Nerve: Lessons on Leadership from Two Women Who Went First

On February 24th, York House School and Crofton House School partnered together to host a virtual parent event with Dr. Indira Samarasekera and Dr. Martha Piper where they shared stories and insights about their own journeys as leaders. Hosted by Heads of School, Julie Rousseau and Ena Harrop, and moderated by our respective Head and Vice Head Girls, Sophie and Finny from YHS and Mia and Isabel from Crofton, these two leaders came together to discuss their recently published book, Nerve: Lessons on Leadership from Two Women Who Went First

Our Head Students asked some great probing questions about what it was like for Dr. Piper and Dr. Samarasekera to be the first women to lead two such highly regarded universities; the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta. 

They each spoke to the advantages of an all-girls environment where students are encouraged to explore the leadership opportunities available and address issues that matter to them and the world. While sharing stories of their leadership journey they both acknowledged that leadership is about showing up and can be represented in a variety of ways whether it be in your family, in your school, in your community, or out in the world. 

It was also apparent that resilience in the face of adversity was a key factor to their own success. They both adamantly agreed that in spite of your best efforts, you simply don’t know how life will unfold and emphasized the importance for young people to be open to opportunities.

We were grateful for this to partner with Crofton House School to host this event and we look forward to sharing more opportunities to explore Women in Leadership in the future.

More about Dr. Samarasekera and Dr. Piper:
Dr. Piper has a granddaughter who graduated from Crofton last year and Dr. Samarasekera, has a granddaughter in Grade 4 at York House and also serves as a Board Director with the YHS Board of Governors. 

Indira Samarasekera, OC, PhD, LLD, served as the first woman president of the University of Alberta and is a director of Magna International, TC Energy, and Stelco and has served as a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Martha Piper, OC, OBC, PhD, served as the first woman president of the University of British Columbia and has been a director of the Bank of Montreal, Shoppers Drug Mart, and TransAlta Corporation. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she was born in Lorain, Ohio, and lives with her husband, William Piper, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Dr. Samarasekera and Dr. Piper also spoke at our Women and Leadership Speaker Series at YHS on November 30, 2021.

Dr. Samarasekera and Dr. Piper at our Women and Leadership Speaker Series at YHS on Tuesday, November 30

A Journey to the Olympics: Gold Medalist Madison Mailey

On Thursday, February 3, students in Grades 4 to 7 were treated to a conversation with Olympic Gold Medalist Madison Mailey. Madison won her medal at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in the Women’s Eights Rowing event. Through the hour-long discussion, Madison weaved three themes through her stories. 

The first theme, “Just Being a Kid”, was well received by the students as Madison set the stage of her Olympic journey by doing all the things most elementary students do. She went to school, she played on school teams, she enjoyed choir, and she hung out with her friends. Madison was clear that in Grade 6 she knew about the Olympics, but she wasn’t dreaming about them—she was too busy being a kid. 

The second theme, “Trust in the Process”, allowed the students to gain a perspective on the ups and downs of Madison’s journey. Not every day was a dream come true, and both Madison and her teammates suffered many setbacks. In the end, they were successful because they kept their focus on the process of working hard and supporting each other. 

The final theme “Respect Your Teammates as Individuals” was also meaningful for our students. After the Tokyo Olympics were delayed for a year, Rowing Canada isolated the team. Madison spoke of the challenges of being in an intensely competitive environment with the same people for such a long period of time. Recognizing each teammate’s unique personality, and respecting the space of each individual was crucial to their team’s support of each other, ultimately leading to the Gold Medal. 

Reflecting on her journey to the Olympics, and her next step (to row or not to row), Madison passed on many pearls of wisdom to the Tigers. Perhaps one of the best quotes she left us with was this, “I played on lots of ‘B’ teams growing up, and I ended up being one of the best athletes in the world in a different sport. You never know.”

Thank you, Madison, for sharing your stories. You are an amazing athlete, and more importantly, you are an awesome person bringing inspiration to the next wave of Tigers!

Brent Jackson
Junior Athletics Coordinator

Read more about Madison at