The 28th annual Elmwood School Gala won me over with its title alone: Ahead by a Century.
So what if it was only by coincidence the name of a Tragically Hip song; it was still a promising sign for an evening that ended up raising a whopping $280,000 and attracting a sold-out crowd of 270 to the all-girls private school in Rockcliffe Park.
The $275-a-ticket event was organized by a volunteer group of Elmwood parents and led by a pair of powerhouses: Denise Carruthers, who was a founding partner and chief financial officer of a software company specializing in petroleum exploration (it was purchased by a Fortune 200 company in 2010), and Whitney Fox, a Harvard-educated lawyer and long-time co-chair of The Ottawa Hospital Gala. She's also married to Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg.
It was an evening for community building, with a guest list that included Mayor Jim Watson, Shopify golden boy Harley Finkelstein, CTV political journalist Evan Solomon, Canadian ski racer Erik Guay, and Roger Greenberg, executive chairman of both Minto Group and of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. Elmwood alumnae and Sakto Corp. chairwoman Jamilah Taib Murray (‘82) was gala patron.
All the money raised Saturday night is being directed toward the school’s financial aid program to help deserving students attend Elmwood and to help renovate the school’s science labs.
Last school year, Elmwood went really big on its 100th birthday, throwing a gala dinner featuring Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
“Really, our centennial was an opportunity in many ways to celebrate our history and our past and our traditions, and now we’re very much focused on the next century,” Elmwood head Cheryl Boughton told OBJ.social. “We’re looking ahead to the future, and what the future of the school holds.”
That’s where the gala theme of Ahead by a Century comes in. Last year, not only did all of the Elmwood graduates get accepted into university but 87 per cent of them received scholarships, totalling $2.3 million. A student from this year's graduating class is headed off to Harvard. Moreover, half the graduates over the past five years have gone on to study science, technology, engineering and math
On the subject of science and tech, Carruthers and her husband, Dan Carruthers, paid $15,000 during the live auction for the opportunity to go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch SpaceX launch its Falcon 9 rocket. Meanwhile, back on earth in Ottawa, a private tour of Shopify with lunch brought in $4,000.
Taib Murray raised $3,000 by offering to host up to 20 girls for a mini-leadership summit involving female Ottawa business leaders at her home, during high tea. A private fashion show with bonus store credits at couturier Frank Sukhoo’s boutique on Dalhousie Street brought in $6,000.
Artist Christopher Griffin’s donated Canoe painting sold for $8,500 -- thousands of dollars beyond its valued price of $5,000.
A dinner for 10 to be hosted at the home of Irish Ambassador Jim Kelly and his wife, Anne Martin, raised $7,750 while a four-course tasting menu for up to 30 people at Fraser Café, in partnership with Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts, sold for $6,000.
A dreamy trip for foodies and wine lovers, from Tuscany Culinary Escape, sold to the five highest bidders, at $5,250 each.
The black-tie crowd dined in the school’s gymnasium, which was transformed into a stunning ballroom by special event production company Event Design. But, here’s the most telling sign that a good time was had: partygoers danced late into the night and still had more moves left in them when the lights finally came back on and the band was packing up.