More than 50 years ago, a bursary helped Paul Charette gain a college education; today, as a respected leader in the construction industry and strong supporter of the Canadian college system, he is helping other students do the same.
As the guest speaker at Niagara College’s June 24 convocation ceremony, the former CEO and current Board of Directors chair for Bird Construction – who is also the past director of Colleges and Institutes Canada – delivered a surprise announcement to the packed gymnasium of new graduates and their guests: a donation of $250,000 to establish a new scholarship.
“Today, my wife and I are pleased to announce that we are setting up an endowment fund at Niagara College that will help future students financially,” said Charette.
Niagara College will match Charette’s donated funds to create a $500,000 endowed fund, establishing the Paul and Gerri Charette Scholarship dedicated to students in the College’s School of Technology.
The announcement was met with a standing ovation during the ceremony, which celebrated 875 new graduates from the schools of Media Studies, Technology Studies and Trades.
“We are truly grateful for Paul and Gerri’s generous donation. We couldn’t ask for a greater testament to the applied education we offer our students than through this gift from a nationally recognized leader in the construction industry, a college alumnus, and past director of Colleges and Institutes Canada,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “What a wonderful investment in the development of highly-skilled workers needed for the growth of the construction and technology sectors.”
The news was well received by dean of NC’s Media, Trades and Technology Division Misheck Mwaba. “The gesture by Paul and Gerri demonstrates their commitment to supporting the training of the next generation of knowledge workers who will grow and sustain Ontario’s economy,” said Mwaba. “We are extremely grateful that their gesture is directed to the students in our School of Technology. This will encourage students to pursue careers in technology and motivate recipients to focus on their education.”
Charette’s announcement followed his highly inspirational speech to new graduates. He shared the story of his disadvantaged upbringing in Winnipeg where he faced the challenges of poverty – growing up in a family of six in a 700-square-foot home without sewer or water – as well as being raised by an alcoholic and abusive parent. He spoke about how receiving a $200 bursary helped fund his first year of college and how his education contributed to his success.
“You have received an education that will open many doors for you and provide you with many career opportunities,” he told the new graduates.
Charette, who received an Honorary Diploma in Technology Studies during the ceremony, also shared his recipe for success with the new grads. “Get a good education – you now have a great start, but in this age of a knowledge-based economy, rapidly changing job descriptions and new technologies, lifelong learning is more important today than it has ever been,” he said. “Jobs that you may have in the next five years could disappear and you may be working in a job in the next five to 10 years that does not even exist today. You need to be prepared.”
The ceremony capped off the College’s largest ever spring convocation ceremonies to date, celebrating more than 4,570 new graduates from June 21-24.
Niagara College School of Technology
Niagara College’s School Technology offers a variety of programs, from engineering to renewable energies. Students study at the Welland Campus in the newly renovated Rankin Technology Centre. The 120,000-square-foot complex and features classrooms and labs with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, including a welding lab, drafting room, materials lab, and a 10,000-square-foot ‘big bay’ where two-storey homes can be constructed. For information visit: http://www.niagaracollege.ca/technology-studies
About Niagara College
Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit NiagaraCollege.ca.
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