UXBRIDGE, ONT. – It was fitting that Kathy Ward announced her retirement at Canadian Black Book’s annual charity golf tournament.
Fitting because despite her numerous accomplishments during an impressive 36-year career with one of the auto industry’s most venerable institutions, Ward said she was always most proud of how she and her team were able to give back and help children enjoy the wonderful experience of summer camp.
“Every kid should go to camp,” Ward said after receiving special recognition for supporting Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. “There are so many things you can learn from it – the camaraderie and making new friends – I’m so glad that we’ve helped out all these kids.”
Ward was surrounded by friends on Sept. 19 when Canadian Black Book president Brad Rome announced she would be retiring from the company her father Bill Ward started in the family basement in 1961.
“Congratulations on everything you have accomplished. It’s quite an amazing feat,” Rome said in his toast.
Her work with the company dates back to her high school years when she first started attending tradeshows and other industry events. After attending Seneca College for sales and marketing and a brief stint dabbling in the cosmetics space, she was officially on the Canadian Black Book payroll by 1980.
As a young woman in her early 20s, establishing a successful sales position in a male-dominated industry was an uphill climb.
“I was so fortunate to experience that, but I had to be tough,” she said.
As the business evolved from predominantly a publishing house into a provider of data electronically, Ward began to emerge as the driver. Data and the demand for residual values began to surge in the banking and insurance worlds and eventually led to her to taking the reins as president and CEO in 2006.
In 2010, Ward oversaw a paradigm shift at Canadian Black Book, with the release of its data to consumers through CanadianBlackBook.com.
After negotiated the sale of Canadian Black Book to Hearst Business Media in 2015, it seemed a transition for Ward would be likely in the coming years.
Despite her tremendous success in business, Ward told the crowd at Coppinwood Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ont., that she is most proud of her charitable efforts.
This was the 19th year the annual tournament raised money for Tim Horton’s Children Foundation. This year’s event raised $16,240.
John Malcolmson, senior manager of restaurant owner engagement at the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, said of the 50 events held across North America every year benefitting the foundation, 48 are run by the foundation or Horton’s family friends.
“There are only two events run by an outside group; one being this one,” Malcolmson said to a round of applause.
“I want to talk about how important it is to have Kathy. When I think of this tournament, I think of Kathy as a franchisee in terms of her love and her passion and her commitment to this foundation,” he said, noting she was the one who decided the annual golf event should be a charity fundraiser for the foundation.
“Our kids are great kids. Our kids just have no money. They live in low-income situations and don’t have any resources. It was Kathy who wanted to step-up and be committed to help raise money for the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation.”
He said this event has raised well over $350,000 for the foundation.
“The way we interpret that is 350 kids got to go to camp and have a lifetime experience at one of our summer camps.”
Malcolmson gave Ward a special plaque recognizing her charitable efforts. Following that acknowledgement, Larry Shred from Canadian Black Book took the podium to announce the winner of this year’s icon award: the recently retired Ray O’Kane, former managing director and head of national retail dealership finance at BMO.
The humbled O’Kane thanked the crowd for the unexpected honour and credited many in the room for coaching him and helping him learn over the years.
“I’ve always said this is a huge industry that’s actually really small,” he said.
Somewhat lost amid Ward’s retirement announcement and the tribute to O’Kane, was the fact 144 industry people had gathered for a wonderful day at a great golf course.
After a rainout last year, players were treated to a stunning day of sunny skies and fast greens at Coppinwood roughly 45 minutes northeast of Toronto.
The winning group of Paul Stanczak, Kevin Pavey, Denis Schofield and Rick Fraites fired an impressive 59. That bested the second place score of 61 carded by John Currado, Jerry Chinner, Scott Tanner and Kevin Braine.