E3161 Victoria Edwards in conversation with G0055 Valerie Keyes, who served as President of the RMC Club in 1998-99. (4th in a series)
e-veritas: What are you up to these days?
Valerie Keyes: In 2011, I was appointed Project Director Requirements and Director Headquarters Integration, HQ Transformation Project, National Defence Headquarters. The project will mitigate inefficiencies and operational constraints caused by dispersal of DND personnel among 48 buildings across the National Capital Area. It involves the fit up and construction work for as part of the DND consolidation. I am taking a Masters of Science in Leadership through the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. As a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Fencing Federation, I have been rewriting the foundation guidelines in light of recent changes to the Not-for- Profit Corporations Act (Federal and Provincial). I am also on the board of directors of the RA Centre in Ottawa.
e-veritas: How did you end up at RMC?
Valerie Keyes: I was born in Toronto and educated at St Clement’s School, an all-girls private school in Toronto, and the Königin Luisen Stiftung in Berlin, Germany. I received my Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, University of Toronto. I joined the Canadian Forces Communications Reserves in 1975, and was commissioned as a Communications and Electrical Engineering Officer in 1976. I served in both part- and full-time positions, including Deputy Commanding Officer of the Communication Squadrons in Baden-Soellingen, Germany and in Edmonton, Alberta, and as Staff Officer Operations and Training at Command Headquarters in Ottawa. When I came to RMC, under the Post-Graduate Plan, I was the only woman among 700 men. I graduated from the War Studies program with a Master of Arts (History) in 1980, being both the first woman and the first Reservist to do so.
e-veritas: You served as a research assistant for the history department at RMC (1980-3), when the first class of women cadets entered RMC. Outline your primary and secondary role(s).
· I coached the cadets in library research methods: formulating a search, searching for books, journal articles and conference papers using a manual card catalogue, interlibrary loans, evaluating and citing sources. [See RMC’s Research Strategy Tutorial http://www.rmcc.forces.gc.ca/lib-bib/rst-tsr/index-eng.asp]
· I served as the Commandant’s rep to the dining hall committee
· I served as deputy returning officer for two federal elections.
· As a member of the History Department, I helped run the annual military history symposium at RMC.
· As a role model to female cadets, I helped female cadets on an ad hoc basis. For example, I counselled a female cadet, who felt that withdrawing/leaving RMC was the only option, that there were alternatives: staying on her course, changing to another course within RMC; changing to a course at another university; taking a break from her studies; repeat study (assessment task, module or year) etc. Having sought advice, and having considered the alternatives, she was more confident that she made the right decision and made a better argument to RMC administration, which approved her plan.
· As Military Wing Staff Officer, I provided the College leadership some practical advice on the integration of female cadets. For example, I recommended the replacement of the women’s red one piece bathing suits, which tended to become transparent, when wet.
e-veritas: You met your husband at RMC. Any tips on work life balance?
Valerie Keyes: Yes. My husband, 12571 Cdr Keith Keyes (RMC 1980) serves as Personnel Metrics Team – Team Leader (PersMT TL), in Director General Military Personnel, Chief Military Personnel. Our younger son, Alastair, who is in Grade 12 at Ashbury College, is a Canadian Champion fencer who aspires to the Canadian Olympic team while Tristan, who is in his fourth year at King’s College in Halifax, is an Atlantic All Star Varsity rugby player. I’m lucky my husband has always been tremendously supportive of what I do and vice-versa. You have to have a strong partnership. You have to find the right balance. It’s tough. You have to plan ahead. As a wife, mother, daughter, worker and volunteer, there are sometimes not enough hours in the day.
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e-veritas: How did you get involved with RMC Club business? How did you end up as RMC Club president?
Valerie Keyes: I have been a member of the Club since graduation, and have a framed letter from the then Secretary-Treasurer, 2354 Col H.W.C. Stethem (RMC 1933), on my office wall, which announced that I was eligible to join the RMC Club as an associate member. I got involved with RMC Club business because 2435 BGen (Ret’d) Bob Bennett (RMC 1935), who later became an honourary godfather to our children, recruited me in 1986. He felt that it would be neat to have a female RMC alumni/former staff member on the board of the Ottawa Branch of the RMC Club. I served as 2nd VP, 1st VP, and then President of the Ottawa Branch 1992-3. When I was first nominated as 2nd VP of the Ottawa Branch, my nomination had to be held over for a year since associate members were ineligible to serve on the executive. 5244 Tony Downs (RRMC 1962), president of the Ottawa Branch actioned constitutional changes which enable graduate students and University Training Plan Men/Women (now University Training Plan Non Commissioned Members) to have full membership. After the constitution was changed, I was renominated as 2nd president of the Branch, after serving as President of the Ottawa Branch, was elected to the National Executive in 1993. I served as 2nd VP (1996-7), 1st VP (1997-8). I was elected as the first woman President of the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada in September, 1998 and later served as Treasurer of the RMC Foundation.
e-veritas: What were some of the biggest challenges during your tenure as president?
Valerie Keyes: In the 1990s, some of the biggest challenges in the Club related to financial challenges; RMCC & Club eligibility.
In 1995 the two sister Colleges Royal Roads and Saint-Jean were closed, leaving RMC, once again, as Canada’s only military college. While trimming the administrative budget in a time of financial constraints; the RMC Club provided services to ex-cadet membership of the 3 military colleges. There was a lot of grumbling (and resistance) in the Club about the integration of non-traditional alumni into the Club as full members, including their eligibility for Club leadership positions. The reality was that the recruiting base of the Colleges had changed to reflect the Canadian demographics, and the Club had to move with the changes in the make-up of the College programmes; the changes provided a larger financial basis, diversity and greatly expanded the Club’s reach.
RMCC offered a number of programmes and certificates:
· Undergraduate Studies – Bachelor’s Degrees and Certificates as well as
· Graduate Studies – Master’s and Doctoral Degrees
RMCC offered a wider eligibility criteria:
· the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) or the Reserve Entry Training Plan (RETP); or, University Training Program Men/Women (Non Commissioned Members),
· Regular or Reserve Forces and have completed basic MOSID (Military Occupational Structure Identification Code) training.
· honourably released from the Regular or Reserve Forces; or,
· employees of the Department of National Defence (DND), or other Federal government department, or
· the spouse of a member of the CF
e-veritas: What are you most proud of?
Valerie Keyes: I am most proud of helping the RMC club adapt to changing circumstances, including postgraduate, Reserve and women students. The ratification of the club’s new constitution enabled a more diverse population in the Club, which in turn helped the club withstand financial challenges which they might not have been able to do.
e-veritas: What challenges did you struggle with, and were ultimately resolved after your tenure as president?
Valerie Keyes: RMCC international student admissions. When I was on the board, we reluctantly had to accept that international students who made RMC their university of choice would not be able to come to the College. At the time, students who were not Canadian citizens, and had completed secondary school through education systems outside of Canada were ineligible. Since foreign students bring a rich culture to our classrooms, I love to read stories in e-veritas and veritas of International Students at RMCC e.g. DND Sponsored students and/or International Officers attending by letter of invitation.
e-veritas: What do you know of the Club business since you left the board?
Valerie Keyes: Over the years, I have served and work with a number of students and military colleges alumni. Although I have been on the RMC Club periphery in recent years, I read Veritas and e-veritas to keep in touch with Club business and the Military Colleges. Since volunteerism and leadership skills have an impact in our community, I was delighted to read stories about RMC cadets, students and staff volunteering. For example cadets volunteered to help when the Albanian refugees from Kosovo arrived in Kingston in 2000. About 5000 refugees came to during that crisis and many were housed temporarily at Canadian Forces bases across the country, including CFB Kingston.
e-veritas: What are the Club’s/College(s) biggest challenges today?
Valerie Keyes: The mission of the RMC Foundation is to secure and deliver the funds necessary to Enhance Excellence in the attraction, education and training of the students of the Royal Military Colleges. In a time of financial constraints, fundraising is a big challenge today. I took the salute for the first Chasse-Galerie (2001), in which fifteen ex-cadets raised money for the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund by paddling a voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Kingston.
e-veritas: Would you advise alumni to get involved with the RMC Club?
Valerie Keyes: Yes. I recommend getting involved with the Branch or National clubs. For alumni, the Club is a terrific network of contacts in the military, public service, business, and academia located throughout the world. To stay in touch, read e-veritas, participate in club social events, and return to the alumni weekends. The Club supports and develops various activities that benefit both alumni and students. I recommend giving back to the Military Colleges, which have given support, education, and training to alumni. Volunteer opportunities exist at all levels of RMC Club governance and Military College governance (Senate, Board of Governors). Alumni give substantially to the Military College(s), providing funds for student scholarships and bursaries, library acquisitions, professorships and chairs, faculty-based enhancements and other institutional needs. It is helpful to know your roots; Alumni displays, including the RMC Museum and Wall of Honour give students and visitors to campus insight on where alumni are living around the world, distinguished alumni profiles and alumni activity highlights.
e-veritas: Outline your civilian career with the Public Service.
Valerie Keyes: Upon leaving full-time military service in 1987, I joined the Public Service as an Emergency Planning Officer at Public Works Canada, transferring to the Department of National Defence in 1990, as a Cabinet Liaison Officer. I then served as the Defence Policy Advisor in the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat of the Privy Council Office, from 1993 to 1995. From 1995 to 1997, I was the Special Adviser to the Adjutant General of the British Army on matters relating to peacekeeping policies and doctrine, as well as ethos and leadership. I rejoined the Policy Group of the Department of National Defence, responsible for humanitarian assistance operations and United Nations peacekeeping in the Middle East and Europe. I was appointed Executive Director of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council in May 2008, and the Canadian Forces Transformation Team in 2010. My current position contributes to the continued transformative work of the Department. [email protected]