Crofton House School
Alumnae

Alumnae

Crofton House School Alumnae Association

There are almost 4000 Crofton House School alumnae living around the world. From Vancouver to New York, Victoria to the UK, Prince Rupert to Shanghai, our Alumnae are doctors, artists and entrepreneurs, they’re mothers and grandmothers, volunteers and CEO’s.  CHS alumnae are confident, empowered women who can - and do - accomplish extraordinary things. 

Crofton House alumnae form a strong network of women because of the close bonds they share with each other, with teachers and staff, and with the spaces and places at the School.  These bonds have had a lasting effect on their character, their relationships, and their place in the world. 

Explore our website to read their stories.

Welcome Class of 2017!

The close of the school year marks the beginning of summer holidays. For the Class of "17 Prime" it also marks the beginning of their lives outside the cherished ivy walls of Crofton House School. On behalf of the 4,400 women in our alumnae network we say congratulations on your graduation and welcome!

Our 92 graduates will be heading to post-secondary institutions in Canada, the United States, the UK and around the world.

  • The New School – All Divisions, New York
  • Boston University
  • Brown University
  • Cardiff University
  • Cornell University
  • Griffith University
  • Guelph University
  • Huron University College
  • Kings College, London
  • Langara College
  • McGill University
  • McMaster University
  • Queens University
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Saint Louis University
  • Sheridan College
  • Simmons College
  • Tufts University
  • University College London
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Buckingham
  • University of California – Berkley
  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Michigan
  • University of the Pacific
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Southern California
  • University of St. Andrews
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Victoria
  • Western University
  • Yale University
Posted by D. Lee on Friday June 30 at 09:24AM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls

Sharing Stories Beyond the Ivy Walls

The Crofton House School’s Alumnae Program continued this past spring with three more Lunch and Learn speakers for the girls in grades 11 and 12. Each alumna’s story included words of humour and wisdom as they described their lives beyond the ivy walls for the girls.

Katherine van der Gracht ‘97

From a love of theatre to her love of community, Katherine’s career has spanned multiple industries, from hospitality, to art, fashion, non-profit and luxury marketing in a digital world. She spent six years as senior marketing and PR manager for the Richmond Crisis Centre before jumping back into the private sector as marketing manager at Fairmont Pacific Rim — what has been called “Canada’s #1 City Hotel.”

When did you come to Crofton House?

I came to CHS in grade 8. I’d been in French Immersion, but when high school came around I knew I wanted to go to Crofton.

What’s your most vivid memory of your time at CHS? 

Cinema Club, with Mr. Mac — absolutely! He had us watch Citizen Kane, which had a profound impact on me. I was always interested in drama and acting. Being introduced to that kind of classic film really inspired me.

What led you to the career you have now — what inspired you?

Networking was key — it really helped pave my road with wonderful people who presented interesting opportunities. The volunteer work I’ve done and the connections I was able to make by staying open to all opportunities were key. I’ve had the chance to thrive in both the non-profit and private sectors, which has given me a broad spectrum of skills.

Storytelling has been part of my life since university. It just took a different format from acting. Telling a story is central to both non-profit and marketing.

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside the ivy walls?

I was able to build resilience. I was encouraged to speak up and be heard, but when you speak up you must be ready to have your views challenged — and the confidence to back up or support those views. 

CHS is full of different types of people, girls with differing opinions. It’s a great place to test the waters and build the confidence to speak up outside the ivy walls.

What message would you give the girls as they start looking towards their futures?

Keep in touch and take care of each other. You already have an amazing network right here in your own class, and as part of the greater alumnae community. Support each other and you will be supported.

Emily (Faber) Lazare ‘95

Emily Lazare is president of Greengrass Productions Inc., specializing in promotional products for a wide range of industries. With more than 20 years of experience, Emily finds unique and creative products in each specific market — providing staying power in an increasingly saturated and competitive marketplace. Knowing her clients and pushing creative boundaries have been keys to her success. 

When did you come to Crofton House?

I am a proud lifer! I am one of three sisters who came to CHS. Once my sister came to the school, I knew that’s where I also wanted to be. 

What’s your most vivid memory of your time at CHS? 

Lunch breaks. When I was younger, those involved setting up our ‘store’ in the woods where we sold flaky chicken (tree bark). The leaves were, or course, our money. As I got older those breaks involved sitting on the hill outside, talking with my friends. It was all about my community and connecting with my friends.

What led you to the career you have now — what inspired you?

My mom was such a great role model for me. She had her own business, and really taught me how to find work and life balance. She was so creative — it was inspiring. It wasn’t long until I realized I love the creative side of life, taking risks. I like to live life in full colour!

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside the ivy walls?

I think CHS taught us to be well-rounded people. We developed a great work ethic, but were also taught to be good citizens of our community wherever that was. I know Crofton has high expectations, but it was more about us having high expectations of ourselves because we were empowered to do anything.

What message would you give the girls as they start looking towards their futures?

Sometimes you must fail to succeed, but trust your gut in what inspires you.

Jillian Bryan ‘87

With more than 20 years’ experience in business, Jillian Bryan brings a highly skilled approach to financial management, providing direction to more than $350 million in client assets. Her areas of management include family trusts, charitable foundations and individual portfolios. With a Bachelor of Science and Political Science degree and a minor in business from the University of Western Ontario, as well as certification in Portfolio Management and Professional Financial Planning, Jillian has a broad range of financial expertise to share.

When did you come to Crofton House?

I attended Crofton from grades 8 to 12. Previously, I’d been at St. Anthony’s in West Vancouver.

There’s a strong family history with Crofton House. My aunt and cousin had both attended, so it was a natural progression for me after elementary school. Now my daughter is at CHS, so the tradition has stayed alive.

What’s your most vivid memory of your time at CHS? 

I’m sure people speak about inspirational teachers or classes that helped them choose their path, but for me it was the pranks we pulled on St. George’s or Magee. Nothing quite brings you together as a class better than pulling a prank. It was all very innocent, of course.

What led you to the career you have now — what inspired you?

I must admit that I really enjoyed making money through my summer jobs. I had quite a few non-glamorous jobs (selling sprinkler systems), but through those I came to appreciate the hard work it took to make the money I earned. When I was in university, I worked out how much it would cost to live each day (after tuition) and was amazed at how expensive living outside the comforts of my parents’ house really was. Learning the true value of money made me want to earn more of it.

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside the ivy walls?

Crofton taught me how to be organized in my thinking and my day-to-day life. I also learned that if I applied myself, I could do anything — there were no limits! Confidence is an important takeaway from a Crofton House education.

What message would you give the girls as they start looking towards their futures?

Stay in touch with each other, but also go out and explore every new person and opportunity you find.  If you’re going to university with a large group from school, don’t stick to that clique. Break out and meet all kinds of new people. Use the CHS network, but also expand your horizons. 

If you are interested in being a Lunch and Learn speaker, please contact Lydia (McNeill) Vandenberg ’85, Assistant Director Advancement at lvandenberg@croftonhouse.ca.

Posted by D. Lee on Friday June 30 at 09:24AM
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Moving Forward with Confidence
Steph Stresing ’17

Steph Stresing ’17 feels she has found herself. “I am truly comfortable in who I am — I know I can achieve anything — I am ready to move forward in life with confidence.”  

This was not always the case for Steph, and she credits CHS with giving her the courage and opportunities to find her authentic self.  “When I arrived here in grade 8, I was trying to differentiate myself from my older brother. You often get attributed ‘family traits’ that simply don’t apply to you. Crofton saw me for who I was, and allowed me explore and grow into the person I am today.”

Who is Steph? The short answer is she’s a 17-year-old with a passion for global health that has come from several transformational experiences. 

“During my spring break of grade 8, I volunteered at a food bank and a child care facility.  That’s where my interest in helping others began.” Two service trips to India and Ecuador soon followed, opening her eyes to the need for professional skills and resources to truly help those often labelled “disadvantaged.” 

Steph’s interest in health care began closer to home. Her older brother was born with a congenital heart defect that led to extended hospital stays and regular medical attention. “When I was little, I could never really understand why he was always in the hospital — why he wasn’t getting better. I didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation, but I also didn’t appreciate the resources and expertise needed to help him”

It was through this lens that she saw the enormous need for resources in other countries. A two-week internship in Tanzania with GAP Medics (a specialist company dedicated to providing year-round hospital work experience placements abroad to students 16 years and over) truly demonstrated the cultural and economic differences impacting health care. “I worked in pediatrics and obstetrics — it was amazing,” says Steph, adding, “The strength of the women and children was truly humbling. But I also witnessed suffering and despair rooted not in lack of skills but, ultimately, lack of resources.” 

Committed to keeping her focus on global health alive when she returned to Vancouver, Steph became involved with an organization called Operation Med School — a non-profit organization focusing on youth educating youth about health care issues. As co-president of the Vancouver branch, Steph helped organize a one-day conference held at UBC focusing on global health. “After my experience in Tanzania, I lobbied hard to make sure we focused on global health and had speakers who could help educate us on how best to help.”

This fall, Steph moves from Vancouver to London, Ontario to study at Western University. Looking towards a Masters in Global Health, she’ll also continue working with her peers in Operation Med School. She has been appointed lead mentor to the organization’s London branch.

“Knowing who I am, and what I’m passionate about, has helped me focus on where I want to go with my life in the next few years. I am so grateful to Crofton House for helping me start this journey.”

Posted by D. Lee on Friday June 30 at 09:23AM
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From Crofton House, to Kosovo and Beyond

At the Mother/Daughter Tea — Be Inspired! event on April 21, the CHS Alumnae Association was pleased to welcome Nicola Mahaffy ’86. Since leaving the school, Nicola completed degrees in psychology and law. She has since charted a career as a prosecutor across different criminal justice systems that has taken her to far-flung corners of the world. Today, Nicola works in the youth criminal justice system prosecuting young offenders. She’s also a wife and proud mother of two, with a daughter at CHS.

In her talk, Nicola was candid about her time at Crofton House, about finding a forensic psychology course at UBC that “changed her life” and how perseverance pays off.

“I’m here to give encouragement to all of you, every single graduate, to let you know you can achieve things in your life that you don’t think are possible when you’re sitting here today.”

Citing the story of how she got acceptance to law school, she said it took her three attempts, a visit to Calgary and a bold move to pay her tuition deposit before she was accepted that propelled her forward. Three years later, she’d graduated top of her class.

Nicola talked about how potential opportunities lie around every corner.

“Sometimes things happen in your life you’re not that happy about, but they lead to great things,” she said of a move for her husband’s work that took her to London, England early in her career. That led to her first international qualification, opening doors she’d never envisioned — and a challenging and satisfying career. It’s a career that has included valuable work experiences with the United Nations Mission in Pristina, Kosovo and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors in Dublin, Ireland.

Through her work abroad, Nicola valued what it means to be Canadian.  “I came to appreciate what a profound privilege it is to grow up in Canada, to have a Canadian passport and all the opportunities that come simply from that fluke of birth.”

Most recently, Nicola was appointed to be one of five vice-presidents of the International Association of Prosecutors — a distinction she calls “a real honour.” Her work with the organization involves making decisions about global prosecutorial and human rights standards, and addressing issues around the security and safety of prosecutors internationally.

Ultimately, Nicola says CHS gave her all the tools she needed for success.

“By no means is your destiny set when you leave this school, whether you’re at the top or bottom of your class. You can really do anything. This school will give you the tools, you just need to use them. You have them all ... Knock on doors. Whatever you want to do, don’t let rejection stop you. Keep going, because they will open for you. You just have to keep trying. You are capable of more than you think.”

Posted by D. Lee on Friday June 30 at 09:23AM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls

The New Lunch and Learn Program — Sharing Stories Beyond the Ivy Walls

The Lunch and Learn Program provides exciting opportunities to engage and connect for CHS alumnae and current students in areas that are a cornerstone of every student’s life at Crofton House, namely education, career choices and life paths. The Lunch and Learn series allows grade 12 students to meet with alumnae to learn first-hand about the rewards and challenges that have propelled them to success in their educational endeavours, careers and lives. The program’s goal is to inspire our CHS girls to discover and explore their fullest potential, to be curious and open to various careers — and to explore the courage needed to make the most of future opportunities.

Most recent speakers include Jennifer Baird ’85, Karen Holyk ‘86 and Sonya Zeitler Fletcher ‘87.

Dr. Jennifer Baird ‘85

Jennifer is a critical care medicine specialist and physician lead of Advance Care Planning of the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Surgery, College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She balances living in Vancouver and an active medical practice in Regina while raising twins, Angus (at St. George’s) and Jocelyn (in grade 6 at CHS).  

When did you come to Crofton House?

I came to CHS in 1982, in grade 10.

What’s your most vivid memory of your CHS time?

One of the biggest things I remember was that first day or week at Crofton. I had been at public school, so had never really attended a school assembly before. It was such a regular occurrence at Crofton, but it seemed strange to me. Looking back, I understand how important those times were — when you gather as a school, be it for announcements, skits or presentations. It helps form that community. It brings everyone together, no matter what grade or age. I think it’s exactly that community which draws so many girls and families to the school, and I can understand why.

What inspired your career?

When I left high school, I was determined to go abroad. The central application process for the UK schools made it easy to explore options. I went to the University of St Andrews in Scotland. If it wasn’t for my biology teacher, Mrs. Mackay and Miss Addison I may not have found my way to St Andrews. They really encouraged me to stretch and try, and gave me so much help.  They encouraged me to be curious about the world.

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside the Ivy walls?

I think I always had the ability to achieve whatever I wanted, but the teachers and staff at CHS really encouraged me to open up my world view. I think being in an all-girls environment is key to seeing the world without any gender bias limitations or expectations. We were always encouraged to try — and my daughter, Jocelyn, is receiving that same message. The world still has many glass ceilings for women to break through, but there aren’t those limitations at Crofton. When you haven’t experienced them in school, you’re more likely to keep striving once you move on to university.

What message would you give the girls as they look toward their futures?

Stay open – whether it is to where you end up studying, what you study or what path you walk down next.  Stay open to the possibilities – CHS has prepared you for anything that comes next.

Karyn Holyk ‘86

Karyn is the senior shop and experience designer with Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, North America. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria, a Master of Architecture from UBC and a certificate in design firm management and leadership from the University of Washington.

When did you come to Crofton House?

I came to CHS in 1982, in grade 9.

What’s your most vivid memory of your CHS time?

The smell of the gym is still so clear in my mind. It was a creaky, wonderful, old building. Maybe I remember it so clearly because we graduated from that building. I loved the old building like other people love old books.

What (or, in this case, who) inspired your career?

Mr. Mennie taught me physics. He had such a powerful impact on me. He inspired me to keep going because he made it easy to understand.

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside of the Ivy walls?

CHS taught me how to think and speak up for myself. CHS gave me a great liberal arts education with exposure to so many areas of academia. Crofton made me curious and passionate, two qualities which have served me very well in my life. I believe the school gave me and my peers the opportunity to be the best at whatever paths we chose.

What message would you give the girls as they look toward their futures?

Your mindset is everything. There’s nothing to be scared of, not even failure. Learn from everything that happens to you and around you. Know how you respond to failure because it will happen at some point. You can’t learn to sail in still waters.

Sonya Zeitler Fletcher ’87

Sonya is Vice President, Market Development for Forestry Innovation Investment. Born and raised in Vancouver, she has a Bachelor’s degree in modern languages (German, Spanish and Japanese) from McGill University and an MBA in International Marketing from the EU Business School (formerly European University).

When did you come to Crofton House?

I attended CHS from grades 4 to 12, arriving in 1979. I lived in Maple Ridge. My parents drove me to school each day. They were committed to giving me a CHS education.

What’s your most vivid memory of your CHS time?

When I return to campus, the memories are strong — even though the actual buildings have changed. I have two distinct memories:

  • Our drama teacher, Eve Harrison, teaching us how to enunciate and project our voices before the annual Carol Service. I thought it was over the top at the time, but it has proved to be invaluable training.
     
  • Working in the greenhouse with Mrs. Mackay — propagating geraniums and taking some quiet time out of a busy school day, and seeing my teacher in a very different light. Watching her do something she was passionate about was inspiring.  

What inspired your career?

I learned so much along the way, but was always open to new experiences and opportunities — there was no straight path. I have stuck to working with elements I’ve always enjoyed. I may not have known that I wanted to work in marketing, but it certainly feels right that I am involved in forestry.

How did CHS help prepare you for the world outside the Ivy walls?

I was exposed to many different types of people with many different perspectives. I was encouraged to speak up — and speak out. I was encouraged to strive for my best, and that didn’t necessarily mean an A+. I was taught to acknowledge milestones along my personal journey, and always to be proud of what I do and who I am.

What message would you give the girls as they look toward their futures?

Be flexible. Be open-minded about yourself and others you meet along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and explore.


If you are interested in being a Lunch and Learn speaker, please contact Lydia (McNeill) Vandenberg ‘85 at lvandenberg@croftonhouse.ca.
Posted by Danica on Thursday April 6 at 11:03AM
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Aumnae in the Making

Christie Gray ’17 — Irreplaceable Experience

An exceptional athlete, student and noted leader on campus, Christie’s youthful enthusiasm has served her especially well in learning first-hand about balance and time management in the Senior School. This fall, much as she did at CHS, she will continue balancing the demands of being an elite athlete with a rigorous academic program at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University while playing for the university’s Golden Gaels soccer team.

“Education has always been a priority in my family, which is why, when given the opportunity, I was encouraged to come to CHS. When I arrived at Crofton House in grade 8, I was super excited and wanted to make the most of all the opportunities coming my way. I signed up for 10 different clubs. I wanted to be part of everything,” says Christie.

At CHS, Christie identified her passions. From her “10 clubs,” she opted to channel her energy specifically into the Ambassadors and Business clubs, field hockey and soccer. “Grade 8 was the first time I played field hockey. As it turns out, it was a major highlight when reflecting on my time at CHS.” She adds, “This season, the CHS Senior Team won the BC Provincials title. In my grade 11 year, we lost and it was discouraging. This season, on the back of that loss, the whole team was determined to win the title. It was something we were all working for, that we won together. I was part of a committed team — committed athletes, staff and coaches — and we shared that experience.” With great fondness, she says it was truly an “irreplaceable” experience.

Christie notes that playing sports has taught her that success comes with failure. “Failure happens on the sports field — and in the classroom. The important thing is that you learn from it, and that you can’t let it scare you.” She references the profound support and encouragement she received from the CHS community, and the teachers and coaches who she says created the perfect balance between encouraging success and providing support when she was faced with failure or disappointment.

Christie's journey to the Queen’s soccer pitch began at age five. She describes how, “Every day at lunch, I would play soccer with the guys and girls in my elementary school. When I got home, I would play ‘pass’ with my Dad. When he eventually got tired of passing to me, I’d carry on by myself — kicking the ball against the fence.” It was this passion for the game that led her to be selected in grade 9 to play with the grade 11s and 12s on CHS’s senior soccer team. “I remember how supportive the older players were, and now that I’m in grade 12 the roles are reversed. Throughout my time playing sports for Crofton, I’ve made lasting friendships with girls five years older and younger than me. There’s no better way to build community than playing school sports.” As assistant captain for the senior soccer and field hockey teams and her Fusion FC club team, Christie has shared her passion and perseverance with her teammates.

Christie remains grateful for the gift of education she has received at CHS. “I realize how lucky I am compared to so many other girls and boys I know,” she says, adding, “CHS truly allowed me to discover myself and my passions in an extremely supportive and interconnected community.  This experience and the Crofton House community will forever be a part of my life”
Posted by Danica on Thursday April 6 at 11:03AM
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CHS 119th Birthday and Alumnae Luncheon

Posted by S. Chow on Thursday April 6 at 11:02AM
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Best of the holiday season

Posted by Danica on Thursday January 19 at 04:17PM
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Top-ranked athlete reflects on fencing, CHS and what she has learned through competitive sport

It was only three years ago, after seeing a demonstration in a shopping mall, that Matina Pun ’18 discovered her true passion: fencing. Since then, she has been working closely with a coach (she trains three times a day, seven days a week), logging thousands of kilometres of travel to compete in countless meets and championships in Canada, the US and Europe.

In Canada, Matina is now ranked second in her age category.

In a sport Matina Pun ’18 likens to “a physical game of chess,” she says it’s the strategic aspect of fencing that resonates with her. For Matina, it’s about carefully assessing the strengths of her competitors, anticipating their every move and determining how she’ll respond. She also likes that the sport involves “playing with swords.”

Balancing her training and competitions with her school and homework commitments has involved some juggling, but Matina says her teachers have been “very understanding” of her efforts. Her classmates have also been extremely supportive, encouraging her every step of the way.

Through fencing, Matina has learned much about herself — especially self-confidence. Competing involves “letting your training guide you, trusting yourself, your muscle memory and what you’ve learned.” She credits her success to the learning environment at CHS, and the discipline and rigour it has taught her.

In competition, her biggest challenge is “getting into the flow, and not letting nerves get the better of you.”

Though graduation isn’t for another year, Matina may take a gap year to train full time. Her goal? Competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Longer term, Matina wants to help others through sport. This could mean studying physiotherapy or sport psychology. Until then, she has plenty to occupy her time and is enjoying what she says “has been a wild ride”.

Posted by Danica on Thursday January 19 at 04:17PM
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Getting to know CHS’s Assistant Director, Advancement, Lydia (McNeill) Vandenberg ’85

Sometimes life has a curious way of coming full circle, as it did for Lydia (McNeill) Vandenberg ’85 almost three years ago. After years spent honing her fundraising career at organizations including Queen’s University, BC Children’s Hospital and consulting firm Ketchum Canada, Lydia found herself back where she began — at Crofton House School. In 2014, Lydia joined the Advancement team. Initially, her portfolio involved working on the capital campaign. Today, it involves additional responsibilities that include developing a CHS alumnae program.

Lydia has fond memories of her time at CHS dating as far back as grade 1. “I can clearly remember running out for recess to play in the woods – the key was to get one of the main forts to play in with your friends.” She’s also a proud CHS parent with her daughter, Issie, in grade 4. “There are days when Issie will come home and talk about playing in the woods – it’s meaningful to be able to share those moments with her.”

What does your day usually look like?

A typical day involves meeting with parents about the school’s fundraising priorities. Overall, it’s about 70 per cent of my work as we have big projects that need funding. My days are also about the alumnae program, connecting with graduates — finding that common interest and developing a strong alumnae network. Today, I received a letter and some photos from a 92-year-old alumna; she and one of her classmates stay in touch with each other and the school after all these years. Crofton House is about community, which really drives my work.

Has CHS changed since you were here?

The campus has changed a lot, but the heart still beats the same way. When alumnae come back to campus they often say, ‘It has changed so much!’ I tell them to close their eyes, then juxtapose old and new. There are many touchstones around campus that help situate everyone, that have been wonderfully maintained, such as the horse tree — which every alum asks about, and makes a point to visit.

Do you have a message to share with alumnae?

This is still your school. Wherever you are in the world, you’re forever part of the Crofton family. We always love to see and hear from you. Drop me a line.

Posted by Danica on Thursday January 19 at 04:17PM
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Choose groups to clone to:

Alumnae Relations

Lydia (McNeill) Vandenberg '85
Assistant Director, Advancement
t: 604 263 3255 Ext. 4205
e: alumnae@croftonhouse.ca

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Class Reunions

Calling all classes ending in 3 and 8 - this is the year for your 5 or 10-year reunion!  For more information on planning your reunion, including class lists, please contact the Alumnae Relations Office at alumnae@croftonhouse.ca.

E-Directory 

The Alumnae E-Directory is a great way to stay connected with classmates, other alumnae, and the school.  Register and update your profile, volunteer as a mentor or search for a fellow alumnae by profession, geography or class year. 



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