Alumni News and Notes

Fall 2019

We think it is important to highlight interesting stories, milestones and achievements of our alumni. If you have a suggestion for the spotlight, please let us know by email at 

Announcing the 2019 Distinguished and Young Alumni Award Winners

Across Canada and around the world, St. Paul's and Waterloo alumni are making significant contributions to their University, their professions, and their communities. St. Paul's Distinguished and Young Alumni Awards recognize these exceptional individuals and their efforts to build a better world.

Rod Barr, Distinguished Alumni Award

Rod BarrIn recognition of an exemplary career, dedication to profession and service to the St. Paul’s community 

Rod Barr (BA '69) is a retired, Chartered Professional Accountant, who had a distinguished career with Deloitte. Barr held many positions with the firm in Toronto, Hamilton, New York, Vancouver, London and Wilton, Connecticut, and served as the firm’s National Securities Partner from 1996 until his retirement in 2008. Rod was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1988 in recognition of his extensive contributions to his profession- something that less than 3% of accountants achieve. He was a member of the Institute’s Council from 1999 until 2006, and served as its Chair from 2004-2006.

In 2009, Rod was appointed as President and CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and helped lead the unification of various accounting professional bodies under one designation the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPA). He has also served as a member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC, as member of the Board of Governors of the BC School of Accountancy, as Chair of the Inter-provincial Education Group, and as member and Chair of the CICA Board of Examiners.

Rod is a dedicated volunteer and generous supporter of St. Paul’s and the University of Waterloo. He served multiple terms with the St. Paul’s Board of Governors, including one term as Chair, and has developed a Family Entrance Scholarship with the School of Accounting and Finance. Rod was recognized by the Faculty of Arts with the Alumni Achievement Award in 2007 and received an Alumni Award from the School of Accounting and Finance in 2014.

Winnie Lam, Distinguished Alumni Award

Winnie LamIn recognition of an exemplary career, dedication to sustainability and service to community

Winnie Lam (BASC '00) graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2000 with a degree in Systems Design Engineering minoring in Management Science. 

Winnie has held several roles at Google where she has now worked for over 15 years. In her current role as Director of Energy, Google Cloud, Winnie is responsible for strategy, product offerings and strategic relationships with customers in the Energy industry. She helps companies transform their businesses through big data analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. 

Winnie's personal mission is to make positive, step changes for the environment and animals. She is a member of the National Council Advisory group for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partnered with WWF to co-found the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, uniting Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and many other tech companies to ban online sales of elephant ivory and endangered animal products. She has been running an annual fundraiser at Google for several years which has raised millions of dollars for WWF, the Humane Society, Guide Dogs for the blind and other charities.

Winnie’s leadership has been recognized by her employer several times as recipient of Google’s Founder’s Award and a three time recipient of Google’s Executive Management Group Award. In addition to her volunteer contributions to WWF, Winnie has served as a volunteer with Stanford University, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Obama for America campaign.

Currently, Winnie is pursuing a Master of Science in Energy Policy and Climate at Johns Hopkins University.

Rachel Thompson, Young Alumni Award

Rachel Thompson sits at a desk with a laptop, staircase in the backgroundIn recognition of commitment to innovation and entrepreneurial success

Rachel Thompson turned a big idea into an award winning social profit business. As she was nearing the completion of her science degree in Applied Health Studies she entered the 2015 Big Ideas Challenge and won a term in St. Paul’s GreenHouse.

While she was with GreenHouse, Rachel launched a social venture called Marlena Books (a portmanteau of her grandmothers’ given names Marilyn and Helena). Because of her own families’ experience, Rachel had recognized a gap and intended to find an innovative solution to help adults with dementia get more enjoyment and cognitive stimulation from leisure reading.

Four years later, Rachel and Marlena Books have raised over $300,000 in cash and in-kind support by winning multiple pitch competitions including Velocity’s $25K and the 2018 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge.

Today, Rachel leads a growing social venture which researches and publishes books and other adaptive leisure reading materials for dementia patients. Marlena books feature mature content modified to meet the needs of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and are sold in bulk to long-term care facilities across Canada and directly to customers via their website and app.

Rachel’s story garners widespread media attention and she uses that platform to promote the value of the GreenHouse social impact incubator. Rachel was recognized by her faculty with the 2018 Young Alumni Award for Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. 

Richard Yim, Young Alumni Award

Richard YimIn recognition of commitment to innovation and entrepreneurial success 

Prosithyrith (Richard) grew up in Cambodia where children are warned at a young age to watch out for landmines. When he moved to Canada at the age of 13, he discovered the freedom of living without fear of where he stepped. His childhood experiences made the pursuit of a Mechanical Engineering degree from Waterloo a natural choice because he knew he wanted to build a machine that could rid the world of landmines.

Even as a first-year student, Richard began discussing his goal with classmates but it wasn’t until he joined St. Paul’s GreenHouse in the fall term of 2015 that he took the entrepreneurship plunge. With his co-founder Christian Lee, Richard began developing a prototype and a business which they called Landmine Boys (since renamed Demine Robotics). Their goal was to create a cost-effective robot to remove landmines, that was repairable, easy to manufacture, and could be used by NGO’s.

Richard and his team gained national prominence by winning several student awards and competitions before graduating in 2016. Demine Robotics continues to operate in both Canada and Cambodia and recently completed a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign to complete testing and bring their current model, Jevit to market by 2020.

Richard completed the MBET program in 2017 and was named to Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 in 2018.

Alumni Spotlight: Alex Pearce (BKI '16)

Alex Pearce lived and worked at St. Paul's for several terms as a Don of La Bastille and at the student and guest services desk. After completing her degree in Knowledge Integration she went on to attend medical school at McMaster. We recently checked in with her for an update and she had this to share:

Alex Pearce

I just started my family medicine residency through McMaster up in Collingwood and I am loving it! It is a beautiful community with tons of outdoor activities and opportunities for a broad and diverse practice as a family doctor. 

Since leaving St. Paul's, I finished up my degree and ended up with a Bachelor of Knowledge Integration with Minor in Social Development Studies & specialization in Collaborative Design. I went on to do medical school at McMaster at their Hamilton campus, and am now doing residency; basically specialty training in family medicine before I am set free as an independent practitioner in June 2021! 

I still keep up with lots of alumni and coworkers from St. Paul's. It's been amazing to see all the incredible things my wonderful La Bastille students have gotten up to! I was so lucky to have such interesting and kind students every year that I donned. I still catch up with Spencer Leckie and Sonya Oetterich when we find ourselves in the same time zone, and recently got to meet Graham Howell's new little baby after going to his wedding last year where I also saw a ton of old STP friends. I look back on my St. Paul's times so fondly, and recommend trying to stay there to anyone thinking about going to UWaterloo!