Marilyn Sandford, BMath ’87

Partner, Ritchie, Sandford and McGowan Barristers

Marilyn Sandford

“A Waterloo math degree is not like any other math degree.  It is an elite institution.”

Marilyn Sandford had taken math electives at another university, but when she came to Waterloo to study math she found “It was really like starting from scratch. It was a much more challenging program.”

Marilyn’s ’87 BMath was taken out of interest: Her vocational calling was to the legal profession.  A star graduate from Dalhousie Law School in ’89, she took the road less traveled and articled at a boutique firm in Vancouver specializing in criminal defense and tort litigation — “all courtroom work.”  Marilyn has served the defense in high profile murder and conspiracy trials, where her incredible reasoning skills were called into action to defend the rights we have as Canadians, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In one case, “The science involved was on a scale rarely seen in any courts anywhere in the world. There were some 200,000 DNA results obtained from testing of exhibits, and the case also involved experts in chemistry, ballistics, anthropology, odontology, forensic pathology…”

Marilyn credits her training in math for her powers of analytical reasoning in the face of such monumental complexity.  “I was never interested in CS but rather pure math, logic, and abstract reasoning.  It carries forward to the forensic science end of the practice the law.”

She may not have enjoyed computer science but in another case, it was her clients’ good fortune that Ms. Sandford was paying attention in class.  Marilyn put her critical acumen to work and asked: “What does the computer show in terms of their online activity?”  The Judge accepted that a careful look at the computer data did not support the serious charge they were facing.  Rather, the Supreme Court Justice found the case to be unsubstantiated. 

Marilyn sees tremendous opportunity for graduates of Waterloo Math as forensic computer scientists, accountants and actuaries, or sole practitioners like her, easily able to calculate financial loss due to wrongful death or injury, or to manage the business side of the house. 

Underlying it all is the ability to solve problems, which is the core skillset developed in a Bachelor of Math at UWaterloo. 

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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