Alumnae from classes of 1942 – 1966 were welcomed back to school by Head of School, Chantal Gionet on September 30 to celebrate 50th – 70th reunions. The day began with a tour of the Senior School and for some it was the first time back since graduation. Much excitement ensued as classmates were discovered in grad photos and on the honour roll board in the Alumnae Art and Photo Gallery. They were thrilled to see how York House has grown since their days at the school. “We ‘Old Girls’ will never cease being in awe of the ‘new’ York House!” “The school has changed since we walked the halls of history and having that transcribed onto the current walls is very special and shows we aren’t forgotten! We were and are still so proud to be Yorkies.”
A highlight in the gallery was an exhibit of marionettes and puppets from the collection of former art teacher and founder, Virginia (Moore) Mackay who taught at York House for 38 years. All recalled making marionettes in art classes and there was great appreciation for this gift from Virginia’s step-granddaughter, Catherine (Carter) Nightingale ’76. Catherine commented, “It was delightful to talk to the women who went through school in the original buildings and to hear their memories of my grandmother and the marionettes.”
On visiting the YHS Museum & Archives, alumnae travelled back to their time at York House through the many exhibits of past uniforms, the original old houses where their classes were held, and class reunion photo boards prepared by archivist and curator, Susannah Smith.
The tour culminated with the unveiling of a new museum display case in the Gail Ruddy Foyer. This most thoughtful gift from Margaret (Shepard) Walwyn ’55, celebrates three generations of proud Yorkies including her daughter, Head Girl and past YHS Foundation Chair Catharine (Walwyn) Turner ’84, and granddaughters Megan (Class of 2015) and Claire (Class of 2017). The family recognition plaque reads “Always a Yorkie” and now treasures from the archives can be brought out for display to share YHS history and traditions with the whole community.
At the luncheon, Ragazza, the Senior School ensemble performed the old school hymn “Unto the Hills” and alumnae were invited to sing along with them for the school song, “Onward and Upward.” Fiona (Gr. 12), Saskia (Gr. 11), and Jasmine (Gr. 11) sang solos from their own repertoires. Grade 4 presented a lively rendition of the much loved “York House School March“, which was composed by the late Patty (Cochrane) Bennett ’49. Golden grads commented how they “loved seeing the junior students playing outside” while they enjoyed their luncheon. Senior School Head Girl, Maggie, and Junior School Head Girl Risa shared their favourite school experiences and the ladies let us know that “we all enjoyed it so much, especially the performances and speeches by the girls.”
Lisa (Greczmiel) Roberts ’82, President of the Alumnae Association presented Helen (Larmonth) Hughes ’50 with the 2016 Alumnae Lifetime Achiever award. Helen was nominated by her class and is the first recipient of this new Association award. Although officially retired after 18 years serving on the Victoria City Council, Helen continues to volunteer and still follows the school motto “Not for ourselves alone.” She has received numerous accolades throughout her life for her community service including the Order of Canada, YHS Alumnae Special Achiever for Community Service, honorary degrees from the Universities of Saskatchewan and Victoria, the Chancellor’s Community Recognition Award from Royal Rhodes, the Maclean Award for Outstanding Service by a Woman in Municipal Politics, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Leadership Victoria, a Generosity of Spirit Award sponsored by the Victoria Foundation, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal among others.
50th, 60th, and 70th pins were presented and class reps and volunteers were recognized for their work in bringing their classes together and organizing class reunion gifts. The class celebrating 50 designated the Alumnae Scholarship and the class celebrating 60, the Founders Scholarship. The luncheon came to a close with the precious delivery of green and gold wrapped Yorkie chocolates by Grade 1 and 2 students.
Click here to see all the photos from the Golden Alumnae Luncheon.
Thea, you came back recently to York House to collect the 2016 Alumnae Special Achiever Award. How was that experience?
My experience of returning to YHS was wonderful. What struck me most was the progressive tone of the assembly and support for the theme of the day- finding your voice. It seems that YHS is still committed to helping girls and young women find their voice.
Who influenced you most in your time at York House?
I would have to say both Eve Hunnings and Jean McLagan. Ms. Hunnings taught me how to tap into my creative voice. She allowed us to express our authentic selves through creative writing, even our defiant selves. Mrs. McLagan shaped my political awareness. History 12 was a pivotal course in teaching me about social justice.
What is your fondest memory?
My fondest memories are the times I shared with friends. We were then and still are a close group. I love that we could come to school and not worry about what we were wearing or what boys thought of us. We were there to learn and spend time together. We had a lot of laughs.
How did your time at York House impact who you are today?
The message that girls and women can do anything was instilled in me through YHS and I’m sure helped shape my path towards my career as a professor in Women and Gender Studies.
How important are the connections you made with fellow Yorkies to you today?
I’m still very close to many of my friends from my graduating class. We formed tight bonds that have lasted decades.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a Yorkie today what would it be?
I would tell Yorkies today that they are incredibly privileged to be part of such an amazing institution. They are not only getting a quality education, but tools to pursue their dreams. My hope would be that they would pay it forward with some kind of service on a local or global level.