We are delighted to introduce Denise Rees, Alumni Relations Officer, to the SMUS community.
Denise was born in Montague, Prince Edward Island. She was raised in a small, tight-knit PEI village and was drawn to the bright lights of the big city after high school – so she moved to Vancouver. She met her husband, SMUS alumnus Gareth Rees ’85, in 1996. She joined Gareth in the United Kingdom in 2000 and they returned to Vancouver in 2002. They came to Victoria in 2012 before the birth of their second son.
Denise and Gareth have two boys, Lleyton and Guy.
Let’s get to know Denise better:
What excites you about the Alumni Relations Officer role?
Over the past 15 years, I’ve really been embraced by this community – and the chance to now get a different perspective and wear a different hat is really exciting. My primary background is in leadership development and team development; identifying common goals and helping people find their individual path to it, so I’m excited to be able to bring that to SMUS. I’ve always had a great experience with the school and I look forward to getting to share my passion for it.
What drew you to SMUS?
I was introduced to SMUS through my husband and his family. I had no choice but to be immersed into this environment and I was so pleased by how genuinely welcoming the people here are. It feels like home. I’ve gotten to know alumni at the school and there is a passion that is palpable when listening to them speak about being a student here. Most recently, it was Ken Oppel at the Founders and Scholars Dinner who, when recalling his time at SMUS as an awkward, introverted, non-athletic type, spoke about teachers seeing his potential and encouraging him to create his own path. I love the fact that SMUS embraces individuality and diversity while still seeking excellence.
How do you spend a day off?
Family time with my boys and my husband. We love to go to the beach or take little road trips. I wouldn’t say I’m outdoorsy but when coaxed, I realize how much I love it – especially with family.
What’s one accomplishment in your life you’re proud of?
Through all my different experiences, professionally and personally, I’ve maintained my strong character and strong personality. I’ve always stayed true to myself.
What’s been the most memorable gift you’ve received?
A really wholesome upbringing that laid the foundation for how I raise my children. I really am a small-town island girl so I wanted to raise our boys surrounded by family on a coast. Two of my siblings now live in Victoria and Gareth’s family is here. I really see it as a gift that I was able to grow up in the same community my parents grew up in.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about friends, family and having good times and making genuine connections with people. And watching British crime dramas.
What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I’d like my boys to experience a bit of what my childhood was like – very family-oriented, so I’d love to have a cottage by the beach in PEI that my family visits every summer.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I come from a musical family. Even though the most singing I do now is here in Chapel services or Remembrance Day ceremonies, I do have a decent singing voice.
What are you looking forward to about Alumni Weekend?
The beer tent! But also getting to be involved and connect with people in a different capacity. I’ve been to a lot of Alumni Weekends so a lot of alumni aren’t strangers. I’m excited to hopefully help them continue to connect or reconnect with the school in different ways. I’m also really looking forward to flipping pancakes with David Angus because we bring our kids to that every year.
When people meet you at Alumni Weekend, what’s the best way to break the ice?
I’m a fan of a witty one-liner to strike up a conversation. Anything with a good mix of humour and humility.
Get in touch with Denise! You can connect with her by email or give her a call at 250-519-7508.