requires learning to master our emotional defences so we can productively communicate and develop relationships across divides. Doing so, she explains, permits us to overcome our all-pervasive us versus them mindset so that we can begin to work co-operatively to build cultures—organizational and otherwise—that reject shaming and labelling and champion free speech, diversity of expression, and diversity of viewpoint. For educators, this means rejecting fear and putting these skills to work in their classrooms to create and cultivate respectful spaces for open dialogue and debate. But it also means teaching students to respect the plurality of forces at work in each of us and begin to view themselves and others as more than individuals or a set of labels—but as “plurals.” Only plural, Manji explains, “accurately captures all sentient beings [and suggests] that there is so much more to any of us than meets the eye.”

This responsibility will not fall squarely upon faculty members. In the fall, Professor Manji will be virtually leading an exciting new club, “We the Plurals,” which is open to all students between Grades 7 and 12 who are 100 percent committed to the cause. The club will teach students to recognize themselves and each other as plurals, teach them to educate their emotions and equip them “with the skills to engage across lines of difference, disagreement and mutual disgust”—skills that Professor Manji notes are increasingly in demand in our global society.

Members of our faculty and staff will also enroll in Professor Manji’s Moral Courage Mentor Certification Program in the coming months to become certified Moral Courage Mentors. This program, which she bills as a “Moral Courage boot camp,” teaches participants to “finesse [their] moral courage skills, boost [their] confidence to teach those skills to younger people, and meet fellow aspiring Mentors.” At the conclusion of the course, all participants will receive a certificate issued by the University of Oxford and be equipped with the skills to teach Moral Courage both in the classroom and in communities beyond. We encourage parents and students to consider enrolling in the course as well to help us extend our Moral Courage teachings beyond the classroom.

As we continue to advocate for and define our individual approach to cultivating justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus, we remain committed to empowering our diverse community of learners, fostering global competency, and providing a safe space for healthy debate on global issues. Above all, Ridley College is a place where everyone belongs and finds a home. Equally, we reject the chilling modern tendency to respond to intolerance with new, sometimes greater, forms of intolerance.

We are so grateful to Professor Manji for her kindness and profound insight, and we look forward to working with her in the future as we continue to integrate the teachings of Moral Courage into the essential foundation of our learning community.

Hey Google: Nancy Ting ’94

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Fall 2021 issue.

Tech Savvy: Alex Clark ’06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The future is for the makers.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Fall 2021 issue.

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

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

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

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

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


The Memorial Chapel

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

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

Ridley Chapel in the morning,

Incarnation fresh and pure

Of those souls who, this life scorning,

Fought to make the issue sure.

Ridley Chapel, hallowed dwelling

Of the spirit of the dead:

We have made you as a temple

For the sacred flame they fed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In honour, chivalrous,

In duty, valorous,

In all things, noble,

To the heart’s core clean.

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

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

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

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


GOODERHAM HOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Fall 2021 issue.