A great education opens doors. It offers insight into how people outside one’s community live, preparation for building a successful career, and a chance to form meaningful friendships with curious and ambitious classmates. Nancy Thornton is happy to say that she got the full package while studying Political Science at Glendon College.
“One of the most important contributions that Glendon made to my life was the friendships acquired during Orientation Week in September 1969,” Nancy shares. “Now, more than 50 years later, those five women that met in first year have maintained our friendships, despite at times many miles of separation and very diverse life experiences. While we now don’t sit on the floor and talk until 4am, we do share an unbreakable bond.”
During her time at Glendon, Nancy participated in an exchange program to Laval University where she experienced firsthand how challenging it is to be a minority in a larger society.
“Having to operate on a daily basis in class and out of class in a second language brought home to me the stresses felt when people are put into situations outside of their ‘norm’. Additionally, this was a vehicle for a greater experience of French-Canadian life and what it meant and continues to mean to Canada.”
This experience was one of the reasons Nancy decided to make a generous donation of $100,000, as well as a future bequest, to create the Thornton Exchange Bursary.
“Besides an improved facility with the language, I trust that the experience will give students confidence to test themselves, the self-reliance to live is a new setting, and the awareness that language may separate us but basically, we all share hopes and dreams.
“When you travel, you encounter experiences very different to what your ‘normal’ life provides. When you adapt and appreciate the difference, your philosophy and understanding of the greater world increases. Being adaptable, flexible, and having empathy for those undergoing change helps prepare people to take on new challenges.”
Indeed, this willingness to go outside of her comfort zone, whether by going on exchange to Laval or learning French at the university level, has served Nancy well throughout her career. After graduating in 1973, Nancy began a 35-year career in banking where her education served as preparation for everything from product management to negotiation to reviewing legal documents. She recalls one meeting in particular where her French fluency proved invaluable.
“Understanding spoken French served me well in a negotiation meeting to acquire the assets of another bank. Their representatives at the table were discussing, in French, some of the issues with their portfolio. These were issues which would impact the bank’s ability to convert their assets to our bank’s operating system. Having understood their issues with their system, the appropriate measures were put in place, and the acquisition eventually succeeded.”
In retirement, Nancy focuses on improving her community through volunteer work with organizations like the Glenview Presbyterian Church, where she helps develop programs with the Order of St. Lazarus, including the promotion of palliative care.
“Volunteering for me means deploying my skills and experience and not letting them wane. It also gives me the opportunity to work with people who share my beliefs and commitment, making new friends as we work together.”
Neya Abdi, BA’16 International Studies
Published in April 2021