Alumni News and Notes

Spring 2017

Young alumnus' career takes off, literally

If you board a Sunwing Airlines flight to a warm sunny destination next winter, don’t be surprised if you hear a familiar name in the pre-flight introductions. Spencer Leckie (BES ’15), who was a residence Don for three years, is now a first officer with Sunwing.

Waterloo’s Aviation program is unique: Students learn to fly while studying either Science or Geography and earning a commercial pilot license along with a degree. The program, not even a decade old, caught the attention of one of Canada’s top airlines, Toronto-based Sunwing, which worked with the university to set up a cadet program allowing graduates to be hired and trained by Sunwing as first officers. 

In August 2016, the first four graduates were given the opportunity to make the leap from a small Cessna to a Boeing 737. The cadets endured months of training, from ground school, stationary and full motion simulator sessions, to hands-on flying in the flight deck.  Nine months later, all four cadets (Spencer Leckie, Chelsea-Anne Edwards, Siobhan O’Hanlon and Cameron Fuchs) are fully qualified first officers, flying the 737 across North America.

Spencer in his pilot's uniform standing beside a Sunwing Airlines 737Spencer writes: “Looking back at the previous nine months, it’s hard to put into words how incredible the experience has been. As a first officer at Sunwing, I get to fly passengers from all across Canada down south for their Caribbean vacations. I’ve had the opportunity to fly into many southern destinations in Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the United States. What makes flying so enjoyable is that no two days are alike; whether I’m flying into a new airport, or encountering poor weather conditions, every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity for a smooth landing.

“Before I was flying around the world, I was a student and a residence Don at St. Paul’s University College. Living and working at St. Paul’s gave me the skills and the confidence to be successful in my career as an airline pilot. Being a pilot goes beyond having good hands and feet, you need to be able to work well with your crew members during normal and crisis situations. This is not unlike working together as a Don team while on duty or organizing an event. Looking back, I truly cherish the memories that were made while living in the St. Paul’s community.”

Congratulations, Spencer!

Chasing impact through film

Chasing Coral filmmakers and producers on stage at Sundance Film Festival

Distinguished Alumnus David Cornfield (BASc ’85) and his wife, Linda Archer Cornfield, have produced a new documentary, Chasing Coral, which recently won the audience choice award for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, directed by Jeff Orlowski, explores climate change and the astonishing rate at which coral reefs are disappearing. Chasing Coral features striking time-lapse imagery, and has been described as a 'thrilling ocean adventure' in the quest to discover why. It is a follow-up to another documentary by the same filmmakers (Chasing Ice), which also was nominated for, and won, several awards, including an Emmy.

David graduated from UWaterloo in 1985 and was honoured by St. Paul’s with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015. David and Linda retired early from successful careers at Microsoft and turned their attention to philanthropy and environmentalism. Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral are just two of many social and environmentally impactful projects they have supported.

James Fraser receives prestigious teaching award

Dr. James Fraser (BSc '94), now a Professor of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen's University, was recently awarded a prestigious teaching award.

James was one of 10 professors from universities across Canada to be named a 2017 3M National Teaching Fellow by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 

The 3M National Teaching Fellowship is considered a prestigious recognition of excellence in educational leadership and teaching. The award was founded in 1986 through a partnership between the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada. Up to 10 Canadian academics annually are named fellows. James Fraser

James is well regarded by his peers and his students for his unique style of teaching and has received other awards in 2016 and 2012 for his teaching excellence.

James met his wife, Lisa Sansom, when he lived in residence at St. Paul's from 1989 to 1992. Together they are strong supporters of the St. Paul's community.

Building community in an effort to improve mental health

Scott Ste MarieScott Ste. Marie (BES ’13) struggled with depression and anxiety while he was a student in first year. As he worked through his own recovery, he realized that he could use what he was learning to help others who suffered with mental health issues.

Before graduating in 2013, Scott started a YouTube channel where he posted videos with positive messages, tips, and strategies to deal with depression and improve mental health. The channel, which is called Depression to Expression, now has over 31,250 subscribers and his videos have accumulated about 2 million views.

Scott also maintains an active community with thousands of followers across multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and he has written an e-book that he offers for free to his online community.

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Members of the St. Paul's community continue to take action in fight against cancer

Distinguished Alumnus Bill Pristanski (BMath ’78) has participated in every Terry Fox Run since 1981 and this past year, he set a new Terry Fox Foundation record for personal fundraising with $58,550. That brings his total over 36 years to an astounding $585,200! Bill has been personally affected by cancer and in the great Waterloo tradition, decided to do something about it. He is not alone in this fight; in fact, several members of the St. Paul’s community are following his lead.

For the past three years, the St. Paul’s Residence Life team has honoured Bill’s commitment to the cause by participating in the Terry Fox Run with several first- and upper-year students. Their efforts have resulted in close to $4,000 raised.


Young alumnus and former Don David Bell (BES ’15) joined the fight in 2013 after a member of his family was diagnosed with cancer. David is currently fundraising for his fourth consecutive Ride to Conquer Cancer and expects his 2017 personal goal of $2,500 will allow him to exceed a personal total of $20,000 in 2018.


In 2014, current Don Maddie LeBlanc decided her passion for stand-up Maddie LeBlancpaddle boarding could be useful in the fight. With her determined enthusiasm and infectious smile, Maddie set about creating her own fundraising event in her home town of Welland. She tapped into a community of stand-up paddle board enthusiasts to find event sponsors and received a lot of local media interest. Her event, known as On Board, is now in its fourth year and will take place on July 2. Maddie expects she will reach her fundraising goal of $7,000, which would bring her grand total to approximately $22,000 in four years.

We know there are many other St. Paul’s community members raising funds in the fight against cancer and many other similar causes. Please drop us a note to share an update on your efforts.