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.

Ann Mortifee '65: A Life's Journey

2018 Alumnae Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

On the winding road of life, there are twists and turns, ups and downs, uncertainties and new chapters. With every door that closes, a new opportunity arises — every step leads us that much closer to where we are today, says Ann Mortifee ’65, when asked what advice she would offer CHS girls and alumnae.

“I threw myself to the wind, and said, ‘OK, I’m going to trust there’s a purpose for me being here, and I’m going to put one foot in front of the other, and I’m going to show up every single day to see what life brings me.’ Sometimes it brought me things I didn’t like, other times it brought me things that were just fantastic.”

Ann cites a story from early in her career, an opportunity to star in a Broadway play — a big potential break that required signing a three-year contract. She quickly realized that meant performing eight shows a week for 36 months ... and that she was completely uninspired by the music and lyrics (all these years later, she can still recite those words). Where some would have signed, Ann opted to listen to her gut and returned to Vancouver. Within three days, she received a call from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to write the music for The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which became a global hit and launched a career in the performing arts that has earned her worldwide acclaim and spanned more than four decades.

“Half my life, I had no idea where I was going. I was completely lost, or so I thought. You learn to trust your instinct, your intuition, the feeling of something other than your logical mind,” says Ann. “Our destiny is like a hook that wants to pull us, and if you can release yourself from needing to understand every step of the way you will get pulled to where you want to go.”

Chapters in a life
On her website www.annmortifee.com, Ann’s biography and long list of accomplishments are neatly summarized in ‘three acts.’

But who is Ann Mortifee?

“I’m two people,” she says. “I have a self that is who I was born to be — completely natural and myself. The other person is the person of my culture, my family, my genetic coding and all that. My job has been to let the person I actually am become real to me, so she infuses my acquired self and I become authentically myself.”

Part of that discovery has involved embracing the ups and downs of life. So, when her much-beloved husband and “kindred spirit,” world-renowned flautist Paul Horn, passed away in 2014, instead of feeling lost, she says, “That really changed me, on a deep level, for the better. I understood people die, and something in me shifted and I became more fully myself. I felt secure in who I was in a way I never had before.” She soon realized that represented one chapter of life closing and a new one beginning.

Through the various chapters of her life, Ann says the friends she made at CHS have supported her every step of the way. Those friendships are also her fondest memory of CHS.

Curious, creative and passionate, Ann Mortifee believes wholeheartedly that each of us is like a pearl. “An oyster creates a pearl, not out of what’s easy. It gets a grit of sand in there that kind of bothers it. It secretes its tears around it, and that grows until it is the ‘pearl of great price’ — the wisdom usually given to us out of the things we’ve had to struggle for, or that have been difficult. What you gain is compassion for others, strength to endure, patience. They all come out of that grit that makes us aware of others. It all leads us to a place.”

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:11AM
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Isabel Chen '06:Optimistic, Persistent (and Curious) Advocate

2018 Alumnae Junior Achievement Award Winner

If there’s a common theme across the many threads of Isabel Chen’s life and accomplishments, it’s that, “I use my skills and energy for those who need an advocate. Really, it’s using my voice to help people advocate for themselves.”

Today, as a family doctor practicing in Los Angeles, Isabel advocates for her patients — particularly those who don’t have access to health care. Among other community-minded endeavours, it has included working with Iraqi refugees.

Closer to home, as co-founder of the Reading Bear Society, a Vancouver-wide early literacy initiative that brings literacy into the homes of elementary school-age children, Isabel advocates for reading and community.

Isabel says it took some time for her to figure out what her path was in life, a journey still very much in the works.

“Receiving this award has given me great pause, and great opportunity to pause, to take stock of what I’ve done, where I’ve been. Often, as a student and then in your career, you’re looking forward — anticipating. There’s an incredible honour and humility that comes with any recognition. It makes me extremely reflective about all the mentors in my life, and the many wonderful people I work with across many different realms.”

Isabel can clearly recall moments and people who had a profound influence on her during her time at Crofton House. One of the memories that resonated most with Isabel Chen ’06, and still resonates today, happened in her very first days at Crofton House when a new friend invited her, quiet and “super awkward,” to join the debate team.

“For me, joining Crofton House in Grade 7 and being thrown into speech and debate really was life-altering — not only in the process of advocacy and intellect and analytical thought, but one mentor truly changed my life. I really do owe it to him, every subsequent consequence that came after.” That mentor was the CHS debate coach, social studies and history teacher Nick Szymanis.

That invitation to be part of the debating club proved particularly life-changing for Isabel, who has always gravitated to the quiet types — something she attributes to being quiet and shy herself growing up. Becoming more confident in adulthood, finding her own voice, led her to use that voice for others. It was a voice she began finding at CHS, “because it was such a safe and nurturing space.”

What’s next for Isabel? Once she finishes her residency, she’ll be working part-time in LA’s correction facility for women. Beyond that, she says she wants to focus on “building my own community in LA” and spending time reconnecting with family and friends. In Isabel’s words, “Family, be it the one you are born into or the one that you create around you sustains you and empowers you to keep moving forward. I know that the students at Crofton House are part of just that kind of supportive and encouraging school family.”

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:10AM
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Alumnae in the Making: Citizenship in Action

Kailea Rendle ’18 – Citizenship in Action

Kailea Rendle ’18 is using her interest in design and textiles to help girls in countries around the world continue their education.

Two years ago, Kailea learned about Days for Girls, an organization that aims to create a world with dignity, health, and opportunity for all, through sustainable menstrual care solutions and health education.

As millions of girls around the world miss school every month due to their periods, one of the organization’s major initiatives is creating “Days for Girls Kits”. These kits are distributed to girls in over 110 countries around the world and contain supplies to help girls continue to go to school throughout the month, giving them confidence and removing the still present stigma attached to menstruation.

When Kailea saw how effectively she could help with just some simple supplies and sewing, she started making the kits. Now, having made about 200 of them, she is reaching out to the CHS community to expand the effort and ensure it can continue after she graduates this June. 

“I was motivated to do this when I saw how easy it was to create a kit and how much good it would do. It appealed to my love of sewing and organization, and of course, I was motivated to help other girls keep going to school,” says Kailea.

“At Crofton House, there is a community of girls. We are always seeing how we can work together to get things done,” says Kailea. This inspired her to bring this initiative to CHS. Working with Sue Barzo, as part of the Ivy Compass program, she has arranged for materials to be donated and enlisted 50 girls to help. The group will be gathering weekly in the Textiles Room (previously of the Home Economics program) to produce these life-altering kits.

Kailea is looking forward to what comes next in life; “Crofton House has helped me become an open-minded, confident person and I know that will serve me well as I move on to university in the fall”. At the same time, she is also making sure this program can continue at CHS by educating others about the organization and teaching those in younger grades how to make the kits. This commitment to furthering education for girls in other countries is certainly the CHS value of citizenship in action.

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:10AM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls: Leigh (Boyle) Schumann '05

Speaker: Leigh (Boyle) Schumann ‘05
Principle, Fawkes & Holly

When did you come to Crofton House? Why?

I am a proud lifer!

What is you most vivid memory of your time at CHS?

I have such vivid memories of the student led assemblies – they were so much fun but also a great way to get all of the girls into some leadership!

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

I have always had an interest and a belief in working on behalf of others – to serve and to use our talents. At Trinity Western University (where I did my undergrad) they would teach you something and then ask the question “Now, what are you going to do with that?”

I truly believe in using my skills for the greater good and I am able to do that everyday in my career.

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

Crofton gave us all a safe place to learn who you are, to try new things, to stretch (and sometimes fail). The teachers nurtured us to be our best selves if we took hold of the opportunities given to us.

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

Lots of things in life are out of your control so take each opportunity and make the most of it. Trust your instincts – so much of life is what you make it.

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:10AM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls: Celia Dawson '83

Speaker: Celia Dawson ‘83
Senior Vice President, Interior Design, Polygon Homes

When did you come to Crofton House?

I came in Grade 8. We had just moved from Montreal where I was attending The Study. Another family from the school was also moving to Vancouver and was sending their daughter to CHS so my parents did the same!

What is you most vivid memory of your time at CHS?

Most have to do with art – the new photography studio that we were allowed to work in, and all the help with Mrs. Slater-Siskind. Other than art my memories revolve around playing tennis!

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

My family was very much a part of my career choice – I had an aunt who was in interior design, although it was a very different kind of career back then! So much more artistic involvement now and the ability to have an impact.

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

CHS taught me how to be organized! It may seem a bit simple but it is so important in order to be able to move your life forward. The ability to effectively juggle priorities is essential as life is always full of lots of moving parts

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

Be in control of your own life – learn how to pay bills, how to fix things yourself, open an RRSP even if you have to borrow to do it. You have to plan and be the instigator of your own future.

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:10AM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls: Alison Sinclair Burns ‘83

Speaker: Alison Sinclair Burns ‘83
Vice President, Institutional Communications, Phillips, Hagar, North Investment Management

When did you come to Crofton House?

I came to Crofton House in Grade 9. I had been at Kerrisdale Elementary, then we spent a year in France as a family. At the time there was no French Immersion so to maintain my French my parents sent me to CHS.

What is you most vivid memory of your time at CHS?

I don’t have so much memories as I do feelings about my time here. It was really feelings about being part of a community. Sure there was lots of hanging out with friends, homeroom antics, etc, but it was really about that feeling of being part of something bigger than just yourself. Being known and being cared for and encouraged.

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

My career has really been driven my skill set – foundational skills that were really learnt and honed at Crofton House. My field really is communications, which could have taken me in a variety of directions. When I was at CHS I really did not enjoy grammar but honing that skill allowed me to move past others in my career path. I was opportunistic rather than strategic in where I went and the fields I explored.

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

It really gets back to those foundational skills – how to write, how to present yourself with a level of poise and professionalism. To have the confidence to not back down and to seize opportunity when it is staring you in the face.

Crofton House gave me skills, experience and friends – all valuable assets in this world.

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

Be true to yourself. Listen to yourself, consider others and take action. Collect skills, experiences and friends wherever you go – they will always come in handy!

Posted by D. Lee on Wednesday April 25 at 10:10AM
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120th Crofton House School Birthday Celebrations

Thank you to all who were able to attend the Crofton House School 120th Birthday celebrations. We hope you all had a wonderful time connecting with new and old friends and being inspired and moved by our two Alumnae Achievement Award winners:

Isabel Chen ’06 – Junior Achievement Award Winner

Ann Mortifee ’65 – Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

We are delighted to be able to share photos from the day so that all of our alumnae can enjoy the celebrations.


Posted by Stephanie Chow on Tuesday March 6 at 11:58AM
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Rachel Koffman ’09 – Recognizing the Importance of a Diverse Community

While the words diversity and inclusion are often used to describe the ideal workplace today, it is sometimes difficult to know what they mean or how to achieve them. Rachel Koffman ‘09 is a recognized leader in creating strategies for companies to put actions behind those words to help attract and develop diverse teams, foster an inclusive workplace, and support diverse customers and communities.

When reflecting on what she gained while at Crofton House School, Rachel notes the importance of learning leadership skills and being part of a community where people came from different backgrounds and experiences. “I was the assistant Head Girl in grade 12 and that leadership opportunity – the chance to work collaboratively with other student leaders and staff and to learn from everyone’s unique experience – set me up for success. My confidence also took a big leap forward during my time at Crofton House. My involvement in music and theatre really helped me to connect with people, to step outside of my comfort zone, and to be part of a unique community.”

Those skills were put to use as Rachel left Crofton House. “I went to Montreal for university because I wanted to challenge myself with a new city and a different culture. When I got there, I took the skills I learned at CHS and joined a musical theatre group. It was a great way to connect with people and become part of a community.” Rachel completed a degree in Industrial Relations at McGill University, an inter-disciplinary program with courses in sociology, economics, management with a focus on labour relations and employment law.

Following graduation, Rachel was faced with what do to next. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise but I took an internship at Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts, doing research about gender studies. It was an amazing experience. I was able to take what I learned in my undergrad and applied it to the research, which was trying to understand the differences in non-profit volunteer participation based on gender.”

Realizing research was not what she wanted to do long term, Rachel moved to Toronto and started an HR role at EY. It turned out to be the position that jumpstarted her career. It began with Rachel noticing that “there were some policies that could be made more inclusive - such as parental leave policies that didn’t explicitly specify what same-gender couples could expect. I noticed that small changes or more communications about existing policies could make a real difference to people.” Her team leader recognized her interest and eventually Rachel was able to move to a role in the organization that focused on diversity and inclusion.

When asked how she brings concrete diversity and inclusion to the workplace, Rachel notes that in today’s world people move around during their careers and their driving motivation is not always salary. It is often a sense of the community, knowing you can contribute and be yourself at work. To encourage a diverse and inclusive community where people feel they belong, the focus is on asking whether an organization’s workplace (policies, resources and work environment), workforce (people in leadership roles and throughout an organization), and marketplace (client products and services) all encourage diversity and inclusion.

Focusing on these three areas leads to changes that Rachel finds most rewarding about her work, including shifts in the composition of leadership groups that have looked the same for many years and changes in policies or work environment that people find really valuable. As Rachel says, “merit should be the most important thing in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion isn’t lowering the bar, it’s widening the gate.”

Rachel is currently balancing working on her Masters in Adult Education & Community Development at the University of Toronto with her new position as Senior Consultant, Inclusion and Diversity at CIBC. She sees her continuing education supporting key aspects of her work, including acknowledging people’s unconscious biases in the workplace and increasing community-building skills.

For girls at Crofton House today, Rachel would say that “there are limitless opportunities at the School and you should get involved in whatever brings you joy. Take advantage of amazing students and faculty that you meet, they may become lifelong friends and help form your own unique and supportive community.” Rachel is excited about the new bursary program at the School, knowing it will bring together more diverse perspectives that will enrich the unique sense of community at Crofton House School. 

Posted by D. Lee on Monday February 5 at 02:33PM
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Alumnae in the Making: Empowering Tomorrow’s Girls

Photo: Kayla Chutter ’18, Emily Chan ’18, Aava Param ’18, Kelly Kwan ‘18

Shocked and inspired. That is how Aava Param ’18 felt after watching the documentary, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, in her Grade 9 Physical and Health Education class. She was shocked by the human stories of tragic conditions that exist for women in so many parts of the world and was inspired to take action.

Looking for ways to help promote gender equality and advocacy, she reached out to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CWWA), an organization that advances education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families and educates Canadians about human rights in Afghanistan.

Aava then turned to her friends and classmates, Emily Chan ’18, Kayla Chutter ’18 and Kelly Kwan ’18 and asked if they wanted to help form a youth-run organization that would spread awareness and raise funds to support girls’ education and rights in developing countries, with a particular focus on Afghanistan. “My family is from Iran and this concept of the lottery of birth was so important to me – if I was born within a different set of borders, my life would have been so different”, says Aava. “Even looking at how my mother grew up, she didn’t have the right to go to university. I have all these opportunities and I wanted to be able to give back.”

Working with CWWA as their mentors, they formed Empowering Tomorrow’s Girls in 2015. The group is independent but allocate 100% of the funds raised to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. “They have helped us from the beginning to plan and deliver our events,” says Aava.

Starting with the (now annual) September “Bake and Book” sale outside of Scotiabank on 41st Avenue in 2015, the group has planned many events and recruited volunteers from Crofton House and other schools throughout Vancouver.

“Our fundamental focus is awareness and trying to promote a new generation of youth who know what is going on in the world and who feel a responsibility to take action and make change,” says Aava. They also focus on fundraising through events. To date their fundraising efforts have funded three teachers’ salaries and provided lunches for 70 orphans in Afghanistan. Currently in the planning stages are a yoga class and a performance evening (check their Facebook page for upcoming event details).

When asked to reflect on how CHS prepared and supported them to start and run this organization, it was the leadership and volunteer opportunities available, the idea of gender equality, and the importance of citizenship and finding your own passion that emerged. “The School is leadership based, there are so many leadership opportunities starting in the Junior School and that really set us up for success,” says Kayla. Emily added, “Crofton House advocates letting you pursue what you’re interested in. They want you to find what you’re passionate about.” When discussing their motivation to start this organization and help woman gain educational opportunities, both Aava and Kelly mentioned the importance of attending an all-girls school where gender was not an issue. “Going to school here since grade 1, I’ve grown up in an environment where there is no disparity between genders, we are all equal in this School,” says Kelly.

All four girls are looking forward to what next year brings. They will be going in separate directions and their plans include taking a gap year to work as an au pair in France, staying in Canada to pursue business studies, attending medical school in the UK and studying business in the UK or US. However, they are working hard to establish a base among the younger grades at CHS so they will be able take a leadership role in Empowering Tomorrow’s Girls next year. Emily, Kayla, Kelly and Aava will all continue to be involved in overseeing the organization as they pursue their next adventures.

Motivated by their time at Crofton House, and using the leadership skills gained here, these members of the class of 2018 are having a lasting impact on their classmates, leaving a legacy at Crofton House and making a difference to many young women in Afghanistan.

Posted by D. Lee on Monday February 5 at 02:32PM
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Beyond the Ivy Walls: Roma (Gopaul-Singh) Palmer ’87

The Lunch and Learn Program 17/18 welcomed two dynamic speakers who followed very diverse paths.  Each alumna’s story included words of humour and wisdom as they described their lives to the girls beyond the ivy walls.


Speaker: Roma (Gopaul-Singh) Palmer ’87

Registered Clinical Counsellor

When did you come to Crofton House? Why?

I came to Crofton House in Grade 5.  I was previously attending the Convent of the Sacred Heart (where St. George’s Junior School is now) and they were closing so I made the move over to Crofton House.

What is you most vivid memory of your time at CHS? 

I have so many – I think my most vivid Junior School memory would be playing on the ‘horse tree’ – it was (and is) such an iconic place on the school grounds.

My Senior School memories revolve around the arts programs – house plays, school plays and the film club. That was my home in the School.

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

My family had a lot to do with the career I am in now. I originally wanted to be on the stage but once I moved away from that I wanted to do something which really helped people, and to understand them.  Being able to listen to someone and help them set out their next steps in their lives can be very rewarding.

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

Building my confidence! Being encouraged to ‘go for it’.

I received a solid academic background but it really kick started my interest in learning and I haven’t stopped.

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

Try to be in the moment – there is a lot of living to do and experiences to have so don’t try to get too far ahead of yourselves.

Posted by D. Lee on Monday February 5 at 02:32PM
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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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