Meet Niagara College’s 2017 Premier’s Awards nominees

The Premier’s Awards for Ontario college graduates celebrate the outstanding contributions and achievements college alumni make to Ontario and throughout the world. They are presented annually in six different categories: Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health, Recent Graduate, and Technology. Nominations are submitted from each of Ontario’s 24 community colleges. All nominees will be celebrated, and the six category winners announced, at a gala event in Toronto on Monday Nov. 27, as part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit. Nominees from Niagara College include:   Rob Beyer – Business Computer Programmer, 1984 Executive chairman, Villgro Kenya

Rob Beyer

Rob Beyer is a visionary leader who is fully aware of the unique challenges in building enterprises within the East African context. He is executive chairman of Villgro Kenya, an early-stage social enterprise incubator that supports innovative businesses in the healthcare and life sciences sector. His passion is to support aspiring African entrepreneurs in the health and life sciences ecosystem while supporting innovation and innovative approaches that build sustainable livelihoods. He is also a long-time director of Pehucci Children’s Home in Kenya, an orphanage that is home to 90 children and provides education to roughly 600 more.     David McIlvride – Create Arts and Design Broadcasting: Radio, TV and Film, 1978 Producer/writer/director, Gabriel Films North

David McIlvride

David McIlvride is a Gemini Award-winning director who has written, directed and produced some of the most respected documentary series on television for broadcasters such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and History Channel. A passionate storyteller, he has traveled the globe in order to tell the stories of people who normally would not have access to a global audience. His most recent documentary, Riverblue, charts the damaging environmental effects of the textile and tanning industries by observing the heavy pollution present in the nearby rivers of high-production manufacturing areas in India, China and Indonesia.     Rose DiMarco – Community Services Law  and Security Administration, 1985 Chief superintendent, regional commander – Central Region OPP

Rose DiMarco

Rose DiMarco has climbed the ranks in a field that is typically dominated by men. She is chief superintendent and first female regional commander Central Region with the Ontario Provincial Police. She is responsible for 900 uniform members and 270 civilian staff who police more than 80,000 full-time residents and an additional half million seasonal vacationers. She is the executive champion of the OPP Mental Health Strategy ‘Our People, Our Communities,’ co-chair of the Commissioner’s Inclusion Council, mentor in the Ontario Public Service Diversity Champion program and works with and mentors female officers.     Derek Christensen – Health Nursing, 1991 Regional educator Mental Health and Addiction Services – Niagara Health

Derek Christensen

Derek Christensen is an accomplished health care professional with 26 years of experience as clinician, manager and educator in mental health and addictions. He is regional educator for Mental Health and Addiction Services at Niagara Health System and is responsible for research, development, implementation and evaluation of staff training and education related to mental health. He is an officer with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Canadian Forces Reserve Army and has participated in training exercises throughout Canada and the United States. In 2012, he was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding service to Canada.     Ben Laurence – Recent Graduate Mechanical Engineering Technology, 2013 Structural technical designer – Blue Origin

Ben Laurence

The sky is definitely not the limit for Ben Laurence. As a structural technical designer for aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company Blue Origin, he designs, analyzes, tests and flies structural components for the New Shepherd spacecraft. New Shepherd is a suborbital manned rocket being developed as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism. It’s the first vehicle in human history to fly to space and return safely to Earth for future use. Flights with test passengers are planned for late 2018, with commercial passenger flights to begin in 2018. Blue Origin is owned by founder Jeff Bezos.       Blake Merritt – Technology Computer Programming, 1985 Vice president, IT Infrastructure Services and Cloud Computing – Meridian Credit Union

Blake Merritt

Blake Merritt is a senior technology leader with more than 28 years experience. He is driven by a strong collaborative approach, analytical mindset and the desire to find value for end users/customers through the most effective use of innovative solutions. He led the team that created the most automated and largest VMWare Private Cloud installation in Canada for Canada’s largest retailer, Canadian Tire Corporation. As vice-president, IT Infrastructure Services and Cloud Computing at Meridian Credit Union, he is accountable for setting strategic direction, implementation, support and operation of the underlying infrastructure and cloud solutions within Meridian’s technical landscape.   Congratulations to all of our 2017 NC nominees! For more information on the 2017 Premier’s Awards and past recipients, visit