Past Alumni Awards Recipients

We are proud of the impact our alumni have locally, nationally and internationally. The recognition of accomplished alumni promotes the excellence of Okanagan College, its graduates and the Alumni Association. Their accomplishments serve as an excellent example for all who follow and are a testimony to the educational foundation provided to them by Okanagan College.


Distinguished Alumni Award

Chef Rob Walker

Q: What is your name?

A: Chef Robert Walker

Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? What years did you attend? What campus did you attend?

A: I graduate from the Culinary Arts Certificate program at Okanagan University College in 2001.

Q: Why did you choose your program at OC?

A: I grew up in the Kootenays not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. But I always loved food. In the back of my head was this question, “How do I become a chef?” I had my eye on the Okanagan Valley so making the decision to come to Okanagan College was easy. The Okanagan is full of so much bounty. It really is a mecca for cooks since we’re surrounded by wineries, orchards, farmers and other so many other purveyors.  

Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?

A: I had a fast-track start to my career as a chef as I was getting started. I spent a few months of the Culinary Arts program learning how peel carrots and dice things, but things sped up as I began working with Chef Dave Ryan. I worked for him over the winter while he trained for the Culinary Olympics. That experience opened a whole new world for me. And because of that connection, I got started on my apprenticeship and the next steps in my career. It pushed me to expand my horizons and I spent time working at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver.

Q: What was one of your most meaningful memories during your time at OC?

A: The instructors are what stood out to me – it was a really good team. They really nurtured me along. Even while I was in Vancouver, I came back to OUC each year to complete my apprenticeship training.

Q: What does farm to table mean to you?

A: Knowing where my food comes from has always been a passion of mine. Some people say that chefs are hardworking, but I always think that farmers are way harder workers. I want to appreciate and showcase their hard work in the food that I make. I try to be as minimalistic as possible, using what is in season, locally grown and sustainable.

Q: Are there any awards, achievements or activities that you would like to highlight?

A: My time with Chef Dave Ryan also inspired my interest in competitive cooking. I’ve been an active competitor in the culinary world and been involved with many events: two gold medals in the Western Canadian Culinary Arts Festival; honorable mentions in both the B.C. Place Food Service Expo, and Vancouver City-TV’s Master Chef Competition; first place in Sysco Chefs black box competition; participation the Canadian Culinary Championship Gold Medal Plates; represented the Okanagan in the Great Canadian Plates regional finals.

Q: What advice would you pass on to current/future students?

A: Your work ethic is everything. Do good work, keep your head down, listen to people who have come before you. Really be a sponge. Chefs are natural teachers, even in a restaurant setting, Pick their brain. Show up early, leave late, fit in extracurricular things where you can. Chefs will spill their secrets if they know you are interested in learning.

Q: Where are you the happiest?

A: You’d find me camping anywhere in the Okanagan. I’d be there with my kids, creating food over an open fire to enjoy together.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: Okanagan College has a special place in my heart. It has been a big part of my life for many years and  I hope it will continue to be a part of the community for many more.  


Distinguished Alumni Award

Bree Cawley

Bree Cawley graduated from the Bachelor of Business Administration program in 1999 and has since made her mark in communications, marketing and non-profit leadership for a host of organizations.

In August 2017, after realizing the lack of support there was for her daughter who was born with a brain abnormality, Bree founded the Okanagan chapter of GIRLS CLUB. GIRLS CLUB is a club for girls with autism and neuro-developmental differences and was formed to give girls a place to be themselves and connect with others who share in their experience. It is 100 per cent volunteer run and relies on donations to operate.

“We offer regularly scheduled free meet ups and activities for these girls, as often these kiddos are the ones that go from therapy to therapy, but don’t get the chance to connect with other likeminded kids to make friends,” says Cawley.

Initially, Cawley was funding the club’s activities out of her own pocket before receiving essential grants to continue the program. Since the club’s inception, activities have been free for members, which creates increased access for families that may not be able to afford club registration fees.

“I am still not sure how I deserve this award, but I am incredibly grateful,” said Cawley. “I extend my gratitude to my fellow BBA grads who became lifelong friends (one of which even became my husband), my amazing instructors, and the Okanagan College Alumni Association, who have all supported me in my career, in my life, and allowed me to be exactly where I was meant to be right now.”

Young Alumni Award
Christina Fast

“I was a careless 19-year-old with no clear direction in life when a neighbour recommended I register for the Continuing Studies Sterile Processing Certificate program at OC,” said Fast. “I was fortunate to have had a number of inspiring instructors and preceptors throughout the program who imparted their knowledge and passion for a field of healthcare that deserves much more recognition for its essential role in patient safety.”

Since graduating from the program (which has since been renamed Medical Device Reprocessing Certificate) in 2006, Fast became an International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM) certificated educator and began teaching internationally trained health care workers, unable to be licensed in Canada, how to sterilize surgical instruments.

In 2011 she volunteered to work as a sterile processor on the Africa Mercy ship, stationed in Sierra Leone. Not only did she improve sterile processing practices on the ship and ran education sessions in the evenings to ensure staff were appropriately trained, but she also visited local hospitals. Finding no organization that worked to address the obvious need for proper sterilization, Fast founded SPECT, a Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust.

Over the last eight years, SPECT has worked with staff from more than 100 hospitals and 60 clinics in African Nations. Fast has educated and mentored over 500 workers as well as advocated with local and national governments to address standards to improve sterile processing.

“I would have never dreamt that a sterile processing certificate would lead me to starting a charitable organization that has now gone on to impact thousands of lives in 14 low-income countries,” adds Fast. “I’m so proud to have begun this rewarding career at Okanagan College.”


Young Alumni Award
Drew Vincent


Drew Vincent completed his Business Administration degree in 2014 at the Kelowna campus and is a former President for Enactus OC. He is well known for his contributions to a number of youth initiatives and social enterprises – as well as being a champion for sustainability in the region.

“It’s been very important to me in my education and my career to connect with the community and address needs of young professionals in a tangible way,” explains Vincent. “I am very humbled to be recognized as one of this year’s Young Alumni Award recipients. The future of the workplace in the Okanagan is positive and I’m making it my mission to help support and be a resource for the next generation of young professionals.”

Vincent’s dedication to leadership, social change and entrepreneurship while a student led to him being named one of the most influential people at Okanagan College over the past 50 years in 2013. He was also named the 2017 Alumni of the Year for all of Canada for his contributions to the Enactus organization, both within the College and helping to start and grow the program at UBCO. To this day, he continues to mentor and coach current business students.

Upon graduation, Vincent began working with Okanagan start-up companies doing strategic planning, marketing strategies and project management. He now works with local companies assisting with their operations as well as with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission running the Okanagan Young Professionals program, aiding the regions efforts to attract and retain skilled young professionals.

Vincent sits on the local immigration partnership council, aiding the region in its efforts to create a sense of belonging within the community. He is also on the board for the Okanagan Makers society, helping to launch a makers space to the region. His role as event director for Motionball Kelowna helps raise funds and awareness for developmental disabilities, last year raising $108,000 for Special Olympics Canada.


Young Alumni Award

Brea Lake (Retzlaff)


Brea Retzlaff completed her Business Administration degree from the College in 2013 and got an early start working in the tech-industry immediately after graduation. Now the Director of Operations at Accelerate Okanagan (AO) – a tech accelerator organization that helps coach and mentor local entrepreneurs – Retzlaff helps lead AO’s strategic direction and contributes a strong voice in the booming Okanagan tech-sector.

“This is such an honour and a surprise to be recognized by the Alumni Association with this award,” she says. “The College is very near and dear to me and this award means a lot – I’m proud to represent OC alumni.”

Retzlaff is known for her extensive community involvement and actively serves on the YMCA Okanagan Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters Board, Okanagan College Foundation Board, is on the Program Advisory Committee for the College’s new Animation program and is an influential member in several other community organizations and events. She also helps mentor the College’s Enactus team, a project she says is close to her heart as she was once part of the team and helped grow a new chapter at the Penticton campus in 2009.



Distinguished Alumni Award

Grace Greyeyes


Grace Greyeyes has been a passionate advocate for education all of her adult life, first in her nursing career which spanned more than 35 years in Canada and the U.S. and later as a volunteer, advisor, Elder, and Aboriginal knowledge keeper in the South Okanagan. She has been a member of the Aboriginal Education Advisory committee for School District #67 in Penticton for more than a decade and recently began developing curriculum for SD#53 (Okanagan Similkameen).

For the last five years she has also volunteered with the Penticton Indian Band’s Grandma program, which provides support to local elementary, middle and high school students. She also recently founded the Penticton Indian Band’s Snpinktn Elders Society.

Her passion for education has been recognized locally and at the national level. In 2016, she was honoured with the Okanagan Nation Transition and Emergency Housing Award for her commitment to education in the community. This September she will be participating in the National Gathering of Elders hosted in Edmonton.

Greyeyes’ connection to Okanagan College dates back to the institution’s earliest years. She completed her Practical Nursing training at the College (then B.C. Vocational School) in 1968. She returned in the early 1990s to continue to her education, pursuing Arts courses at the Penticton campus. Since 2015 she has served as Elder in Residence at the College’s Penticton campus.

“I’m humbled and grateful to be recognized by the OCAA,” says Greyeyes. “Education has always been very important to me. I really do believe that education transforms lives, and so I continue to encourage our young people to think about their education, set goals and reach for them.”


Young Alumni Award

Ben Klick


At only 21 years of age, Ben Klick has already made his mark in the country music scene in Canada and the U.S. and continues to amass fans and accolades, along with the attention and respect of his fellow artists in the industry.

Klick enrolled in the Audio Engineering and Music Production program at Okanagan College in 2014. He set out to learn as much as he could about the music industry, from the technical aspects of the recording studio to the finer points of marketing and entrepreneurship that go into launching a successful career as an artist. After graduating in September 2015, he released his debut EP Today and went on to play nearly 60 dates across North America the following year.

Despite a hectic recording and touring schedule, and an ever-expanding list of awards to his name – including 2015 Global Country Star Search Winner, 2016 Canada’s Walk of Fame Top 7 Emerging Artist, British Columbia Country Music Association (BCCMA) Award (2016 – Best Website), and 2017 First Round JUNO Award Nominee – Klick maintains close ties with the College and his community.

In January 2017, he headlined the “North of Nashville” concert at the College’s Kelowna campus. The show was produced by students from the very program from which he graduated. The net proceeds of the concert – $1,500 – went back to students in the program through bursaries. On March 23, he once again dazzled a hometown crowd when he took to the stage at the Kelowna Community Theatre to open for country music legend Tanya Tucker.

“Okanagan College is near and dear to my heart, so this award is very special to me,” says Klick. “Given all the incredible young OC alumni out there in the world doing great things, I feel supremely honoured and humbled to be recognized.”



Distinguished Alumni Award

Heather Stewart

Young Alumni Award

Sarah Comba


Distinguished Alumni Award

Lane Shupe

Young Alumni Award

Donnie Ungaro


Distinguished Alumni Award

Hon. George Abbott

Young Alumni Award

Shane Koyczan


Distinguished Alumni Award

Launi Skinner

Young Alumni Award

Mark Regier

Todd Regier


Distinguished Alumni Award

Nick Arkle

Young Alumni Award

Corinne Inman


Distinguished Alumni Award

Jim Cookson


Distinguished Alumni Award

Jayne Brooks


Distinguished Alumni Award

Sareena Nickoli

Young Alumni Award

John Perrott


Distinguished Alumni Award

Ryan Holmes

Young Alumni Award

Jon Garratt


Distinguished Alumni Award

Lee Claremont

Young Alumni Award

Ryan Donn


Distinguished Alumni Award

Don Turri

Young Alumni Award

Chris Gibbons



Distinguished Alumni Award

Robert Louie

Young Alumni Award

Michelle Boshard


Distinguished Alumni Award

Alan Storey