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Foundation charity golf tournament celebrates twenty-five years, milestone in funds raised for students
Okanagan College Media Release

Golf 2016_1This year marked the 25th playing of the Okanagan College Foundation’s annual charity golf tournament, and along with that milestone came another impressive number on the event’s scorecard. 

The tournament has now raised more than $500,000 towards awards, bursaries, and emergency funds for students at the College since it began in 1991.

On Thursday, May 26, nearly 150 players walked the fairways of Okanagan Golf Club to celebrate the anniversary, reflect on what has been accomplished, and add to the fundraising total.

“From day one, this tournament has always been about helping students,” says Terry Flannigan, one of the tournament’s founders and a past Director of Development for the College (1991-1995). “Over the years, the Foundation has done a tremendous job of carrying it on and building it up, and the response from the community has been nothing short of terrific.”

Flannigan has played almost every year since the tournament’s inception. He says the continued popularity of the fundraiser, despite competition from many other charity tournaments throughout the spring and summer, is a testament to the way in which the region embraces the College’s mission to transform lives and communities.

“I think people in the Okanagan appreciate the College’s efforts to make education accessible to a wide array of learners,” he notes. “That mission really seems to resonate with a lot of people, and the legacy of this tournament is proof of that.”

Since 1991, more than 3,000 golfers and 600 sponsors have supported the tournament, with many returning each year, such as 2016 title sponsor Western Financial Group, which has now been the title sponsor for more than a decade.

“The 25th annual golf tournament proved to be one of the best,” said Western Financial Group’s Senior Vice President Sales – Pacific, Greg McGill. “We had great support from all the sponsors and golfers. Western is proud to be part of this prestigious event and we are looking forward to next year’s tournament.”Golf 2016_2

Scotiabank, another returning supporter, once again matched donations raised through a contest prize raffle; to cap off the evening, Vernon Branch Manager, Sales and Service Gladys Fraser presented the foundation with a cheque for $3,455.

“Scotiabank employees are proud to continue to support Okanagan College through the Foundation golf tournament,” said Fraser. “This is our 9th tournament directly volunteering to raise funds. Many of our customers and employees benefit from the educational offerings provided by Okanagan College and our employees are happy to volunteer to make a difference.”

“We couldn’t be happier with the way this year’s 25th anniversary tournament played out,” says Okanagan College Foundation’s Executive Director Kathy Butler. “We had another tremendous response from golfers, from sponsors, and from businesses around the valley.”

And as impressive as the $500,000 milestone may be, Butler says the philanthropic ripple effect generated by the event is far greater.

“This tournament really has helped to build and grow relationships with our donors,” explains Butler. “It’s an event everyone can feel good about being a part of—especially when you consider that the funds raised have impacted literally hundreds of Okanagan College students over the years.”

The Okanagan College Foundation would like to acknowledge the support of title sponsor Western Financial Group and media sponsor The Capital News, and many others that contributed to another successful event this year.

Outland Design gift grows trades campaign total, nurtures early childhood educators
Okanagan College Media Release

Education is one of the roots of a healthy community. This is the message a local landscape architecture firm hopes people in the valley will take away from its recent donation to Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus and its students.Outland Design May 2016

Outland Design Landscape Architecture has pledged $10,000 to support the new Trades Training complex at the Kelowna campus; the firm has also created an annual bursary to support students in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.

Trades and Early Childhood Education may seem unrelated at first glance, but as Outland owner Fiona Barton explains, the gift was inspired by the College’s commitment to opening doors for a diverse array of learners.

“We’re hoping to inspire local students and would-be students to lifelong learning. The value of education for themselves and for our community is limitless,” says Barton, who is also the firm’s senior landscape architect. “The College has a growing Horticulture Certificate program, and there are many intersections with the trades in what we do, so there were lots of reasons for us to support.”

“Support from the community plays an integral role in Okanagan College’s efforts to break down barriers to education,” says Okanagan College Foundation Director Kathy Butler. “We are deeply moved by the way Fiona and her team at Outland Design have so generously invested their dollars, and their time and expertise in our students.”

The newly launched Outland Design Landscape Architecture award, valued at $750, will provide an annual boost to an ECE student entering second year of the two-year diploma program at Okanagan College.

“We wanted to highlight the important role that early childhood educators play in the Okanagan, which is what led to the creation of this award and inspired our ongoing research partnership with the College,” explains Barton.

Last year, Outland Design signed on as a community partner of a federally-funded, applied research grant exploring the benefits of outdoor play on children’s wellbeing, and how it can be tied into the training of early childhood educators.

As a mother of three, Barton saw working with the College to bring outdoor play into the lives of young learners as a natural fit, and a project that could have a long-term positive impact.

“Our goal as a design company is to create beautiful landscapes that enrich the environment,” notes Barton. “It is a natural fit for us to be involved in research that will have a positive impact on ECEs and help children grow and learn in the outdoors.”

Equipping early childhood educators is a growing area of expertise for Okanagan College. Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Teaching, has been involved in researching the benefits of outdoor play in the ECE curriculum for several years. Dietze and Outland Design embarked on an outdoor play research project that was funded by NSERC in 2014-2015, and earlier this year received a research grant of $195,000 from the Lawson Foundation.

The grant will allow researchers to explore a wide range of training modules to benefit ECEs, from physical literacy to indigenous outdoor play practices, to outdoor play designs for optimal play.

“Fiona Barton and her staff are important community partners as they bring expertise in creating diverse and complex outdoor play spaces for children. These spaces contribute to triggering children’s curiosity, exploration and learning for life,” says Dietze.

The first recipient of the Outland Design award will be selected later this fall.

“Our students graduate with an in depth understanding of the benefits of well-constructed outdoor play environments to the overall development of the whole child,” explains Pam Wetterstrand, Chair of the ECE program. “We are grateful for support like this for students, and for the important research being conducted to support professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators.”

More information about this and other awards available at Okanagan College can be found at

Hamilton to stay as OC President until 2019
Okanagan College Media Release

Jim Hamilton May 2016Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton has accepted an offer to extend his term until October 2019. The longest-serving president in British Columbia’s post-secondary sector, Hamilton has led Okanagan College since 2004.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Jim will stay on as President,” says Connie Denesiuk, Chair of Okanagan College’s Board of Governors. “Over the course of his tenure he has helped the institution develop a well-deserved reputation for accomplishment, growth and service. I’ve witnessed first-hand how well respected he is provincially and nationally.”

“This news will please many of Jim’s colleagues at Okanagan College, and I know it will be welcomed by the sector generally. Jim is respected for his experience and for his insights, demeanour and intelligence.”

Hamilton sees it as an opportunity to continue to complete some ongoing tasks as well as advance important new initiatives.

“I am proud of Okanagan College’s record of success and achievement but I know a lot remains to be done to even better serve the students, employers and community of this region. I am particularly excited about some of the key directions in the College’s recently-completed five-year strategic plan and I want to be part of moving them forward. Those include working with and learning from our indigenous community, increasing our support for key sectors such as wine, food and tourism and technology, and completing a plan that will expand internationalization opportunities for our students and employers.”

Hamilton’s history at Okanagan College started with teaching English in 1980 at what then served as the Vernon Campus: the old Canadian Forces army barracks.

Prior to becoming President, Hamilton was actively engaged in the College, having served as a faculty member, a member of the Okanagan University College Board of Governors, and the Regional Dean of the North Okanagan.

Currently, he is the Board Chair of the BC Council for International Education as well as a board member of Colleges and Institutes Canada, member of the British Columbia Council for Admissions and Transfer, and a Vice Chair of the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society. In the past he has been the Chair of the Trades Training Consortium of BC and the Chair of BC Colleges.

During his time as President, Okanagan College enrolments have grown by 43 per cent, exceeding government targets every year. Okanagan College is now one of the largest colleges in BC and the second biggest public trades training institution in the province. Aboriginal student numbers have more than tripled to 1,550, and the College has greatly expanded its services to that population. 

Okanagan College has introduced a host of new programs, grown its profile to address regional and provincial labour force demands and skills needs, and worked closely with industry and employers to make the Okanagan, Shuswap, Similkameen and British Columbia stronger.

With the recent completion of the new Trades Training Complex in Kelowna, Okanagan College has seen more than $100 million in new building and redevelopment at its four major campuses in the last decade. The College has earned a place on the national and world stage for the development of the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation. The building was recently named the greenest building in the post-secondary sector in Canada and boasts a number of national and international awards. The new Trades Complex will also support Okanagan College’s reputation as a leader in sustainability.

“As much as construction and enrolment growth are both good for the local economy, what has given me the greatest satisfaction is the success of our students and how our team has worked together to create more access for more post-secondary options for the people in this region,” Hamilton says.

Good vibrations: College students launch new venture to change the way we think about sound
Okanagan College Media Release

When it comes to the places where we live, work, learn, and play, how they sound can be just as important as how they look in determining how we will feel about them.

Two Okanagan College students have launched an innovative new business to help the world sound a little better, one room at a time.Pfeifer and Mulloy_AEMP_May 2016

A common interest in recording technology led Alex Pfeifer and Josh Mulloy to the Audio Engineering & Music Production diploma program at Okanagan College from very different paths. Kelowna-born Pfeifer has a fascination with all things technical, while Mulloy, a musician who hails from Calgary, enrolled to better understand the intricacies of studio recording in the hope of amping up a career in the music industry.

The two young men quickly noticed their complementary skill sets came in handy in the studio and out in the field. While conducting an exercise in acoustic analysis (studying how the design and arrangement of a space affect the overall sound experience) a bold idea began to take shape.

“We instantly knew this was something we were passionate about, and brought two very different perspectives to,” says Mulloy. “We looked at each other and said: ‘How can we make a career out of this?’”

They set about founding their own company, first reaching out to the valley’s business owners for feedback.

“We pounded the pavement, knocked on doors, and had extensive conversations with local business leaders in audio and a ton of different other fields,” says Pfeifer. “During that time, and since then, there hasn’t been a single person in the community who hasn’t been supportive and offered advice or encouragement.”

Buoyed by the positive response to their idea, Mulloy and Pfeifer launched Perception Audio Inc. in February. Their website, is currently under construction.

“We specialize in acoustic treatments and analysis for commercial spaces, but that’s just scratching the surface of what we do,” explains Pfeifer, noting that live sound and studio recording is also among their areas of expertise.

“At the end of the day, we want to bring something new and truly unique to the audio scene in BC,” says Mulloy. “We want to change the way people think about sound during all stages and aspects of putting a space together. We spend our lives in these spaces and the way they sound hugely impacts our experience of them.”

One of those offering constant support and encouragement along the way has been instructor Corey Bell, a widely respected audio engineer and musician who, in addition to teaching at the College, remains extremely active in the audio production and recording industry.

“There are so many avenues you can pursue in audio,” says Bell. “Josh and Alex picked an avenue in starting their own business – doing what they love – and their drive to achieve that goal has been nothing short of phenomenal.”

Both students are quick to acknowledge Bell’s support as a factor in their successful startup, which already boasts several projects in development in the coming months.

“We wouldn’t have gotten to this place without Corey’s help,” says Mulloy. “This program has really brought a profound change to both our lives very quickly.”

“We’re very grateful for the opportunity to do what we do, and appreciate the way people have supported us to this point,” says Pfeifer. “We love what we do and get to go to work each day not feeling like we’re going to work but going to do what we’re best at and enjoy doing.”

According to Pfeifer, the short-term goal is to continue to grow the business, while a long-term priority will be to support those following in their footsteps, whether it means mentoring students at the College or assisting other small business startup owners.

“When you build somebody else up, you build yourself up,” says Pfeifer. “That has been the ethic other business owners have instilled in us and we plan to carry that on in the way we conduct ourselves and our business.”

Pfeifer and Mulloy will join their fellow graduates at Okanagan College’s convocation ceremonies in June. While running their business, both entrepreneurs plan to return to the College to pursue additional business training, Pfeifer in project management and Mulloy in business administration.

More information about the Audio Engineering and Music Production program at Okanagan College is available at

Okanagan College business student off to Tanzania on prestigious international fellowship
Okanagan College Media Release

Karen Vandergaag May 2016An Okanagan College student’s academic excellence and passion for international development has earned her one of the most esteemed fellowships in the country.

Karen Vandergaag, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Honours student at the Kelowna campus, is one of only 12 young adults across Canada to be awarded an International Youth Fellowship by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC).

“My goal has always been to utilize my business degree to find work in international development,” says Vandergaag. “To know that I have launched a future in this field before I’ve even graduated feels incredible.”

While her fellow students are walking across the stage at convocation ceremonies next month, Vandergaag will be in Ottawa for a management seminar with other fellowship recipients departing for international projects.

Vandergaag will be headed to Tanzania in August, where she will spend eight months working with CARE, an international NGO dedicated to disaster relief and fighting global poverty. Her work will revolve around research and project coordination with the organization’s Microfinance and Microenterprise arms.

Prior to enrolling at Okanagan College, Vandergaag’s interest in working abroad was kindled by a year-long Rotary exchange to Brazil in 2010. Another eye-opening opportunity came a couple of years later, when a College course in entrepreneurship in developing nations took her to Ethiopia and Malawi for several weeks.

“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to put my education and research into practice on the ground and see how the hands on experience compares to academia,” says Vandergaag. “As a business student, I approach opportunities like this from a different perspective than students in similar positions who might hail from international relations, health, or other backgrounds.”

Vandergaag credits the College’s unique approach to business training as one of the factors that has opened to the door to international opportunities and inspired her to apply for the fellowship with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Okanagan College’s ability to broaden horizons and provide a wide base of options. I was able to pursue an Honours degree, travel abroad, be a member of an Enactus team that competed nationally, and secure co-op employment that connected me with local industry.”

“Securing this fellowship feels very validating of all the work I’ve put in, and the education I’ve received at the College.”

And while thinking globally, Vandergaag certainly hasn’t shied away from acting locally during her studies. As a student researcher with the Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence located at the Kelowna campus, she helped to develop new curriculum that will assist local non-profits in the area of impact reporting and measurement. She also completed an Honours research project focused on food security in the Okanagan.

“I was looking for a research project that would have application beyond business to a broader social issue with local implications,” explains Vandergaag.

Collaborating with BC-based Urban Matters, a social innovation and development organization, she set out to explore the issue of local food sustainability and how people perceive and interpret food security in the region.  

“Before I started I wasn’t aware of the sheer diversity of food security initiatives already going on in Kelowna,” she notes. “But through this research it was fascinating to look at the impact our choices have on our local food systems, what those systems are able to handle, and will be able to handle in the future.”

She recently presented her findings to the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council and continues to champion the cause of food security in the valley.

Following her fellowship abroad, Vandergaag has no specific plans for her next project, but is confident it will have something to do with social impact.

“I don’t see myself straying too far from the non-profit sector and social change/social impact initiatives,” she says. “That said, geographically speaking, that could take me anywhere. My horizons are completely open.”

Ford dealer drives up support for new trades complex, celebrates father’s legacy
Okanagan College Media Release

A local automotive dealer wants to help rev up the learning environment for trades students at Okanagan College in Kelowna, carrying on his father’s legacy of supporting education and the community.

Orchard Ford and Kelowna Ford Lincoln Dealer Principal Dan Assam has pledged $100,000 to assist the College in outfitting a new student lounge in its renovated and expanded trades training facilities in Kelowna. To the delight of automotive students and car buffs, the lounge will feature a mural depicting a Ford GT50 – a nod to Assam’s father Norm who owned a classic GT40 and for whom the lounge will be dedicated.Orchard Ford donation May 2016

“My father was a big supporter of education and training,” says Assam. “Helping staff advance their skills was important to him, as was giving back to the community. This gift honours and celebrates his legacy, and we hope it will inspire the next generation of automotive tradespeople training at Okanagan College.”

The valley’s automotive dealers and collision repair shops have been among the strongest supporters of the renovation and expansion project, contributing more than $850,000 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons fundraising campaign since it launched in October 2014.

“We are deeply grateful to Dan and his family for this phenomenal support,” says campaign Chair Dennis Gabelhouse. “This gift sends a powerful message to students at the College that local employers are behind them and gives them a sense of the long legacy of trades in the valley that they are a part of.”

Founded in 1983 by Norm Assam, Orchard Ford remains a family-owned and -operated dealership (as is Kelowna Ford Lincoln) with Assam’s son at the helm carrying on his father’s legacy of supporting skilled training. The two dealerships currently employ 20 Okanagan College-trained Red Seal Automotive Service Technicians, with another six on staff who are currently completing their apprenticeship training at the College.

Existing shops across a host of trades, from automotive to welding, have now been completely re-vamped at the College’s Kelowna campus. Upgrades were made to match the same LEED Platinum-targeted standard as the new building, as a testament to the College’s commitment to sustainability.

The Automotive Service Technician (AST) shop was one of the first new shops to come online for students in late 2014, and features new and emerging technology in the industry. Feedback from students and instructors on the new space has been overwhelmingly positive according to the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores.

“Industry support is absolutely vital to what we do,” says Moores. “Quality learning environments support quality instruction and the proof is in the pudding in our students’ accomplishments.”

Okanagan College recently tied its best-ever results at the provincial Skills Canada BC competition in Abbotsford, earning 11 medals overall. Automotive Service Technician students from the College dominated the podium, taking home gold (Aaron Schmit), silver (Dale Blumhagan), and bronze (Hugo Beaumier-Martin) medals.

The new complex will allow the College to accommodate more than 2,700 students each year and comes at a critical time for training as BC faces a potential shortage of skilled labour over the next decade. It is projected that more than 160,000 job openings will exist for trades and technical workers by 2022, with more than 10,000 needed in the Thompson Okanagan region alone by 2024.

To date the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign has raised more than $6.2 million toward its $7 million goal, which includes $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support through awards, bursaries, and emergency funding.

“Creating access and supporting students is at the heart of this campaign,” notes Gabelhouse. “As we enter the summer and approach the grand opening of the new building this fall, community and industry support is going to help us reach our goal and open a world of new doors for students.” 

Okanagan College business students, advisors and faculty recognized for excellence on national stage
Okanagan College Media Release

Enactus Nationals Team May 2016Okanagan College business students chalked up multiple podium finishes at a recent national competition in Toronto. Making the showing all the more impressive was the fact that a number of the students and their mentors were honoured at the highest level for their teamwork.

The Enactus National Exposition brings together approximately 800 students, 500 industry leaders who serve as judges and 100 faculty advisors from across the country to celebrate the achievements of Canada’s future leaders and entrepreneurs. A team of 24 students from the Okanagan School of Business participated in this year’s event, held from May 4-6 at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.

The Financial Literacy team that presented on the CanSave program came 2nd in the country (behind only SFU), beating out powerhouse competitors from Saint Mary’s University, Windsor, Ryerson, and Memorial, and receiving a $2000 cash prize. The CanSave program is focused on teaching financial skills to elementary students.

"Being awarded National runner-up in the Financial Education Challenge was a humbling experience,” says Abbey Jones, a Bachelor of Business Administration student at the College’s Kelowna campus and the team’s project manager. “Having just completed the second phase of the CanSave pilot program, our team is now fuelled with a strong desire to expand the program across the province, ensure its sustainability and make a lasting change in the financial literacy and lives of those it touches."

Enactus Financial Literacy Team May 2016

The Youth Empowerment Team (a new category this year) came third in the country (behind Ryerson and Windsor), and received a $1000 cash prize. The prizes will help fund the team’s participation in next year’s competition.

Despite stiff competition, the Nationals team from the College advanced to the semi-final round of competition (top 20), before being bested by eventual finalist and last year’s national champion, the University of Ottawa.

“This year marks the 10th year of operations for Enactus Okanagan College,” says Dr. Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan School of Business professor and one of the Faculty Advisors to the team. “I am continually inspired by the incredible work our students do in the region and the outstanding support we receive from all our community partners. I can’t wait to see what they will achieve in the decade ahead.”

According to Myrah, another highlight of the event for the team came when two students and two of their mentors, received prestigious awards for leadership.

Fresh off her team’s runner-up finish in the Financial Educational challenge, Abbey Jones and fellow BBA student and Enactus Okanagan College President Cassandra Lum, were awarded the national Founder’s bursary. Valued at $2,500 each, the bursaries recognize students for demonstrating exceptional leadership with Enactus. Only ten bursaries were handed out to students from all across Canada and two went home with Okanagan College students this year.

Enactus Youth Empowerment Team May 2016“It was truly an honour to receive the Founders Bursary and to be recognized alongside great student leaders from across the country, including one from our very own team in Abbey Jones,” says Lum. “I think this speaks to the experience and knowledge we're gaining through Enactus and at Okanagan College. ‎We are fortunate to have a very large support network through the College that encourages us in our endeavours and enables us to achieve these outcomes.”

Outstanding advisors and faculty were also recognized at the event for the critical roles they play in mentoring the student teams.

Elvia Picco was named Team Advisor of the Year in recognition of her outstanding support of the Enactus Okanagan College team. Okanagan School of Business professor Andrew Klingel was inducted as a John Dobson Fellow for his Enactus involvement as a faculty member. A well-known entrepreneur, investor, and business advisor, Klingel teaches courses in marketing and management at the College’s Vernon campus.

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. The Canadian chapter sees annual participation by more than 2,600 students spanning 67 post-secondary institutions.

Full results from the exposition can be found here. More information about Enactus Okanagan College is available at

Princess Auto Foundation turns key on new trades bursaries at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Whether building a house or re-building a car, it all begins with a strong foundation of knowledge. A national foundation dedicated to supporting trades education has launched a new bursary fund at Okanagan College to give students a strong start.

The Princess Auto Foundation has donated $25,000 to establish an award fund that will enhance access and opportunities for students entering or continuing in Trades programs at Okanagan College.Princess Auto Foundation donation May 2016

“We are committed to helping students pursue skilled trades training at colleges across the country,” says Princess Auto Foundation Founder Bob Tallman. “We are delighted to work with Okanagan College to open doors for students in the Southern Interior.”

Tallman owns Princess Auto, which has grown to more than 40 retail locations across Canada since his father Harvey founded the retailer in 1977. Established in Manitoba in 2007, the Princess Auto Foundation has distributed over $4 million to 15 colleges in Canada to help students access trades training. Okanagan College joins two other B.C. institutions – BCIT and Camosun – on the list of those that have received support, to date.

“An integral part of Okanagan College’s mission to transform lives and communities is making education accessible,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We deeply appreciate Princess Auto Foundation’s investment in our students’ futures and applaud their leadership in enhancing access to trades training for students across the country.”

Tallman and his wife Cathy recently toured the College’s new trades training complex in Kelowna. He says the decision to support students in the Okanagan was a natural one, given the College’s vision for elevating trades careers in the minds of students and the public.

“We were inspired by the way the College celebrates tradespeople and recognizes the contributions they make in our communities,” notes Tallman. “The Princess Auto Foundation is proud to be a part of that vision.”

In addition to the Princess Auto Foundation, Tallman’s family also spearheads the Tallman Foundation, which provides full scholarships to post-secondary students in Winnipeg.

Classes are now in session in the College’s new trades facilities, following a three-year $33-million renovation and expansion project. The Okanagan College Foundation has raised more than $6.2 million towards its goal of raising $7 million to top up the province’s $28 million investment. The Foundation is aiming to raise at least $2 million for program and student support.

More information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at

College names von Mandl, Redmond and Winkler as 2016 Honorary Fellows
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is bestowing its highest honour on three notable Okanagan residents, each of whom has helped shape and define the region in unique and impactful ways through entrepreneurship, philanthropy and ecological research.  

Anthony von Mandl O.B.C., Bill Redmond and Dr. Rita Winkler will be named Honorary Fellows of Okanagan College during Convocation ceremonies on June 4 in Kelowna.

Anthony von Mandl HF 2016von Mandl, proprietor of VMF Estates, founder of Mission Hill Family Estate and one of the region’s best-known self-made entrepreneurs, will be recognized by the College for his vision and pioneering efforts in making the Okanagan a world-class winery destination.

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.

Mission Hill Family Estate, which von Mandl conceived and built to endure for centuries, has become internationally known, and been called “the gold standard of wineries” by Condé Nast Traveler. In 1994, Mission Hill won the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London for Top Chardonnay Worldwide and in 2013, the family’s Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir won the Trophy for Best Pinot Noir in the World in London at the Decanter Wine Awards, the world’s most significant competition with over 14,000 wines entered, putting the Okanagan on the international Pinot Noir map. In 2016, Mission Hill was once again named Canadian Winery of the Year, for the sixth time.

von Mandl has been recognized personally and professionally for his extensive contributions to the industry. In 2005, he was awarded British Columbia’s highest distinction, the Order of British Columbia. In 2011, he was the recipient of The Warren Bennis Award for Leadership Excellence alongside A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble. Previous winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, Benazir Bhutto, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks. In 2015, he was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

A former YPO International Board Member, von Mandl has served on the Advisory Boards of the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He is also Chairman of the von Mandl Family Foundation, a charitable organization that supports cancer research in both Canada and the United States.

Bill Redmond HF 2016

Bill Redmond spent 40 years building his career in the wholesale food industry. He is the founder and formerly the president andCEO 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.

Retirement has been anything but slow for Redmond, who is 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. He 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.

“It’s an honour to be recognized by Okanagan College,” said Redmond. “I was thrilled to be a part of the School of Business and came to realize what a wonderful institution we have right here in Kelowna. My career in business has brought me a lot of joy and I will be proud to address the graduating business class of 2016.”

Rita Winkler HF 2016Dr. Rita Winkler is a forest hydrologist with a career spanning more than 35 years. During this time she has worked in government, academia and private consulting in operational settings, education and research. Winkler is credited with sustaining B.C.’s longest running paired watershed experiment, which is 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.

“I am thrilled to receive this honour from Okanagan College,” said Winkler. “It is a privilege to be included in the group of Fellow recipients, a program that clearly highlights the College and President Hamilton’s commitment to acknowledge the contributions community members, employees and students all make to life in the Okanagan.”

Anthony von Mandl and Dr. Rita Winkler will attend the morning ceremony on Saturday, June 4 in Kelowna. Bill Redmond will address the graduates in an afternoon ceremony on June 4.

College to host 22nd Annual Aboriginal Career Fair on May 5
Okanagan College Media Release

Hundreds of Aboriginal high school students from throughout the B.C. Interior will converge on Okanagan College on Thursday, May 5 to explore a vast array of post-secondary and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal Career Fair May 2016The 22nd annual Aboriginal Career Fair will take place from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Centre for Learning at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on KLO Road. The event is a partnership between Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, and Westbank First Nation. Students will have a chance to connect with more than 30 exhibitors, including representatives from colleges and universities, and employers in finance, trades, agriculture, health, technology, and other sectors.

“Opportunities like this are an excellent way for Aboriginal students to explore their options for post-secondary, and to learn about employers’ expectations in regard to education and training,” says Okanagan College Vice President of Students Charlotte Kushner.  

More than 300 students are expected to attend. For schools and employers, the career fair is an opportunity to initiate connections with a key demographic for recruitment. Provincial data indicates that Aboriginal peoples are one of the fastest growing populations in B.C.

Okanagan College has witnessed significant growth in Aboriginal student enrolment in recent years. In 2015, the College delivered educational programming to over 1,500 Aboriginal students, more than three times the number that attended a decade prior in 2005-06.

“Working With, and Learning From, the Indigenous Community is one of the five key directions for the College, as outlined in our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan,” explains Kushner. “We value every opportunity like this to collaborate with local school districts, First Nation bands, Aboriginal organizations and industry, to inspire and open doors to post-secondary for Aboriginal students.”

Exhibitor spots are still available. Educators or school administrators interested in having students participate are requested to register in advance. To learn more and to register, visit

Lunch will be provided by students and faculty from Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts program. 

Rick Gee recognized by College for Distinguished Service
Okanagan College Media Release

A retired employee who assembled an impressive career that spanned 30 years and five days will be recognized by Okanagan College with the Distinguished Service award at the College’s Summer Convocation ceremony on June 29 in Kelowna.Rick Gee

Rick Gee, former Chair of Okanagan College’s Education Council and longtime professor of Computer Science, has left an indelible mark on the institution’s curriculum and program development after dedicating more than three decades to supporting students and enhancing academic standards.

President Jim Hamilton, whose career with the College began just five year prior to Gee’s, 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 joined the College on July 26, 1985 as a College Professor of Computer Science. Throughout his tenure at the College he served as department chair on three separate occasions, contributing 17 years altogether in the role.

He was elected to the College’s Education Council, the body that is responsible for setting curriculum content, academic standards and policies, eventually becoming Chair in 2008.

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.

With 30 years of experiences to reflect upon, Gee says his most memorable moments at the College occurred in the classroom.

“My favourite part was the teaching,” says Gee. “Seeing the light bulbs go on is something that brought me a lot of joy. I also worked with some very interesting and intelligent people over the years.”

In addition to his scholarly contributions Gee was a longtime volunteer and supporter of initiatives like the College’s Career Fair. He dedicated his personal time to support the College community at events such as the annual Clean the Creek, wading in the murky waters of Fascieux Creek at the Kelowna campus to remove garbage and waste.

Gee retired on July 31, 2015. Those who knew him well remember him as a meticulous editor and someone who could advocate on behalf of a comma with an unmatched passion.

“Rick was a stickler for detail, punctuation, grammar and consistency who also had the ability to focus on the big picture of student success,” says Dianne Crommer, who worked beside Gee on Education Council for many years. “Outside of his contributions to the College, he is also a tireless volunteer in the community and is someone who did a lot of great work, much of it very quietly and on his own time.”

Gee is an active member and current president of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and the director responsible for snowshoeing for the Kelowna Nordic Ski Club. He also volunteers with the NatureKids Kelowna. He dedicates his time to leading people on snowshoeing adventures.

“Rick was very committed to the College and had students at the heart of everything he did,” said Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “He was often the driving force on committees to ensure that ideas came to fruition and his many contributions will be long standing.”

Local business helps College gives trades students a warm welcome
Okanagan College Media Release

Coast Appliances Donation May 2016As Okanagan College welcomed students and staff to its new Trades Training Complex last week, a donation of equipment from a local appliance dealer helped ensure it was a warm welcome. 

Coast Wholesale Appliances Inc. has donated microwaves to power up kitchenette stations throughout the new three-storey tower at the Kelowna campus. Construction on the building completed on Mar. 31. Over the past three weeks, more than 700 students training at satellite campuses on Acland and Penno Rd. transitioned to their new home at the KLO campus.

“We are very proud and excited to contribute to the student experience at Okanagan College,” says Robert Siddon, General Manager for Coast Wholesale Appliances in Kelowna. “The trades are connected to our business, and so many others in the Okanagan, and so having a world-class training facility here benefits us all.”

Siddon says it was important to Coast Appliances that students know the valley’s businesses are behind them, which is why the company has also provided a tool credit to assist a student in purchasing tools.  

Coast Appliances joins a growing number of individuals and organizations in the community who have stepped up to help the College enhance student spaces like food service and study areas in the building.

Our goal with this renovation and expansion is to provide a world-class facility that truly celebrates the trades and celebrates our students,” says Okanagan College Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “We are very grateful for the depth of community support for that vision. Local industry and individuals are sending a message to our students that they have chosen an important and valued field in the trades.”

Community support has brought the Okanagan College Foundation within $1 million of its $7-million goal for the Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign in support of the project. The Foundation is aiming to raise $5-million for capital construction and $2-million for program and student support, to top up the provincial government’s $28-million investment. To date, the campaign has raised more than $6.2 million.

Last week’s welcome event for students and employees was a soft opening for the building. An official grand opening is slated for the fall.

In the meantime, College officials will continue to put the finishing touches on the new complex over the summer, including landscaping, signage, and activation of the building’s solar panels (when completed, the roof will have the second-largest solar array of any non-utility building in the province, behind only the The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus).

More information about the Bright Horizons campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at