By Erin Elaine Casey |
When commerce students Fairyal Abdi (BComm 2004) and Joe Day (BComm 2003) registered for Dr. Edna Keeble’s year-long Canadian Foreign Policy course in 2001-2002, they had no way of knowing it would change their lives forever.
“I sat behind Fairyal strategically, then I asked for a pencil I didn’t need,” says Joe. “I hung around after class to return the 50-cent pencil.”
Fairyal picks up the story from there. “Me? As usual, I was talking to Dr. Keeble after class. I thought he was a pretty boy, not my type, until I got to know him,” she laughs.
But the time-honoured pencil-borrowing ploy worked! Fairyal and Joe Day celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in July 2015. Their life together has spanned continents and spawned remarkable careers, and it all started in an elective liberal arts course. They reached out to Dr. Keeble to share their story.
The arts-commerce connection is crucial. I nurture that.
Edna Keeble has been at Saint Mary’s since 1990, and typically instructs between 100 and 150 students every year. She still teaches the Canadian Foreign Policy course today. “When I started here, I hadn’t yet finished my PhD, was pregnant with my second baby, and the support I’ve received from this institution is incredible,” she says. “I share that sense of community in my classroom, and I take my responsibilities to students very seriously.” She teaches them to think critically and communicate effectively, indispensable skills that the liberal arts can bring to a business degree. “The arts-commerce connection is crucial. I nurture that.”
Today, Fairyal Day is the Director, Talent Acquisition for L’Oréal USA, the world’s largest beauty company. Joe Day is Vice President of Sales for the US for Nobel Biocare, a company that manufactures dental implants and prosthetics. Their careers have taken them from Halifax to Toronto to Zurich to Hong Kong, and the couple now lives in Southern California.
Joe and Fairyal agree that Dr. Keeble instills a deep sense of shared values – SMU values of community and compassion – in her students. “She’s somebody I will never, ever forget,” explains Fairyal. “We talk about her all the time, and I tell other people about her. She was very influential and she shaped my political views – she is the most passionate instructor I’ve ever come across.”
For Fairyal, who was born in Saudi Arabia and later moved to Nova Scotia, Dr. Keeble’s class opened her eyes to how women are treated around the world, an awareness that has influenced her career choices. “L’Oréal is a company about diversity and inclusion,” she explains. “Ethnicities, disabilities, sexuality – we strive to hire people of diverse backgrounds.”
“Fairyal and I share that passion to see the world, and one of the beautiful things about SMU is there’s such an international focus,” says Joe. “There’s a global culture you get exposed to.” He recalls attending Dr. Keeble’s class the day after the September 11th attack on the World Trade Centre towers. The SMU gym was being used as an emergency shelter for stranded airline passengers and the community was struggling to understand what had happened. “I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of global politics growing up in Dartmouth,” says Joe, “but I’ll never forget that class. It was some of the most interesting and beautiful and tough discussion we’ve ever had.”
Both Fairyal and Joe point to a number of SMU professors who left big impressions. Joe credits economics professor Dr. Saleh AmirKhalkhali for helping him understand the mechanics that drive global commerce. Fairyal had Dr. David Wicks in her first year in a general business management class and still keeps in touch with him today. “To have that sort of friendship with a prof is rare, and I don’t think that would happen at just any university,” she says.
What does Dr. Keeble have to say about playing Cupid? Even though she didn’t actually introduce Joe and Fairyal, she is thrilled to hear about their happy ending. “Many political science majors keep in touch with me because they have taken many of my courses, but to have students reach out who only took that one course from me – I am so deeply touched.”