DRIENNE ROSEN has never lost a funeral urn yet – or a casket. And that’s what you’d expect. No client wants Aunt Mary’s remains ending up in Brisbane instead of Capetown. That’s why clients rely on Rosen (BA Hons. ’94) and her courier company.
  Rosen, who graduated from York’s Atkinson Faculty of
Liberal and Professional Studies, started First International Courier (FIC) Systems, Inc., with two women partners in 1984, partly as a way to pay her way through university. Her business has always been well – some-what unusual. That’s because FIC found its own special niche in the super competitive courier package world. “Seventy-five percent of our business deals with human remains and biomedical materials,” Rosen says.
Those materials include everything from stem cells
and umbilical cord blood (used in bone marrow transplants to help leukemia and lymphoma victims) to infectious substances, body donor parts, and clinical trial samples (on which a great deal of research and development money rest). As with anything biological, time and care in handling and security are of the essence. It’s a world where results have to be 100 per cent or entire projects, even lives can be jeopardized.
Of course, even the best-laid packages can go away.
“We once had a funeral urn that ended up flying in and out of four countries before we managed to catch up with it, “ says Rosen. “But that was unusual.”
Guaranteeing things ate on time and go where they’re,
supposed to is Rosen’s job as president and CEO of a company that billed $2 million last year and has 12 employees. Her deliveries don’t come cheep, but her clients – who also include companies producing time-sensitive legal and financial documents – are willing to pay for the peace of mind FIC promises.
All this is pretty impressive for someone who only
had a Grade 8 education and who took philosophy, not business, when she got to York. “Atkinson saved my life,” says Rosen, who remembers clearly the day she arrived at Atkinson as a high-school dropout and asked how to get in to university.
  “They told me you can’t ‘give in’ like that. You have
to write an essay. So I said, ‘OK, have you got any paper?’ Then I sat down at a manual typewriter – I’d never written an essay in my life – and typed one up on the women’s movement in Canada. Then I handed it to the admission person. ‘So, do I get in now?’ I asked her. She read it and said, ‘Yes.’ I ended up graduating 10 years later – cum laude.”
Between her teen years and early thirties, Rosen
worked a variety of jobs, including as a courier. “I had no formal education. I had to support myself somehow. Starting my own courier business seemed like the solution.”
  Despite the success of her company, Rosen still felt
something was missing in her life. She wanted an education. Now, at 48, not only does have her BA from York but she’s close to completing her PhD from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (while still managing to be a mother to two young girls, continue her role as CEO, and pursue her latest hobby – being a hockey goalie).
  Because of her path, Rosen is a big believer in giving back to society.
Her company sponsors two bridging bursaries at York for women. The $950 International Courier Award is offered to one or more students proceeding from the Women’s Studies Bridging course into a degree program in any Faculty at York University. Usually those women are single moms and mature students who want to better their lives and need an economic foot up, says Rosen.
Rosen says she vowed that if, one day, she was
successful, and she’d give others a chance to better their lives through education. It’s a promise she’s…delivered on.