Inspiring artist and filmmaker Dianne Whelan ‘83 returned to York House for the school’s 90th-anniversary celebrations on Alumnae Day
On the 90th anniversary of York House School, alumnae and special guests were welcomed back for a morning of celebration and reconnection on Alumnae Day, Saturday, September 24th. Welcomed by our new Head of School, Deryn Lavell, alums gathered together for coffee generously sponsored by Caffe Umbria.
Following a heartwarming introduction by classmate Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ‘83 and her daughter, Olivia in Grade 12, keynote speaker Dianne Whelan ‘83 took to the podium. An hour of tremendous storytelling captured our imaginations as Dianne took us on an epic overview of her six-year adventure traversing the 24,000 km Trans Canada Trail. Travelling by foot, bike, canoe and snowshoe, Dianne also managed to shoot a documentary along the way.
A filmmaker, artist, and adventurer, Dianne is ultimately a gifted storyteller and a compassionate community builder. Joined by her parents, John and Geraldine and her sister Nicole, Dianne wowed the audience with footage from her travels and reflected on the many lessons learned over the journey. She also announced that her documentary film project has received funding and in a deal with Elevation Pictures, they will assist with the theatrical release of 500 Days in the Wild in Canada.
Following Dianne’s keynote presentation, Jaclyn and Ruby, two Grade 12 students from the Green Club, conducted a very lively and engaging Q+A with Dianne. Together they posed questions about both the physical and mental challenges that Dianne faced on her six-year journey, the wisdom she gained along the way, and ultimately, what she learned about herself and her place on the planet.
The YHS Alumnae Association hosted the launch of an exhibition of new paintings on Thursday, September 22nd. Entitled “The Power of Trees: Returning to Your Roots”, the artist Marni (McLoughlin) Sheppard ‘89was in attendance in the Alumnae Art Gallery space and she was joined by her classmates from the Class of 1989 along with many family and friends.
The collection of paintings features eight portraits of trees representing the four Houses of York House School: Pine, Arbutus, Maple, and Cypress. By painting two trees of each species the artist’s goal was to capture and ignite a dialogue between these paintings and the viewer. It was a very special gathering of a community coming together to support one of their own.
The paintings in the Alumnae Art Gallery on the 3rd floor of the senior school will be on display during the school year.
On Founders’ Day, Thursday, September 22nd, alumnae from the classes of 1950-1972 were finally welcomed back to school after a three-year hiatus. Greeted enthusiastically by student executives, the day began with a tour of the 3rd floor Alumnae Art Gallery’s stunning exhibit of paintings byMarni (McLoughlin) Sheppard ‘89 and a new Museum & Archives display featuring the evolution of York House’s historical buildings over the past 90 years.
There was a wonderful sense of occasion as alumnae and special guests returned to the Golden Luncheon in the Gail Ruddy Foyer and many classes celebrated special reunions.
In particular, alumnae from the Class of 1970 celebrated their 50th year reunion and enjoyed staying on for the Founders’ Day assembly to witness their classmate, the Honorable Associate Chief Justice Heather (Fidgeon) Holmes ‘70 receive the 2022 YHS Alumnae Special Achiever Award.
The YHS Chamber Choir, led by Music Teacher, Ms. Benila Ninan, welcomed everyone with a performance of the York House hymn “Unto the Hills’, a York House tradition, followed with their version of “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, a song made famous by the one and only Nina Simone.
Other highlights of the luncheon included the Grade 2 students performing “I’m a York House Girl” (parody of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”) and a special visit from an excited group of Grade 1s who presented Yorkie chocolate to everyone. Thanks in particular to their teachers and the Grade 7 helpers who accompanied them.
Please join us on this special occasion to celebrate our 2021 YHS Special Achievers, Dr. Camilla Zimmermann ‘84, Dr. Yvette Lu ‘96 and Dr. Alya Kamani ‘01. These alumnae have been selected by our YHS Alumnae Association for their incredible contributions to their community.
Every year, one special achiever nominee is selected for this esteemed award but in the 2021 nomination process, the Alumnae Association felt strongly that by selecting these three nominees, all outstanding candidates in the medical field, the awards would also serve as a heartfelt tribute to all of our alumnae healthcare professionals on the front lines during the pandemic.
The YHS Alumnae Association is pleased to announce the conferring of three Special Achiever Awards for 2021. A decision was made by the alumnae executive committee to award three nominated healthcare professionals as a heartfelt tribute to all our alumnae healthcare professionals on the front lines during this ongoing pandemic.
Dr. Camilla Zimmermann, Class of 1984 is Head and Lederman Chair, Department of Supportive Care at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Head of the Division of Palliative Care at the University Health Network, and a Senior Scientist and Chair of Supportive Care Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Research Institute in Toronto.
She is also a Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and the inaugural Director of the university’s Division of Palliative Medicine in the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Yvette Lu, Class of 1996, is a family physician, filmmaker, and actor in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Lu is passionate about projects that improve health and well-being. She was nominated for a prestigious Canadian Screen Award for her work as host of “House Call with Dr. Yvette Lu,” an award-winning show about caregivers, and has written a research-based play about chronic illness.
Dr. Alya Kamani, Class of 2001 is a critical care physician and residency site director for critical care at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. She holds this position while concurrently working as a medical toxicologist and clinical pharmacologist at the Ontario Poison Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook. She was recently appointed to the University of Toronto and is pursuing a Clinician Teacher/Educator academic track.
Congratulations to our alumnae Special Achievers and we look forward to welcoming you all back to York House for Alumnae Day on May 7th, 2022.
Golden Alumnae Luncheon, May 6th, 2022
Alumnae Day, May 7th, 2022
We are grateful for Dr. Yvette Lu ’96, one our Healthcare Heroes, for creating this video for us. We have shared this video with our Junior School and Senior School staff and students. We invite you to watch at home as well!
Our mission at York House is to inspire and enable students’ connection to the world. To help young women thrive now and into the future, we want to expose them to a world of possibilities. To do this, we strive to bring the world to the school and the students to the world in meaningful, relevant, and lively ways. The Career-Life Connections Program (CLC) at YHS is one hub for exploration and experimentation where young women can explore future pathways.
Thank you to Ita Kane-Wilson, Alumnae Relations and Annual Giving Manager, and Jaclyn Murray, the YHS Career-Life Connections and Capstone Coordinator, for coordinating the school’s first Virtual Career Fair for Grade 10 students. Thank you, also, to parents, alumnae, and community members who generously gave of their time, shared their own experiences, and brought careers to life for York House students.
Kara McDonald Director of Learning
On Friday, February 5, as a part of the Grade 10 Career-Life Connections Program and in collaboration with the Alumnae Office, YHS hosted its first virtual Career Fair. The purpose and focus of this event was to give students first-hand knowledge and information about careers in six different industries. These included: Business & Entrepreneurship, Fashion & Interior Design, and Medical & Health Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Film & TV, Law & the Music Industry. Students heard from alumnae and parents who are working in these fields and generously offered to explore with students a day in the life of their career.
The Career Fair took place during students’ Career-Life Connections 10 class where students participated in two 30-minute sessions and heard about two different industries of interest. Each online session had two guest speakers who presented to help provide either a complementary or contrasting perspective in a particular field/industry, with an opportunity at the end for students to ask questions.
Thank you to the following YHS Alumnae and Parents for making this event possible. Click on the links for bios:
Students were excited from the outset to hear first-hand from leaders and change-makers in our community. There was a buzz in the hallways in response to the engaging and informative sessions. Our hope is that students felt energized and inspired and took away insights that may inform their decision-making of next steps and future possibilities.
Starting a small business in the middle of a pandemic can be a daunting prospect but for three Yorkies Joyce Chen, Phoenix Lai, and Lisa Mo from the Class of 2014, it has been the silver lining in an otherwise challenging year.
Please tell us how Moon Milk Creamery came into existence? Joyce, Phoenix, and I have been childhood friends since our Junior School days at YHS. However, we went to different colleges, studied different majors, worked in different cities, but we all happened to reconnect upon our return home to Vancouver due to COVID. Moon Milk Creamery started from wanting to create something positive during a negative time with an inclusive and welcoming brand message. We really enjoy coming together with our different backgrounds, but with a common love for delicious treats: creamy, dairy-free ice cream!
2.What were your next steps for all of you after graduating in 2014? Lisa: After graduating from YHS in 2014, I studied Business Administration at the University of Southern California. Throughout college, I was heavily involved in a student-run Marketing agency on campus, which worked with small businesses. This inspired me to dream of having my own business one day.
Joyce: Similar to Lisa, I also studied Business Administration at Boston University. I concentrated in Accounting, but was heavily involved with the School of Hospitality since I was interested in the service industry, specifically in Food and Beverage. I loved the feeling of seeing people happy, whether it was from excellent food or service.
Phoenix: Graduating alongside Lisa in 2014, I studied Industrial Design at Pratt Institute and continued to work in New York for a few years in the design field. I have always had a passion for food, thought about attending culinary school at some point, and wanted to start something I could be personally invested in, so Moon Milk Creamery became the manifestation of those aspirations—and with the right people, the stars aligned!
Why did you decide on the vegan ice cream business? When we first agreed upon starting a vegan ice cream business, we dreamed of starting a brand that was retro-futuristic. On one hand, we really believe in learning from traditional artisanal techniques. On the other hand, we understand the future of food is plant-based, sustainable, and inclusive.
Interestingly enough, the three of us are not vegans, but we believe that everyone (and the environment) can benefit from a plant-based diet. Little steps such as changing what you snack on or what ice cream you indulge in could help both your body and lessen your carbon footprint. There are some great options in the market for vegan ice cream in Vancouver, however, we hope to bring more exciting flavours to the table so that non-vegans can enjoy plant-based ice cream as well. It’s been really motivating for us when we see people try our product and are surprised to hear that it is vegan and completely dairy-free!
Describe what each of you brings to the table? Who does what? Phoenix is an extremely talented designer and has always wanted to attend culinary school. Therefore, she leads our visual branding and product development. Joyce is a CPA and is responsible for our finances and ensures we have enough resources to execute our vision. I develop and carry through our marketing strategy so that Vancouver knows about our wonderful product!
We bring different but equally important perspectives to the drawing board to make what started as a passion project into a viable business.
When you reflect on your years at York House as a student, is there any particular memory that has stayed with you and continues to guide you. Lisa: Looking back at my time at YHS, I’m very grateful for the small class sizes and encouraging teachers, because it allowed for a very collaborative atmosphere that taught me how to contribute ideas effectively and synergistically work with differing perspectives. More importantly, a lot of the discussion-based classes (such as Mr. Rob’s English classes) sharpened my ability to be a thoughtful communicator. Lastly, in my senior years at YHS, I remember being exposed to the idea of social entrepreneurship, and the notion that businesses should be guided by a social mission still resonates with me today.
Joyce: Creating a sustainable product that lowers a consumer’s carbon footprint is important to me and stems from some of the best memories made at YHS. I want generations after me to experience what I could during these outdoor education camps.
Starting from 4th Grade, I remember participating in the annual outdoor education camps. It’s truly such a unique program that taught me to appreciate the world we live in and the natural beauty that it holds. I still recall the initial feeling of awe and peace wash over me when I sat on a cliffside journaling away during morning meditation, and the feeling still lingers within me when I see the colourful fall leaves and snow-capped mountains in the background.
As clichéd as it sounds, there’s really no place like Vancouver. It is such a unique and wonderful place that encourages me to play my role, in whatever small ways I can, to preserve the land so that others after me can also experience similar gratitude and admiration. This is why it’s important to me to create a plant-based product that is kind to the earth, so we can sustain the beauty for future generations to come!
Phoenix: It’s hard to pinpoint specific moments, but York House definitely created an environment where I cultivated some very special relationships, memories, and life lessons that still guide me to this day. Looking back at it now, our school experience was very unique compared to most, which can allow us to see the world in different ways. To believe in things larger than just ourselves, but to still believe in ourselves as strong women in this world, and a willingness to explore worlds outside our own. These values from years at York House have shaped my outlook on life, and in terms of Moon Milk Creamery, pushed me to design for the future.
What are your plans and aspirations for your company? At the core of our business, we hope to introduce delicious and exciting flavours to the vegan ice cream market so that more people will give vegan ice cream a chance (and with time, maybe vegan ice cream can become the new norm!). For vegan consumers, we hope to add a new cultural experience with our unexpected flavour combinations, and also be the best ice cream they ever tasted!
In the near future, we hope to work with local plant-based cafes, grocery stores, and restaurants so more people can try our product! A big milestone for us would be to get on the shelves of Whole Foods across Canada.
Alumnae from 1948 to 2021, honorary alumnae, past and present staff and special guests attended our first-ever virtual Alumnae Day on Saturday, October 3, and what an amazing day it was! Like the year 2020, it was quite unlike any that had gone before. As an alumnae class rep shared, “I am just so impressed with the whole experience of the virtual Alumnae Day. It’s yet another example of something good resulting from COVID-19!”
Head of School, Julie Rousseau, and Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ’99, hosted the event live from the recently launched YHS STEAM Lab in our Senior School. The lab, thanks to the generosity of our community, is already becoming a vibrant hub of activity where students can explore and draw on the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
After welcome remarks from Julie, Courtney, and YHS Board Chair, Michelle Ostrow ’89, alums got the first glimpse of student reactions to the new STEAM Lab.
“I could never have imagined the STEAM Lab in my York House days. What a future the school is providing for the students of today,” commented an alumna from the 1960s.
Manpreet Deol ’15, before embarking on her journey as a Rhodes Scholars at the University of Oxford, came to visit the new lab to share her thoughts on this new powerful space for student exploration. When Manpreet initially heard that Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space would be our Alumnae Day keynote, she exclaimed, “That is beyond amazing, I still remember my Grade 5 hero project, I chose to write and speak about her…This is absolutely incredible! York House comes full circle for me.”
In celebration of the new YHS STEAM Lab and the theme of exploration, Dr. Roberta Bondartalked about some of her extraordinary experiences from her childhood explorations through to becoming a scientist, neurologist, astronaut, and photographer. She shared that the best part of her exploration on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992 was looking out the windows and being able to look down at the countries below without visible borders, and to see the earth as a planet from a totally different perspective. When she returned, she wanted to convey this new perspective, using her background in science, arts, and technology to connect people back to the natural habitat and the Roberta Bondar Foundation.
One of the research projects she is most deeply involved in is AMASS (Avian Migration Aerial Surface Space), which is inspired by the natural phenomena of avian migration coupled with Dr. Bondar’s lifelong passion for flight and her view of Earth. The project’s aim is to increase awareness, educate and contribute to the world’s knowledge of biodiversity, its challenges, and needs for continuous support.
Her insightful and enlightening thoughts resonated with alumnae and were greatly appreciated by all decades. “WHAT AN INSPIRATION!!! Commented an alumna from the class of 1982. “Dr. Bondar’s key takeaway today was that we can always continue to grow and explore with our minds no matter how old we are. Growth is a mindset and we need to continue to keep growing. Gratitude for her wise words and encouragement.”
Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ‘99 introduced this year’s Alumnae Special Achiever, Saara Bhanji ’03, the founder of AWARE: The Association of Women’s Action, Research, and Empowerment. This feminist organization works with young women to overcome barriers based on race, class, poverty, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In her video presentation, Saara explores issues close to her heart.
An annual highlight of Alumnae Day is the Association’s alumnae and staff basketball game. To help us look forward to next year’s game, the association created a virtual basketball game.
“I can’t wipe the grin off my face. So much fun to watch the virtual basketball game! exclaimed an alumna,” And to sing Onward and Upward, just like I did 55 years ago!”
We were delighted to have such a great turnout and to have received such positive feedback for our first virtual Alumnae Day. We look forward to welcoming everyone back again next year, hopefully in person!
Embracing the unknown: Finding the courage to follow a new path
Miranda Chen graduated from York House in 2018 and after 18 months of studying at Mercyhurst University, a summer internship inspired her to change universities and career paths. Change is inevitable but making those decisions takes courage and resilience. Miranda has both in spades.
After graduation from York House, what did you do?
After graduating from York House, I headed to Erie, Pennsylvania, to attend the Intelligence program at Mercyhurst. My experience at Mercyhurst was incredibly eye-opening and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I think, sometimes, at York House, we exist in sort of a utopian bubble where most students are of the same socioeconomic background and political beliefs, so it can be easy to forget not everybody comes from the same experience.
For me, it was incredibly interesting and refreshing to attend a university that was mostly conservative and completely different from what I had grown up with in Vancouver. Especially today, with the extreme political polarization in society, I think it can be quite easy only to make friends and consume media that share and reinforce existing beliefs and opinions, so I feel very fortunate that I have been able to experience both sides of the coin; I can also now say I view the world much differently than I did before.
In terms of academics, it was definitely challenging. Still, York House prepared me very well, and I couldn’t have had a better education in terms of developing leadership and interpersonal skills and establishing the ability to articulate myself clearly through public speaking and writing. All in all, my experience at Mercyhurst was quite intense and challenging at times, but it truly made me grow as a person, and I will always be grateful for that. I also made some incredible friends who I know I’ll stay in contact with for the rest of my life!
Why did you change direction? What was the catalyst?
I had the great privilege of interning at the Embassy of Canada to the United States in Washington, D.C., last summer after my freshman year. I worked in the Trade Division, specifically focusing on trade policy between the United States and China. As part of my internship, I was able to attend and report on Congressional hearings and think tank events on Capitol Hill and around the D.C. area, as well as produce reports and briefing memos for senior-level staff at the Embassy.
In addition, we were able to hear from many high-ranking officials, including Marvin Hildebrand, the Economic Minister who oversees trade; David MacNaughton, Canada’s last ambassador to the United States; and Kirsten Hillman, the current ambassador. As I was one of the youngest in my intern cohort, it was also wonderful to connect with some of my older peers and hear their experiences and advice for university.
During my time there, some especially exciting moments included working on the USMCA agreement and meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he visited the Embassy in June 2019. I also became quite close with some of the other interns, and we still talk today! It was truly an incredible experience but also one that informed me that this was not what I saw myself doing in the near future.
What are your future plans?
I am currently studying finance and real estate at New York University, and I hope to pursue a future career in real estate investment banking and eventually in real estate development.