Wendy Hannam was raised with a “give back” message even before she appeared on CBC’s Reach for the Top quiz show as a teenager in 1975.
“We were recording at the CBC studios, and every day we would pass the university,” said Ms. Hannam (B.Comm.(Hons.)(Co-op.)’82).
“It was a dream of mine to attend. Without scholarships, that would have been difficult for me. For me, it’s all about helping others have the same opportunities I did.”
Heart with Memorial
After a year of studying French and German at Memorial, Ms. Hannam moved into the business program.
She took every opportunity to not only ensure her academics thrived, but to become actively involved in student life.
“Jim Barnes was the dean at the time and he was incredibly supportive of us as students. He was also a great marketing prof,” she remembered.
“Alex Faseruk, who was new to Memorial back then, started the very first team for the case competition that I was a part of. It has been so gratifying for me to see how well Memorial has done in that competition since, with Canadian and international awards, showcasing our students at such a high level.”
She has lived in Toronto for 40 years, but her heart is very much with her Memorial roots: she is still in contact with some of her 1982 classmates, who she says she would look forward to seeing every day in the society room.
“All of my great memories from my Memorial degree are wrapped up in the class and activities that we did together.”
Particularly memorable was organizing a Business Day, which she thinks might have been one of the first in a now 50-year tradition. A number of “firsts” came from the event.
“We organized speakers to come from the business community and talk about issues relevant to the community and the province,” she recalled.
“We ran the very first Academy Awards of Commerce, which I initiated and chaired. Jim Barnes created the first Dean’s Awards and I was one of the recipients. The awards were designed not just for academic achievement, but for contribution to student life and to the school overall. All of my great memories from my Memorial degree are wrapped up in the class and activities that we did together.”
Her biggest piece of advice to students and alumni is to get engaged, and form authentic connections.
“I would never recommend that someone get into a networking activity just to see what they can get out of it. People see through that right away,” she advised.
“Whether it’s volunteering, student life or work life, do things to the best of your ability. Get engaged in whatever is going on. Are there volunteer organizations that are important to your work? Special projects that are important to your organization? Getting engaged enriches the experience so much more.”
Ms. Hannam’s advice is sound. She was executive vice-president of Scotiabank from 2004–14 and is a graduate of the University of Toronto, the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD and the ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program.
She has served on the boards of several business, arts and community organizations, including the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, the Canadian Club and the Toronto Children’s Chorus.
She is currently a director of Encore Capital Inc, a U.S. public financial services company, where she chairs the risk committee. She is also a board member of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where she established a full tuition scholarship.
At Memorial, she established two Wendy Hannam Bursary in Business awards and the Wendy Hannam Scholarship in Business. She also made a generous bequest to Memorial in her will.
Zackary Grohman, a student who recently received support from Ms. Hannam, is all too familiar with the financial struggles that accompany the pursuit of a degree.
“I wish I could better express my gratitude through words, because it truly did bolster my motivation to complete my degree, and to not give up when things get academically or financially overwhelming,” he said.
“She has not only inspired me to keep trying my best, but also to someday give to future undergraduate students through scholarships and bursaries, as well.”
Ms. Hannam echoes the sentiment.
“Education is foundational to a civil society and is increasingly important in this world we live in,” she said.
“When donating, people shouldn’t be ashamed if they start with a small amount. I did. Throughout my career I increased my giving, and when I retired, I established the bursaries and scholarships, and increased my legacy gift.”
For those who are interested in following Ms. Hannam’s example of helping students reach for the top, please visit the Office of Development website.