Passion and achievement common threads among College honorees

By College Relations | April 12, 2012

Yasmin John-Thorpe, 2012 Honorary Fellow
Yasmin John-Thorpe, 2012 Honorary Fellow

Okanagan College’s 2012 Honorary Fellows each have something in common – the three local recipients are renowned for their vision, advocacy for youth, and impact on the people of the Okanagan.

Yasmin John-Thorpe, Lane Merrifield and Janet Shaw have each been granted Okanagan College’s highest recognition as Honorary Fellows.

“It is a privilege to welcome the 2012 Honorary Fellows to Okanagan College,” said President Jim Hamilton. “To say this year’s recipients have had a deep impact on our communities is an understatement. In their own unique ways, Yasmin, Lane and Janet have made meaningful contributions that have served, and continue to serve, the people who call the Okanagan home.”

Well-known in the South Okanagan as a writer, literacy advocate, and philanthropist, Penticton-native Yasmin John-Thorpe will be honoured at Okanagan College’s Spring Convocation ceremony on June 2, at 10:30 a.m. in Kelowna.

John-Thorpe is passionate about literacy and writing and is a co-founder of Penticton Writers and Publishers. She is coordinator of Raise-a-Reader in the South Okanagan and organizes the annual British Columbia Youth Writers Camp in Penticton, where she serves as a mentor to young writers. Her efforts to promote literacy in the province earned John-Thorpe the BC Community Achievement Award in 2010.

The Okanagan College alumna is a respected author, having written several children’s stories, two were published in education readers and one was selected to appear in a Caribbean reader for young hospital patients. John-Thorpe documented a 2010 pilgrimage trek through Spain, which resulted in a coffee table book. Donations to the book benefitted the Raise-a-Reader program.

A longtime supporter of Okanagan College, John-Thorpe served as the Honorary Co-Chair of the $5-million Campaign for Okanagan College's Centre of Excellence in Penticton. In 2005, she and her husband Rick contributed $250,000 to establish a scholarship fund to support local students entering Okanagan College and UBC’s Okanagan campus. To date, 28 students, from the Okanagan, have received the scholarships.

Lane Merrifield, 2012 Honorary Fellow

Lane Merrifield, one of the Okanagan’s best-known entrepreneurs, will receive his Honorary Fellow distinction at the College’s afternoon Convocation ceremony on June 2 at 1:30 p.m.

Merrifield is the co-founder of Club Penguin, the Internet’s largest virtual world for children, and now serves as executive vice president of Disney Online Studios where he oversees Disney’s Virtual Worlds and Connected Games.

Merrifield exemplifies key attributes of an Okanagan College Honorary Fellow; chief among them are innovation, passion and leadership. Club Penguin began in 2005 out of a desire to provide a safe online space for children around the world to connect in a fun, creative and meaningful way. The company grew significantly and was acquired by Disney in 2007.

His projects have won numerous awards including a Webby, BAFTA, and various Parent Choice Awards. In addition to such external successes, Disney Online Studios was recently named one of the top 20 Best Places To Work in Canada, affirming Merrifield’s vision and leadership within the company.

The company’s philanthropic contributions as a result of the company’s success have been impactful through the development of a giving culture of global citizenship. Since Club Penguin’s inception, millions have been donated to a wide variety of charitable organizations.

Longtime Oliver resident Janet Shaw will receive Honorary Fellow status at the College’s Summer Convocation

Janet Shaw, 2012 Honorary Fellow

ceremony on June 28 at 6 p.m. in Kelowna.

Shaw has deep roots in the South Okanagan as a post-secondary advocate, policy maker and devoted volunteer. She led Okanagan College’s Board of Governors in the role as Chair from 2006-09 and previously served Okanagan University College’s Board in the role of Vice Chair.

Shaw was first appointed to the OUC Board in 2001 and spent the next eight years enhancing Board processes. Upon retiring from the College Board in 2009 Shaw was highly respected among her colleagues both on the Board and within the College for her contribution to developing the College’s Board governance model.

The former registered nurse has spent many years advancing the needs of education in the province both in her roles at the College and through her volunteer work in the K-12 system. Her involvement in education comes from a deep personal philosophy in the value of education and training. 

Shaw has been instrumental in shaping a sector at a time when advanced education in British Columbia has been undergoing significant changes. She helped coalesce the Boards of British Columbia's colleges and refine their approach to sector advocacy and policy development.

Prior to her work in post-secondary and in board governance, Shaw served as mayor and as a councilor for the District of Logan Lake. She has been involved in a number of volunteer organizations and is the current president of Desert Valley Hospice Society.

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