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Lesley Dunning inspired by daughter Logan to do her MBA

Conventional wisdom says a daughter follows in her mother’s footsteps, but in the Dunning family, the shoe was definitely on the other foot.
Paul Dalby
Lesley Dunning inspired by daughter Logan to do her MBA

A mere three months after watching her daughter Logan Dunning, Class of 2008, graduate with her MBA from Queen’s, Leslie Dunning found herself on campus, ready to start an MBA of her own from her daughter’s alma mater.

“It all happened on January 16, 2008, which was not only Logan’s birthday but also my 30th anniversary at the Canadian Red Cross,” said Leslie, Director General,Western Canada for the Canadian Red Cross in Calgary, AB.

“I was going to a meeting in Toronto at the Sheraton Centre, and as I walked through the doors I realized it was in this very hotel that I had gone to my first Red Cross meeting 30 years before,” she said. “Then, as I walked through the lobby, there was a sign that said a Queen’s MBA information session was going to be held at noon that day, and I thought, what a coincidence!”

Dunning senior decided to drop in at the session to see what her daughter had been studying at Queen’s School of Business. Forty-five minutes later she returned to her hotel room, having just completed her application to enroll at Queen’s, sent away for her references, requested transcripts from her undergraduate university and emailed her family to break the news.

“It was totally not planned and totally not expected, but I felt I was not too old to learn some new tricks,” she said.

In August 2008, the mother-daughter role reversal kicked into high gear when Logan, an engineer with AltaGas in Calgary, picked up her mother at the family cottage in Bracebridge, ON, and delivered her to university.

“Taking her to Queen’s instead of the other way ‘round was pretty funny,” Dunning junior recalled. “I helped her unpack in her room and got her settled in for her first residential session in Kingston.”

There were even a few sage words of advice from daughter to mom about that other extra-curricular activity embraced by all students: pub nights.

“I kind of a joked with her that having lived in Kingston, I knew all the pubs and I was warning her of the ones I didn't want her going into,” she said. “But I did tell her it was very important that she get out and socialize with her classmates.”

Leslie embraced her daughter’s advice and hung out with members of her team on many occasions to get to know them better. It helped her to adjust to the fact that she was easily the oldest student in the class.

“The average age of my teammates is 38 and there are two guys who are in their 20s, so together they add up to my age,” she said with a laugh. “But the team experience was one of the highlights for me. It was huge.”

The only real difference between the mother and daughter experience is that Logan completed her MBA on-campus at Queen’s in 12 months of full-time study, while Leslie spent 15 months in the School’s Executive MBA program while she continued to work. The format of the EMBA enabled her to remain in Calgary, since classes are delivered through a combination of interactive videoconferences and several residential sessions in Kingston. Leslie completed her coursework in November and will graduate in May.

Both women agree on one thing: Their time at Queen’s was “terrific.”

This story was originally published by the Toronto Star on Sept. 10, 2009. It has been edited for publication in QSB Magazine with the author’s permission.

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