NC nominates six distinguished grads for prestigious Premier’s Awards

Niagara College is proud to nominate six of its distinguished alumni for prestigious Premier’s Awards. Presented annually as part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit, the Premier’s Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions of six Ontario college graduates in six different categories: Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health Sciences, Technology, and Recent Graduate. Niagara College’s 2017 nominees include:
  • Rob Beyer (Business), executive chairman of Villgro Kenya;
  • David McIlvride (Creative Arts and Design), Gemini award-winning director;
  • Rose DiMarco (Community Services), chief superintendent and regional commander of the Central Region Ontario Provincial Police;
  • Derek Christensen (Health), regional educator of mental health and addiction services at Niagara Health;
  • Ben Laurence (Recent Graduate), structural technical designer for aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin; and
  • Blake Merritt (Technology), vice-president of IT infrastructure and cloud computing at Meridian Credit Union.
“There is no sector of our economy or part of our community that isn’t touched by the outstanding contributions of college graduates,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “We’re extremely proud of the accomplishments of our grads, and are pleased to nominate these distinguished Niagara College alumni for provincial recognition.” All nominees will be celebrated, and the six category winners announced, in Toronto on Monday, November 27, as part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit. For info visit Since the Premier’s Awards were launched in 1992, winners from Niagara College have included: Royal Canadian Navy Capt. Rebecca Patterson (Nursing, 1987), who won in 2014; David Pratt (Greenhouse Technician, 2007) in 2012; Jerry Howell (Computer Engineering Technology, 1988) in 2011; Jordan Harris (Winery and Viticulture Technician, 2004) in 2008; Heather Kilty (Social Welfare Worker, 1969), in 2003; and Carol Alaimo (Journalism-Print, 1984), in 1995.   Niagara Colleges 2017 Premier’s Awards Nominees Rob Beyer – Business Computer Programmer, 1984 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 – Creative Arts and Design Broadcasting: Radio, TV and Film, 1978 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 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 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 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 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.  

Spirit of giving flourishes in NC Greenhouse with Lincoln Garden Club and Horticultural Society donation

Submitted by Foundation and Alumni Relations:

Thank you to Lincoln Garden Club and Horticultural Society for its continued support.

Lincoln Garden Club and Horticultural Society has been a long-time generous supporter of Niagara College students and the School of Horticulture. Since 2002, the Club has donated annually towards purchasing greenhouse equipment, renovating the design studio, establishing campus gardens, and maintaining the ecological wetlands. In 2010, Lincoln Garden Club established an endowed fund for students in horticulture, greenhouse and Landscape Technician programs. Interest from this fund provides an annual bursary in perpetuity to help students in financial need.



College names outdoor classroom after long-time supporter

An outdoor learning space has been dedicated to a long-time College supporter: The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation.

Located on the wetlands at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, the site was recently named in honour of the Foundation following its $100,000 donation to the College for equipment earlier this year.

“Education and the environment are pillars for charitable giving for The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation, so we thought it would be fitting to name our ‘living classroom’ in recognition of the Foundation’s strong support for our College,” said Helen Armstrong, development officer, Foundation and Alumni Relations.

Board members of The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation Suzie Bowles and Sue Burch – who is an environmental engineer at Resolute Forest Products – visited the NOTL Campus for the sign reveal on October 13, and spoke to Environmental Technician students gathered for class at the site.

Associate dean of the College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies Al Unwin noted that the outdoor classroom plays an important role for college students, staff and the community.

”We are grateful for The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation’s generous support and are honoured to dedicate this site in their name,” said Unwin. “Since its construction in 1999, our environment students use this classroom for soil and water sampling, species identification and ecosystem restoration. This hands-on experience is what makes Niagara College so unique, and prepares our students for entering the workforce with relevant experience and skills.”

Since 1979, The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation has donated $600,000 to the College. It has supported 112 scholarships/ bursaries for students in environmental programs, several capital campaigns, as well as donations of gifts-in-kind.

The outdoor classroom located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus has now been named in recognition of a long-time College supporter, The Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation. Company board members Suzie Bowles and Sue Burch stand with the new sign.