Wendy Cecil is a Toronto-based philanthropist and the former vice-president of business development at Brascan Ltd. (now Brookfield Asset Management). She is chancellor at Victoria University, vice-chair of the St. Michael’s Hospital board of directors and chair of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, but her commitment to public service has seen her dedicate her time to numerous other organizations as well, including the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, the Toronto Reference Library and the Royal Ontario Museum. In November 2014, she was elected to the RCGS’s Board of Governors. Here, Cecil shares her thoughts on public service and her goals for the Society.
On her public service and philanthropy
It started when I was a kid. I grew up in a family of four in Willowdale, a little post-war Toronto suburb. My parents were not wealthy or connected, but they were really active in the community. So I learned that you should get involved and try to make things better. Through it all, I’ve made great friends, met fascinating people, learned so much and have felt very valued and rewarded. I’ve had friends who’ve asked me, “Why don’t you just relax?” That’s just not my idea of fun.
On what she hopes to achieve as a Society governor
Many of us want to see more women honoured by the Society. Making the Society much better known by all Canadians is also important because we’re a nation very much defined by our geography. Understanding Canada’s geography is both exciting and essential if we’re to hold ourselves together. I think it starts with kids. The giant floor map program is fabulous, and is really planting the seeds for people who are going to be excited about the country’s geography. I remember my Grade 10 geography teacher always said, “Geography determines everything.” I grew up with this in my mind and I still agree.