The speaker at our annual dinner, Jim Hayhurst, kept the audience spellbound with his story of how he climbed Mount Everest in 1988, although he had never before mountaineered. At 47 Jim was the oldest member of his team, which included his son.
His harrowing climb up the mountain included a near miss with an avalanche, his son in danger of going over a cliff, and Jim’s suffering from the ill effects of high altitude. Because of the latter he had to stop short of Everest’s peak. Nonetheless he had proved he could do “the extreme.”
The life lessons he learned led him to found a disadvantaged youth-help organization – Trails Youth Initiatives–which has improved the lives of hundreds. He also wrote a book, The Right Mountain, about his experience.
Our April speaker was Metis artist Diane Montreuil, who is a many talented woman. As well as painting, she also does leather, drums and spiritual dolls; in addition to that, she is a French Indigenous Docent at the ROM museum and runs a home improvement company.
It wasn’t until she was an adult that she learned about Metis heritage and traditions. She explained the importance of grandmothers in her culture and the value of having “gratitude for the gift of life.” That gratitude is why she uses vivid colours in her paintings, which are exhibited in 225 locations across Canada and the U.S.
According to Dr. Janet Rossant some day the human body will be able to fix and even prevent disease thanks to the wonders of stem cell and gene/DNA regenerative therapies. The ultimate goal, she explained, is to correct disease “by removing diseased cells, editing them into healthy ones, then re-inserting them.” This was the exciting message our February speaker gave us.
Toronto children’s author, Rona Arato, told us about her award-winning book “The Last Train” which harrowingly recounts how her late husband, Paul, survived a concentration camp and Nazi death train when a young Jewish boy.
Paul and his family liveda segregated but peaceful life inHungary. In 1944 the Nazis sent Paul’s father into forced labour; Paul and the rest of his family eventually ended up in Bergen Belsen concentration camp. In 1945 Paul, his mother and brother, and other Jews of this camp were locked into train boxcars headed for execution. After four and a half hellish days of travel, they were liberated by American soldiers.
Rona’s message to readers and listeners: “You can’t stop war on the other side of the world but you can prevent hate and bullying from getting a foothold in your school and community.”
Marisa Sterling is the first Assistant Dean, Inclusivity and Diversity, at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering. Currently only 25 percent of undergrad engineering students are female. Marisa’s mission is to make Lassonde School the first engineering school in Canada to reach gender parity.
“Gender diversity drives innovation because there is access to more talent,” Marisa said. “There is a financial payoff. When women are on boards, it has been found that there is a 26 percent increase in return on investment.”
How can we encourage more females to choose engineering? Marisa said scholarships for female STEM students help, including UWCNY’s. And further support is provided at the Lassonde School; Marisa instigated a project where first year female students are mentored by upper year ones.
Regent, Regnant or plain bossy: How Royal Women wielded power in ancient Egypt
Men were on the throne in ancient Egypt but women wielded considerable power, of great significance since Egypt was the centre of the ancient world. Our speaker, Zoe McQuinn, pointed out that women derived their power through being the mother, wife, sister and/or daughter of a pharaoh.
The wives and concubines would scheme against one another to have their son succeed to the throne; thus they could exercise power by becoming regent until their son’s majority. And they weren’t above committing murder to get their own way.
Zoe illustrated her talk with a slide show of photos of the original stone work containing the hieroglyphics as well as more detailed drawings of the hieroglyphics.