Much of who Judy was, was nurtured at The Study
Arriving from The Roslyn School, she began her Study career in Grade 5, joining Mu Gamma.
She was a good student, a great reader with a particular love of history. As her sister Kathy Elder (Class of 1975) recalls those were the days when British history was paramount, with at least 4 or 5 years spent studying the kings, queens and battles of England, and about 15 minutes studying Canadian and world history.
It obviously had an enduring impact. In a major speech over 30 years later, Judy talked of her first personal heroine: Queen Elizabeth I.
“I think what I admire most about her is that she recognized early on that it wasn’t about getting somewhere for herself alone. It was about using her superior skills, understanding and vision to take the whole country forward, and doing so meant a lifelong balancing act.
The result was she gave her name to an age, an age in which the accomplishments of others really defined the achievements.”
Once, when asked by Kathy how she could remember so many historical facts, Judy replied that it’s not about memorizing dates and battles, it’s about understanding what motivates people, what psychological or emotional reasons move them to do what they did. The study of history revealed it all.
The notion of motivation underlay her future leadership style. She was ambitious. But for her, “ambition” was just a more focused word for “motivation.” Her concept of ambition, of motivation, was far-reaching. She was ambitious for herself; she was ambitious for her people. She was ambitious for her organization. For her, the three were inextricably linked. For her, ambition was a collective strength, not simply a personal drive. She knew that she could not succeed if her people did not succeed. She knew that her organization could not succeed unless her people moved it to success.
In 1971, her graduation year, Judy headed the drama club. She played the Stage Manager in the school production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town and she directed Edward Albee’s The Sandbox. She always credited her involvement in drama at the school with preparing her well for making business presentations and speaking to large groups. Drama taught her how to engage and entertain her audience, even in the boardroom.
Years later, in talking about leadership, Judy recalled: “I learned early in my school years that a leader needs an effective team. You may be great at basketball but it takes a team to win. You may have a lead role in the play but nothing happens without someone taking responsibility for lighting, set design and costumes. It takes a team to succeed.”
Early on, she demonstrated an independent streak. Kathy remembers her being comfortable challenging or correcting teachers, managing to do so without ever being rude or disrespectful. According to her husband David Powell, while Judy understood the importance of being a “team player”, particularly when working in a large organization, she was never shy in disagreeing with her bosses and clients if she thought it necessary.
In her last year at The Study, in addition to the drama club, she was a house head of Mu Gamma, Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook, worked on the library committee and played on the basketball team. She went on to graduate from St. Lawrence University with an Honours BA in English with her best friend, Daphne Mackenzie (Class of ’71).
After trying different things, Judy joined the marketing department of Armstrong Floor Tiles in Montreal. A year later, she moved to Toronto and began her almost nineteen year career at the advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather where she ultimately became President & Chief Operating Officer of OgilvyOne worldwide Canada, the country’s largest direct marketing agency.
In 1998, she became Vice-President, Communications, IBM Canada, and Director, Integrated Marketing, IBM The Americas, where she had responsibilities for advertising, sports marketing and event marketing in North and South America.
At the time of her death, she was the General Manager of the Consumer Products Division of Microsoft Canada, responsible for among others, MSN.CA and Xbox. She was also Chair of the Canadian Marketing Association, the national non-profit association representing the marketing industry.
On March 7, 2002, Judy gave a speech as part of the Womens’ Television Network - Gift of Wisdom Series ~ Insightful strategies from winning women. The title of the speech was “Mothers, Fathers, Men, Ambition. The people and values that motivate and shape women’s success.”
For the full version of Judy's speech, please click here.
Judy was passionate about inspiring women to be great organizational leaders. She wondered why, when it comes to organizational ambition, the passionate desire to lead complex organizations in business and government, women leaders were so few. It was one of her calls to action to encourage women to understand how to succeed as leaders of large organizations, to acknowledge and be proud of their ambition.
Judy was not embarrassed to say the she was ambitious, of never being satisfied with where she was today, of always wanting the next job up, of wanting to be in charge and being convinced she could do a fine job of it. So she counselled women “at times to be prepared to ‘kick start’ your ambition, whether you find yourself undecided on what to pursue after your first child, asking for your boss’s job, whatever, but kick starting your inner ambition will need to be done at times.” Don’t be afraid to set achievable, practical but not threatening goals, have the vision to see doing your boss’s boss’ job.
The Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends was founded in 2005. The first ten honorees were elected by their peers from over 250 nominees. That first evening honoured Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, Dave Nichol of President’s Choice, Ron Joyce of Tim Hortons, Christine Magee from Sleep Country Canada, Michael Budman and Don Green of Roots, and Judy. Judy was the first named to the “Builder” category - described as “charismatic leaders who have built and enhanced existing brands and in doing so increased the competitive nature of their respective organizations.”
Judy’s message has inspired the creation of The Judy Elder Leadership Award at The Study and “The Judy Project: An Enlightened Forum for Executive Women,” a week-long leadership program for senior women executives, presented by the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. The Judy Project is designed to advance more women into “C-level” positions (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, etc.) and build stronger organizations.
For more information on The Judy Project, please click here.