We are delighted to introduce Mr. John Rolfe, our incoming Director of Advancement.
John was born in London, Ontario and spent his childhood between Tillsonburg and Fergus. He attended the University of Guelph and earned a bachelor’s degree in politics. While he initially intended to work in politics, John found work and success in fundraising – first for charities in Ontario, followed by stints with the University of Guelph and the University of Alberta. In 1997, John and his family moved to England where he worked for The Scout Association. In 2007, he began working at Shrewsbury School as Foundation Director.
John and his wife, Karen, have two adult children: Madeline and Evan. They also have a 13-year-old chocolate Lab named Harold.
Let’s get to know John better:
What drew you to SMUS?
I’ve been dedicated to education for 25 years and after having worked in England for 13 years I see this as a wonderful opportunity to move back to Canada to be part of a great school and a great community. I like providing access; I like that this role allows me to broaden a child’s horizons and make a difference in their life by giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.
What was the best class you took in school?
Any of the politics or world politics courses at the University of Guelph that were taught by Professor Graf. He was knowledgeable and passionate, and most importantly he made emotional connections with his students.
What was your first-ever job?
I worked on a tobacco farm as a primer when I was 12. A primer is someone who picks the leaves off the tobacco plant. It was tough work, but it paid well.
What do you do on a day off?
I wash the car, I do the chores and because my wife is a heritage planner we generally go for a hike to visit a heritage site. And a perfect day for me finishes with a sunset BBQ.
What should parents know about your team in Advancement?
I would say from initial impressions, it’s a committed team of advancement professionals who care deeply about the betterment of SMUS.
What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I’d like to be remembered as being a good father, husband, family member and citizen. Another goal I’d like to achieve is to one day build a log cabin. I like working with wood and I’ve always enjoyed the wilderness, so I think it’s a worthy goal.
What are you passionate about that the SMUS community might not know about you?
I like visiting sports venues. I enjoy going to NHL, NFL, MLB and Formula One events not just for the game but to be in the parks, arenas and stadiums. I enjoy being in these iconic buildings that have seen so many special moments.
What is one achievement in your professional life you’re most proud of?
In my current role I have truly helped change the landscape of Shrewsbury School, both in terms of the physical landscape but also the landscape in how the school fundraises. That’s a lot of fun when it’s a 460-year-old school. We have built more than one building every other year for the past 13 years, but we’ve also exponentially increased our bursarial provisions and I like being part of both of those processes.
If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
We currently live on the battlefield for the 1403 Battle of Shrewsbury, which was a battle between King Henry IV and Harry Hotspur, so I think it would be fascinating to see what was going on at the time on the spots where I walk my dog.
What are you currently reading?
The Canadian “Emma Gees” by C.S. Grafton. It’s a historical account of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps during the First World War. My grandfather was in the Emma Gees, and was a machine gunner and war hero. Incidentally, my grandfather was born 10 miles away from where I currently live in Shropshire.
What are you most looking forward to as Director of Advancement at SMUS?
I’m looking forward to making a marked difference in the way the school fundraises while embracing all the things the school does well. I want to do what I always do, which is come in, work hard, apply myself, increase bursarial support and help fund capital campaigns, as outlined in the future Strategic Plan.