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Honorary Diploma Recipients

Each year, St. Lawrence College recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals or organizations whose accomplishments are of such excellence, inspiration and leadership that they serve as an example for the students and graduates of our college with our Honorary Diplomas.

Kingston Campus

Jimmy Hassan – CEO of Canadian Colours / Pizza Pizza Franchisee / Community Supporter

Jimmy Hassan

Jimmy is a significant supporter of numerous charitable organizations in the Kingston community. In addition to this support, he can often be found serving pizza to picketers, kids at ice rinks or anywhere else, he feels people may benefit. He immigrated to Canada 22 years ago and is truly a Canadian success story. He worked hard to build a career and today is a leader in his community.

  • What does this award mean to you personally?

To me, this award is more than just a celebration of my achievements; it is recognition of my struggles and hard work. Just as earning a diploma or degree takes years of effort, this award takes that same time and dedication. This award also celebrates the impact my work has made on the people I’ve helped and the smiles I’ve brought. My projects have encouraged the betterment of the community and inspired so many people. This award goes to those brilliant minds that are picking up where I leave off too. It’s not just my own contributions that got these results though. Nothing was achieved alone. My ventures that led to this moment were supported by my wife who is always by my side to motivate me, they were aided by my kids who had creative ideas to share and who helped articulate my thoughts, they were aided by my friends who pitched in financially or with ideas and help, and they were aided by my family overseas who inspired me to go out into the world and come here to even do what I have done in the first place.

  • How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community?

I’ve always seen SLC as an extraordinary college. It does everything right; instilling values into students, building community, and developing skills for success. As such, I’ve always supported of the College and have been more than happy to collaborate with them. Before the pandemic I had a project going with them that had to be reevaluated and now, I’m having SLC as a dignitary at my next diversity dinner. SLC, its staff, and students, have also supported me and my work. I’ve received a lot of kind and uplifting words from the people there, and being in my business’ area, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of them very well through serving them. They support my business this way, and we form connections for future collaborations. Finally, I’ve been told I am an inspiration to the international students, as an immigrant, to encourage them to become the best they can be.

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today? What were some ingredients of your success?

My path is one first of determination. I would not be anywhere without the determination to reach beyond what my walls in Pakistan had for me. I knew there was more I could achieve, and so I was determined to achieve it. However, setting off on my journey itself was tough. It was about sacrifice, because I knew I’d rarely see my family and friends, walk my childhood home, or be able to hug my mother. With courage, support, and that same determination though, I left my home and eventually came to Canada, via the United States. Initially, it was hard. Not only did I not know the language or have money, but my little education was irrelevant in North America for finding work. I took that nothing however, and made something of it instead. I remained determined, but also creative. With some critical thinking, I was able to find work around that put me on more equal footing, and with hard work to boot I became just like someone born here in time.

  • Who has been your biggest inspiration, and why?

I want to credit two people. First is my mom. She was the first person to encourage me in my life and in fact, she was the one who pushed me to leave Pakistan. She saw that I had ambitions that just weren’t possible to achieve in our living situation and with our economic status. She knew it would be hard to let her son go, but she encouraged me to do what brought me joy and pursue what would make me happy. She was a strong woman to do that and provide for me, and I look up to her for that. I wouldn’t have the courage to do all this without her. Next, I want to thank my wife, of course. She’s always been here by my side and I’m so glad to have married an amazing and strong woman like her. I know that all the rushing around and work can be stressful and annoying, but she sticks to it with me because she knows both that it’s for the better of the community and that it’s my dream to do this. She always encourages me to do what makes me happy as well and has an active role in it all. With her support, as with the rest of my family, I feel I can do anything.

  • What words of inspiration/wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?

Recognize that in order to succeed you must be willing to fail. Treat every set back, every challenge, and every failure as an opportunity for growth and recognize that it is a necessary part of progress. You cannot understand what success means unless you have experienced failure. You must then channel that frustration and convert it into positive energy and let that flow out towards everyone that you connect with by being a positive force at every step. Establish a vision by asking yourself tough questions about who you want to become, and that answer doesn't have to come over night, it will continue to shift and change as you move through life. Set short term goals and go after them. Rely on the positive voices in your life and surround yourself with positive energy because that is what has helped me to get to where I am today. If I listened to all the negativity, I would never have taken a single step forward. I am testament that it doesn't matter where you come from or how difficult your path has been or will be. If you work to elevate yourself by serving others, you will be rewarded in ways you'll never have expected. Like receiving an honorary diploma from an esteemed institution like SLC, it is a dream come true, and I never imagined that I would be standing here one day.

Community Leader and Activist
 
 Cathy Cleary
 
As a community leader, activist, and social entrepreneur, Cathy has been working in international development for the past 10 years and in the areas of community health and social justice for over 25 years. Cathy has dedicated her life to helping numerous organizations both here at home and across the globe to make the world a better place. She has been instrumental in supporting a number of initiatives and programs at SLC.

  • What does this award mean to you personally?

It is an honour to be chosen to receive this prestigious award. I feel humbled to be recognized for my work and I share this with so many others, groups of dedicated and highly motivated people working together to make a difference in our community and in our world. I am grateful to be in the company of Canadians, Tanzanians, and Congolese people working together to make small differences in the lives of vulnerable people. They share this honour with me.

As a St Lawrence College graduate, I am deeply grateful to Pam Bovey-Armstrong for nominating me. She is a powerhouse as an educator, an entrepreneur, and a community leader. She introduced me to the many staff and students at SLC with whom I have been privileged to work, and who have so warmly welcomed me into their lives and their learning.

  •  How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community?

Working within both community health and international development over the past 27 years has provided me with opportunities to partner with both local and international groups and institutions. Some time ago, I was reminded of the amazing work of St. Lawrence College as I attended my first Young Women Innovators Conference as a Viking judge. From that moment I felt reconnected with the St Lawrence College community. I went on to meet with the students of Enactus who took on the project of selling calendars to support the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre in DR Congo where women learn the skills of a seamstress to generate income to feed and educate their children. They raised over $1200. I attended the SoFun Workshop at the Innovation Hub learning many new ideas on how to structure, build, and grow an international social enterprise.

In 2018, I worked with Polina Buchan, Kathleen Wright and Pam Bovey-Armstrong and their many bright and engaging business students on an innovative and novel Shopify project. This included the full setup of our ongoing website www.couragecongo.com and a December Holiday Campaign with online sales of shopping totes, made by the Congolese women, totaling over $4000. This project included the brilliant creativity of marketing communications student enterprise ‘Spark’ with logos, graphic design, and advertisement ideas including a magazine advertisement to accompany an in-depth article in Profile Kingston. Students, Jadon and Elle, continued to support the website long after our joint project had ended.

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today? What were some ingredients of your success?

When I graduated from SLC, Cornwall campus in 1981 in Business Administration – Finance, I never imaged that my life path would lead me to where I am today. From banking, to owning a small business, to Kingston Community Midwives, then back to school in women’s studies, sociology and public administration, I was following my passion to learn and try to understand. In 2002 I found work in community development working on issues of homelessness, drug use, and food insecurity, and I felt like I had found my place, and my people

It was a short hop, skip and jump from community development to international development where since 1984, I had wanted to travel to Africa, after seeing the images of the famine in Ethiopia. I thought maybe I could help in some way and I longed to go. Twenty-four years later, in 2008 I joined a medical caravan with Canada Africa Community Health Alliance travelling to Tanzania. This adventure set me on a new trajectory into international projects and programs. In 2014, I joined Heather Haynes to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo where I now work with incredibly resilient women, having been traumatized by violence, who are now building new income generating skills and businesses.

  • Who has been your biggest inspiration, and why?

My biggest inspirations are the people I walk beside in my work. People caring deeply for their fellow human beings, like Kizungu, the Congolese man who took orphans under his wing and found support for women who had suffered untold violence. Clarisse, from our first graduating sewing class who is now our training centre coordinator. Alex, who started Lake Victoria Children on Ukerewe Island to help vulnerable children and their families. Irene who left the first job she ever had to set out and earn a Master’s Degree and find meaningful work with World Vision, and so many more.

I am inspired by the Tanzanian and Canadian doctors, nurses, clinical officers, dentists, pharmacists, and logisticians I have worked with who serve thousands of people each year with the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance. Their compassion, generosity and humility has opened doors for people in need. They are people who, with their skills and kindness, have saved many lives. I am in awe of friends who have initiated electronic medical records in isolated communities, provided access to clean water and wells, built schools, supported orphaned children, and supply needed medical equipment. My work is inspired by Canadian women who have generously offered their time and devotion to support Congolese women training and working to feed and educate their children.

These are the people who are my daily inspiration. They have made my world so much bigger and they have made the worlds of everyone around them a better place to be. 

  • What words of inspiration/wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?

Life is precious and precarious. To our graduates: today is the first day of the rest of your life and you get to decide how you want to live it. No matter what path you take in work and life remember that once you know something, you can no longer retreat into the abyss of unconsciousness. Awareness must provoke action. When you see something that doesn’t make sense, when you become aware of some injustice, inequity, wrong situation, you can take action. You can be the person to ask hard questions and open yourself up to hearing the answers. Be curious. Be yourself. Be your best self.

My hope and wish for each of you is that every day you bring your light and learning to all situations, and that you bring your best to yourself, your family, your community, and to the world.

Brockville Campus

Founding Partner of Northern Cables Inc

Shelley Bacon

Shelley is one of the founding partners of Northern Cables in Brockville, a homegrown entrepreneurial success story.  He is the CEO and has 265 staff working at plants in Brockville and Prescott.  He ensures his company is driven by listening to customer’s needs.  

  • What does this award mean to you personally? 

I tend to live my life below the radar, so to be nominated by fellow business colleagues and recognized by St. Lawrence College is a huge surprise and a tremendous honour.  I feel this award also recognizes that the hard work and efforts of my colleagues and the employees at Northern Cables are valued in our community.   

Over the past 25 years Northern Cables has grown into a large company, and we are now able to contribute to charities, educational institutions, and community initiatives.  For me, this award is about being a good corporate citizen and demonstrating maturity and responsibility, just as our forefathers did.   

  • How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community? 

Northern Cables, a growing manufacturing facility, relies on the graduates from St. Lawrence College in this region.  Together with the Skills, Training, and Economic Development programs and working co-operatively with the Economic Development Sector of the St. Lawrence Corridor, Northern Cables wants to encourage graduates to consider a career in manufacturing.   

When I graduated, almost 20% of Canada’s working population were employed in manufacturing, but sadly this number has dwindled down to around 9% today.  St. Lawrence College and this economic region have an opportunity to become a destination for industrial firms looking for resources, a talented workforce, and a great location.  For the past 25 years, supply chains have become more reliant on offshore manufacturing.  Any hiccup in supply, especially as we have experienced with the pandemic, has led to shortages and quality issues that has exposed Canada’s vulnerability.  Now, as the world realizes its dependency on products from far away countries, we need to encourage more training in the trades and technical courses to support those industries that are starting to re-shore back to North America.   

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today?  What were some ingredients of your success? 

Working every summer from a young age taught me the value of earning money and hard work. Scrubbing milk pasteurization kettles with steel wool, tarring roads, and cleaning printing presses became my version of “how it’s made.”  Selling bread and milk, newspapers and souvenirs on commission is a difficult thing to master when you are young.  My first finance course was to learn how my summer earnings, plus student loans would finance my education.   

I was fortunate to have worked in heavy industry during the boom decades of the 70’s to the 90’s.  Moving from primary steel to alloy steel to nuclear and finally to the wire and cable industry provided a career’s worth of invaluable experience in so many ways.  But it was my early childhood selling experiences that became important when we started our manufacturing business.  Accepting rejection and learning how to upsell were important when we were trying to inflate our balloon at Northern Cables. 

In more recent years I became involved in volunteer work and industry associations to broaden my horizon and give back to the community.  This is where I learned how others operate when it pertains to money matters.  Operating a manufacturing business is like sustaining a living, breathing entity.  It takes a whole team to control the levers to keep the boat upright.  

  • Who has been your biggest inspiration, and why? 

From an early age I was inspired by teachers, tutors, and good leaders.  Learning how to do logarithms and square roots by hand were lessons for me to study hard in school and be persistent.  David Beatty, Frank Davies, Donald Green, Hugh Grightmire, Al Smith, and Norm Saunders were great mentors to me at Northern Cables, and their business skills were invaluable.  The odds of starting a manufacturing business and developing your own brand are quite slim, and to go up against established electrical products across North America provided the ultimate challenge: competition.   

I endured tremendous stress at the beginning, as did all my partners.  Inhumane hours of work and the pressure to succeed were the norm for several years.  Not one of my partners gave up and their strong work ethic provided me continual inspiration to aim higher. 

  • What words of inspiration/wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?  

 Obtaining your diploma or degree is a prerequisite for many occupations, and after you complete your formal education, you will enter a world where you may encounter rejection. We all have to learn to deal with that and not let it get you down.  Remember, “no” is not a bad word. 

When we started Northern Cables, I visited many electrical distributors in Canada offering our AC90 product that we had planned to sell at the beginning.  Everywhere I went the answer was “no.”  Customers did not want to be the first to buy our product or risk losing their current trusted supply. 

Rather than give up, we took advice from an outside advisor and redid our business plan to make a more complicated product – TECK cable.  This change required some different equipment and a more difficult manufacturing process to make this industrial product.  It wasn’t easy but eventually things worked out well after making the change.  I can honestly say I have endured many rejections over the years, in both official languages.  Be thankful, respectful, and ask for advice.  It is how you learn to overcome rejection.    

 

CEO Ross Video

David Ross

Ross Video is one of the largest employers in Eastern Ontario with over 800 employees and has revenues of over $200M.  Ross Video donated a mobile computer lab to Seaway District High School and has made significant donations towards a new local airport and campground buildings in Iroquois. David is an advocate for his local community and provides support wherever he can. 

  • What does this award mean to you personally?   

Receiving this honour from St. Lawrence College serves as a reminder that no one succeeds alone. There’s a reason why people passionately thank those around them at award shows like the Oscars. My parents invested time in me, and my own family sometimes had to make do when I didn’t have time for them. I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most talented people in our industry. This isn’t really an award for me, it’s an award recognizing everyone that helped us achieve so much together.  

  •  How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community?     

I grew up in Iroquois along the Seaway. I saw the St. Lawrence River every day of my youth and watched it flow from Kingston, through Brockville, and down past Cornwall. That river tied all of those communities together and my hometown of Iroquois is right in the middle. My company, Ross Video, has hired graduates from St. Lawrence College for almost 50 years now. Those students have contributed greatly to our company, and Ross as a result of their contributions has been able to give back to the community.     

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today? What were some ingredients of your success?      

I could talk about all of the business strategies that worked, the technical inspirations, the pivotal sales wins, but that’s not at the core of our success. At the core, success comes from attracting good people and keeping them engaged and happy. When I was younger, social skills weren’t my strength; I loved technology and was good in school, but I made some mistakes with people. Fortunately, over time and with some good advice, I learned from those mistakes and thought deeply about what works and what doesn’t, not just individually as a person, but throughout an organization. We eventually wrote down many of those core elements and we live by them in the culture of our company. In the end, we built a company that’s great to work in and that was a major key to our success.   

  • Who has been your biggest inspiration, and why?    

It may sound like a cliche, but my parents. My father had a passion for engineering that swept me along with it. He brought home a computer in 1975 when I was nine years old and there was no turning back after that. Over the supper table we talked business, not sports, and debated different merits of various human resources issues. Over the years I’ve written down countless business advice one liners from my father and I’ve drawn on them time and time again. My father has since been formally recognized as a peer in the film and television industry alongside people like Thomas Edison and has an Order of Canada, so yes, I was very fortunate to have that level of guidance. My mother had such warmth and such a belief in me that I was able to carry her confidence inside me throughout my life.  

  • What words of inspiration/wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?   

 Live a meaningful and interesting life. On the meaning side, enjoy a shared purpose with a good team. Don’t stay in bad teams that drag you down. Contribute to that team and be a valued member. At the same time, live interesting and positive days that are not readily forgotten and never regretted. Whether doing interesting things in your work or outside of your work, shake up your brain regularly. Use your diploma or degree as a jumping off point to live a good life.  

 

Cornwall Campus

John is a civic-minded leader and lawyer serving Cornwall for over 40 years.

John McDonald

He is an active member of Cornwall’s Downtown Business Improvement Area and is a founding member of the Heart of the City. John was also instrumental in the formation of the St. Lawrence River Institute and is a founding Board member of the St. Lawrence River Institute Foundation.

   

  • What does this award mean to you personally?   

This is a huge honour for me. I believe that you get involved with community organizations because you believe in them and the work they do, and it is highly rewarding to have your work with such organizations recognized in such a truly inspiring way.  

  • How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community?   

My wife, Valerie, is a retired teacher who loved her job and we are both big believers in education.  I taught Business Law at the College for a number of years in the early days of my career and thoroughly enjoyed that experience. My law firm has hired legal assistants who graduated from St. Lawrence College program, including a student I taught in that program, and who is still a member of our team today.   

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today? What were some ingredients of your success?    

I started my post-secondary education planning to go to business school at the University of Western Ontario.  I switched to law after my second year and graduated from Law School at the University of Windsor. My interest in business never waned and so my focus has been business law and estate planning for my business clients. My extracurricular activities have followed a similar pattern and my continued interest in business has fueled my community involvement. For example, I drafted and processed the documentation that incorporated the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences and the St. Lawrence River Institute Foundation.  I did the same for the revitalization group Cornwall’s Heart of the City and, on behalf of the City of Cornwall, I drafted the By-Law which created the Downtown Business Improvement Area. I have served as a director on the board of the St. Lawrence River Institute Foundation since its incorporation.  I was a founder of, Heart of the City, and served as its Chair for many years and I have been the past Chair and continue to be a member of the board of directors of the Downtown Business Improvement Area.  

One of my proudest achievements is the Heart of the City Community Improvement Plan.  A Community Improvement Plan is a tool recognized in the Municipal Act and utilizing a combination of programs including grants, interest free loans and tax increment financing to allow a property owner to improve underutilized or vacant property in an affordable way. The Heart of the City Community Improvement Plan, which is now operated entirely by the City of Cornwall, was researched, written, proposed to the City of Cornwall Municipal Council, and promoted to property owners by Heart of the City.  It has played a major role in the transition of the City and, of the downtown, from a mill town and leveraged millions of dollars of investment in our community in the process.    

  • Who has been your biggest inspiration, and why?   

My dad, for who I am named, was my biggest inspiration. He was a business executive and an innovator in the direct marketing field. His success as president and CEO of Sovereign Seat Covers Ltd. and Fingerhut International, which for a time, was the fourth largest private sector employer in Cornwall behind Domtar, Courtaulds and, I believe, CIL, was a great source of pride for our family. My Dad instilled in me my love of business and my belief in community service.  He was a member of the Kinsmen Club, one of Cornwall’s premiere service clubs, and used his expertise in marketing to help the club develop a lottery system that became so big, the Ontario Government took it over and it became Wintario, a forerunner to OLG and the current provincial lotteries. My dad passed away in 2014 and I hope that my community service continues to add to the legacy he built.     

  • What words of inspiration/wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?    

I subscribe to the belief that life is all about relationships. In my case, I am a husband, a father, and a grandfather.  I am also a business partner, an employer, and a lawyer with a relationship with my clients and colleagues.  I am a member of the downtown Cornwall business community and a citizen of the City of Cornwall.  I prioritized my relationships in that order.  If I can offer one piece of advice, I would recommend that you take time to identify each of your relationships and that you regularly review and re-evaluate each of them.  I also believe that it is difficult to be of much service to your community until you have your own house in order. Do not take more from a relationship than you give and do not take any of them, particularly the family ones, for granted.  This, I believe, is the true meaning of work-life balance.  

I am receiving this honour, I think, because of my relationship with my community.  Institutions and organizations like the River Institute, the College, the DBIA, Heart of the City and many others are important to the growth and wellbeing of this community. These relationships need and deserve our time and attention.  

 

Patricia (Tish) Humphries – President of Board of Directors, The Hub for Beyond 21 Foundation 

Patricia Humphries

Trish is an SLC graduate of the 1977 Nursing program on the Cornwall campus, but left the profession to work with her husband on the family farm. She founded the Beyond 21 Foundation, a non-profit organization providing exceptional programming for adults aged 21 and older.                                  

  •  What does this award mean to you personally?                 

It was a complete and wonderful surprise to be considered for this award. I am both humbled and honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award, one of the most significant events of my lifetime. The kindness of people never ceases to amaze me. The quote from Albert Schweitzer that sits above my desk, is one of my daily inspirations, “What determines our success is how we affect the lives of others.”’                                                                

  • How have SLC students or the college in general intersected with your work or community?                                          

Our community partnership with the SLC has been outstanding! Students have completed their placements at Beyond21 for the last decade from the Social Service Worker, Personal Support Worker, and Business programs. They gain valuable experience, and at the same time support the programing at our center. Our participants love working with the students in groups and one-on-one, which is even more special. We are always sad to say goodbye once their time at our “Place to Belong” is over. The relationships established are a win-win opportunity for all!                                                                            

  • What path have you followed that sees you here today?  What were some of the ingredients of your success?

I studied at St. Lawrence College in the Registered Nursing program in Cornwall and had the honor to be the valedictorian for our graduating class in 1976. I recall saying to my fellow graduates, that although we thought we had reached our destination by receiving our diploma that evening, it is in fact just one stop on our life journey. There would be many more to come.   

The biggest impact in my and my family’s life was the birth of Emma, our fourth daughter. Emma with born with Moasic Trisomy 9, a rare chromosome disorder, and this diagnosis changed our family life forever. It has been a lifetime of doctors, hospitals, and therapists. When Emma was 18, I began looking for opportunities for her post age 21, when she would leave school system. I was shocked by the lack of opportunities, and my 14-year journey began to find a solution for Emma and others in her situation. Beyond 21 opened a decade ago and became a place where adults with developmental disabilities are respected and connect and contribute to our community.   

I have learned perseverance as it applies to self-care, family, and your occupation, and life’s path in general. I have learned from unfortunate circumstances and allowed them to make me stronger, not bitter.                                                                            

  • Who has been you biggest inspiration, and why? 

The biggest inspiration in my life was my cousin, Father Emmett Johns, a priest, humanitarian, and founder of Dans la Rue, a homeless shelter and support group for street youth. In 1988 with a $10, 000, 00 loan, he purchased a used motorhome and took to the streets of Montreal at night, distributing food and basic goods to street youth and giving them a place to warm up. The organization grew beyond his dreams. His philosophy was to “help without judgment.” I was blessed to have him in my life; he taught me so much with his passion to make a difference in the lives of troubled youth.                                                                                                       

  • What words of inspiration/ wisdom can you share with SLC graduates?                      

Surround yourself with successful people, they will inspire you, challenge you, support you and celebrate with you on your success and comfort you if you fail. Never stop learning, it doesn’t have to be academics, the sky is the limit to how you can enhance your education. Work hard and play hard, maintain a balance. Remember that word “perseverance,” your dreams are worth the work and sacrifice. Get outside and exercise -- it is important for both your mental and physical health. Give back to your community by volunteering and help a charity of your choice. I promise this act of kindness will make you feel so good!           

 

PAST HONORARY DIPLOMAS RECIPIENTS