Andrew Federer: Father, businessman and dedicated BSS community member
Balance isn’t something Andrew Federer has a hard time achieving, in spite of having a lot going on. This BSS dad is also a Vice Chair of the school’s Board of Governors, and divides his time between family, work – as Vice Chairman for RBC Capital Markets and volunteering, serving BSS and other not-for-profits, including the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Board of Trustees. His daughters, Emma and Mimi, came to BSS in 2000 and 2003 respectively, and Mr. Federer started his work with the school not long after, initially becoming a member of the Board of Trustees in 2005, and moving to the Board of Governors in 2012. He recently took time out of his busy – but balanced – schedule to speak with The Link about the importance of girls’ education, giving back and life’s balancing act.
TL: You’re a Vice Chair on the Board of Governors, and you’re part of the Intersection Campaign Cabinet, which helps fundraise for the future of the school. What made you want to get involved in that capacity?
AF: BSS has always been a progressive school, and its physical plan has to evolve with its teaching methods as well. It’s important for the school to undergo the current building project to be cutting edge and at the forefront of girls’ education, not just in Toronto or Canada but in North America. These changes should be impactful in this respect and important for BSS in maintaining its leadership position within the city as well. Just as the improvements that happened in the Junior School several years ago were terrific for the students and truly beneficial to the teaching process, this process will now happen with the Senior School. I’m pleased to help in some way but need to acknowledge that there are many people who have generously given their time and financial support to the project and I am just one of many, believe me.
TL: What made you want to be part of BSS in a larger way, beyond being a parent?
AF: BSS is very close to our family for many reasons. I was initially asked to be involved and was pleased to help, and in addition, my wife Andrea is an Old Girl. This evolved and our desire to ensure that the hopes and goals we have for girls’ education could be achieved. It was really a sense of wanting to give back and wanting to make a contribution to an institution that we admire and wanting to help the school continue to prosper and be successful.
TL: The campaign focuses on investing in girls’ education. Why is this important?
AF: I think it’s important for a number of reasons. I don’t really make a distinction between it being more important to help girls’ education vs. boys’ education, but what I will say is that one of the many things I admire about BSS is that I believe they are investing in and developing future leaders. At times these can be subtle things that can, however, make a difference and impression. It’s things as small as the school focusing on the girls seeing women in leadership positions; the Chair of the Board of Governors is a woman, as is the Head of School. These role models are very important to young girls and women, and it’s important to encourage and be part of that. With a daughter who’s now a young woman, I wanted to ensure that every opportunity is open and available to her.
TL: Have you noticed a difference in fundraising between girls’ and boys’ schools?
AF: We do see circumstances where families give a greater amount to boys’ schools than they do to girls’ schools. For example, we’re closely associated with UCC, and they have historically raised considerably more money than BSS has. This has happened for a number of reasons, including most “Old Boys” have been working for many years and contributing to their schools’ campaigns, whereas it’s only been the past 20+ years or so that the majority of BSS students went into professional careers. An additional reason is there is at times a historical bias and some families choose to give more support to their sons’ schools than their daughters’, for reasons I cannot comprehend, but that’s in fact what happens.
TL: Do you think it will change?
AF: I think it is changing. I hope it’s changing. I’m often surprised that it happens at all, but it does.
TL: What’s the hardest part of being involved in so many things at once?
AF: I think the challenge at times is having many things to do at the same time. Going from one call to another and then into a meeting, etc. That, however, just comes down to organizational skills. I think it’s very important when you take on these commitments that you understand that you’re taking on an obligation so, as a result, at times I decline things if I’m concerned that I can’t give it the attention that I think it will deserve.
TL: Between your family, work and volunteering, you’ve got a lot on your plate. How do you keep everything balanced?
AF: It’s important for me to understand how much time I have for various things and not take on too much. My family always comes first – certainly before my professional life and my volunteer activities. There’s no grey area about that. But I think it’s important to give back. Finding that balance is challenging at times, but overall, I don’t find it that hard to make time and to be well-organized so I can do these things. I’m not someone who enjoys sitting around and not being involved, not being active. So it’s also partially a selfish endeavour in that I enjoy it and I find it rewarding. l