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Jennifer Tory 1974

What are the threads that run through our lives?

Jennifer Tory will tell you that her parents taught her two different, yet equally important, lessons: from her father, a strong work ethic; and from her mother, the value of community service. Those two ideals were ingrained further at Havergal College and have played on throughout both her career as an executive at RBC Royal Bank and as a volunteer.

Jennifer, who entered Havergal in Grade 4 and graduated in 1974, says that people would remember her as someone who worked hard. “I had a drive to get things done,” she says, something that was true of her as a student, as an athlete involved in many different sports and as an involved participant in many co-curricular activities such as choir. “I had a lot of energy,” says Jennifer.

The school helped to teach Jennifer to aim high. She had no “preconceived notions of limitations. Havergal College always profiled distinguished women, so young women could see the possibilities,” she says.

Ask people what they do, and the answer is usually more complex than their title. At RBC Royal Bank, Jennifer is the regional president for the Greater Toronto Region. In this role, she leads a team of 4,000 employees in providing financial advice and services to RBC’s personal, small-business and commercial clients. That’s her job, but she sums up her role more succinctly-”I’m a connector.”

At work, this translates into connecting colleagues with the right opportunities to grow and develop, and connecting clients with the right solutions.

Jennifer joined RBC right out of university, at a time when few women held senior jobs in banking. Today, she runs the largest banking region in Canada. She feels that she owes much of her success to taking risks in her career development. “I regularly took jobs in different parts of the business, which meant throwing myself into steep learning curves.

She’s a great believer in helping others to learn and feel supported; during her 30-plus years with RBC, she has mentored countless people. More women than men, partly because of her openness to mentoring particularly regarding work and family balance: “I was raised to believe that women can do anything.”

Jenny Poulos, RBC’s regional vice-president for East York-Beaches in Toronto says, “Jennifer starts by understanding my priorities. She is able to put herself in my shoes, so her practical advice is more valuable than the one-size-fits-all variety.”

Beyond her job, Jennifer is a community-builder and fundraiser and, as a “connector,” looks to bring together people and organizations that can help each other. She’s keenly aware of what the author Herman Melville meant by a favourite quote of hers: “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads”¦our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” She loves her work in the community and considers it to be part of who she is, not an extra time commitment.

More threads that go back to Havergal: Jennifer recalls raising money at school for causes such as United Way, food drives and Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Community service is part of the school curriculum these days, “but Havergal was ahead of the curve in instilling that in their students,” she says.

During those school days, Jennifer was a candystriper at Sunnybrook, a connection which became so strong that she later joined the Sunnybrook Foundation in 1995. Since then, she has chaired the board and currently chairs the $470-million capital campaign.

Barry McLellan, president and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre says, “In all that she does, Jennifer conducts herself with the highest degree of integrity, and holds herself to a set of values that speak well of her Havergal experience-to service, loyalty, hard work and collaboration.”

“Her strategic focus has shaped the direction and design of the campaign. Jennifer believes in what she supports, and her understanding of the hospital gives confidence to potential donors that they are investing in an accountable organization that achieves impact,” says Kevin Goldthorp, former CEO of the Sunnybrook Foundation.

Working at one of the most community-minded corporations in Canada, Jennifer has been introduced to countless other causes, gets involved and encourages others to become involved. Her advice? Become personally engaged. “Never do community service just to get your name on a committee list,” she says. “There’s no satisfaction in that. You need to know you’ve made a difference.”

Jennifer has made a big difference to her alma mater, serving on Havergal’s board of governors from 1994 to 2000 and being part of the capital campaign that raised funds to build a new wing and the Junior School. The Havergal threads are enduring; Jennifer calls the women she met in school her “best friends, soulmates and support system.” These are the people whom she sees and talks to all the time-and whose children have all grown up together.

Jennifer’s two daughters went to Havergal - Elizabeth Mingay 2003 and Alex Mingay 2008 - and when her youngest graduated two years ago, Jennifer created Havergal’s first named endowment for athletics. She says that she sent her girls to Havergal for two main reasons: “I wanted them to have the experience I enjoyed, building lifelong friendships based on common values. And I wanted them to gain the same type of confidence that I gained at Havergal - to aspire to be whatever you want to be.”

Written by Lesley LeMesurier Alboini 1971