Board of Directors

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Paul Bent is formerly a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) having retired from the practice of public accounting in 2015 after 37 years, 25 of them as a Partner with Grant Thornton LLP.  Paul is a Past Chairman of Grant Thornton with significant experience in the provision of advice and leadership in the charitable sector. Paul received an ICD.D (Institute of Corporate Directors) designation in 2012 from the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto.

Paul has served in many volunteer roles in the not-for-profit sector since the 1980’s and remains an active member of the Board of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce where he Chairs the Chamber’s Fostering Private Business Growth Task Force. Paul became affiliated with Hospice Halifax first through the Hospice Steering Committee in March of 2015 and later joined the Board in September of 2015.

Paul has served as Chairman of the Board of Hospice Halifax since January of 2018.


Jonathan Caldwell, CPA, CA is a Senior Manager with Grant Thornton LLP’s Halifax office and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Nova Scotia.

Jonathan graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2006, and obtained his Chartered Accountant’s designation in 2011. In his professional practice Jonathan works with small businesses, not-for-profit entities, pension and benefit plans and government agencies and provides advisory, assurance and consulting services on a wide range of accounting, management and taxation matters.

Jonathan became involved with Hospice Halifax in 2016, serving on the audit and finance committee prior to joining the Board. In addition to his involvement with Halifax Hospice, he also is a member of the Board of Directors of Tennis Nova Scotia. Jonathan hails from Kentville Nova Scotia, but has called Halifax home since 2012.


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Cynthia Dorrington is the owner of Vale & Associates Human Resource Management and Consulting Inc. Established in 2004, Vale & Associates is a boutique consulting firm specializing in providing strategy and advisory services as well as training and development for organizations. As President Cynthia does consulting work with small to medium-sized organizations across various industry sectors with companies experiencing such things as challenges with mergers/acquisitions, business growth, culture change and/or succession planning. Working in areas such as organizational strategy, people strategy, diversity and inclusion, change management, governance, organizational assessments, supplier diversity, performance management, project management, HR advisory services, training and development as well as team building and effectiveness, Vale & Associates has been able to provide consulting services to a number of clients locally, nationally and internationally.


Keith Fraser graduated from Dalhousie University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science Degree and from Nova Scotia Technical College in 1974 with a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Industrial Engineering. In 1977, he earned his CA designation. Keith joined Ocean Contractors in 1981 as controller, advancing to Vice President, and responsible for all financial and administrative matters including long-term planning and forecasting for the Ocean group of companies. Currently, he is Vice President of Briar Group Incorporated.

Keith’s community involvement has included work with Junior Achievement, Sir Frederick Fraser School, Halifax and Dartmouth Senior Citizens Clubs, United Way, Dartmouth Chamber of Commerce, Hubbards Sailing Club and a number of committees of the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He has also served as treasurer and auditor for a church and related organizations.

Other experience has included assisting in the fundraising campaigns for the annual Bonny Lea Golf Tournament, Hubbards Sailing Club, Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, St. Andrew’s Church as well as Hospice Halifax.


Jack Flemming After graduating in 1962, Jack began his career as a mechanical engineer working at Municipal Spraying & Contracting in Bedford, Nova Scotia. 12 years later, he started Ocean Contractors Limited which specialized in asphalt and ready-mix concrete. His successors, sons John & Scott, now run that business which has over 300 employees and includes Thompsons Moving and Storage, the oldest moving company in Nova Scotia which Jack purchased 15 years ago. More recently he became an owner of MagicLamp Limited, a software developer and consulting business based in Halifax. 


Founded in 1999, he, his wife Marion, and their family of four operate the Flemming Charitable Foundation which supports local charities serving men, women, and families. He has two Honorary Doctorates from Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s Universities. In 2003, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada and in 2019 Jack was inducted into the Nova Scotia business hall of fame. More recently, his passion has been the Halifax Hospice project, acting as chair of the capital campaign for the past 7 years. 


Bob MacKinnon is the President & CEO of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, and serves on the board of directors of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) and the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation (ILC). Over his career, Bob has held a variety of roles in operations management, finance, accounting and sales that have positioned him as a strategic and innovative leader.

Bob is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA), has Bachelor of Commerce (B. Comm.) and Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degrees from Saint Mary’s University, and is an Institute Certified Director (ICD.D). Outside of the office, Bob is active with his family and in the community.


Glenna Thornhill, BN, RN. Glenna retired in December 2016 as a Community Consult Nurse with the Palliative Care Service in Central Zone after 27 years working mostly with patients in the community. She volunteered with Hospice Halifax doing various events over the past years and has returned to the board after acting as the interim nurse manager in 2018. Previously, Glenna served 2 years as a board member.


Beth Swarbrigg is a professional fundraiser with over 15 years of experience across the non-profit and higher education sectors. After graduating from Mount Allison University with a Bachelor of Arts, Beth moved overseas and eventually settled in the UK. She volunteered and worked at Trinity Hospice (London) before moving to roles at the British Red Cross and Macmillan Cancer Support. Beth was Director of Fundraising at Hospice in the Weald (Royal Tunbridge Wells) for four years before returning home to Canada and settling in Bedford with her husband and three children.

Beth volunteered with Hospice Halifax before joining the Board in July 2019.


Phil Otto has a solid reputation for bringing clarity, creativity and tactical strategies to the brands he helps navigate. He believes the most prolific brands in the world are built on a single big idea and point of differentiation, and helps clients turn complex business challenges into simple, straight forward brand strategies.

CEO of Halifax-based branding and marketing agency Revolve, Phil is considered one of Canada’s strongest brand strategists, works with clients across Canada and the US, and writes and speaks to business groups internationally about the importance of aligning business strategy with brand strategy. He has experience with clients of all size – from small startups and not-for-profits to multi-national corporations and government agencies – helping connect brand and corporate reputation to culture, values, employee behavior and customer experience.

A father of four and named to Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, Phil is a passionate supporter of entrepreneurism, local business and the community. He is Honorary Colonel of Canadian Airforce Base 12 Wing Shearwater; board chair of both Igility and Timberkids Charitable Foundation; and sits on the boards of AROI, Hospice Halifax and Children’s Wish NS Chapter. Phil is past chair of the board of directors of the IWK Health Centre and Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Foundation and has served on the board of directors of Mental Health Foundation, Strongest Families Institute and Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres.

Staff Members

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Gordon Neal, CEO

Gordon first became a volunteer with Hospice Halifax in the spring of 2012, serving on the board for two years and on a number of committees and fundraising events. Gordon’s personal experience with the death of his mother in late summer of 2012 at Bobby’s Hospice in Saint John helped him understand the importance of hospice care. Gordon has managed companies in many industries in Canada, the United States, and in Europe. Gordon is the father of four adult children and grandfather of two boys. Gordon joined the Hospice Halifax team as CEO in January 2018.


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Dr. Stephanie Connidis, Medical Director

Stephanie is a Family Physician (CCFP, RACGP) with dual certification in Health Care of the Elderly (COE) and Palliative Care (PC) from Dalhousie University. A strong advocate for improving palliative care for all Canadians, Stephanie is an active member of the National Advance Care Planning Task Group, a Palliative Care Committee member with the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and an executive board member (Secretary) of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP).

Stephanie has been a volunteer and member- both on the Board of Directors and a general member- with Hospice Halifax since 2008 and is honoured to be the first Medical Director.

If Stephanie is not at the Hospice or engaged in activities to build capacity for palliative care in Nova Scotia, she can be found hiking in the woods or hanging out with her husband Mark or one of their 3 sons.


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Marilyn Hicks, Manager, Human Resources

Marilyn has more than 18 years’ experience in all aspects of Human Resources in both private and public sectors. She graduated from Dalhousie with a MBA after working for several years as an RN in hospitals across the country. She was a volunteer on the HR Committee at Hospice Halifax for 4 years and a member of the Board of Directors for 2 of those years until becoming Manager, Human Resources in the spring of 2018. Marilyn lives in Halifax with her three furry rescue adoptees.


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Linden Hardie, Social Work & Programs Manager

Linden joined Hospice Halifax in 2018 after working for many years in the housing and homelessness field. She obtained her Masters of Social Work from the University of Victoria. Originally from New Brunswick, Linden has been calling Nova Scotia home since 2009. She enjoys volunteering with a few local organizations and spends as much time as possible outdoors.


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Beth Tupala, Nurse Manager

Beth brings diverse experience to her role at Hospice Halifax. Since completing her nursing degree in 2007, she’s worked in hospice and palliative care as a staff nurse, educator, consultant, and research nurse. She has worked both in hospitals and in the community. Most recently, she’s worked as the Project Lead for Palliative Care for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Beth has lived in Halifax since 2016. She enjoys coffee and good books, spending time with her young kids, and exploring new parts of Nova Scotia.


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Michael Kelly, Events Manager

After volunteering for two years, Michael joined the Hospice Halifax staff in 2018 to the newly created position of Event Manager.  Michael spent his formative years in Nova Scotia as the Director of a Scout Canada Summer camp, which lead to a lifelong passion for outdoor recreation and youth programming. Graduating from the Dalhousie University Recreation Management program (BSc/BMgt), Michael has been working in the field of events since 2012, planning, implementing and evaluating special events. The majority of Michael’s special event experience comes in the form of large scale public sector events such as the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day program, Canada Day, Wolfville’s Mud Creek Days, and many more. Michael has also worked on not-for-profit initiatives such as the Magic Wine Bus and for-profit events like the Halifax Oyster Festival. Michael is passionate about culture, events and helping bring people together to highlight the fun side of life. Outside of work, Michael attends special events, rock climbs, eats exotic foods, plays video games, and tells lots of jokes.


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Melissa Carroll, Social Enterprise Coordinator

Melissa joined Hospice Halifax in July 2018. She has a BA in Kinesiology and Psychology from St. FX. She has worked for over 5 years within private physical therapy clinics throughout HRM and has over 5 years of extensive customer service management in large scale operations. She was born and raised in Pictou County with a large extend family with Cape Breton roots. Melissa has lived in Halifax for over 10 years, enjoys thrift shopping and traveling as much as possible.


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Aroon Thakkar, Food Services Coordinator

Aroon has 10 years of food service experience, most of which is in healthcare food service. He has worked in a variety of restaurants, the IWK, and long term care kitchens. Aroon moved to Halifax in 2009 from Fredericton with a year long working holiday in Europe in between. Originally moved he to Halifax to complete his BSc in Applied Human Nutrition at MSVU and has loved the city ever since. Food is a passion both at work and at home and he is always looking for exciting dishes and techniques to try. Outside of food and work, Aroon enjoys watching and playing sports, travelling, video games and board games.


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Dean Angers, Facilities Manager

Dean has worked in the long term care nursing home sector as a Maintenance Coordinator and Environmental Services Manager for more than 8 years. He has a long list of experience in preventative maintenance, inspections, and safety training. He is passionate about providing a comfortable and safe environment for residents and staff. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering as a coach on different competitive sports teams. He also enjoys the outdoors, going on hikes and many adventures with his family and their dog, Remington.


Ashley Lawrence, Stewardship and Development Coordinator

While completing her MBA at Saint Mary’s University, Ashley had the opportunity to work on a marketing project for Hospice Halifax and her passion for the organization developed from there. She brings a wide range of management and sales experience to her role. Ashley is originally from CBS, Newfoundland and travels home frequently to visit her family. Ashley would consider herself “Disney obsessed” and has completed three Disney half-marathons (Florida, California, and Paris). When she is not at work, you can find her riding horses, attending a spin class, or planning her next adventure.


Chrissy Merrigan, Volunteer Coordinator

Chrissy joined Hospice Halifax as a volunteer in 2019 while completing her Bachelor of Social Work at Dalhousie University. Chrissy also obtained an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations and worked in the employee engagement and incentives industry for many years. Chrissy has extensive volunteer relations experience and sits on the board of directors of the Nova Scotia SurfAble Association, organizing the renowned adaptive surfing event, Life Rolls On – Martinique Beach. 

In her spare time, Chrissy enjoys planning community events, spending time with friends & family, watching British crime procedurals, and working on her art series; Condiments & Caring, inspired by the connection between food, community, and love. 


Karlene M. Francis, Music Therapist

Karlene M. Francis, (BA Mus., Cert. Mus. T, MTA Candidate) knew from past experience providing music therapy to those facing the next journey in life through the process of dying was profound. Following her first year at Acadia University, she chose to do a four-month clinical practicum at the VG palliative ward in Halifax (2013) generously supported by the former Weston Foundation Scholarship that was awarded to five music therapy students annually and after graduation returned to Nova Scotia Health Authority VG site (7A) as part of her work towards completion of her 1000-hours internship which she finished in the fall of 2017. She saw the value of music interventions used therapeutically as a bridge to release and connect to feelings of joy and pleasure, alongside sadness and pain for those who were experiencing a terminal illness.

As such, being hired as the first music therapist to offer this unique service to Hospice Halifax was an important move by the agency to reflect their true commitment “to providing the best end of life possible” for those in care by accessing the available tools to support that intention, such as music therapy. When not working at the hospice, Karlene performs, teaches and loves to go out dancing when the mood strikes for some “fun therapy”.

Melanie Strömberg, MEd, CCC, RCT-C

Melanie joined Hospice Halifax as the Bereavement Counsellor in 2020. Melanie was born and raised in Calgary. She spent her childhood visiting grandparents on Vancouver Island and Cape Breton Island, cultivating a love of the ocean and planting the seeds of an insatiable wanderlust. Melanie has had the privilege to travel extensively throughout her life, including living and working in Australia and the United States. It was her familiarity with the east coast that inspired her to attend St. Francis Xavier University where she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree and later her Bachelor of Education degree. After working as an elementary school teacher, then being home with her children, Melanie graduated with a Master of Education in Counselling degree from Acadia University. She is a Canadian Certified Counsellor and Registered Counselling Therapist Candidate. She takes an integrative approach to counselling drawing from various theoretical disciplines including attachment theory, person-centred, psychoanalysis, and the neuroscience of psychotherapy. She most recently completed professional development through the Centre for Complicated Grief at Columbia University. The inspiration to work in the field of hospice care and bereavement counselling is inspired by the loss of her eldest son after a terminal illness and her youngest son’s subsequent journey with cancer. Melanie has been actively involved with the IWK Foundation for many years and has worked with various other charities including the Children’s Wish Foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her dream is to see the establishment of a pediatric hospice serving the Maritimes. Melanie’s favourite way to spend her time is in the company of her children. She also enjoys reading, playing the piano, binge-watching Netflix, swimming, beaching and skiing.