Three York alumni make Canada’s Top 40 Under 40

The Top 40 Under 40 has become one of Canada’s most anticipated awards events for its heralding of young executives. Sponsored by Canadian executive search firm Caldwell Partners, the awards were presented in Toronto on May 6. This year, three York alumni were among the recipients – all of them graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School.

“Law is something my parents thought I would be good at when I was younger because I was always the child who would challenge things, and question and argue everything,” York alumna Terrie-Lynne Devonish (BA ’92, LLB ’95), told The Globe and Mail. Devonish was appointed to the York University Board of Governors in 2005 and currently serves as a member of the Academic Resources and Governance & Human Resources Committees. She is also a co-chair of the Annual Terrie-Lynne DevonishFund team supporting the University’s York to the Power of 50 fundraising campaign.

Right: Terrie-Lynne Devonish

Devonish is chief counsel at Aon Canada, a global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital consulting services. She previously held positions as chief general counsel at Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc., general counsel at HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. and associate at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Toronto.

Devonish has a strong commitment to her community, as shown by her membership and involvement in the Black Business and Professional Association, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Volunteer Lawyers Service and the Harry Jerome Scholarship Fund. She is also a previous winner of the Harry Jerome Award, the proceeds of which helped fund her law studies at Osgoode. Her BA is in political science from Glendon.

Pernille M.K. Ironside (LLB ’99) is a passionate humanitarian dedicated to improving the lives of people in conflict-affected areas. Currently serving as a Canadian aid worker for UNICEF, Ironside has focused her energies on international human Pernille Ironsiderights and justice issues. She has worked with the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF in New York, where she helped launch major initiatives to improve the protection of civilians and monitoring of child rights violations in areas of armed conflict. Ironside, 34, of Edmonton, Alberta, received the award for her ongoing work as a protection specialist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Left: Pernille Ironside

“It’s toughest when I interview the children on a one-on-one basis, to hear the tiny voice explaining the horrific things that happened to them,” she told The Globe and Mail. “But it is also awe-inspiring to see how courageous they are, and so rewarding to see the relief and joy in their eyes when they realize they are coming into protective care.”

“My experiences have been profound, humbling and inspiring,” said Ironside. “Certainly, I did not imagine that following my dream of working on issues of human rights would one day lead me here. This award reflects a collective effort to protect and advance the lives of Congolese children and women.”

Joe Johnson Jr.Joe Johnson Jr. (LLB ’94) is one of three brothers who own and operate Joe Johnson Equipment Inc., a family-owned business started over 20 years ago by their father. It specializes in municipal and contractor equipment for snow and ice control, hydroexcavation, sewer cleaning, road maintenance and refuse and recycling collection, as well as after-sales parts and service.

Right: Joe Johnson Jr.

The company, which Johnson has led since his father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996, has since expanded and now has offices in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and New York State.

Initially, the new president had to work hard to build relationships with customers and suppliers, Johnson told The Globe and Mail. "As far as they were concerned, I’m just a young snot-nose, a silver-spoon-in-the-mouth type of lawyer that has been entrusted with this role." But it all worked out in the end. Joe Johnson Equipment now has annual sales of $75 million and offices across Canada, as well as one in Rochester, NY.

The Top 40 Under 40 award winners were chosen from among 1,600 nominees based on five key criteria including: vision and leadership; innovation and achievement; impact; community involvement and contribution; and strategy for growth. The winners will attend a two-day conference featuring presentations by business leaders and an opportunity to network with hundreds of guests, many of whom are Top 40 alumni.

For further material from the York winners’ Globe interviews, see York in the Media.