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A retired Okanagan College employee who ensured the health and safety of thousands of students for more than a decade has been named the 2012 recipient of the Okanagan College Distinguished Service Award.
Catherine Williams worked at the College for 34 years until her retirement two years ago. She spent her last 11 years as the College’s safety officer.
Williams will be honoured for her dedicated service at Okanagan College’s Spring Convocation ceremony on June 2 at 10:30 a.m. at the Kelowna campus.
Williams is only the third person in the College’s history to receive the Distinguished Service Award. The award is bestowed on former employees who have given outstanding service to the College and the community and who exemplify the College’s mission of transforming lives and communities.
“Catherine made a tremendous contribution to the College during her 34 years here,” said College President Jim Hamilton. “Her dedication and her passion for extending her knowledge to the greater Okanagan community is exemplary. Anyone who has ever had to handle a crisis knows they are in good hands when Catherine is in charge.”
In her role as safety officer, Williams built relationships that took her from the boardroom to the classroom.
Students got to know Williams well, especially those in Trades where she was a frequent guest speaker for the mandatory WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information) courses.
“Working at the College was really a challenge because you’re a jack of all trades,” Williams said. “You’ve got Autobody, Welding, Chemistry, and all those hazards, so you learn to develop good relationships with people who have expertise in certain areas.”
And she could always be counted on to watch the summer Convocation ceremonies like a hawk.
“I remember one year it was really hot, and one of the vice presidents came to me afterwards saying: ‘wasn’t that great?’ And I said: ‘I guess you didn’t see the ambulance.’ Two guests collapsed.”
While at the College, Williams devoted a great deal of her personal time to volunteering for the Emergency Social Services, working alongside Beryl Itani during such momentous events as the Okanagan Mountain Park fire and later the West Kelowna fires.
Today, she continues to serve the community as the Emergency Social Services Director of the Regional District of Central Okanagan, and works with the B.C. Justice Institute educating volunteers in Emergency Social Services.