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Harding Award for Engineering motivates local student to reach for robotics career
Okanagan College Media Release

Matthew McCann was teaching English in Brazil when an unforgettable moment in the classroom inspired him to re-engineer his career path and trade the role of teacher for student.Matthew McCann Sept 2015

“Many of my students were engineers who were looking to improve their English,” McCann says. “One day, I was just struck by their passion for their work. I realized that the projects they were working on in their communities really appealed to me. Their energy sparked my journey into Engineering.”

Two years later, after completing the Electronic Engineering Technology Program (ELEN) at Okanagan College, McCann got another jolt of inspiration when he learned he had been selected to receive the Yvonne and Norman Harding Award for Engineering.

Valued at $5,000, the award is the largest given out annually by the Okanagan College Foundation and is intended to assist students bridging the ELEN program to a university Engineering Degree Program.

For McCann completing the ELEN program means he can enter the third year of Electrical Engineering at the University of Victoria. Receiving the award has meant that he can complete the year without having to worry about finances.

“This award definitely takes a big load off my mind,” he explains. “But even greater is the motivational factor—the fact that Yvonne and Norman Harding have made this incredible investment in my future is very validating for me. It will push me to work as hard as I can.

“I hope in future I can give back and change somebody’s life like these generous donors have changed mine.”

McCann must now choose which field of specialization within Electrical Engineering he will pursue, noting a strong pull towards robotics.

“I can definitely see myself working in that field,” he says. It’s exciting. There are new innovations every day and it’s something that has the potential to change the world.”

Norman Harding earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from UBC after serving in World War II. He enjoyed a long and successful career in Engineering, working with Bell Telephone in Montreal and Computing Devices of Canada in Ottawa; his wife Yvonne also worked for Bell and taught technology to adult students.

The Hardings retired to Penticton in 1994. They established the Harding Award for Engineering in 2007 through a donation of more than $100,000 to Okanagan College.

The creation of the award marked the first but not the last generous gift made by the Hardings in support of students at Okanagan College. In 2010, they gave $30,000 to support the creation of the Women's Resource Centre at The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Penticton. Yvonne passed away in 2010.

“It is always amazing to hear from recipients like Matthew about what they hope to achieve in the future and how this award will help them on their way,” says Norman Harding. “Yvonne would be very pleased that this award is making a difference in their lives.

“Our family is touched by the gratitude of the students. We are delighted that the award has always been thankfully received.”

“We are so appreciative of the generosity and the thoughtfulness shown by Yvonne and Norman Harding in establishing this award nearly a decade ago,” says Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director Kathy Butler. “As we can see in in the case of this year’s recipient, Matthew McCann, it continues to inspire students to reach for the stars and get the most out of their education.”

More information about the ELEN program and the Yvonne and Norman Harding Award for Engineering is available on Okanagan College’s website