By: Kathy Bergstrom

Joan Tanaka marked her 47th year working in benefits at the International Foundation’s 47th Annual Canadian Employee Benefits Conference​ in Calgary last month, receiving the honour of the 2014 Canadian Lifetime Volunteer Award.

The significance wasn’t lost on Tanaka. “Some of you in the audience are probably thinking, ‘My goodness, she’s been around forever,’ and yes, it’s been a long ride,” she said. She pointe​​d out the correlation between the run of the conference and the run of her career—both 47 years and still going strong.  “Need I say more? I’ve learned a lot of important lessons along the way.”

It occurred to me as I watched Tanaka accept the award that I had just celebrated my own 47th birthday in July. It’s impressive to think her commitment to the industry has lasted my entire lifetime. Remarks from her colleagues demonstrated the depth of her service. 


David Harvey, Chair of the Canadian Strategic Planning Committee (Ad Hoc) and Advisory Director of the International Foundation Board of Directors, said Tanaka is the first woman to receive the award, which recognizes an individual’s contributions to the Foundation’s educational efforts. Tanaka started her career in benefits as a technical assistant to a company president in 1967 and is now president of Prudent Benefits Administration Services Inc.​ (PBAS), which administers benefit trusts and other benefit programs.

She has served the International Foundation for several years as a conference ​speaker and a member of its various committees. She currently is Canadian Sector Representative on the Foundation’s Executive Committee, Executive Committee Liaison on its Canadian Board, member of the Strategic Initiative Steering Committee, Executive Committee Liaison on the Canadian Strategic Planning Committee (Ad Hoc) and member of the Canadian Trustee Education Committee (Ad Hoc.)

joan corners.jpgTanaka also is an advisor to Dalhousie University on the examination content for the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) program. She formerly served as Advisory Director to the Foundation’s Board and Past Chair of the Canadian Board.

Her commitment to the industry extends even further. Tanaka is a director of the Multi-Employer Benefit Plan Council of Canada (MEBCO), a former member of the Prudent Funding and Investment Industry Advisory Group and chairman of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Administrator Advisory Committee on Pensions. By the way, she’s also a mother and a grandmother, Harvey noted.

With the long list of achievements and countless hours volunteering, it’s easy to be impressed by Joan Tanaka. But what struck me most was her humility as she quickly diverted attention away from her success to acknowledge others who have played important roles in her life.

Joan, and so many volunteers like her, give their time not for the recognition but because they care about the people and organizations they serve. 

Do you know a colleague whose service is held in high esteem by the Canadian employee benefits community​?
Nominate him or her for the 2015 Canadian Lifetime Volunteer Award

Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS

Editor, Publications at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Benefits Magazine and Plans & Trusts

Benefits related topics that interest you most: Financial literacy, health and wellness programs

Favorite Foundation conference moment: Hearing attendees sing “O, Canada” at Canadian Annual in addition to hearing the anthem sung in both French and English.

Personal Insight: Whether she’s collecting information for a magazine story or hanging out with her family and friends, you know Kathy is fully engaged. Her listening ear and introspective nature provide reassuring presence to those enjoying her company.


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