Susan McIsaac – WOMAN of ACTION™


A Celebration of Women™

is excited to Celebrate the Life of this woman, born into a loving and Faith filled family,  who has devoted over 20 years of her life working to help others, in the NON-PROFIT sector.  Her diligence and perseverence in a very tough business of  ‘fundraising‘  has lead her to the Top of the UNITED WAY, Canada.  Our World is priviledged to have this Canadian Woman with the leadership qualities and human spirit that this Lady possesses. 

Susan is and will always be a wonderful Power of Example to all!





Susan McIsaac


Born in Winnipeg, the sixth of eight children, she moved to north Toronto with her family when she was 6. Because her developer dad’s business often took him to Bermuda, the McIsaacs decamped to the subtropical island, where Susan attended in junior high and high school.

But after their father had a massive stroke at age 49, one from which he never recovered, it was back to Toronto.

Possibly that was one of the things that made us tight,” she says, joking that her family was almost embarrassingly functional.

When you have something like that happen, it pulls you close together, and it pulled us close around my mum.”

After high school, she went to Queen’s for a BA in Canadian Studies. Then she joined Canada Trust, where she showed promise as a manager.

“I was good at it, but I didn’t love it,” she recalls.

 “So I went to an industrial psychiatrist who helped me understand what was out there, what I wanted, what I was passionate about.” 

I had always cared an awful lot about community, about making a difference. When he identified that as a possible career — not just a passion, but a career — it quickly became clear to me that was where I wanted to go.” 

In 1989, McIsaac moved into the not-for-profit sector and “never wanted to leave.”

Up by 4:30 a.m., she’s in the office by 7:30, relishing the early morning hours. I love my solitude then,” she says. “Through the day there is a lot of high-level stimulation, so that time of the morning is peaceful to me. That’s a great time to collect my thoughts.”

Although she has no biological children, her marriage to “newly retired and loving it” Norm Brignall made her a stepmother. They live together in the midtown area, their base for exploring Toronto and enjoying everything the city has to offer. They also love to travel, which is the only time when McIsaac can indulge in reading fiction.

I’ve been told I am anti-social while I am on vacation,” she admits, referring to how she buries herself in novels.


Family occupies what little spare time McIsaac has.

Fr. Peter McIsaac was recently appointed as the new Regional Superior of the Jesuits in Jamaica by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, the Superior General of the Society of the Jesuits. Fr. McIsaac succeeds Fr. Jim Webb and will take up his position on June 1, 2006.


Susan’s Brother, Father Peter.

*New Regional Superior of the Jesuits in Jamaica

Fr. Peter McIsaac

Fr. McIsaac, Susan’s loving brother, was born in Winnipeg and spent his formative years in Winnipeg, Toronto and Bermuda. After receiving an MA in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, he entered the Society of Jesus in Canada in 1989. After first studies in Chicago, he worked for two years at St. Peter Claver Church in Kingston, before continuing studies in theology in Nairobi and Toronto. He was ordained to the priesthood in Toronto in May, 1998. Fr. McIsaac returned to Jamaica in 1999 and for the past five years has been the Pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Hannah Town.

Below is a message received by the New England Province of the Society of Jesus from Jesuit Father Peter McIsaac, Regional Superior, Jamaica regarding the Jesuits in Jamaica:


“Dear Brothers,
Many thanks for your concern and prayers for the Jesuits in Jamaica, and for the stability of the country at this time.  Over the past few months tensions have escalated between inner city “garrison” communities, particularly those in West Kingston (Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town), and the Jamaican government over the U.S. request for the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, one of the most powerful criminal “dons” in Jamaica, a man with strong links to crime in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
After a political crisis over a week ago in which the Prime Minister apologized for his exposed connection to a legal contract intended to protect the West Kingston strongman, the extradition papers were signed. The network of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town gunmen in reaction erected road blocks and barricaded the two communities in an effort to frustrate the execution of the warrant for the arrest of Coke.
On Tuesday, just a short distance from St. Anne’s Church and schools, an army vehicle that attempted to clear a roadblock was assaulted by gunman and made a retreat. The roadblocks were intensified by the local gunmen, and by Saturday morning there was no road access to the two communities (in which St. Anne’s is located). The St. Anne’s Infant, Primary and High Schools were closed Thursday and Friday.
On Sunday, the police attempted a preliminary incursion into the communities, but were repelled, and in retaliation the Hannah Town Police Station (about two hundred meters from the Church) was overtaken and burned. Two other police stations were attacked and bombed. The Prime Minister announced a limited state of emergency.
On Monday, May 24, the army began their offensive. The gun battles continued for eight hours, and it seems that they have successfully recaptured the communities. One soldier and two policeman have been killed, and many more have been injured. There is no official count of the civilian dead (including the gunmen), but given the length and intensity of the gun battles, it seems as though the casualties will be very high. Gun battles were often accompanied by the bomb explosions. This morning, the soldiers are out in full force, and going from corner to corner. There is sporadic gun fire, and no one is permitted on the road.
Peter McIsaac and John Sullivan have been at St. Anne’s Rectory throughout the conflict, and remain confined to the house, but are fine. Chris Llanos and John O’Brien are not far away on St. George’s College at the novitiate community, and are also fine. We thank you for your continued prayers for peace in West Kingston, and for the safety of our Jesuits here.”


Attempts to arrest an alleged drug kingpin in Kingston, Jamaica turned into urban warfare that has left dozens dead in Tivoli Gardens, the Kingston neighborhood that has been under siege for days as the security forces battle heavily-armed gangsters defending their leader, Christopher Coke, known as Dudus.  

In the midst of this violence sits St. Anne’s parish, as well as the Jesuits and the schools that they oversee. Canadian Jesuit Father Peter McIsaac, Regional Superior of the Jesuits in Jamaica, recently sent this letter to the New England Province of the Society of Jesus. Since 1929, the New England Jesuits have overseen the Jamaica Mission for the Society.



One yearly ritual sends all the Women in her clan to Jamaica for a Week, where McIsaac’s brother serves as a Jesuit priest in the very poor west Kingston’s Hannah Town, a virtual war zone last month as police and drug gangs clashed.

All the girls go, just the girls, no husbands, no brothers — except my brother the priest,” she says.

And yes, there are other do-gooders in the family. One sister is a nurse at Sick Kids, another works in a social services agency. “We all share a real commitment to the community,” McIsaac says. But the commitment she has made seems, well, a tiny bit bigger than most.

“I’m a little nervous,” McIsaac allows. “It’s a combination of nervous and excited. I do feel it’s just the best job in the city. But it’s big.” 

Excerpt By Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star


Before joining United Way, Susan worked for KCI Ketchum Canada, a leader in organizational health, fundraising communication and philanthropic counsel, where she supported a variety of non-profit clients as a campaign director and later as Vice President of Educational Services from 1992 to 1998.

And she once led Loyalist College’s first-ever capital campaign.



Susan McIsaac became President and CEO of United Way Toronto on September 1, 2010. She is a widely recognized leader with more than 20 years experience in the non-profit sector. A senior executive with United Way since 1998, Susan is a key architect of the organization’s strategic transformation, from trusted fundraiser to a community mobilizer and catalyst for change.

Under her leadership as Chief Development Officer, United Way’s annual fundraising campaign was reshaped to become a community engagement strategy – an approach that seeks to engage donors and volunteers in community strategies to change social conditions in our city.

The resulting direct alignment of United Way’s annual fund development to its community impact agenda has resulted in phenomenal growth for United Way over the last 12 years, with campaign revenue growing from $58 million in 1998 to $110 million in 2009. The transformation has enabled the organization to leverage enormous resources in support of a community agenda that now works to address underlying, root causes of social issues, in addition to fulfilling its historical role as a supporter of urgent community services.

John Honderich, chairman of the Torstar Corp. board and a member of the United Way selection committee, said he was delighted with the selection.

“It was a unanimous choice.

She represents the best of what the United Way is,” he said.

Susan has spent a lifetime in service to the community. She donates much of her time to several non-profit institutions in Toronto and also works as a mentor for United Way’s CITY Leaders program, an initiative that develops the capacity of the community social services sector.

In 2007, she received the National Award of Excellence from United Way of Canada–Centraide Canada and was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

Susan and her Team


Susan say while speaking at her reception as CEO of The United Way, Toronto: 

“My immediate task is to ensure we finish the year with a hugely succesful campaign and we get to work on driving our vision, a vision where everybody has a voice, where everybody can truly engage.”


Past Projects

Monday, November 10, 2008 – TMX Group Launches Its 2008 United Way Campaign
Thomas Kloet, CEO of TMX Group and Susan McIsaac, Chief Development Officer of United Way Toronto opened the market today to launch the TMX Group 2008 United Way campaign. They are joined by staff from the Toronto office. TMX Group supports the United Way in each of the cities where it operates – Vancouver, Calgary, Markham, Toronto and Montreal. This year the United Way Toronto has a goal to raise $110 million.



Outstanding Fundraising Professional – The United Way

Susan McIsaac is the Vice President, Resource Development of United Way of Greater Toronto and a passionate leader in the charitable sector. She believes the challenge for a fundraiser is to educate and connect donors to the potential in their community. Under her leadership, the United Way team has done just that. Almost a half billion dollars has been raised in five years to support vital programs in the communities across Toronto. Ms. McIsaac now oversees an annual campaign of more than $100-million, an Endowment of more than $50-million and a Special Gifts program for key donors that raised more than $10-million last year.

A Celebration of Women™

sends our gratitude for all your hard work, and best wishes to this new appointment. 

May you enjoy success in all your efforts helping The United Way.


Brava Susan!


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