Marotta family donates to Niagara College’s new agri-food innovation complex

Benny and Louise Marotta, are accompanied by daughters Angela and Melissa, son-in-law Giuseppe Paolicelli, and grandchildren.

Niagara College announced on April 6 that the family of Benny and Louise Marotta are donating $1 million to support the College’s Achieving Dreams Campaign.

The donation of $1 million – which will support the development of, and equipment and furnishings for, Niagara College’s new innovation complex located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus – was announced to an audience of more than 600 business, education and community leaders at Niagara College’s Seafood Gala.

The Gala also celebrated the successful completion of the College’s Achieving Dreams campaign. The campaign, which began in April 2015, far surpassed its original goal of $7 million. Including the Marotta family gift, a total of $11,450,791 has been raised to support three areas of student success:

  • $6,319,028 for campus redevelopment
  • $3,472,692 to support scholarships, bursaries, study-work abroad and student leadership development opportunities
  • $1,659,071 million to fund instructional equipment and learning resources

In recognition of the Marotta family’s generous gift, Niagara College will name the new complex the Marotta Family Innovation Complex. The new 49,000 square foot four-storey complex is scheduled for completion in Fall 2018 and will significantly enhance the College’s ability to support the growing competitiveness of Niagara’s agri-business sector. The complex will include agri-food research and innovation laboratories, incubation space for business, specialized training facilities for student engagement and entrepreneurship, and will house a student fitness centre and gymnasium on the lower level.

“As a family we have always looked ahead towards progress, keeping traditions alive and making communities stronger.  We are proud to be supporting Niagara College.  Our goal is to help ensure this vibrant student community is always looking forward and that they will achieve successes in all aspects of their life,” said the Marotta family.  “These students represent the future of our local agri-business industry and the wine and culinary community of Niagara on the Lake and will continue to bring it recognition on the national and world-wide stage.”

The Marotta family has been active in land and community development within southern Ontario.  They have a history of supporting various charitable organizations close to their hearts such as Mackenzie Health, Humber River Hospital, Sick Children’s Hospital, Vaughan Hospice, Art Gallery of Ontario, Caledon Food Bank and others.

Louise and Benny’s daughters, Angela and Melissa, are the proprietors of award winning winery Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Two Sisters Vineyards has also committed $20,000 to Niagara College to establish the Two Sisters Vineyard Bursary Fund. Two awards of $2,000 each will be awarded annually to students in Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, Culinary Management, and Winery and Viticulture Technician programs.

“All of us at Niagara College are extremely grateful to the Marotta family for their generosity,” said Niagara College President Dan Patterson. “This gift, supporting the Marotta Family Innovation Complex, will provide our students with innovative learning spaces, and facilitate cutting-edge research projects that will move Niagara’s growing agri-food industry forward.  It is an important investment in innovation and economic development in the Niagara region. The additional support through the Two Sisters Vineyards Bursary will help many capable and aspiring

Achieving Dreams campaign raises over $11 million to support student success


Niagara College has 11 million reasons to thank those who have generously supported students through the recently completed Achieving Dreams fundraising campaign.

At a special event on March 26 thanking those who have made significant contributions to the campaign, it was announced that Achieving Dreams far surpassed its goal of $7 million, raising a total of $11,450,791.

The Achieving Dreams campaign was launched in April 2015, with a goal of supporting student success through campus redevelopment projects; equipment and learning resources; and scholarships, bursaries, study-work abroad and student leadership development opportunities.

Thanks to donors’ generous support, 788 new student scholarships and bursaries were created, and $1.6 million of new instructional equipment was purchased to help provide students with the up-to-date equipment and support they need to excel in their studies.

Donations have also helped fund 203,000 square feet of new and renovated learning spaces, providing new and expanded facilities to enhance the student experience and expand the College’s research and innovation capabilities, such as a 49,000 square foot Innovation Complex to support Niagara’s agricultural-business sector, and the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, where teams of students and faculty work with local manufacturing companies on applied research projects to help these companies enhance and grow their businesses.

“Niagara College is extremely grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have so generously supported our students through the Achieving Dreams campaign,” said Niagara College President Dan Patterson. “Whether it’s learning equipment, innovative learning environments or financial aid that helps students pursue their dreams, your contributions have made, and will continue to make, a lasting impact on the life and success of our students.”

At the celebration on March 26, donors to the campaign saw the effect their contributions have had first-hand, as three Niagara College alumni shared their own personal stories of success.

Daniela Cortes Aristizabal graduated in 2015 from the College’s Business–Sales & Marketing program, and will graduate for a second time in 2019 from NC’s Mechanical Engineering program, joining her father and her sister, who are both graduates of the same program. Aristizabal benefitted from the state-of-the-art equipment and innovative learning opportunities provided through the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The Centre was funded in part by a generous gift from Walker Industries and the Walker Family.

“Thanks to this on-campus, state-of-the-art facility, students like me have a place to apply the skills we learn in the classroom at a real job, with a variety of industry clients,” said Aristizabal. “It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping contribute to Niagara’s economy by helping businesses innovate.”

Gurjeet Dhaliwal grew up in India and immigrated to Canada at the age of 20 in search of a better life. Arriving in Canada without any support or income, Dhaliwal had a master’s degree in Math and Economics but could only make a living by working a series of odd jobs. She entered Niagara College’s Dental Hygienist program and is now a proud graduate. Thanks to donors, she was able to learn on the latest high-tech equipment that allowed her to seamlessly transition into the workplace.

“At Niagara College’s dental clinic I trained on leading-edge equipment.  From computer software programs, to digital x-rays, to instruments like the ultrasonic cleaner – the equipment we learned to use as students prepared us well for the realities of working in clinical environments,” said Dhaliwal. “Now that I am in the workforce, the skills I acquired at Niagara College are ones I use every day.”

Connor McCulloch is also a proud Niagara College graduate and is living his dream as an advanced care paramedic. Receiving a scholarship helped to alleviate some of the financial pressures that came with being a student, and allowed him to focus on his studies.

“All the time I spent focusing on my studies paid off. I graduated with a professionalism award from my program, which reassured me that I was on the right track with my career choice,” said McCulloch. “Perhaps most importantly, being able to fully immerse myself in the program changed the way I thought about being paramedic. By the time I graduated, it was a true passion for me.”


NC grad returns: Letterkenny producer Mark Montefiore offers students inspiration, advice

Students and faculty from BRTF and Acting programs gather to hear from Mark Montefiore on March 16.

Time flies when you’re making dreams come true.

Standing before an audience of Broadcasting and Acting students at the Welland Campus on March 16, multiple-award-winning film and television producer Mark Montefiore could hardly believe it had been more than 15 years since he was in their place as a student at Niagara College.

Since he graduated from NC’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program in 2003 as an aspiring producer ready to take on the world,  the former St. Catharines resident has kept busy since then doing just that – and it’s paid off. Named The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Generation Under 36 (2015), and Playback’s Top 10 to Watch (2012), Montefiore’s name draws crowds as the executive producer of Craft TV / Comedy Network multiple-award-winning series Letterkenny whose ‘skids, hicks and hockey player” characters ‘pitter pattered’ their way into becoming a cultural phenomenon.

As president of New Metric Media, Montefiore also produces What Would Sal Do on the Superchannel and drama Bad Blood. He has also produced his way into several film credits. His feature film Cas & Dylan – starring Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslanywon a Circuit Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival; and he produced award-winning films Easting Buccaneers and The Armoire.

Messages from Letterkenny to NC

Montefiore kicked off his presentation with video clips of personal messages to NC students from the cast of Letterkenny — including the famous Jared Kesso (creator, lead actor), Nick Bales, and Trevor Wilson.

“Hey students, if you’re writing for YouTube, make it short – two minutes tops,” said Kesso. “And if it’s not getting immediate reaction, like 1,000 views in a month, then take it down. Try something new.”

“You’re in a … great program,” said Bales. “Talent is great but hard work wins every time. Work at it.”

Making the NC connection

Montefiore told the students that Niagara College will prepare them well to enter the industry.

“Other schools don’t have what you have here and I certainly used that to my advantage,” he said. “You have your hands in everything, you’re forced to wear multiple hats … it’s a small team.”

He recounted how when he came to NC, he wanted to be an actor or a personality, but as a student this quickly changed. He didn’t know what producing was but first became interested in it after volunteering to produce for a TV class project. It was 5:30 p.m. and he was eager to leave campus for a date. As they went around the room to assign roles, it was a job that none of the other students wanted to do.

“I’m sitting here looking at my watch going, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ It was like, ‘who’s going to do sound,’ a couple of hands go up. ‘Who wants to direct,’ – everybody’s hands go up. ‘Who wants to do camera,’ – a couple of hands go up. ‘Who wants to produce,’ – nobody,” he said.

“I look at my watch and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to go. I’ll do it,’ … and then I did it, and I discovered that I loved it,” he recalled.

As for his date, “I don’t remember who she was anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

He told the students how as a NC grad, he was able to succeed in the Toronto film and television industry as he worked his way up from being a volunteer with Craft Services – doing anything needed to assisting to finding lost cats – to taking on larger jobs and moving into different areas, into the administrative side, the set, the offices, coordinating production management, until larger opportunities came his way.

Recounting how it was his friend from NC, writer Dane Clark, was who first sent him a link to the web series Letterkenny Problems, which inspired him to pursue the idea of producing it as a television show. He encouraged the students to get to know one another and keep in touch.

“You’re in a great spot right here, there’s a lot of talented people in this room. They’re going to off and do great things,” he said.

Advice to students

In addition to responding to questions from students and faculty, Montefiore offered top tips for entering and succeeding in the industry.

“Sell yourself, because it’s really about you. It’s not about your project,” he said. “People will want to work with you when you’re the engaging charming self you are – work on that and you will find people who will want to work with you.”

He stressed the importance of socializing and meeting people at industry events, to be thankful and gracious – “no one owes you anything” – and to surround themselves with great people “so you are the least experienced and dumbest one in the room.”

He encouraged students to stand out from the crowd. “Be remarkable or no one will remember you or your project,” he said. “Do something a little different.”

He told students about the rejection they will encounter in the industry and how to have a solutions-based mindset.

While he said there’s no “right” or “wrong way” to get into the business, he encouraged them to find a way to get their foot in the door. “Once you’re in, move around, and then you will start to find your way.”

An inside look

He told students what it’s like to be a producer.

“Literally every single hour, within that hour it’s SO tremendously different. I could have maybe 10 or 12 calls in an hour between co-producers for Bad Blood, casting directors, bankers, financiers, broadcasters, publicists, all for a million different reasons – not even the same project,” he said.   I get bored very easily, and I love producing because when I get bored of working at the office I go to sets. When I get bored of sets I go to the office. When I get bored of that I go figure something else out.”

What’s it like to be on the set of Letterkenny?

“It’s a lot of laughs. Letterkenny is a unique experience because it’s so different than a lot of shows that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “There’s so many takes we just can’t use because the camera is shaking, because the camera operator is laughing his head off … it’s a good problem to have.”

What faculty, students are saying

BRTF faculy Alysha Henderson who organized the event, recalled how, as a student, Montefiore displayed that he had what it takes to succeed in the industry.

“His eagerness made him stand out as a student, he was always very engaged, very creative and interested in so many different things,” she said.

She noted that becoming a producer can be difficult because there is to direct path to the profession.

“To achieve what he has achieved is so significant, especially since he’s just started and he’s not even 40 yet,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the next 15 years.”

Students who attended the presentation were thankful for the opportunity to hear from Montefiore.

“I thought it was awesome. It was nice to hear from a grad from NC who has had so much success,” said Acting student Brevin Graziania. “I’m from Welland and sometimes you think you might have a hard time if you are not from Toronto. He was very inspiring.”

For first year BRTF student Sawyer Edworthy the presentation was not only inspirational, it gave him an opportunity to gain experience. It was his first time in the film studio as he volunteered to set up the lights and backdrop for the event, working with second years in the program.

“He was very inspiring and is what I strive to be. I hope to do something similar,” said Edworthy. “Maybe, I’ll be up there in 15 years.”


Bursary launched in honour of Phyllis Barnatt to help Journalism students in financial need

A new bursary established in memory of long-time Journalism professor Phyllis Barnatt will continue her legacy of helping students at Niagara College.

Barnatt, who was known for her dedication to her students for more than 25 years, died in August 2017 at the age of 60 after a battle with melanoma – a year after she retired from the College.

An article celebrating Barnatt’s career at Niagara College and her impact on students was published in the Welland Tribune on August 15, 2017: Teacher remembered for her passion and empathy. 

“Phyllis Marie Barnatt was involved in the Journalism department both as a professor and a mentor for her students for 26 years,” said Barnatt’s spouse, Gerald Ruch. “This bursary is awarded in memory of Phyllis Marie Barnatt’s dedication to her students and her desire for their success in journalism both at college and in their future endeavours.”

The College established the bursary after receiving a $15,000 donation from the Business Success & Loan Centre and Gerald F. Ruch in December.  The bursary was spearheaded by a $10,000 donation from the members of Business Success & Loan Centre, where Barnatt also served as a member. After learning about the initiative, Ruch, who is president of the Centre, donated an additional $5,000.

Beginning in September 2018, a $1,500 bursary will be awarded annually to a Journalism student who is in financial need as part of the new Business Success & Loan Centre / Gerald F. Ruch Bursary in Memory of Phyllis Barnatt. The current funds ensure the bursary will be awarded annually to a student for the next 10 years.

“A bursary is a wonderful way for family and friends to honour a loved one’s memory while, at the same time, helping a student in need,” said NC development officer Helen Armstrong.

For students who are in financial need, Armstrong noted that receiving a bursary can have a critical impact on their lives.

“Receiving a bursary can make all the difference; it can change a student’s path from leaving a program for financial reasons, to completing their program successfully and achieving their academic dreams,” she said.

Those who are interested in contributing to The Business Success & Loan Centre / Gerald F. Ruch Bursary in Memory of Phyllis Barnatt may contact Helen Armstrong at

For more information about scholarships and bursaries visit

Related articles

Journalism prof Phyllis Barnatt retires her red pen | InsideNC

Teacher remembered for her passion and empathy | InsideNC

Recommend outstanding NC graduates for Premier’s Awards

A message from Greg Medulun, vice president, External Relations, and CEO, Niagara College Foundation:

As you know, at Niagara College our unique brand of applied education is second to none, equipping our students with skills, knowledge and real-world experience that sets them apart.

There is no better testament to the quality of a NC education than the outstanding successes of our graduates. We take great pride in the accomplishments of our alumni, who have become leaders in all sectors of the economy – in Niagara and beyond.

We believe it is vital to celebrate the successes of our alumni community, and the annual Ontario Premier’s Awards helps us do just that.

The Ontario Premier’s Awards honour the accomplishments of outstanding graduates from each of Ontario’s 24 colleges and, each year, Niagara College nominates members of our alumni community for this prestigious recognition. Nominations are submitted in six categories, including:

  • Business;
  • Creative Arts and Design;
  • Community Services;
  • Health Sciences;
  • Technology; and
  • Recent Graduate (within five years).

The Alumni Relations team is now requesting your assistance in identifying accomplished NC grads to consider nominating for this year’s Ontario Premier’s Awards. Please send your recommendations directly to me, Wendy Dueck or Catherine Barkwell by Friday, February 23.

Thank you very much for your assistance. Let’s all take pride in the successes of our NC alumni community.

Sotto Una Buona Stella: Special dinner event at Two Sisters Vineyards to support Niagara College culinary students

A sought-after Toronto dinner series on is now on the menu for Niagara on February 23, and it’s bringing one of Italy’s finest chefs along with it – all to benefit students from Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute.

The dinner event, Sotto Una Buona Stella (which means ‘under a lucky star’ in Italian) will be held at Two Sisters Vineyards on February 23.

A collaboration between Two Sisters Vineyards and the Consulate General of Italy in Toronto, the event is part of an esteemed dinner series that began in 2015 in Toronto. This collaboration is presented by the Consulate General of Italy in Toronto, the Instituto Italiano di Cultura, and the Italian Trade Commission, in partnership with the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute. Proceeds from the event will support scholarships and bursaries for students studying in Niagara College’s Culinary Management program.

Two Sisters’ Kitchen76 head chef Justin Lesso – who is also a NC culinary grad – will be collaborating with special guest chef Caterina Ceraudo for the event. Ceraudo was awarded 2017’s Michelin Female Chef Prize and named Best Female Chef in 2016 by the Italian restaurant guide Identita Golose. Her family’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Dattilo Ristorante, is located on their biodynamic farm and vineyard in the Calabrian countryside where they pioneered the use of biodynamic farming methods to produce wine and olive oil, and grow fresh produce.

“As a family, we proudly continue to look for ways to give opportunity to the students of Niagara College. It is these graduates that will help the Niagara region grow to become a leading wine and culinary destination on the world stage in the years to come,” said Angela Marotta, co-owner, Two Sisters Vineyards. “It is special wine and food events, like this at Kitchen76, that will push the boundaries of exceptional dining experiences and inspire the students who all take part.”

“This magical evening aptly called ‘Sotto Una Buona Stella’ is a collaboration between Two Sisters Vineyards and the Italian Consulate to raise funds for the College’s culinary institute,” said Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, co-owner, Two Sisters Vineyards. “Visiting chefs like Michelin-star chef Caterina Ceraudo will be sure to excite the palate and all your senses through her innovative cooking techniques. We are excited to have our out-of-town guests and members of our supportive community enjoy a memorable evening.”

CFWI chef professor Mark Picone will be involved in the event, as well as several culinary student volunteers who will benefit from the experience of working alongside Michelin-starred chef Ceraudo at the event.

“We are extremely appreciative that an all-star event like Sotto Una Buona Stella will not only benefit Niagara’s culinary and wine scenes, but future industry ‘stars’ through its support for student learning at Niagara College,” said vice president, External Relations Greg Medulun. “Our College’s mission is to help our students achieve their dreams, and this type of generous support from Two Sisters Vineyards helps make that happen.”

CFWI dean Craig Youdale said he was thrilled that the proceeds from the event will support NC’s culinary students.

“Two Sisters Winery has been a fantastic partner and supporter of Niagara College. Their chef and winemaker are graduates of our programs as are many of their current staff,” said Youdale. “Having this event in support of our students is important as they all have significant financial need, and it’s with support of our community that we can help them succeed.”

Ticket info

Sotto Una Buona Stella will be held on Friday, February 23, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $275 per guest.  Click here for ticket info.

Media coverage:

Two Sisters Under A Lucky Star

Angela Marotta on Sotto una Buona Stella in Niagara

Tickets available for 29th Annual Seafood Gala

A message from the NC Foundation:

The Seafood Gala is Niagara College’s most successful annual fundraising event raising over $2.7 million in its 28-year history for equipment and learning resources, and scholarships and bursaries.

This premier event features a sumptuous seafood (and more) buffet prepared by the award-winning chefs of the Fallsview Casino Resort, accompanied by Niagara College wines. Guests enjoy an elegant evening filled with live entertainment, music, dancing and silent and live auctions valued at over $100,000. Supported by nearly 75 Niagara College students, this event is one not to be missed.

Please join us at the Niagara College’s 29th Annual Seafood Gala on Friday, April 6, 2018 at the Fallsview Casino Resort Grand Hall in Niagara Falls.

Reception: 6 p.m.

Dinner: 7 p.m.

Tickets: $250 per person | tables seat 10 (For specific staff rate see below)

Black tie optional | non-seafood options available

The Seafood Gala has consistently sold out for the past several years, so please don’t delay. There are a limited number of staff tickets available at a special rate of $200 per ticket (maximum of two tickets per staff member).  Each paid staff ticket will receive a $25 charitable tax receipt. To order tickets at the staff rate, please contact Alissa Trivieri at ext. 7551 or via email at

We are looking forward to enjoying a wonderful evening with you.

For event details visit:


Joanne Cousineau

Development and Event Coordinator

Phone: 905-641-2252, ext. 7775






Joanne Cousineau

Development and Event Coordinator

Phone: 905-641-2252, ext. 7775

Former scholarship recipient gives back

A woman with an education is unstoppable. That’s what award-winning entrepreneur Ashley Brown believes, and it’s why she makes it her mission to help empower women – or, more specifically, help them empower themselves to rise.

Since she graduated from Niagara College’s Business Administration – Operations Management (Co-op) program in 2009, Brown has risen up in her own right. As the owner and artistic director of She Implements, she helps entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level by providing unique, cutting edge virtual business support.

Her work has earned her a 2017 Top 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Award from The Business Link Niagara. She was also a finalist at this year’s Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Awards in the Emerging Business category.

Getting to where she is today however, hasn’t been easy for Brown. She enrolled in Niagara College’s Business Administration – Operations Management (Co-op) program as a mature student at the age of 24 with a three-month-old baby girl at home. “I knew I wanted to have a better life and be able to tell my daughter that no life situations can stop you from reaching your goals,” she said.

While she was thankful for the support of her husband who could cover basic household costs and for the ability to afford childcare, investing in her future came with financial constraints. With a baby at home, she wasn’t able to take on a job in addition to her studies. As a mature student, her parents weren’t footing the bill for her education. For Brown, receiving a scholarship “was a blessing.”

“I can honestly say that I would not have been able to start college without the financial assistance I received,” she said. “It helped curb the costs of tuition and allowed me to purchase my books to get started. It bridged the gap between OSAP and the balance I needed to make it in the doors.”

Brown now uses the skills she acquired in her classes at Niagara College to run her business. Combining her education with “hustle, ambition and action” has helped her design the life she desires – one that enables her to work from home while raising three children.

She finds it extremely rewarding to work with other entrepreneurs as she assists them with planning and implementing their growth strategies. “I get the pleasure of taking action and helping others rise daily,” she said. “I enjoy that I am able to give back and live my life to its higher purpose of helping women empower themselves to create a bigger impact on the world.”

One of the founding principles that Brown has built into her company is one that is personally meaningful to her: education support. She does this through the She Implements scholarship fund – making a yearly commitment to help mature women attend post-secondary education.

“I believe financial assistance is so important,” she said. “It removes a restraint for people who are trying to better their lives.”

Latest partnership to benefit NC graduates and employees

A message from the Niagara College Foundation and Alumni Relations:

We are pleased to announce a new agreement with TD Insurance Meloche Monnex.

As a trusted partner, the TD Insurance Meloche Monnex program is dedicated to helping Niagara College graduates and employees get access to preferred group rates on home and auto insurance coverage.

TD Insurance is the leading direct response insurance group in Canada*, offering quality insurance products for over 65 years. From getting a quote to filing a claim, their knowledgeable advisors will help you find options that are right for you.

To get a TD Insurance Meloche Monnex quote call 1-866-334-0333 or visit

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.