2016 Honorary Fellows

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Each year, Okanagan College designates a number of individuals as Honorary Fellows. The awards recognize distinguished achievement or service and the recipients represent a broad spectrum of regional, provincial, national and international contributions.

The awards acknowledge a diverse array of people, from those who have advanced literacy among youth to individuals whose work has helped create awareness and appreciation of Aboriginal culture.

At ceremonies in June, Okanagan College presented the honorific to three deserving individuals.

Anthony von Mandl, proprietor of VMF Estates, founder of Mission Hill Family Estate and one of the region’s best-known self- made entrepreneurs, was recognized by the College for his vision and pioneering efforts in making the Okanagan a world-class winery destination. Testimony to the winery’s reputation was a royal visit in September by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Born in Vancouver and European educated, von Mandl, without resources, founded a wine importing firm in Vancouver at the age of 22. Despite difficult initial years, he successfully grew Mark Anthony Wine Merchants, and in 1981 began to realize his audacious dream: to produce world-class wines in British Columbia’s then unknown Okanagan Valley. Little did he know that in order to realize his vision he would need to organically build a more than half billion dollar corporation from the ground up without outside financing.

Bill Redmond spent 40 years building his career in the wholesale food industry. He is the founder and the former president and CEO of HRI Supply Ltd. Redmond launched the company in 1978 and guided its growth until it merged with Sysco Corp. in 2001. HRI Supply is the only food distribution company in the B.C. Interior to merge with a Fortune 500 company in the past 30 years. After the merger Redmond continued his career as president and CEO of Sysco Kelowna until he retired from the company in 2004.

Redmond has been involved in a number of community organizations. He is active in the Rotary Club of Kelowna and is past-president as well as past-director. Redmond served as Okanagan College’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (2007).

He was chairman of the Kelowna Roads Task Force as well as a number of private equity funds. He is still involved in business and is a partner in Dockside Marine Centre.

Dr. Rita Winkler is a forest hydrologist with a career spanning more than 35 years. She has worked in government, academia and private consulting and is credited with sustaining B.C.’s longest running paired watershed experiment, located at Upper Penticton Creek in the South Okanagan. Research at this site focuses on improving our understanding of water supplies from forested watersheds and how natural disturbance, land management and climate change can affect this vital resource.

Winkler’s own research on snow processes in forests changed by insect outbreaks, wildfire, logging and regrowth, as well as the resulting changes in streamflow regime, has refined our understanding of the science and guided the development of forest management practices.

Her association with Okanagan College dates back to the 1990s when she was involved in selection of the Forest Renewal BC Chairs in Forest Hydrology. She has been involved in the College’s Penticton Speaker Series and has mentored and collaborated with faculty members at the College for more than 20 years.

The 2016 Honorary Fellows join 2015 fellows Chef Rod Butters, entrepreneur Norm Embree, lawyer Rick Pushor and social planner Annette Sharkey, and 27 others since 2006.

Gee honoured for service

Rick Gee is the fifth former employee honoured by Okanagan College with its Distinguished Service Award, and may be in the running for the shortest speech spoken at a College Convocation Ceremony. His advice to the assembled graduates was succinct: “Good enough is not good enough.”

Gee is the former Chair of Okanagan College’s Education Council and a longtime professor of Computer Science. President Jim Hamilton recalls him as a cornerstone of the institution.

“Rick’s contribution to Okanagan College has been immense,” says Hamilton. “His name was  synonymous with Education Council and in that role he became the keeper of educational quality in programming. He has done much to build the institution’s reputation for academic excellence.”

Gee was responsible for the development of two degree programs during his time at Okanagan College and Okanagan University College, the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems and the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He was also the 2013 recipient of the Career Achievement award at the College’s Employee Excellence recognition ceremony.

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honour Okanagan College bestows upon former employees.

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