New Indigenous student award fund honours retiring president’s commitment

By Public Affairs | March 30, 2021

Jim Hamilton wrapped in a blanket from the Westbank First Nation
Hamilton honoured by WFN in 2020

A long-time president’s unswerving commitment to ensuring more Indigenous students can access and succeed in post-secondary education has prompted the establishment of a new student award fund.

Since 2005, when Jim Hamilton officially began his leadership of Okanagan College, the number of Indigenous students at the institution has grown from fewer than 500 to more than 1,900 in 2018-19.

Now, as he retires, a new award fund has been set up in his family’s name, already garnering commitments from the Okanagan College Board of Governors, the Okanagan College Foundation, and the Okanagan College Alumni Association. The Hamilton Recognition Award Fund will provide meaningful awards for Indigenous learners for years to come. Criteria to qualify for the award are still being finalized.

“This is something close to our hearts and speaks to our hopes for the future,” Hamilton acknowledged. “We will all need to focus on true reconciliation for the health of our country and all people. Providing support for Indigenous learners at Okanagan College is something practical we can do to help.”

 In late 2020 Hamilton was honoured by the Westbank First Nation for his devotion to advancing the agenda for Indigenous learners and for his leadership as Okanagan College progressed on the path toward learning from, and working with Indigenous communities.

“Long before the narrative around ‘reconciliation’ became fashionable, Jim was leading Okanagan College and encouraging provincial and national colleagues and organizations to realize that meaningful change was needed,” commented says y̓lmixʷm Chief Christopher Derickson. “I know firsthand that what Jim was advocating behind closed doors was identical to what he was saying and promoting publicly.”

“Jim has shown us what leadership can help accomplish in so many ways, but in this area, his dedication has inspired many,” explains Gloria Morgan, Okanagan College Board Chair.

“From the first days of the College’s new iteration, and as a Director of the Foundation, Jim has championed community investment in support for Indigenous students,” says Gladys Fraser, Chair of the Foundation Board of Directors. “We’re pleased to be able to establish this fund in honor of Jim and his family.”

 “There are many alumni who – whether they realize it or not – have benefitted from the College’s commitment to providing access for and support to Indigenous students,” notes Kara Kazimer, the President of the Okanagan College Alumni Association. “Building on his legacy by supporting this award fund is just one means of honoring that commitment.”

People who want to can contribute by visiting The Hamilton Recognition Award Fund on Canada Helps. All donations will receive a charitable donation receipt and - as with all award donations via Okanagan College Foundation – 100 per cent of gifts will go directly to students.  

The inaugural Hamilton Recognition Awards are expected to be awarded later this year.

Tags: Inside OC, Okanagan College President, Indigenization



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