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 School 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.
When you run a race that lasts five days, and can span upwards of two hundred or more kilometers, you develop a rather unique take on running. Ultra-marathons, as they’re called, test endurance far beyond a mere 26.1 mile race. Beyond the running itself, these feats of endurance and willpower entail added fun like packing one’s own gear, or running through extreme conditions and natural settings like the Sahara desert. Lishe O’Kiely ‘75 runs ultra-marathons, but she doesn’t think about them in terms of the distances she covers: “We think of training and racing in terms of time rather than distance. A long run is five or more hours.”
To get a sense of what she does in a typical race like this, try five “long runs” for five days in a row... in a high altitude environment. Lishe recently came to Crofton House and shared a slideshow presentation about an ultra-marathon she recently ran through the north-eastern reaches of India: “We were running up in Darjeeling, along the border. It was amazing. You’re going along these ridges and on one side there’s Nepal and on the other there’s India.” In the background, the view wasn’t so bad either: “When we were running, we actually saw the four highest peaks in the world for a good portion of the race.”
The race has been going for twenty-five years, and this installment featured 64 people from 15 countries. It was a chance for Lishe and her running mates not only to test their own endurance, but to experience a place in a unique way: “It’s not a race, it’s a journey. We never look at our time, we don't’ care. It’s just all about having fun and meeting people.” She fondly recalled the wild roads and lively culture she encountered everywhere she went, things like sprawling street markets and prayer flags high up in trees: “The colors were amazing. It was very spiritual.”
Even with some truly unaccommodating accommodations, the runners were undeterred. “You’re in the moment, and you just go with it”, she noted. Her and her fellow racers’ efforts to stay supplied during the race added another dimension of challenge to the undertaking, though she downplays it: “We only had to carry our water and food, but the organizers took all of our stuff up to Sandakphu, where we were staying for two days.” When asked how she managed such a series of challenges, she was level-headed about it, saying “It is what it is. You can’t give yourself over to the negative thought.”
Notably, such a race is not all about punishing the body. The whole journey, for example, kicked off in Vancouver with a lively party thrown by Lishe’s close friend and CHS alumna, Jan (Cherniavsky) Snow ‘77. While Lishe mentioned “slow going and hard running over the cobblestones,” the grueling course was punctuated with moments of serenity. She took one of her favourite pictures, a purple and orange sunrise casting light across the Himalayas, in the early morning at the beginning of day two. Another favourite memory was of swapping stories around a brazier with people from all over the world: “You're amongst your peers who had done these crazy races, and it was just great to be with like minded people with the same passions.” She also enjoyed the unique fauna of the Himalayas: yaks, wild horses, and red pandas.
The slideshow Lishe presented to us was the same one that she and her running mates showed at Runwear in Vancouver and JayCee House in North Vancouver. These events raised over $1200 dollars for the North Shore Rescue. She and her running companions chose this cause because they felt it was important to give back to the larger running community. In addition to saving the lives of stranded hikers, snowboarders, and skiers, the North Shore Rescue provides medical assistance at local running events.
This astonishing feat is not the end of the journey, for in September 2013 Lishe plans to run a 268 km race -- the Grand-to-Grand Ultra -- through the Utah desert. For the foreseeable future, she wants to do at least a stage race every year. She’s excited about the Utah race in particular because it’s the “First self-supported stage race in North America. We have to carry our food, clothes -- everything but medical, water, and tents.” To warm up, she’ll also be doing a self-guided 180km run up the Sunshine Coast with friends this upcoming June.
At the end of the day, she talked about some of the lighter reasons for participating in these extreme events: “It’s all about the play. We get to get dirty and run around in the mud, and we don’t have to worry about anything!”
Chatting with Shuonan Chen is a unique experience. Energetic, confident, and abundantly curious, she’s currently completing a triple major in business administration, economics, and rhetoric at Berkeley, before heading off to take up a position she’s been offered at Goldman-Sachs, one of the world’s largest investment banking firms. Since graduating from Crofton House in 2010, she has also managed to maintain strong connections with the school, networking with senior alumnae and mentoring several students who have been interested in applying to American universities. At Berkeley, she’s continued with an impressive service record that can be traced throughout her schooling; indeed, she clearly cares about her communities and works tirelessly to see the people around her succeed.
Following the economic turmoil starting in 2008, she has taken a particular interest in financial education and has been working with several of her colleagues on a project called Cashify, which recently won the Grand Prize for Community and Campus Impact in the Big Ideas @ Berkeley contest. When Cashify launches, it promises an easy way to help young people navigate the sometimes tricky road to financial success. She describes it as “a fun way to develop financial literacy”, and notes that being an international student in the US has only emphasized to her “the importance of being able to manage your resources.” For her dedicated service to financial education at Berkeley, she recently added the Bay Area Financial Education Foundation University Merit Award to her long list of honours: “I got passionate about financial education when I saw the difficulty that my family and people around me were having in 2008. I realized that people didn’t know enough about finance, and I wanted to help.”
While others’ jaws might drop at the thought of tackling a triple major, Shuonan says it has been largely manageable because of her time at CHS: “It prepares you so well for college, because you’re endowed with a lot of trust and responsibility right from the start.” She also attributes a lot of her successes to the mentoring relationships she’s been able to establish since leaving the school, via the alumnae relations officers past and present. One contact in particular stands out for Shuonan: Goldman-Sachs senior manager and Crofton House alumnae Heather Shemilt ‘78. Shuonan said that she was amazed at how candid and fun their conversation was: “A lot of people in finance can be extremely reserved, but Heather was direct and honest. She even told me about some of the wildest jobs she had on her way to where she is now.”
More than anything Shuonan encouraged other CHS alumnae and students to “fully reach out to everyone, all the resources you have” and always “trust that they are there.” The story of this financial and intellectual dynamo illustrates daily just how great the opportunities can be when you have a clear vision and are dedicated to working towards it. As she hops from one corner of the continent to another, the world opens ever more widely for her, but for now, it’s also important to recognize just how much Shuonan has already accomplished. Well done, Shuonan!
As part of the "Let's Talk About..." series, Dr. Heather Donaldson '90 dropped by the Senior School to talk to the girls about her career in medicine. Dr. Donaldson does outpatient psychiatry at Richmond Hospital and has a special interest in Reproductive Psychiatry, which focuses on birth-related mental health issues like postpartum depression. Over a dozen girls were in attendance and were riveted by the great information Heather provided about the decisions that led her into her field. Above all, she recommended two things to young women thinking about careers in medicine: "Explore all of your options, and learn from people in different fields." She said that learning about numerous different possible career areas helped her discover one that was perfect for her and her long-term interests.
The East Village. New York City. They met up this year at a place known as The Smith, which co-organizer Kristina Louey '87 described as a “bustling American-style restaurant.” They used to do this twice a year, but her and co-organizer Stephanie Jung '08 decided to focus in on a single annual event, as it created a better draw for this busy and accomplished group of women. All the women at the table are Crofton House alumnae who have gone on to live and work in the New York City area.
Kristina and Stephanie were kind enough to bring along a couple of questions from us for those in attendance at this year’s get together. At the lunch, they pondered areas where Crofton House helped them lay foundations for later successes, and landed on three particular things: leadership, academic expectations, and public speaking. For many in attendance, CHS offered them their first chance to be leaders. They were given a lot of responsibility early on, and this allowed them to step more easily into key roles later. The high academic expectations and public speaking opportunities were also important foundational skills because they later translated into things like a more focused work ethic and exceptional presentation skills.
While for many it can be challenging to maintain strong connections with one’s high school peers after graduation, this isn’t often the case with Crofton House alumnae. The women at the lunch shared their thoughts why this would be. One mentioned, for instance, that “For those of us who were ‘lifers’ at Crofton House, we loved the school so much that it's been natural to stay in touch and to want to keep involved. This is true, even as it becomes harder when we don't know as many teachers and students.” Another mentioned small class-size as having been an important factor in staying connected to alumnae while living so far afield. The benefits of staying in touch with former classmates are clear enough. In the words of one woman at the lunch, “We hear a lot about mentoring and networking, especially for women. I think it's important to be part of that, particularly because we're not from New York and have fewer resources for participating in this kind of thing.”
Notably, the business networking aspect of the lunch was an important motivator for people to show up, but not the only one. Keeping their Crofton House connections with other alumnae living abroad has also been appealing to the women because it allows them to share their experiences as Canadians and former Vancouverites. Such get-togethers do not simply tap into ready-made networks; they help create new ones and keep them vital.
The house was packed for this year’s 3rd annual installment of the Alumnae Association executive’s Inspiring Women event. The evening’s Host, CBC long-interview maven Vicki Gabereau, quickly put the speakers and guests at ease with her trademark wit, setting a tone of honest humour that meandered throughout the evening’s events. The three guests of honour, Elena Juatco ’03, Lana Sutherland ’86, and Tessa Cherniavsky ’75, shared stories that alternated between the inspiring, the comical, and the profound.
Elena, an actor and singer/songwriter now living in Toronto, joked about being an overachiever while attending CHS, and talked about the “hot and cold” of the artistic life: “You have to work on pet projects to keep going. I’ve always got something on the go.” Notably, her talent and determination has won her several awards, and several years ago drove her all the way to a close second on the well known TV show Canadian Idol. She recounted some words of inspiration that one of her teachers at Crofton House shared with her concerning the artistic life: “Don’t waste your talents on something as stupid as drugs. Use your talent for what it is.”
While the tone of the event was generally upbeat, the women didn’t shy away from being honest about some of the challenges they’ve faced along their respective journeys. Lana, CEO of an international tea distribution company known as Tea Leaves, made a great remark when asked how she has coped with moments of “failure”: “From everything you learn something, and if you can learn, it’s not a failure. Each time I’ve encountered a challenge, it took me where I needed to go next. If I defined it as a failure, it would be really hard to take as a person.” In general, the women agreed that the upsets often taught them as much as the victories.
Tessa discussed the winding road (including a trek up Everest) that led her to her current work as a Registered Massage Therapist. While she didn’t always feel that the expectations in school matched up with who she was, she mentioned that she was able to draw on a deep well of self-knowledge: “I knew I was more than the marks were saying. I learned to trust my own intuition.” Among other accomplishments, this led her to start a retreat that specializes in helping people find their inner strength while living with cancer.
Throughout the evening, Gabereau also offered up some of her own great commentary into the nature of being an inspiring woman. At one point she talked about stage fright, and going outside of one’s comfort zone in general: “We often mistake excitement for fear, and it’s important to recognize the difference.” With regard to her own story, she mentioned that “It always surprised me that I managed to do what I wanted to do”, but went on to say that for women in all professions, a lot of “opportunities are taken, not rewarded.”
Elena wrapped up the evening’s program with a spectacular acapella rendition of a Christina Aguilera hit, which she performed flawlessly on the spot without so much as a warm up. In the end, the evening offered a wonderful blend of enthusiasm, experience, optimism, and intelligence. Above all else, though, the women demonstrated that inspired lives can further serve as an inspiration to others.
This month girls from Crofton House School's graduating class have been invited to attend lunches hosted by Dr. Dawson, and attended by the President of the Alumnae Association executive and Alumnae Relations Officer. At these lunches the girls have been learning about the signifcance of belonging to this particular community of alumnae. They've also been introduced to some of the numerous opportunities for networking presented by alumnae events, programs, the 1898 newsletter, and the school's social media channels. We at CHS are happy to be welcoming the class of 2013 into the school's amazing alumnae ranks. Congratulations!
Thank you to alumnae guest writers Cathy Noel, Jane Gray, Janey Johnson, Marion Mills and Mary McConville for contributing the following story.
“It was such a pleasure. It was like an envelope of warmth that everyone had for everyone else.” These heartfelt words from a classmate following our class of ’73 fortieth reunion beautifully summed up the feeling of our reunion weekend.
Two weeks after Part I of our reunion our organizing group got together and pondered how it was that we had had such a great time at our reunion.
We are still not really sure how it all happened but we think a few things worked in our favour: starting one year in advance; checking in with the class of ’70, who heard had had a great reunion; having an organizing group of five in order to spread the work around at the same time making it lotsof fun each time we met; starting with a SurveyMonkey questionnaire to get feedback from classmates and get the word out early so classmates near and far could plan ahead; using Facebook and LinkedIn to find classmates; and offering two weekends (one in March and one in August) in order to provide some options, particularly for those who needed to travel. We were delighted to have classmates come from far including from London, England; Wilmington, Delaware; Cortez, Colorado; Corvallis, Oregon; Halifax; Toronto (2); Calgary; Vancouver Island; the Sunshine Coast; and Bowen Island (2).
Technology proved to be a definite aid in the sharing of memories. Our group ‘techie’ put together a slideshow of images old and new which were shown in a continuous loop on a large screen at our catered dinner. Images were gathered from classmates, and as well Grades 1 - 12 images and writings were obtained from annuals located in the school archives. Also obtained there was a film copy of the school’s 75th birthday pageant 75 Years Young, or plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose which was performed in our graduating year and which we plan on showing at Part II of our reunion later this summer. There is now a class of ’73 Facebook page for the sharing of images and stories with one another. At our catered dinner a laptop was set up for Skyping with a classmate who dearly would have liked to have been at the reunion. And lastly, classmates filled in a Memory Book page about themselves and where they had been over the years, complete with images. The Memory Book is presently being compiled and will be distributed to classmates through email shortly.
So what did we ended up doing for our Part I reunion weekend? Of course it all started on the school birthday with the school assembly, and the Alumnae AGM and birthday luncheon. Friday night was a mix and mingle pub night at the False Creek Yacht Club. Aided by beautiful weather on Saturday, there was a bike ride around Stanley Park with many choosing instead to walk from English Bay to Siwash Rock and back. Lunch at Milestones Grill & Bar in English Bay was followed by bowling at The Ridge. The reunion concluded with a catered dinner party in the Grand Room of a classmate’s downtown condominium, and included a welcome gift of champagne from a classmate’s father.
And our plan for our summer Part II reunion weekend, already dubbed the Llama Lunch weekend? We will be having a BBQ luncheon and swim at a classmate’s alpaca farm on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. Following this will be a dessert picnic at the Butchart Gardens Fireworks Show. For those interested in making it a more active weekend there will also be walking along Tod Inlet, biking the Galloping Goose trail, or golf at the Ridge Course at Cordova Bay. We already know that at this reunion there will be additional classmates who were not able to make it to the earlier reunion.
What would we do differently next time? Take a big group photo! Unfortunately we somehow forgot to take the group photo at the catered dinner, which was our main gathering. Sigh. Evidently we were just having too much fun. Plus we would order less catered food with the smaller appetites of a group of mostly women. And yes, we did have a small group of husbands who accepted our invitation to join us at the catered dinner.
And what was it that we enjoyed so much? The excitement of everyone seeing one another for the first time in so many years, everywhere the noise with so much talking all at once, 70’s tunes sometimes barely audible above all the noise, putting our collective memories to work in reminiscing, the ‘remember when’ stories, images old and new, the Gordon plaid tablecloths topped with authentic C.H.S. ivy centrepieces, and especially, especially the re-connecting that was happening even before the reunion, definitely during the reunion and hopefully evermore after the reunion. Such a pleasure indeed.
A disproportionately high number of the Crofton House class of 2003's graduating members ended up having something in common: a full fourteen of them went into medicine or dentistry. We got to wondering about what led so many of the young women from this year into these top healing professions, and decided to go out into the alumnae community to see if they could provide any insight on the matter.
Each person that we spoke to mentioned that while she wasn't sure about what career she wanted, she kept the door open to medicine from a young age. While still attending Crofton House, Dierdre O’Connor put energy into "extra-curricular activities and summer jobs", including "life-guarding and working at summer camps." Andrea Lo was positive she was headed into engineering, but after interviewing a physician while in high school, she was persuaded to consider medicine more seriously and decided to pursue a degree in bioengineering. For her, she realized, it was "ideal, as there was quite an overlap between medicine and engineering." Each of these women didn't commit fully to medicine until at least the third year of university.
Volunteering seems to be another important common thread, but interestingly each of our '03 interviewees pursued community service in a slightly different way. Dierdre initially spent two hours a week giving her time at Vancouver General Hospital, and gradually expanded this into volunteer work at community centres in Strathcona and YWCA on E. Hastings. Andrea also volunteered in university, and was even fortunate enough to pursue several opportunities overseas, including traveling to India and China to volunteer at a maternity hospital and a cerebral palsy rehabilitation clinic.
When asked, each of the women offered some interesting insight about where they see medicine heading in the next twenty years. Dierdre notes that new technologies have allowed medical procedures increasingly to be "minimally invasive", and she sees this trend as continuing for the foreseeable future. Much like Dr. Christine Applegarth ‘92, another 1898 interviewee from this month, Dierdre suggests that a "multidisciplinary approach", involving physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and nutritionists among others, has been increasingly popular and desirable. As a final note, Dierdre believes that the shift to "evidence-based medicine", which focuses on the analysis of large bodies of research as opposed to “expert opinion” when practicing, will be increasingly important.
Andrea Lo suggests that in the future aging populations will increase the demand for primary care physicians. She also notes that with limits on government funding "efficiency and effective use of resources will become progressively important." This aspect of healthcare may be particularly challenging with growing demands on "accessibility and equality of care" in places like rural areas. Like Dierdre, Andrea also believes that the demand for "clinicians interested in research" will continue to rise.
Above all else, taking these women's stories together highlights the fact that careers in medicine can be approached from many different directions, but often start with an open mind and a strong involvement with community service. It's also clear that the future of medicine is in great shape with such intelligent, dedicated women going into the field.
Have a look at this amazing list of graduates to see if you recognize any names!
Liora Berant is currently in first year of dental school
Nicole Thong is in her first year of family medicine residency
Olivia Lo is about to start her first year of oral surgery training
Andrea Lo is a 2nd year resident in radiation oncology
Dou-Anne Siew is a 2nd year resident in internal medicine
Jessica Reagh is doing her internship in Sydney, Australia
Tanya MacDonald is doing her internship in Australia
Alexandra Demco is doing her residency in dermatology in California
Jillian Arthur is doing her residency in NYC
Deirdre O'Connor is in first year of OBs/Gyne residency
Deborah Ho is doing her residency in NYC
Mary Glen is in first year of family medicine residency
Nancy Lin is studying in Taiwan
If there's anyone or anything that you think should be on this list, please let us know at email@example.com.
“Pursue what you like to do in life. By doing so, it will clarify a lot of things. Develop as a person first before you pursue a career in medicine.”
Flipping through an old edition of the Croftonian, one occasionally comes across a student whose list of activities, clubs, and achievements constitutes somewhat of a tome of its own. Dr. Christine (Wong) Applegarth’s 1992 yearbook entry is one such tome. Christine exudes competence and warmth, and credits many of her life’s accomplishments to her well-rounded lifestyle. Her extra-curricular activities did not end with her time at Crofton House, as she played concert violin until her fourth year of med-school and is currently President of the Alumnae Association executive. She’s also the proud mother of two: a son attending St. George’s and a daughter following in mom’s footsteps at Crofton House.
We at 1898 were fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Applegarth about her path into medicine and some of the changes she foresees in the coming years for her profession. She offers some extremely valuable advice for young people aspiring to careers in medicine, advice that she sees having been a key to her own success: “Develop as a person first before you pursue a career in medicine.” Her holistic understanding of self-care extends throughout her story; she has worked on a family practice style that takes all aspects of patients’ well being into account, and sees this as a trend that will develop further across the field of medicine in years to come.
Christine’s talents and caring demeanour have not gone unnoticed in the Vancouver community. In 2006, she was invited to join three other lower mainland B.C. doctors in the Physician Health Network, which involves being an attending physician for med students, residents, and fellow doctors. She also alluded to a tantalizing yet understandably hush-hush portion of her practice: celebrity patients. While sadly (though understandably) she couldn’t divulge any details, she did mention that they were people we’d “likely heard of.”
Crofton House School had its 115th birthday this year, an occasion that brought together the past, present, and future of the school in celebration. At both the student assembly and the Alumnae Association AGM, Lauren Wilkinson ‘07 was presented with the Alumnae Association’s achievement award for her stunning accomplishments as an elite athlete and scholar. In the morning’s school assembly, numerous classes performed musical arrangements and choral pieces, including a dazzling “cha, cha, cha” version of Happy Birthday, sang by the talented girls of the Early Childhood Education Centre.
The alumnae sang too. Following their AGM, a blessing for the lunch was performed by all attending alumnae in a rather glorious round led by Jane Mortifee and Barbara Constantine, who both graduated in 1971. To really put things over the top, the occasion was even graced with sunbeams dancing down through the Junior School’s atrium.
Notably, an interesting piece of Crofton House lore (or Croftoniana) surfaced just before the alumnae sang. Apparently the prayer was not always sung at the AGM. According to tradition, lunch is not to be served before grace is sung, but the strong women of Crofton House have always been inclined to head to the dining facilities (and thus grace) quite at their own leisure. In a testament to true innovation and compassion for the most lunch-ready women, someone realized that if the alumnae sang grace right after the AGM rather than at the actual lunch, then everyone could join the lunch just as she pleased!
The luncheon itself was a lively affair with returning alumnae spanning back eight decades, and visits from many former teachers, along with former Head of School Barbara Walker. While there were attendees from across the years, there were significant turnouts for thirtieth, fortieth, and fiftieth reunions, including one class that had managed to get together a full fifty-percent of their year. All in all it was a celebration worthy of such a presitigious and long-standing Vancouver community.
It’s the perfect time to start organizing your class reunion for 2013. If you graduated in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 or 2003 and are interested in gathering classmates together to celebrate, contact the Alumnae Relations Office.
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.