Shawnigan Board Member Alumni Interview: Lisa M. Grover ’90
Lisa M. Grover ’90 (Kaye’s) sat down (virtually) with Rhodri Samuel and Harriet Klumper ’09 (Renfrew) as part of an ongoing series featuring the stories that make up the legacy of Shawnigan alumni. As our monthly Board Member Alumni feature, Lisa shared her experiences from Shawnigan and how this shaped her and her experiences since.
Lisa was one of the first 36 women to attend Shawnigan in 1988, and has actively been involved in the community since. She currently sits on the Board of Governors, and chairs the Alumni Engagement Committee. Lisa has been practicing law in Banff and Canmore, Alberta since 1997, and currently runs a law firm, Grover-Froese Laywers and Mediators, with her husband, Rod Froese.
HK: What is your favourite memory of Shawnigan that stands out?
LG: There are three memories that come to mind. Interestingly enough, all three of them involve the first 36 female students of Shawnigan.
The first memory that always makes me smile illustrates how the first 36 began to find their place on campus. There were a lot of mixed emotions when the first class of female students joined Shawnigan. We were very much aware of that, very much aware of not knowing our place and we were tremendously nervous about it all. In the first term, we had our first Interhouse competition, and it was the first time Schoolhouse, a girls’ house, was competing against the boys. We were in the common area of Schoolhouse, and Leslie Reid, our house director, was announcing the points total for the Interhouse Academic Competition. We were waiting for third place for Schoolhouse, and we didn’t get it; then we were waiting for second place for Schoolhouse, and we didn’t get it; finally Leslie announced that Schoolhouse won first place and we absolutely erupted.
HK: When I was looking for photos for this interview, I ended up reading the yearbook from that year and it’s not just that you won the Interhouse Academic Competition… you trounced the competition! It was 36 points for Schoolhouse and the next was 26! Schoolhouse showed up that year, it was fantastic.
LG: Yes, we definitely showed up! Harriet, it’s fantastic that you were able to find that. I have often wondered if that memory is real or whether I have exaggerated it in my mind.
HK: No, it’s immortalized! Well done.
LG: Yes, we certainly felt confident, and knew that we had a place at Shawnigan. It really brought us together, that moment of sheer hysterical joy.
In comparison, the second memory is very collaborative with the boys and took place at my first field hockey on-campus match. I had never been on any formal sports team, I was asked to be a captain, and I was terrified. We were playing our first match on the top field, past all the rugby pitches, and I was thinking no one was going to come support us. Then suddenly, as the game started, we saw the boys rushing the field to cheer us on.
I was a little surprised to be honest, but there the boys were, on the sidelines, cheering us on. I immediately felt part of Shawnigan; part of this magical community. That was a pivotal point for me – this was early on in the year, and it was very powerful to feel the boys support.
Lastly, my third Shawnigan memory is a much more recent memory, but also involves the first 36. In 2019 the School hosted the celebration of 30 years of coeducation on campus. I think that aligned with your ten-year reunion?
HK: It did!
LG: Yes! It was a really meaningful event. We wanted to make sure alumni and past staff came back and were recognized and celebrated, as the transition to coeducation was such a significant shift in the School. I helped to plan the event and there were certainly some doubts in my mind about how it would be received. Out of the first 36 women, 25 of them flew in from all over the world. It was the largest attended Founder’s Day, larger than the Centennial. It speaks volumes about the strength of a community in transition. 30 years later we all came together and celebrated together. It is a memory I’ll never forget.
HK: Who was the most influential person for you at Shawnigan, and why?
LG: You have to indulge me, because I could go on all day about influential adults on campus! I will pick a few, but please know that the list goes on. I feel like I grew up on campus, and every time I come back for a Board meeting or Shawnigan event, it feels like coming home.
Firstly, I can’t speak about influential people at Shawnigan without discussing my advisor, Elizabeth Leary. Liz had such a tremendous impact on me while I was at Shawnigan that my parents insisted that she be appointed the advisor for my two younger sisters. My sisters and I still refer to Liz as our adopted Aunt.
Both Liz and Dave Leary supported me greatly on campus. Essentially, they both embraced my personality and that gave me confidence. That gave me an appreciation of each person’s uniqueness. I think Liz’s greatest influence on me was that she taught me to be confident in myself, to be true to myself, and to define my own path. The dialogues we’re having with young people today are not the dialogues we were having thirty years ago, but Liz was clear–and so was Dave–they recognized students’ uniqueness and fostered their strengths. They were ahead of their time!
Come graduation I was terrified, who isn’t terrified to leave the comforts and security of Shawnigan and that incredible community. I remember Liz pulling me aside and telling me: “You’re going to be perfectly fine. You have what you need, go get what you want.”
Recalling this memory and Liz’s influence on me still astonishes me. I was at Shawnigan for two years. It was only two years! I have often wondered how the Leary’s had such an influence in such a short period of time. That speaks volumes to the dedication of the Shawnigan staff.
Secondly, I cannot talk about Shawnigan without talking about Mark Hall. Mark taught me how to lean into leadership. I would not have embraced leadership roles without his mentorship.
Then everyone’s favorite: Lynne Grass. If you want to talk about leadership, Lynne Grass taught me about leadership in a way that I never knew before. Firstly, she taught me about female leadership. While I was on campus Lynne quietly and confidently led. She protected her young women and, through her actions, taught me that women must support women.
Lynne also taught me that leadership comes in many forms. Lynne led in a strong, quiet, consistent manner. To learn about that style of leadership as a sixteen-year-old girl: that’s powerful. In my life, and in my career, I have created a business based on women supporting women. I credit Lynne for that.
Lastly: the late, great Peter Yates. I had the great honour of Peter teaching and coaching me in rowing as the varsity coxen for the boys. He taught me how to work among men. He absolutely taught me how to stand in my own space among men, and in my legal career, I had to do that right from the onset. I’m forever grateful to Peter for his lessons.
HK: In what ways did your Shawnigan experience shape your life after?
LG: That’s a big question.
HK: It’s a big question. It’s a thread you could unravel an entire sweater with.
LG: I feel like it’s in the finer details that Shawnigan really shines. For me, Shawnigan raised the bar with respect to all the finer details. It taught me about the need for community, to give back, and to stay connected. I am certain I would not have had the relationships and learnings I had at Shawnigan at a different school.
I learned that community has a direct connection to happiness when I experienced life at Shawnigan. All the research and data show us that connectedness and community raises our happiness and joy. But I don’t know if I would have seen it as clearly if I hadn’t lived it at Shawnigan.
HK: What made you decide to become a member of the Shawnigan Board of Governors?
LG: It all comes back to the influence that Shawnigan had on me and how positively it impacted my adolescence and who I am today. Consequently, I am going to work extremely hard to ensure that other young people can have the Shawnigan experience. If I can play a small role in that delivery, and have young people 30 or 40 years out reflect and perhaps recognize, “oh, it was the finer details that really changed my life;” that’s why I do it. I do it because I benefited so greatly from Shawnigan and I want that benefit to always continue.
HK: How has being on the Board changed your perspective of Shawnigan?
LG: Again, it comes back to the staff, who were so influential in my life. The campus is beautiful. We have a world class facility, and we are so proud of it, but that’s not what makes us special and unique. That’s not what hones in on those finer details. It’s the people working on that campus, facilitating, and delivering on that incredible education, which is a life education not necessarily just an academic one.
As a fifteen-, sixteen- and seventeen-year-old, I took it all for granted. Of course the staff worked hard! Now being on the Board, I know how hard they work. Our staff live and breathe this; this is their delivery; this is who they are. This is not a job; this is a life. That has come through to me loud and clear on the Board: how blessed I was to have been granted a Shawnigan education and how blessed our students are. If they don’t realize it now, they will realize it later.
For me, what is so clear and so special is the connections that we all have that are fostered and nurtured through a great love of our School. Where else is there an environment that creates that connectedness? We all are connected through this love and strong desire to give youth the tools to go out as global citizens and improve the world in their own unique way. This is what Shawnigan does.
The interview featured in this article has been shortened for clarity and brevity.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.