York grad’s rise to Amex top job reflects her ambition

Fifteen years – and three maternity leaves – ago, Denise Pickett strode into the American Express Canada Inc. lobby, dropped off a resumé, and made her pitch to "Amy, the lady at the front desk," began a Globe and Mail feature May 2 on the York grad. Amy evidently saw potential in the ambitious MBA just three years out of school. The resuméwas forwarded, Pickett got the call and she left her sales position at a technology firm to take on an entry-level role as assistant manager of retention marketing. Her job was to "save customers" who were thinking of leaving Amex, recalls Pickett, now 41 and newly installed in the corner office as president and chief executive officer of Amex Canada.

With tremendous backup from colleagues, starting with the now-retired Amy, and considerable support from her husband, Andrew – who mans the kitchen most weeknights – Pickett says she is managing to do it all. Corporate policies that support flexible work arrangements, such as working from home on occasion, have also helped along the way.

Pickett (neé Dalton), who studied physiology and human biology as an undergraduate before earning her masters of business administration degree in 1990 from York University’s Schulich School of Business, says she has always been purposeful about making career choices. "I have been purposeful about doing different jobs and I have been purposeful about taking leadership development opportunities," she says.

Bertha Wilson was an inspiration

In a letter to The Globe and Mail published May 2, Pam Marshall (LLB ’93, LLM ’98) of Winnipeg wrote: I was 36 when I entered law school in 1990. Learning that Bertha Wilson was also a "mature student" was an inspiration to me throughout my years at Osgoode Hall Law School. In my final year, I was fortunate enough to be a participant in the inaugural Wilson Moot, which was created in her honour. Imagine my delight when I learned that Bertha Wilson herself would judge the final and attend the banquet. I was thrilled to be able to talk with her. The photo taken that evening with her and my mooting team is a treasured keepsake.

Former FES dean wins Green Toronto Award

The Green Toronto Awards were launched three years ago and come with a $5, 000 prize, donated to an environmental organization of the winner’s choice, reported the Toronto Star May 2. This year, 178 nominations were reduced to 30 finalists in 10 categories. David Bell, professor emeritus and former dean of environmental studies at York University, received the award for leadership in sustainable development.

Ontario’s RC school funding violates international law, says prof

In a letter to the National Post published May 2, York humanities Prof. Eric Lawee wrote: David Asper writes that "on the international stage, our government has agreed to a level of rights protection that we choose to ignore under our domestic law." He notes that the disparity is especially evident in the spheres of social and economic rights. Note, however, that Canada’s failure to abide by its international commitments in the areas of religious rights is at least as glaring. In 1999, the UN human rights committee ruled that Ontario’s full funding of one religion’s schools to the total exclusion of others violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Canada in 1976, with written approval of all provinces. Since then, Canada has been in open violation of international human rights law.

York PhD student wins Casino Rama award

York doctoral student Brent Debassige, a member of M’Chigeeng First Nation (West Bay), has won a Casino Rama Award of Excellence for postsecondary Aboriginal students, reported the Orillia Packet and Times May 2. Debassige, who is doing a PhD in education, won a $4,000 award for graduate students.

Canadian Stage hires York production manager

Alistair Hepburn, currently production manager in York’s Theatre Department, joins Canadian Stage on June 4 as director of production, reported The Globe and Mail May 2 in a story about CanStage, one of Canada’s largest not-for-profit theatre companies, changing its management structure and returning to the name it used to have.

Former York Lions in running for CFL draft

Speculation over the prospects of two former York Lions surfaced in May 2 stories citing the Canadian Press about the 2007 Canadian Football League Canadian college draft. The Calgary Herald listed Andre Durie a top prospect: Calling the former York University star running back a top draft prospect might be a stretch considering he hasn’t played since suffering a horrific knee injury in 2005. But in the last two weeks, the amiable Mississauga, Ont., native has run the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds or faster, prompting suggestions he’s close to the form he displayed in college. (Durie attended York from 2003 to 2005.) The Vancouver Sun also cited CP May 2 in a story that said the BC Lions have offered to trade sophomore linebackers Jason Pottinger, who played collegiately at McMaster, and York University grad Ricky Foley for No. 1 pick defensive tackle J.P. Bekasiak and Hamilton’s veteran Canadian linebacker Augustin Barrenchea.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, commented on the rising price of gas, on CBC TV’s "The National" May 1. 
  • York business administration student Lawrence Krimker talked about the grassroots students group he organized called Ace York, which aims to rehabilitate the Jane Finch neighbourhood through the Jump Start! program they started, targeting at-risk youth by teaching them the skills to start their own business, on "Toronto at Noon" on CFRB-AM May 1.