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On the day it honours and celebrates the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2011, Okanagan College will also recognize the contributions, careers and service of three community-minded leaders that include a world renowned researcher, Canada’s highest-ranking female RCMP member, and an entrepreneur whose fabric stores dominate the Canadian textile industry.
Okanagan College will bestow the title of Honorary Fellow on Dr. Tom Landecker, Principal Research Officer at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO), Beverley Busson, former Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Mel Kotler, founding owner of Mel Kotler Consultants Ltd. and working partner of the Fabricland Company, Western Canada.
“I take a great deal of pride in calling Dr. Landecker, Ms. Busson and Mr. Kotler Fellows of Okanagan College,” said President Jim Hamilton. “Awarding Honorary Fellow status to these deserving members of our community is the highest honour we can offer on behalf of our College. The students who attend Convocation in June will have the opportunity to hear from each of the Honorary Fellows at their respective ceremonies and I am confident they are going to be inspired by the careers and lives of each of these great leaders.”
Landecker is a highly respected astronomer, innovator, teacher and engineer. He was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and attended Sydney University. From an initial plan to become a chemical engineer, Landecker found a new passion while at university and emerged with two degrees - one in mathematics and the other in electrical engineering. Fascinated by the use of radio as a tool for probing the Universe, Landecker went on to earn his doctorate for research in radio astronomy.
He moved to Penticton in 1969 to work at the DRAO, where he joined the team building the Synthesis Telescope, bringing together signals from small dishes to make one giant telescope – 600 metres from end to end. He supervised major projects such as the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey, for which he and his team won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the National Research Council of Canada in 2010. He has been an adjunct professor at several Canadian universities, training students on their path to master’s degrees and doctorates, wrote a column on astronomy for the Penticton Herald, helped develop the Okanagan Research Innovation Council (ORIC) and joined the Board of Governors of Okanagan University College, where he was a member for six years and served as Chair of the Board for one year. He continues to follow his passion for astronomical research, working with colleagues in Canada and in other countries.
Busson’s career path took on a very different route than Landecker’s – not concerned with the laws of the Universe, Busson spent more than three decades in Canadian law enforcement. Her career with the RCMP began in 1974 when she became one of the first women to become Regular Members of the RCMP. She spent her early years working as a constable in Salmon Arm and Kelowna. She went on to head B.C.’s Organized Crime Agency, earned a degree in Law from UBC in 1990, was invested as a commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces in 2004 and awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2006.
After rising through the ranks, Busson became the first female Commanding Officer of British Columbia in 2000, a rank she held until 2006 when she became Canada’s top ranking RCMP member when she was appointed Commissioner of the RCMP – she was the first female to hold the rank of Commissioner. Among her distinguished achievements Busson has been awarded the RCMP Long Service Medal for 30 years of Good Conduct, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal and the Canadian Forces Vice Chief of Defence Staff Commendation for her support of the Canadian Cadet Movement. In 2004 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University College of the Fraser Valley and six years later was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Simon Fraser University in 2010.
Since retiring to Blind Bay she has been seconded by the Prime Minister's Office to a five member committee charged with making recommendations to reform the RCMP nationwide and also joined the Okanagan College Foundation as a Director.
Kotler was born and raised in Montreal where he took on his first job in the textile industry straight out of high school. He spent 16 years learning the ins and outs of sales, management and marketing before moving west to Calgary in 1977 where he opened his first business, Fabricland. It wasn’t long before Fabricland opened its second location becoming a fast-growing chain of fashion fabric and textiles.
As Fabricland stores continued to spread through Western Canada, Kotler and his family moved to Kelowna in 1985. While building his brand and retail outlets, Kotler raised five children and focused on giving back to the community. From 1995 – 98 he served as the Chair of Leadership Gifts in the Campaign for Cancer Care. He also took on leadership roles with the United Way, Special Olympics of BC and was the President of the Okanagan Jewish Community for five years.
At the time of his retirement from Fabricland in 2001, Kotler had become a retail giant with 40 Fabricland stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and another 20 franchises across the region. In 2002 he was presented with a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal by Sindi Hawkins for his outstanding service to the community. He was also named Entrepreneur of the Year as well as Community Leader of the Year. In 2004 Kotler was awarded the Fred Macklin Memorial Award in 2004 for his contribution to the wellbeing of the City of Kelowna. The United Way has recognized his leadership and service with a series of honours including the BC Vice-Chair’s Award of Distinction in 2004 and the Award of Distinction in 2008.
Though he is no longer President of Fabricland, Kotler currently operates Mel Kotler Consultants Ltd., where he manages building projects such as South point at Big White and The Madison in downtown Kelowna.
Landecker and Busson will address students attending the morning Convocation ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on June 4 in Kelowna. Kotler will attend the afternoon ceremony which will be held at 1:30 p.m. and include graduates of Business programs.