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.
Lisa’s admirable career achievements originated when she was a young woman in a tartan skirt, encouraged to find her sense of purpose by Crofton House School. She fondly recalls the comradery amongst friends and the nurturing support of the staff. “I couldn’t have done it without the foundation I got at CHS,” she says. “At school we were encouraged to believe that we could be anything, a prime minister, a surgeon or an artist. The school had high expectations of us, and we were always encouraged to do our best.”
Shortly after graduating from CHS, Lisa went to UBC for one year before moving to New York to complete her Bachelor of Business Administration at the New School for Social Research. Leaving the safety of Vancouver for a new city and country required courage and confidence. Lisa credits her family’s sense of adventure for giving her the courage to leave home, and Crofton House for her confidence. Barely 20 when she moved to New York she recalls, “no-one cared who you were, or where you had come from. The confidence that was instilled in me at school to venture afar, to consider all my choices, and to pursue opportunities is what gave me the courage to keep going.”
Her first steps into the business world included a stint at Ralph Lauren before crossing over into the music industry where she spent ten years building a career while working for different record companies, and finally Sony Music Canada. In this creative and exciting environment, Lisa was given the opportunity to learn about the many facets that comprise business. However, her passion for giving back to communities is where her heart truly lay.
A keen interest in international development and the fragile states of vulnerable populations led Lisa to UNICEF Canada where she served on the board from 2009 – May 2015. This experience crystalized her interest in issues concerning children and inspired her to establish the charity GenerationChild. Initially, the organization was deeply involved in efforts to reach displaced and sometimes detained and forgotten children in Iraq. Over time, the organization has re-strategized its focus to the west coast of BC, the place Lisa calls home. GenerationChild’s current objective is to support community organizations in BC, the Yukon and the North West Territories engaged in child-focused health, education and protection.
Lisa’ other passion is promoting the vital role that she believes women should and will hold in the corporate world. In June 2015 she served as chair of Next Billion: Women and the Economy of the Future. She invited corporate leaders from Canada, the U.S., Latin America and Asia to discuss how women are critical to businesses moving forward, whether they be consumers, labour force, employees or entrepreneurs. Corporations were encouraged to look at diversity as an investment in the bottom line. “While we’ve witnessed significant strides on women’s issues, from diversity programs to micro-financing, corporations from all sectors have failed to truly recognize and capitalize on women’s potential positive economic impact. As we look to the future of our global economy, those who continue to ignore this opportunity do so at their own peril”. The unique feature of the conference: men in the room, actively engaged as part of the conversation. “It is time we have the men in the room, not just women speaking to other women about women’s issues,” she says.
Lisa’s hope is that her generation will be able to leave a prosperous and stable world for future CHS graduates. She is truly embodying the CHS motto ‘Servabo Fidem” – keeping the faith for future generations.
on Monday November 9, 2015 at 12:25PM
At a time when many women’s paths followed predictable lines, Marilyn (Nordale) Stacy ‘45 chose a different route for herself. After graduating from CHS, she studied English and History at the University of Washington, earning a BA in 1949 and her teaching certificate in 1950. This was only the beginning of her educational pursuits, however, which culminated years later with an MA in French Literature in 1961 and a career teaching at the University of Washington.
The story of this adventurous woman’s education tells only one part of the bigger picture. After five years of teaching high school in the 1950s, Marilyn decided to buy a one-way plane ticket to France, leaving with little more than $200 in purse. This initial leap into the unknown changed from a planned, two-week stay to one that lasted over two years and led to a life-long love of the country, which she’s visited many times since.
She was able to stay for so long on that visit because she sensed an opportunity while she was there. She had gone over as a camp counsellor and learned that there might be jobs for people who could teach English. After some maneuvering with a notoriously guarded secretary, Marilyn managed to get in to see the director of the National Department of Education and was offered a position as an English assistant in a small village in the French Alps.
After a year teaching conversational English in Bourg d'Oisans, Marilyn recalls how Paris had begun to beckon. She’d managed to find a line on an apartment – no small feat in post-war Paris – but hadn’t yet secured a new job. When she asked monsieur le directeur about his thoughts on taking a chance, he was frank: “It’s far easier to get a job than an apartment. You take it.”
She went for it. “I thought that if I got a job, then I’d love to stay,” Marilyn notes. “All I had at that point was a half-packed trunk in Seattle and a limited supply of clothes.” Sure enough, things worked out beautifully, as it only took two weeks to receive an appointment as an assistant at Lycee Claude Monet in Paris. Shortly after, she also managed to earn her Certificat d’études françaises in 1957 from the University of Grenoble.
The significance of that time shines through in her words. “The place I was staying had a little shower and a little tiny kitchen,” she recalls, “but I made do because I had more than most people did in Paris at that time. It was nice, but my finances were very low. Still, I wanted to be independent. I didn’t do all the things that I could have if I had let others help, but I did see a lot of French life because I was immersed in the city. It was a wonderful experience.”
Though she didn’t often have the chance to indulge while living in Paris, she did accept a few small gifts from her parents. “The Brussels Fair was taking place,” she recalls, “and my parents sent me a cheque and said ‘go and enjoy.’ They also sent me a care package, which I saved so well that I didn’t end up eating most of the food. Mainly, I learned to be content with what I had.”
Her adventures also led her to teaching in Alaska – where she was born – from 1958–1959, and numerous trips back to France, including one in 1984 she recalls particularly fondly because it was the first time she visited the country with her husband. One wonders if it was her first big move – to Vancouver from Alaska via the Yukon – that set the pattern for many of her later travels.
In terms of her time at Crofton House, Marilyn remembers things fondly. “When I came here, my sister and I had spent the summer in a rooming house in the University area. I was used to asking questions and being quite free, so I was surprised when I asked the matron, Ms. Loosley, ‘why?’ to one of her instructions. Her reply was simply ‘Marilyn, we don’t ask why here, we do it!’”
While she notes that this new setting involved a lot of learning, she came to embrace the challenges and learn from them along the way. In truth, each turn in her story is exemplary in its boldness. From new cities to lifestyles at different ends of the spectrum, this cosmopolitan alumna’s story serves to inspire and challenge others in turn.
on Tuesday June 16, 2015
Greetings from the Alumnae Association Executive. As I prepare mentally for my daughter's "Fetch '15" graduation from CHS in a few short days, I'm reminded of how quickly time passes and of my own graduation back in 1981. It's been a terrific year for the graduates and a busy one for the Alumnae Association.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the CHS Alumnae Association. Together with the school, we kicked off the year with an Alum Mum's Breakfast. We have over 30 alumnae with daughters at Crofton. We also had a great opportunity, early in the school year, to introduce the association to the Junior School and Early Childhood Education Centre by presenting the new girls with CHS pins. So cute! This year's Seasonal Social at the Wall Centre, held just before and across the street from the beloved Carol Service, was well attended by alumnae from all generations, with a great showing from the class of 2014.
February's 5th Annual Inspiring Women Event was hosted once again by CBC Radio's Rick Cluff, who moderated an incredible round table discussion with three of our brightest and most accomplished alumnae. This year's Alumnae Achievement Award was presented to Prudence Emery ‘54 at the school's 117th birthday and Alumnae Association's AGM/Luncheon in March. Prudence is an accomplished filmmaker and publicist and managed to bring the house down in the school assembly, another great moment connecting the alumnae with the girls. We wrapped up the school year by hosting the annual Mother-Daughter Tea, an opportunity to welcome the class of 2015 into the fold.
This year was also a time of transitions. We bid a fond farewell to Janet Hammond ‘67 at end of this month after 15 years of managing the CHS Alumnae Association Uniform Shop. Janet will be missed and we wish her all the best in her future adventures and travels. Lishe O'Kiely ‘75 will take over as manager and spearhead the move of the Uniform Shop into the new Crofton Hall this summer.
For anyone who would like to get involved with the Alumnae Association, we meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Old Residence. Everyone is welcome and we'll start up our meetings again in September.
Cathy (Fraser) Hunt ‘81
President, CHS Alumnae Association
on Tuesday June 16, 2015
In June, 85 girls from Fetch '15, this year's graduating class, will enter the CHS alumnae network of 4000 strong. To mark this special occasion, the girls celebrated with their mothers over tea and desserts at the annual Mother Daughter Tea. They were also treated with beach balls labelled "Fetch '15" for their entire class to sign and take away as a souvenir. Although their time at CHS is coming to a close, they will also share special memories with each other and have the alumnae community as a common place.
To view and download all photos from the event, please click here.
on Wednesday May 13, 2015
You may remember Lana Sutherland ’86 from the 2013 Inspiring Women event. There she shared the story of how she founded a luxury tea company called Tealeaves, whose mission to “make people's lives a little better, their day a little brighter and their smiles a little wider” has been wowing five-star properties and Michelin chefs worldwide – let alone tea lovers – for two decades. Lana was kind enough to share an update about some of the exciting things she’s been doing (and people she’s been meeting) recently:
I was originally hoping to go to the Alumnae Seasonal Social and Carol Service but unfortunately with work, ran out of time. We're in the middle of a packaging redesign and are doing an amazing collaboration with Pantone on it (the international colour experts who set the colour of the year for designers, fashion world, etc). Will be going out to New York in January with our film crew to do a documentary with them, chefs, interior designers, etc.
So back in April (shamefully this is how long I have been meaning to write) I returned from another great set of meetings at Google’s Innovation Lab for Food Experiences. Great time – from which I have a fun story.
The three day event was ending and I had wanted to say goodbye to one of my Innovation Lab colleagues. She was standing talking to Google’s Senior Program Manager for Google Glass. The conversation took a turn when I asked where the Sr. Manager was from originally.
“Vancouver, BC” she answered. Thrilled, I told her I was from Vancouver. Her face lit up. She mentioned that she went to school at Eric Hamber. I told her that my husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law all went to Hamber. She hugged me thinking I said I went there. I told her “actually, I went to a different high school.” When I told her which one, she exploded with uncontained enthusiasm – “ME TOO!!!!” More hugs ensued.
Because we had three separate bonding moments up to this point, I told her I didn’t believe her. “Do you want me to sing the song?” she asked, to which I said “yes.” Well, within the first few words of “Crofton House, Crofton House…” I joined her in chorus which ended in lots of hugging, beaming smiles, and talk of Crofton.
Her name is Emily Ma. She is a ’99 Grad of Crofton. She is SUPER AWESOME!!! She has done and continues to do amazing things as touched on by her LinkedIn profile. I immediately thought of recommending her for the Crofton House Alumnae Achievement Award and already warned her that I was going to put her name forward!
We look forward to hearing more about both Lana's and Emily’s successes as the years go on. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
on Wednesday April 1, 2015
On Friday, March 6, students, alumnae, parents, and staff gathered as a community and celebrated the school’s birthday with musical and stage performances, award presentations, and acknowledgements for long-serving members of the school community. As always, the alumnae AGM and luncheon provided an opportunity for alumnae to reconnect and share their experiences.
on Tuesday March 31, 2015
Recently, the class of ‘93 got to talking about the different ways their teachers inspired them beyond their time at Crofton House School. Maya Lange shared a story about how Madame DeJong taught her a love of languages that eventually led to a marketing career in France. Both Alexa (Poulsson) Uhrich and Lynn (Campbell) Herman credited Mrs. Mackay for their careers, even though they took completely different paths. Alexa went on to become a landscape architect after some generous encouragement on her biology diagrams, while Lynn ended up pursuing a career in biology itself.
For Sarah Northcott there was “something about Ms. Tait's genuine manner” that built her confidence in writing and helped her believe in her own songwriting abilities and recordings later on. April Lee fondly recalled a nickname given to her by Mr. Timberlake – "April the Lee" – which has since become her Twitter and blogging identity.
What’s interesting is that this conversation among the classmates of ‘93 didn’t happen face-to-face. In fact the alumnae weren’t even all on the same continent. With so many ways to interact online, it's become easier than ever to stay networked and keep a conversation going as grads go out into the world.
Class rep Vivian Yeung estimates that 90–95% of her classmates follow their class Facebook page, which means that they never have to worry about losing touch. Even though they still love to meet up in person when they’re in town, Facebook almost works like an address book for the class. “There are people from our class in Hong Kong and Europe,” Vivian notes, “and as they come back through Vancouver, our page makes it easy for them to reconnect.”
Vivian, reflecting on the exchange, says she’s deeply grateful to so many of the teachers she had at Crofton House – Ms. Mahedhi, Mrs. Oke, Mrs. Mackay, Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Millett, Ms. Moore, and Mrs. Reid, among others. “You don’t realize it at the time,” she says, “but these people influence your life in surprisingly important ways.” She recently had the joy of visiting with Mrs. Oke, and marvelled at the image of her 6-month old daughter in the hands of her high school teacher from 20 years ago.
The class of ‘93 is just one of the many that have formed groups and started conversations like this online. If you’d like to join the conversation and connect with your classmates and fellow alumnae on Facebook, a great place to start is the CHS Alumnae page.
on Tuesday March 31, 2015
It’s rare that you’d meet a former strategic advisor to the UN Secretary General, or a founder of a volunteer organization that provides comfort to people in hospice care, or a runner that’s done stage races in the Atacama Desert and the Himalayas. To have them all in the same room, along with one of Vancouver’s top radio hosts, seems like something out of a playbook on inspiration.
That was the CHS Alumnae Association’s 5th annual Inspiring Women event.
The alumnae that attended this year’s Inspiring Women event were treated to a unique panel whose experiences exemplify the passion and diversity of the Crofton House alumnae community. Host Rick Cluff even commented that in 30 years of interviewing with CBC he’d never spoken with such an interesting group of people all at once. One of the panelists, Leigh Boyle ‘06, made an illuminating comment as to why these women have been able to do such remarkable things: “At Crofton House, the best of everything was female – every leader, every athlete, every speaker.”
A theme that became apparent as the evening’s panelists chatted was the importance of finding common ground. As the former director of policy and strategic planning for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Vice-President, Research and Programs, at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Dr. Eva Busza ‘81 had some fairly illuminating things to say about collaboration. “You can find common languages among so many different kinds of people,” she noted, “and if you can galvanize them, you can get them working towards a common purpose.”
That’s just what happened with Leigh Boyle ‘05, who founded a volunteer-run organization that provides spa services to people in hospice care. While volunteering at an obstetric fistula hospital in northern Ethiopia, Leigh was asked for ways she could bring some joy to the lives of the women being treated there. Finally, a friend in Canada suggested she paint the women’s nails. As it turned out, dyed nails actually symbolized wealth in the region, so even though there were significant linguistic and cultural barriers, the plan worked. Leigh does note that “it was really awkward” when she started, but by the second week “they loved it.” By reaching out to others and learning from the experience, she had inadvertently created the beginnings of something that was to become much larger.
One of the keys to finding common ground can be trying to understand perspectives that are completely outside your frame of reference. Lishe O’Kiely ‘75 is one of a handful of people in the world that runs what are called stage races – multi-day running races in some of the most gruelling conditions imaginable. Instead of winding down at midlife, Lishe decided to take another route: “When I turned 50, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea to run longer distances?’” That’s when she made the switch from marathons to something more challenging, and she hasn’t looked back. She’s a perfect example of the kind of leadership that can inspire others to take risks and dream of what’s possible.
Alumnae Association Executive president Cathy (Fraser) Hunt ‘81 hopes more alumnae will have the opportunity to attend this event in the future, in no small part because it provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the community to gather together and learn from one another. As she puts it, “People rarely have the chance to even see women of this calibre, and yet here, at this event, you can ask them questions. You can find out how their experiences apply to your own. This is as good as it gets for mentoring and expanding your view of what’s possible.”
on Wednesday March 11, 2015
Prudence Emery ‘54 is not one of those people that always felt she had a calling. In fact, in her words, it was “a sheer lack of direction” that led her first into the public relations (PR) field and then later into a 40-year career as a unit publicist for dozens of major films. When she reflects on why it took her some time to find a path, she thinks it was partly herself and partly the time when she was growing up. “We were not trained for a job,” she notes. “We were trained to be married and be young ladies.”
It’s a good thing that she found the path she did. After a stint doing PR for The Savoy Hotels in London, she came back to Canada to publicize the launch of two landmark Canadian institutions: Global Television and the Metro Zoo in Toronto.
From there she made her way into film as a unit publicist – the person that promotes a film in the media. A search for her name on IMDB suggests just how significant her impact on North American film culture has been. Among her 100+ credits are well-recognized titles such as The Dead Zone, The Fly, Adventures in Babysitting, M. Butterfly, eXistenZ, Crash, and Good Will Hunting.
The list may be impressive, but Prudence notes that “its not all glitz and glamour” working in the film industry. As a unit publicist, her job entailed arranging photo shoots, writing up press releases, reaching out to the press, and the sometimes trying task of putting together EPKs – electronic press kits, which involve gathering celebrity photos and film resources. With a laugh she recalls one incident where the director finally told Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez that he’d be choosing the photos for their kit if they didn’t complete the task on time. As she puts it, “They were much more helpful following that.”
She attributes her success as a publicist to a very straightforward, practical approach, one she learned in part through her time at Crofton House. “You just pick up the phone,” she says. “People get to know you, and it gets easier from there.” She does note that things changed a lot over her 30-year career. Most notably, she says that “It’s not as fun as it used to be. The budgets have gotten so big, and people are far less willing to take risks.”
If there’s one common thread that runs throughout all of Prudence’s career, it may very well be the joy she gets from taking those risks. While she’s now retired from her job as a unit publicist, she’s far from settling down. She recently embarked on a whole new kind of career in film, co-writing and producing a short film called Hattie’s Heist. This whimsical, modern-day Robin Hood story follows a feisty senior citizen who, with the aid of her scooter-riding Yorkshire terrier, pulls off a bank heist.
After years of building friendships in the film industry, she had no trouble pulling together a crew to help make the film. In fact, many of the crew, including director Kent Harrison, have such a fondness for Prudence that they offered to work on the film for free.
She’s very happy with the final product but does note that there were a few hiccups in terms of the talent, including the loss of their original canine star, a particularly talented old pup who could “wag its tail 360 degrees in both directions.” Ever the publicist, Prudence decided to hold public auditions for a replacement and put together a celebrity panel including the mayor of Oak Bay and the entertainment columnist for Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper. They were fortunate enough to find a Yorkshire Terrier whose credentials included having ridden over 6000 kilometres on a Harley Davidson.
Its just that kind of quirkiness and creativity that shines through when Prudence talks about her life. With such an intriguing and varied list of accomplishments, she can truly serve as an inspiration to younger generations of women who are making their way through a world that is equally unpredictable, albeit in different ways, from the one Prudence walked into when she graduated.
We celebrate Prudence’s outstanding career and panache, and congratulate her on receiving the 2015 Alumnae Achievement Award!
on Tuesday March 10, 2015
Last June we received a letter and photo from Miriam (Carter) Hughes ‘49, who shared some news about a special connection she’s made in recent years:
For “Spring Fling” we were asked to wear hats, flowers, and bright colours. I’m on the left, and on the right is Betty Gonnason (Miss Bleakney, Phys Ed. teacher at CHS from 1942–1950), who is now 95 years old! She’s living proof that exercising wards off old age. Student and teacher both go to the same Keep Fit classes, 65 years later!
Miriam’s note suggests a kind of joy and connectedness that so many Crofton House alumnae and community members experience when they cross paths beyond the ivy gates. Their shared history and interest in staying healthy ended up being the catalyst for a surprising friendship all these years later.
This type of connection happens all the time after people leave. Two other young alumnae, Olivia Startup ‘14 and Sarah Chapman ‘14 recently visited the school and shared news about the unique roads that led them to the same place: Harvard University. The serendipity of having ended up on sports teams at the same school on the other side of the continent seems to come naturally to the school’s grads.
Olivia, who some may recognize from last-year’s video unveiling the new Crofton Falcons logo, describes herself as having a “logical mind” and may follow in her mother’s footsteps by someday going into law. She went to Harvard on a field hockey scholarship, which she notes made attending the school all the more appealing.
Sarah went to the school for academics and later decided that she wanted to join the rowing team because of the positive experience she had with the sport at CHS. “The love of the sport and the importance of exercise for maintaining health and wellbeing have really helped me in university,” she notes. While Harvard encourages students to explore a wide variety of fields, she thinks that “research” might be the path for her long-term because of her interest in problem solving: “I want to do something that’s changing, something that involves being creative but also helping people.”
While Sarah briefly considered attending a school closer to home, she ultimately followed a dream she’s had since the first time she saw Legally Blonde when she was eight. In her words, “Crofton prepared us for life outside both academically and in terms of being a welcoming and open environment. It gave us the tools to learn and pursue anything.” Olivia notes that “Harvard looks for well rounded people” and says that her time at CHS contributed greatly to this. She also adds that “They want people who contribute to community, both at Harvard and well beyond, and that takes more than holing up in the library.”
Like Crofton House, the learning environment that they’re in now greatly values its students’ success. At times they’ve been surprised at exactly what that looked like in the Ivy League. Students, for example, are dissuaded from taking too heavy a course load too early, and Sarah had one of her proctors frame the experience as “a marathon, not a sprint.” “Harvard’s a big change,” Olivia notes, ”but very exciting. There are so many different types of people in the freshman class of 1500.”
Even when alumnae share paths, they can lead to surprising places. When we think of Miriam and Betty reconnecting all of these years later, the world for those leaving the school seems wide open and full of possibility. We wish all of these remarkable women the best as they continue their journeys beyond Crofton House School.
on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 10:39AM
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