Learn more about past Honorary Diploma recipients.
Terence J. O’Reilly
A life led drawing on a strong moral compass, and the philosophy of servant leadership, has driven Terence (Terry) J. O’Reilly’s dedication to his community, family, country, and profession.
Growing up in Toronto, Terry’s childhood was rooted in his neighbourhood, playing backyard ice hockey and working a paper route. His parents instilled in him a shared set of values that included integrity, generosity, and a strong work ethic.
Terry brought those values to his career in public service, which included a rewarding experience as Chief of Staff for a federal Cabinet Minister. Terry cites Pierre Elliott Trudeau and John F. Kennedy as leaders whose actions inspired his own. “For the most part, they led from principles, and tended to develop policy around those principles,” says Terry. “I think they were both models of strong personal values translated into influencing our society for the better.”
Terry’s current role is principal owner and President and CEO of Pricedex Software, a successful software technology firm. Since relocating Pricedex from Kanata to Brockville in 1999, Terry has endeavoured to serve and improve the quality of life in the community in which he runs his business.
A true ambassador for the city of Brockville, Terry has been actively involved in the promotion of Brockville as a business destination, and was an instrumental contributor to the Mayor’s Vision 20/20 Task Force on Economic Development. He has been a long-time supporter and fundraiser for United Way Leeds & Grenville, serving two terms as its Fundraising Campaign Chair. Amongst a range of actions supporting local charities and sporting activities, Terry and his company also ran an independent fundraiser, the Pricedex Pool Tournament, which successfully raised more than $150,000 over a twelve year span for United Way Leeds & Grenville.
One of Terry’s early vocations was singing in upscale lounges and dining rooms. Since that time, he has weaved together his passion for music and the arts with his passion for contributing to the quality of life in his community, fostering theatre arts in Brockville. From local high school productions, to the Brockville Arts Centre’s Pricedex Summer Series, of which he is the
founding season sponsor, Terry’s unwavering support of local arts programming has added vibrancy to the Brockville area. Terry was an early and active contributor to the Brockville Arts Centre refurbishment, Project Encore, and was elected to its Performing Arts Hall of Fame as both a Performer and a Promoter in 2016.
At St. Lawrence College, where he served on the Board of Governors from 2002 to 2008, Terry’s support of the arts and his embodiment of servant-leadership have produced lasting effects. Terry was actively involved in the fundraising and planning of the Brockville campus’ student residence and was instrumental in the establishment of the Music Theatre - Performance three-year diploma program, as well as instituting the Justin O’Reilly Memorial Bursary, awarded annually to a deserving Music Theatre – Performance student.
Through Terry’s support and Pricedex season sponsorship of the Music Theatre – Performance program’s productions, hundreds of students have benefitted from experiential learning opportunities performing on stage at the Brockville Arts Centre for members of the community.
Terry’s philanthropy extends beyond his generous financial support. He also generously gives a substantial amount of his time and expertise to the benefit of local organizations and important community initiatives. His example serves as a message and inspiration to graduating students starting out on their careers that, even without the financial means, all individuals can contribute and positively impact their community through acts of service and the generous giving of time, skill, and leadership.
“I believe that the fundamental characteristics of integrity, honesty, ethics, fairness, and morality shape everything we do in life,” says Terry. “If we are consistent with that, it also spawns other leadership qualities, such as trustworthiness, accountability, creativity, and the ability to motivate others.”
“Sharing Terry’s story will help St. Lawrence College graduates to understand – as Terry does - that success isn’t measured by what we accomplish in our professional careers alone, but in the positive change we work to make in the lives of those around us,” says Steve Clark, MPP, Leeds-Grenville.
For his activities stretching beyond the boundaries of Leeds and Grenville, Terry has been awarded both the Canada 125 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee awards for his countless contributions to the betterment of our nation through public service.
Terry’s advice for St. Lawrence College’s graduating students is, “Refuse to fail,” a perfectly succinct reflection of his tenacious spirit. “I was raised to be positive and then I have learned, over the years, that there is no business or personal situation so grave or foreboding that I should allow it to consume my spirit, drive or motivation,” says Terry. “When times get tough, you must face the challenge head on, but it is important at those times to inject some fun and good spirit to help you through.”
Dr. Rachel Navaneelan
For dentist Dr. Rachel Navaneelan, the concept of giving back to her community takes on a global reach. From her local community in Cornwall to her birthplace of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr. Rachel’s extensive charitable work has positively impacted countless individuals.
One of six children, Dr. Rachel was raised in Colombo by her mother and father, a physician who instilled in her the spirit of philanthropy at a young age. “I had a very happy childhood,” says Dr. Rachel. “My father was always helping people by providing free medical treatment and donations to charitable organizations. He taught me to give back to others and instilled in me the value of integrity and a hard work ethic, which I have tried to instill in my own children.”
Dr. Rachel and her husband, an anesthesiologist, lived in Ireland for several years before moving to Canada to give their children the best life possible. They lived in Newfoundland before moving to Cornwall in 1993. In the past 25 years, Dr. Rachel has raised her children, established roots in the Cornwall community, and built a successful dentistry practice. “I love what I do,” says Dr. Rachel. “I love getting to know my patients and changing their lives through their smile.”
Dr. Rachel changes lives in other ways as well.
On December 26, 2004, Dr. Rachel’s home country of Sri Lanka was struck by the tsunami produced by the Indian Ocean earthquake, displacing 1.5 million residents and resulting in more than 30,000 deaths and 21,000 injuries. Dr. Rachel was particularly devastated to hear about how the tsunami affected the children in Sri Lanka. “I have always had a soft spot for children. I felt compelled to do something,” says Dr. Rachel.
What started as a small fundraiser grew into a large charitable organization. In 2004, Dr. Rachel founded The Rachel’s Kids Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children through health, wellness, and education initiatives both locally and overseas. While Dr. Rachel continues to travel internationally to volunteer and work with children, her deep commitment to giving back to Cornwall, the community that embraced her 25 years ago, is evident.
Over the years, Rachel’s Kids and Dr. Rachel have worked to fulfill specific needs in the Cornwall community, collaborating with numerous organizations including the Children’s Treatment Centre, Cornwall Community Hospital, Victim Services of SDG&A, Koala Place, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cornwall & District, and St. Vincent de Paul Society, among others.
“Dr. Rachel is a committed and dedicated child advocate and community worker. She has worked tirelessly and contributed greatly to improve the quality of life of children in Cornwall, as well as internationally,” says Kim Lauzon, Executive Director of The Rachel’s Kids Foundation.
Rachel’s Kids launched two initiatives in 2014 that focus on local children battling life-threatening and chronic illnesses and their families: Small Moments of Joy grants wishes to sick children, while Helping Hands provides financial relief to families whose children are undergoing medical treatment. In 2017, Rachel’s Kids opened House of Hope, a centre where children with autism and learning disabilities can spend time in a state-of-the-art sensory room.
Dr. Rachel has also found a way to blend her profession with her passion for helping others. Dr. Rachel participates in the nationwide campaign Dentistry from the Heart by hosting an annual event at her dental clinic in which Dr. Rachel and her employees provide dental procedures free of charge to more than 100 local individuals who are unable to afford dental care.
“I’m a strong believer in giving back to the Cornwall community as it has been so great to me since I arrived here and started my dentistry practice 25 years ago,” says Dr. Rachel. “All children locally and globally hold a special place in my heart and this is the reason why I started Rachel's Kids House of Hope, so I could support children and families in need right here in our community.”
The community in which Dr. Rachel lives, works, and serves continues to recognize her for the incredible impact she has on the lives of local children. The Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce presented Dr. Rachel with the Dr. Garth Taylor Humanitarian Award in 2009, and in 2017 the Chamber named Dr. Rachel Citizen of the Year.
For graduating students about to embark on careers, Dr. Rachel offers the following advice: “Be prepared for hard work and dedication. Your chosen profession may go beyond the traditional 9-5 work hours and require you to make sacrifices, but if you are passionate about the work you do, your career can be very rewarding. And if you are able, find a way to help others – this can be the most rewarding experience of all.”
Jim Cooper, Brockville
When Jim Cooper took over the presidency of Brockville’s Canarm LTD., a friend gave him a paperweight with a precocious inscription that pretty much sums up the tenet behind his lifelong leadership successes.
“Good things come to people who work their a** off while they wait,” Mr. Cooper says, recalling the inscription.
The caption speaks to Mr. Cooper’s sense of humour, but it also speaks volumes as to how a teenager working on the shop floor grew up to become a President and a part owner of a global manufacturing firm that has been recognized as one of the best managed companies in Canada.
“I’ve told many young people this,” he said. “The only reason that I’ve got where I am is because I prepared for the next opportunity and worked hard until it came.”
While working in Canarm’s press shop after high school, Mr. Cooper found out that the next person who planned to retire was a welder, so he went to St. Lawrence College and earned his welding ticket. While taking the welding course, his manager asked him if he would be willing to supervise the night crews, so he took a supervisory course at the college.
Soon afterward, still in his early 20s, he was managing the whole factory as the assistant plant supervisor.
Ten years ago, Mr. Cooper became president of Canarm, which was in 2012 named one of Canada’s Best Managed companies by CIBC and Deloitte professional services.
Mr. Cooper also received the 2013 Citizen of the Year award from the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce for the extensive volunteer work he has done within his community.
That community work includes co-chairing Brockville’s annual Palliative Care Golf Tournament, which earns hundreds of thousands of dollars every year during a single day of golf. He also serves on the board of the Brockville General Hospital Foundation and he was the chair of the Brockville YMCA board on which he served a total of seven years.
His desire to give back to his community stems from his childhood growing up the son of a single mom, who was supporting her family with the aid of government assistance in Cornwall. Mr. Cooper also received mentoring support and friendship through Big Brothers as well as a subsidized membership at the local YMCA, which provided him with a safe place to play when he was a young boy. He got caught breaking windows at the Cornwall YMCA, but instead of this turning badly, the local Y gave him an assisted membership, and his Big Brother got him involved in a number of local youth programs.
His Mom also taught him to give back by becoming a foster parent to many children later in life. It was this childhood experience as well as the death about 15 years ago of a friend and co-worker who died of cancer at the age of 40 in the Palliative Care service of BGH—followed by a family member —that drove Mr. Cooper toward further community sevice work in support of Palliative Care.
He wanted to give back to the Palliative Care Services, with which he’d connected during his friend’s and family members illnesses. Canarm had also historically been a sponsor of the annual Palliative Care Golf Tournament, so helping to run it with Dave Publow and a great team of volunteers was a good fit.
Before he knew it, he’d become co-chair of the Palliative Care Golf Tournament, which has brought in as much as $650,000 in one year since it began several years ago.
Of course, it wasn’t long before other organizations were contacting Mr. Cooper to see if he could help out with their organizations. When a member of the board at the Brockville and Area YMCA asked him to join the board, Mr. Cooper recalled the difference that his local Y had made in his young life, and in 2011, he became chairman of the Brockville Y board.
“It’s so important to give back,” he says. “After all, I was on the winning side of so much of it, so it felt natural.”
He is also a board member of the Brockville General Hospital Foundation and chairman of the Student Advisory Council for Loyalist College's Business Sales and Marketing program in Belleville.
Mr. Cooper says it’s “incredibly humbling” to be receiving an honourary diploma from St. Lawrence College, an institution that played such a fundamental role in preparing him for his early successes: “It’s recognition of what has gone into living life and working hard at what you do every day in your community.”
Jeannette Despatie, Cornwall
They say that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person to do it.
Jeanette Despatie, president and CEO of Cornwall Community Hospital and acting president and CEO of Brockville General Hospital, is that busy person. And, indeed, she sure does get stuff done.
Since becoming CEO in 2005, Ms. Despatie has overseen multiple construction and redevelopment projects as well as a cultural transformation at the hospital. These include a 95,000sq.ft. extension and expansion that saw the creation of a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre, operation rooms, and emergency department; the building of an addiction and mental health centre; the introduction of community MRI and chemotherapy services; and the introduction of fully integrated electronic medical records across the hospital that will ensure accurate, up-to-date patient information.
“Under her leadership, Cornwall Community Hospital has seen advancements that have positioned the organization as a leading health care provider for years to come,” Heather Arthur, the hospital’s vice-president of patient services and chief nursing officer, wrote in her nomination for Ms. Despatie’s honourary diploma.
Ms. Despatie says one of her most important achievements is the development of a values-based culture specific to the hospital. Called ICARE—for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and engagement—it defines how the hospital, its employees, physicians and volunteers deliver care and interact with one another.
“A values-based organization leads to a very strong and healthy culture, and a strong and healthy culture helps to ensure engagement “At orientation…I share with new staff that they can expect be held to those values in their delivery of care to our patients; at the same time they are encouraged to hold the hospital to those same values .”
According to Ms. Arthur, Ms. Despatie inspires her team through her commitment to excellence. She is also admired for her thoughtfulness, strategic skills, her ability to make decisions based on evidence, and her ability to articulate a vision and to inspire others.
“She recognizes that success is achieved through the efforts and dedication of a team and regularly acknowledges the work and commitment of staff, physicians and volunteers, and the support of the community,” writes Ms. Arthur.
Cornwall Community Hospital has about 140 beds, 1,100 staff and a $115-million operating budget, so Ms. Despatie has a lot of responsibility.
Her plate became even fuller in 2016 when she took on a second—albeit temporary—leadership role as acting president and CEO of Brockville General Hospital, which has 148 beds, 900 employees, and a $75-million operating budget.
If managing the Brockville hospital’s day-to-day operations wasn’t enough, Ms. Despatie is now preparing the facility to undergo a multi-million-capital redevelopment that will be the largest in its history and may be the largest ever capital project in the city of Brockville.
Ms. Despatie takes the extra responsibility in stride. Indeed, she says she “thrives” on the challenge: “Health care is a complex environment, I get a lot of energy from the complexity and strategy involved.”
Ms. Despatie says she is honoured to receive an honourary diploma from St. Lawrence College. She served on the college board several years ago when the college worked through sustainablilty issues; this experience has left her with admiration for the commited people across the three campuses.
To this year’s college graduates, she gives these two pieces of advice about life and leadership: learn to identify opportunities and and always try to give more than you take.
Says Despatie: “We must recognize opportunities, many of our challenges are just opportunities for growth; we all have a responspibility personally and collectively to identify opporunities to improve our worklife and our communities.”
Peter Garrow, Akwesasne Nohawk, Bear Clan, Cornwall
As a young boy working at his grandfather’s french fry stand and mowing lawns at the lacrosse field called the Hogansburg Bowl in Hogansburg NY, near his grandparents’ home in Akwesasne, Peter Garrow never imagined he would become the influential First Nations rights advocate that he is today.
Raised as a Roman Catholic in Buffalo, NY, Mr. Garrow went to school reading history books that portrayed First Nations people in an unfavourable light.
At the same time, his parents wanted him to become a priest and he had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. After serving in the United States Air Force, he was teaching a leadership course at the Native North American Travelling College—as it is now called—on Cornwall Island that he started to read about the real history of First Nations people and had discussions with a number of influential Mohawk Elders and Traditional leaders who taught him the truth about Indigenous people, their history, their traditions, their contributions to civilization and most of their world views and connection with all creation.
“I read so much about our people that I wanted to somehow change how we were depicted,” says Mr. Garrow, a professional trainer and facilitator.
And make change he has. His list of accomplishments is long and has been well recognized.
Today, Mr. Garrow is known as a promoter of life-long education for First Nations People and for their contributions to the world. A member of the Mohawks of Akwesasne in the Cornwall area, he served as the director of education for the Assembly of First Nations and the director of education for the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education.
He now chairs the Ontario Public School Boards Association Native Trustee Council, he teaches a native studies course at the IOHAHI:IO campus of St. Lawrence College, and he has recently worked with St. Lawrence College to develop two First Nations Studies courses to be delivered as part of the college’s general arts and science program, archaelogy, at IOHAHI:IO.
He is also the chair of ongoing, high-profile negotiation sessions on self-government between the federal government and Akwesasne.
Mr. Garrow has been a champion for several First Nations causes, including Shannen's Dream, a nationwide youth-driven initiative that is advocating for equitable funding for First Nations children. He also champions Jordan's Principle, a principle used to resolve government jurisdictional disputes over government services provided to First Nations children, and the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People.
In 2010, Mr. Garrow was made a member of the Akwesasne Lacrosse Hall of Fame for his contributions to lacrosse coaching and lacrosse stick building when he was manager of the former lacrosse stick factory on Cornwall Island—once the sole manufacturer of traditional wooden lacrosse sticks for the global market.
In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of several high-profile First Nations education-related accomplishments. This included the endorsement of many new education policies created while he was director of education for the Assembly of First Nations and for the ground-breaking work he did as director of education for the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education. While at the helm of the AMBE, Mr. Garrow helped to make Akwesasne one of the most successful education systems in North America.
And in 2013, he received Rotary International’s highest accolade: the Paul Harris Award for recognition of his selfless community service to build community relations.
Mr. Garrow says it’s a huge honour to receive an honourary diploma from the institution where he has taught many mature students who have found the courage and determination to further their education and to chase their dreams.
“The honour really goes to them,” he says. “I just hope I played a little part in their wanting to continue their education.”
To those graduates, he offers this advice: “People always say to my students that these are your best years, but I always say to them, ‘No, they aren’t. If you continue on the path you’re on now, your best years are still to come.’”
Mary Mansworth, Brockville
Mary Mansworth is a grandmother of six with a rich social life and a passion for pottery and yet she finds time to accomplish more community service work in a single year than most of us will accomplish in a lifetime.
A tireless community volunteer since moving to Brockville with her family more than 30 years ago, Mary currently serves on no fewer than five local fundraising initiatives and non-profit organizations.
“I have always felt that I can make a difference in community by being involved,” she says. And, indeed, she has.
In the past, Mary has served as chair of the Brockville Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation, president of the Brockville and Area YMCA board, board member on the national board of YMCA Canada, board member of the Brockville Community Foundation, and as Commodore of the Brockville Yacht Club.
She has served on various committees, such as the Brockville Refugee Committee, which brought Vietnamese refugees to Brockville in 1978 and Syrian refugees in 2016, and the Wall Street Village Affordable Seniors’ Housing Project, which is building an 85-unit affordable
seniors’ apartment building in Brockville. She has also served on the board of the Child and Youth Mental Wellness Centre of Leeds and Grenville.
Mary is currently chair of the Brockville and Area YMCA’s Strong Kids Annual Giving Campaign; co-chair of the annual local Empty Bowls Fundraiser, which raises thousands of dollars each year for Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit local restaurant; she is a member of the Brockville 100 Women Who Care initiative, which raises money for local charities; and she is a board member on the St. Lawrence College Foundation board—to name a few of her volunteer involvements.
“To say that Mary Mansworth is the most generous person I have ever met does not begin to cover her continuing contribution to her community at the local, regional, and national levels,” says Bill Fraser, a retired Brockville businessman and fellow community volunteer.
Mary’s community work began in 1976, when she and her husband, Colman, moved to Brockville from London, Ont., after immigrating to Canada from Cork, Ireland. She and her husband worked with a group of Brockville-area citizens to resurrect the local Montessori school because they wanted their children to attend Montessori. Her next volunteer position was in the 1980s with Big Sisters, where she joined the board and assisted with the organization’s mentoring work.
Since then, the amount of volunteering she’s done has grown and she has become known as a person who gets “stuff” done.
“When you do stuff, you get asked to do other stuff, especially in a small community like Brockville,” says Mary.
As a retiree, she says it’s not hard to make the time to volunteer on top of pursuing her other interests, such as pottery. She gets gratification out of community work because she knows she’s making a difference while also enjoying the vibrant social life that comes from volunteering with other engaged, civic-minded community members.
“I feel very gratified in my ability to make a difference with philanthropy and maybe affect some change,” she says. “I get an intrinsic good feeling…and my personal growth has benefited with my involvement in the community.”
It’s extremely meaningful to her that she is receiving an honourary St. Lawrence College diploma because she has been a part-time student at the college multiple times over the past decades.
“I am very attached to the college,” she says.
For the graduating class, the mom and grandmother has two pieces of advice that have served her well throughout her life: “Always be true to yourself, and get involved. You can always go to
a new place and become part of the community by getting out and joining an organization and being a volunteer.”
Roland (Rollie) Billings, Kingston
Roland (Rollie) Billings is a great example of how one individual can change the world around him.
He began his professional journey at Novelis Kingston (formerly Alcan) in production which led to a position as Plant Manager at Kingston’s largest manufacturing and production site, and then a global executive role in health and safety in the manufacturing setting. Throughout this impressive career, Rollie’s sight was firmly planted on the social fabric the Kingston community and he decided to make a difference in the lives of those on the margins of our community through fundraising and sport.
For parts of five decades Rollie has tirelessly served those in need in Kingston. He became involved with the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, working in various positions, including roles in the Campaign Cabinet and Board Chair. In June of 2013, Rollie was recognized by the United Way for 30 years of volunteer service. Rollie has also been involved in many volunteer roles with the Kingston and District Board of Approved Basketball Officials, supporting the Kingston branch of Special Olympics Ontario basketball league, and was coordinator for the Salvation Army Christmas hampers campaign through Alcan/Novelis. Rollie was also co-chair of the new library building fund committee for the Kingston Frontenac Public Library - Calvin Park Branch.
It’s important to be involved in your community because it is YOUR community, Rollie explained. “So much of what goes on every day needs to be supported by volunteers in order to thrive. You don’t get involved as a volunteer because you have an obligation to, you get involved because you believe in the values of the organization and you want to make a difference. Volunteer first because you want to and stay because you truly believe it is the right thing to do.”
Rollie’s work with the United Way is only a small fraction of his volunteering. He has been the President of the Knights of Columbus Basketball League (now the ‘Pete’ Petersen Basketball League) at St. Pat’s School for more than 20 years as well as a coach, referee, website administrator and unofficial photographer for more than 35 years.
The league provides an opportunity for more than 500 children from across the city every year to have a safe, affordable and fun place to play in a basketball league at a cost of only $10 per child.
Rollie helps manages more than 100 volunteers annually, from registration to banquet clean up so that the kids experience the dignity and inspiration of team sport.
As a placement provider for St. Lawrence College students, Novelis Kingston offered real-world learning experiences to students from many programs. Rolllie supported joint student engagement opportunities in a number of areas. An employer of our graduates, Rollie was instrumental in ensuring St. Lawrence College students had the opportunity to establish a career that began with Novelis Kingston.
“St. Lawrence College is very much a part of the Kingston and Eastern Ontario communities. As a willing partner with area businesses and public sector operations, the College gives real, practical experience to individuals as they move from student to worker,” Rollie said. “St. Lawrence College’s willingness to partner and understand what the market needs are allows them to tailor programs to what the community needs. For sports, SLC has been willing to run clinics for our basketball league and allowed us and other community groups to use their facilities. That is a great example of commitment to your community.”
Receiving an Honorary Diploma is especially meaningful for Rollie as it recognizes his contribution to the community through volunteering.
“It means a lot to me that an institution I respect so much is recognizing what I have done as a volunteer. It means the College believes in the importance of volunteers and the difference they can make. It is both thrilling and humbling for me at the same time. I share the honour with my wife, Susan, because she has believed in what I’ve done and supported me through the years.”
In addressing the graduating class of 2016, Rollie offers this advice: “The message I hope to give is threefold. First, get involved in your communities. One person can make a difference in the lives in your community at work and in the greater community where you live as well. Second, don’t let your work define who you are. Each of us has the chance to be so much more than what our job alone would define us as, and when you’re retired your life will be so much richer for what you have done through helping others. Third, be proud of what you do and who you are.”
Peng-Sang Cau, president and CEO of Transformix Engineering, Kingston
As a young girl, Peng-Sang Cau listened to stories her parents told of their life in Cambodia, how they started a successful company from nothing but hard work, determination and integrity, only to lose everything during the genocidal reign of Pol Pot in the 1970s.
Peng and her family arrived in Canada as refugees in 1980. She and five of her siblings are now successful entrepreneurs. Peng says she, her brothers and sisters were raised with the expectation that they would contribute positively to society. “In addition to teaching us to value hard work, honesty, loyalty and tenacity, my parents showed us how to treat people with respect, integrity and empathy.”
“Coming as a refugee to this country, I am so grateful to the Canadian government and feel I have a stronger obligation to give back to society and leave the world a better place than I found it,” Peng said.
After graduating at the top of her class in high school, Peng went on to graduate in 1994 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University. She then held sales and marketing posts at Quantum Information Resources and Lever Pond prior to starting Transformix Engineering Inc.
Peng founded Transformix in 1995 with three engineers, and has since guided its transition from a local provider of engineering services to an international supplier of advanced automation solutions. Peng says she has built her company on four pillars: Integrity; Innovation; Respect; and Passion.
Peng and her partners won the Kingston Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Award in 2007. She was inducted into the Kingston Chamber Business of Hall of Fame in 2011 and the next year was Kingston Business Woman of the Year. In the spring and fall of 2014, Peng accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper on trade missions to the Netherlands and China. Peng was also the recipient of Queen’s University’s Jim Bennett Achievement Award for 2015.
Peng consistently embodied the values of student success and academic excellence throughout her academic career, and – since forming Transformix – has shown a deep commitment to leadership in the Kingston community.
To that end, Peng started the Transformix Apprenticeship program, whereby she hires general labourers with little to no experience, provided they show a work ethic and willingness to learn. Peng gives them an opportunity to work for a year in various capacities from millwright to electrician while they attend St. Lawrence College. If they successfully complete their program, Transformix will pay for their education and provide them with a job after they graduate.
Peng says St. Lawrence College is an important place in the community because it’s a critical part of the economic engine to the province. “The college allows people to do what they’re passionate about. I’m so honored that the College is recognizing me with an Honorary Diploma. It’s a privilege to be a part of such an important post-secondary institution.”
Her solid work ethic and determination to succeed by supporting others and allowing their creativity to shine have led Peng to become a respected member of the international business community. With Peng at the helm, teamwork and innovation drive Transformix’s success: she understands that listening to people and seeking their feedback is vital to her company’s growth and expansion. Peng is committed to growing Transformix locally, with a focus on hiring local tradespeople and engineers, as well as many St. Lawrence College graduates.
In addition to leading Transformix, Peng serves on Kingston General Hospital’s Board of Directors and advised the Council of Ontario Universities as part of the Research Matters Advisory Panel.
As well as participating in a number of the City of Kingston’s economic committees, Peng also volunteers at her children’s school and sports clubs. When she was inducted last year into Kingston’s Business Hall of Fame, Peng’s son and daughter joined her at the award ceremony.
In addressing St. Lawrence College’s graduating class of 2016, Peng offers this advice: “I made a choice long ago not to let my gender or race prevent me from doing what I want to do in my career and in my life. My experience is that if you speak up and know what you’re talking about, those things don’t make a difference.”
Living in Kingston has also allowed Peng to balance her work life and family life with her two young children more easily. “I save so much time by not having a long commute,” she says. “And if I need to travel, the Kingston airport is perfect for me.”
“My children joined me at the office the week after they were born and grew up hearing that Mommy has to work so that other parents will get paid. They know that when they need me, I am always there for them. I hope that I am setting the same example for my children that my parents did for me. I want my daughter to grow up believing that we’re not limited as women and that we can have a successful career and a family at the same time.”
Don Head, Kingston
As a long-time Kingston resident, Don Head has been a supporter of St. Lawrence College for over 30 years. His career in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has spanned close to four decades, and under his leadership as Commissioner, has developed several key partnerships between CSC and SLC.
These partnerships include employment opportunities for our graduates, placements for students, and program development with SLC Corporate Learning and Performance Improvement to address the needs of the inmate population. These programs include horticultural training and masonry programs.
“St. Lawrence College fulfills an academic role, but it creates opportunities and experiences for people with diverse backgrounds,” Don explained. “SLC is a place where individuals can become the best that they can and develop the personal and professional leadership skills that will benefit all community members.”
Don began his federal public service career as a correctional officer in 1978 in the Pacific Region. He held various operational and managerial positions between 1978 and 1995, working in four federal penitentiaries, the Pacific Regional Headquarters, Ontario Regional Headquarters, and National Headquarters.
As Commissioner since 2008, Don’s achievements mirror SLC’s college values and he serves as an inspiration and role model to the students, graduates, and our community. Under his leadership CSC is seen as not only a national leader on corrections but in staff engagement,
innovative thinking and preparing offenders to contribute to the community through the skills and vocational programming provided by St. Lawrence College.
Don has received numerous commendations and awards throughout his career including the Governor General's Corrections Exemplary Service Medal and Bar, the Public Service Award of Excellence for Diversity and Employment Equity, the Aboriginal HR Council's CEO Leadership Award for Diversity and Inclusiveness, and the Federal Council of Visible Minorities Leadership Award for Diversity.
Don is a proud supporter of the United Way and leads the organizational attainment of goals and its promotion within the Correctional Service of Canada and is clear in his support of the local campaign even freeing up resources here to assist with the campaign. Another passion of Don’s is the Canadian Cancer Societies’ Daffodil Appeal. These two organizations, along with Ronald McDonald House, are close to his heart and enrich not only our community but the nation as well.
“Both my wife, Sherry, and I have been active in every community we have lived in, either through donating time or resources to assist others in need,” Don said. “We have always believed that a strong, healthy community is achieved by everyone chipping in and helping others through those moments when an extra hand or boost is needed.”
For Don, receiving an Honorary Diploma is a reminder to strive to be the best he can be and to continue to support the community. “It is truly a privilege and extremely humbling. It is also just as much about the support, love and dedication of my wife, without whom I could never do the job I have done for the last 38 years.”
According to Don, Kingston is a community in every aspect of the word. “People look out for each other and rally together in good times and difficult times. It is a community that strives to preserve its heritage while staying current with developing trends.”
Don enjoys Kingston’s proximity to the outdoors without having to travel too far. “With the opportunity to access literally thousands of lakes within minutes my fishing addiction is well taken care of 12 months of the year here.”
Don has the following advice for our graduating class of 2016. “Remember that everything you have learned and gained at SLC has positioned you to positively impact the lives of people. It could be friends, family or members of the community at large. Never forget to put people first and apply your knowledge, skills and abilities in order to make life better for someone. This approach and philosophy will serve you well and ultimately build stronger and healthier communities.”
Daniel Parkinson, Cornwall Chief of Police, Cornwall
Cornwall Chief of Police Daniel Parkinson is no stranger to receiving honors. As this year’s St. Lawrence College Honorary Diploma recipient in Cornwall, Chief Parkinson says, it’s a
reminder that we are not anonymous in what we do, and that we can all make a huge difference in our communities if we only try.
“I’m humbled to have been nominated, and to receive this prestigious honor,” he said. “I am profoundly aware that this is the highest form of recognition that the College can bestow, and it is a significant landmark in my personal and professional life.”
According to Parkinson, St. Lawrence College plays a significant leadership role in Cornwall and surrounding area. “I’m proud to be recognized by the College, as it provides an opportunity for its students to develop the skills and tools necessary to compete in today’s fast paced and ever changing job market. It stands proudly as a highly visible institution, a beacon of hope woven into the very fabric of the communities of Eastern Ontario.”
Chief Parkinson will add the Honorary Diploma to many other impressive honors and awards he’s received, including: the 2015 Paul Harris Fellow Rotary Clubs of Cornwall, the highest honour a club can bestow; the 2013 Officer of the Order Merit, Police Forces, Government of Canada, for exceptional service or distinctive merit displayed by the men and women of the Canadian Police Services; the 2013 Police Exemplary Medal, which recognizes police officers who have served in an exemplary manner characterized by good conduct, industry and efficiency; and the 2012 President's Award of Merit Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, bestowed by OACP to a member who has made significant contribution to policing in the Province of Ontario.
A shining example of Chief Parkinson’s leadership and community spirit was brought to life last January, when the Cornwall police banded together to buy back a wedding ring that an elderly man had pawned in order to buy groceries for himself and his wife, who was suffering from dementia. The force also purchased groceries and put the couple in touch with local social services for further care.
“The officers were humble about it,” Parkinson said “It was just the right thing to do. My own leadership style is based on ‘Servant Based Leadership’”, Parkinson explained. “Essentially, this style of leadership turns traditional hierarchy upside down, so that front line personnel are in a position of prominence within the organization. The officers who banded together show that everyone counts, everyone matters and we can all make a difference.”
As a member of the St Lawrence College Community Council and St. Lawrence College Centre of Excellence Advisory Committee, Chief Parkinson has shown his strong support for SLC by hiring many of its graduates, also providing Ride Along programs for students in the Police Foundations program, which provides important experiential learning opportunities for students.
“The Cornwall Police and St. Lawrence College have enjoyed a highly satisfying relationship in which we have accessed a number of students for full-time employment. We may not be able to hire all of you, but we will undoubtedly hire some of you.”
Outside of going above and beyond to serve the community in his capacity as the Chief of Police for the Cornwall Community Police Service, Chief Parkinson has also served and continues to serve on many local boards including: Cornwall Community Hospital;Baldwin House women's shelter; Family Counseling Services of Cornwall; Koala Place Child and Youth Advocacy Centre
PrevAction; Cornwall Youth Advisory Committee; and the Social Development Council of Cornwall. Chief Parkinson is also currently the Chair of the Boys and Girls Club of Cornwall and SDG.
“I believe that community involvement provides an opportunity for people to take an ownership role for a community that we share,” Parkinson explained. “A strong sense of volunteerism is alive and well in Cornwall. It seems that everyone is contributing in one way or another. One of my personal favourite methods of contributing has been through my involvement with some wonderful people collaborating to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Cornwall. The Boys and Girls Club is a “great place to be” for many of the young people in our city.”
When Chief Parkinson isn’t working or volunteering he and his wife Leslie spend time being involved with their church community, golfing, and shopping for food. “Don’t be surprised to see me in the grocery stores in town. I truly enjoy shopping as a means to satisfy my interest in cooking,” he said.
As an inspiration to our graduating class of 2016, Chief Parkinson offers the following words: “I encourage the graduates of 2016 to be courageous and confident in the pursuit of their chosen area of employment or continuing education. They need to know that their diligence in studies has provided them with a significant knowledge base to be successful, however, it will require wisdom to effectively apply the knowledge they have gained in order to use it for maximum benefit.”
Maybe it’s Bob Kilger’s experience as an OHL hockey player and coach of the Memorial Cup winning Cornwall Royals that gave him the ability to withstand the bumps and bruises of public office. Or maybe ten years as an official in the NHL. Whatever the reason, his tenacity, ingenuity and dedication have been the instrumental to the city’s record growth and rebranding from a “mill town” to a “world of possibilities.”
As a Member of Parliament for Stormont, Glengarry and Dundas for 16 years, and Cornwall’s mayor for eight, Bob worked hard to transform the Cornwall from a town with very little development to one that now has popular stores, a full service hospital, a booming distribution industry, new grocery stores, and of course, a newly restored St. Lawrence College campus.
Bob’s dedication to St. Lawrence College is legendary. Under his stewardship as mayor, when he and city council were asked to make a significant contribution to The Difference We Make Campaign, he endorsed a one million dollar donation. In addition, during and after the campaign he frequently shared his enthusiasm about the college’s renovations always with the goal to increase student enrolment and sustain the college for future generations. In addition to the City’s donation, he himself made a substantial gift from his family.
But his gifts weren’t just monetary, Bob would regularly attend SLC’s orientation day to encourage and welcome new students to work hard to achieve their dreams. “I really enjoyed meeting the students and challenging them to strive for success,” Bob said. “I loved their energy and enthusiasm they brought not only to the college, but to the city.”
While now retired, Bob maintains close ties to the college and is thrilled to receive the Honorary Diploma. “It means a great deal to me. St. Lawrence College is such a vital part of Cornwall, and I’m honoured to be among the recipients.”
A career in health care came very naturally to Leslee Thompson, President and CEO of Kingston General Hospital (KGH). With a doctor for a father and a nurse for a mother, coming to Queen’s University to study Nursing was not unexpected. From her start as a critical care nurse through a 30 year career, Leslee has held many senior positions and led multiple changes in both public and private sectors, while always maintaining her focus on patient care.
As well, being at the helm of KGH has given Leslee a solid understanding of the deep ties between the hospital and St. Lawrence College. “St Lawrence College is a very progressive, dynamic learning institution, filled with smart capable students who will be well prepared for the future,” she said. “The college is a great partner to other organizations, a caring, responsible citizen in the community and a place where many fine faculty and staff build long and productive careers.”
KGH is now one of the largest placement providers for our students; they offer real world learning experiences to students from not only Health Sciences, but across our other areas of study. Leslee has been a champion of interdisciplinary practice and education, and she has fostered strong partnerships and collaborations to advance joint conference activity and student engagement opportunities.
Leslee knows the standard of excellence that students gain at St. Lawrence College and is proud that KGH hires so many of our graduates. “When SLC students become staff at KGH, they join an organization that is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in patient-centered care, education and research. The dynamic environment KGH provides for our students to learn in is also one that attracts and retains our graduates as they grow their careers and continue to make a difference in the lives of people they serve.”
Maintaining balance while having such a dynamic and busy career has also been important to Leslee, as she has also devoted herself to her family, her husband Mike, whom she met while at Queen’s, and their two children, Charlotte and Spencer. “When I reflect on the past 30 years of my career, I think I am most proud of the fact that I continue to have such strong, loving relationships with my family and close friends,” she said “it’s hard to keep all the balls in the air sometimes, but if you have a strong support team around you, anything is possible”.
Receiving an Honorary Diploma from SLC is humbling for Leslee, as it is an acknowledgement also of the strength of the relationship between the two institutions, she said. “I see this Diploma as an extension of our existing relationship – and a symbol of a connection that will last for years to come. It makes me feel even more a part of your family, and your community, and for that I am very grateful. It makes me feel very proud as well. To be here with all of you who have studied so hard to achieve your goals is inspiring, and I share your excitement about the future from here.”
Justice Allan Letourneau
Justice Allan Letourneau has been a tireless supporter of Kingston’s disadvantaged youth for several years. His efforts have resulted in dozens of young people being able to attend summer camps. As well, his charitable work contributed to the establishment of three scholarships at St. Lawrence College: The Jeanine Perry Scholarship Trust Fund; The Kingston Chief of Police Bursary; and the OPP Youth Foundation Bursary.
This drive to give back comes from his own background of hard work and not letting his family’s modest financial resources impinge upon his educational goals. He has shown throughout his life that hard work and determination can overcome any adversity.
According to Allan, at the end of the day, a community is only as good as its constituent parts. “We are social beings by nature,” he says. “When our bodies finally give up the ghost it will be the personal relationships that we enjoyed during our lives and not the material goods that we will remember and cherish.”
While Allan has worked very hard throughout his life, he has also had a tremendous amount of good fortune, as he explains, more than his fair share. “I am cognizant that there are countless people in our community that have not been as fortunate. In my view, we all have a duty to help those in our community who are less fortunate.”
Allan grew up mostly around the Kingston area, while his father, a carpenter, often had to move the family to where he could find work. Allan obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree and Law Degree from Queen’s University. He was inspired by his sister Debby, who was the first person to pursue a post-secondary education not only in Allan’s immediate family but also the extended family on both sides. “She was a petite lady who did not back down from anyone,” said Allan. “She left home very young and managed to complete high school and university on her own dime. I thought if she could do it, maybe I could too.” Unfortunately, Debby died in 2002 of breast cancer at the age of 39.
As a respected Kingston lawyer for more than 21 years before he was appointed judge of the Ontario Court of Justice three years ago. He is known as a fair and reasonable judge and an expert on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He lives with his wife Marjiane, who also hails from Kingston. They have one son, Ryan, who lives in Vancouver.
Receiving the Honorary Diploma reinforces Allan’s view that there is a heightened sense of community in Kingston. “It reinvigorates my desire to continue to contribute to this community.” Allan believes that St. Lawrence College plays a significant role in developing students’ skill sets, critical analysis and independent thinking. “If there is one single message I would like to give the graduates, it would be that we are very fortunate to live in a country where almost anything is possible if you are prepared to work hard.”
Students are at the centre of everything Mike Sewell does. As Program Leader of Skills Training and Technology for the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) since 2003, and a Certified Skilled Tradesperson himself, Mike is a great advocate for the cognitive and social benefits of vocational Technological Education.
Mike got his start in the skilled trades early on in High School at H.B. Beal in London where his own inspiration came from his grade 11 Auto Body teacher John Hogg. “He was a colourful and pragmatic man, who could build or fix anything with his hands.”
Mike studied Auto Body Repair and Welding, and began his apprenticeship right after high school, graduating with Journeyman status Red Seal in 1982. Mike attended Fanshawe College in London to complete the in-school portions of his apprenticeship, and then later studied education at University of Western Ontario and Queen’s University.
Mike moved to Napanee in 1985 to accept a Technology Teacher position at Napanee District Secondary School. He was appointed Program Leader for the LDSB in 2004, and moved to Kingston in 2007. He later returned to live in Napanee in 2014.
Mike has championed many innovative student integration strategies with St. Lawrence College, including the Limestone Skills Competition, Focus Programs, Dual Credits, Ontario Youth Apprenticeship, Slow Cookers for Kids, and the Young Women’s Innovation Conference. “I like the fact that an individual can get involved in the community and the results of your effort can be readily seen he said. “I love to meet and chat with former students I taught who are now contributing to all of our future; I can see the evidence of their hard work.”
The role of SLC, Mike believes, is to provide a local and necessary transition for secondary students and adults wishing to make a meaningful entry and re-entry to the work force. “The school-to-college-to-work and apprenticeship pathways are vital to the workforce in Eastern Ontario, whether a small business, a start-up, or a larger organization looking to upgrade the skills of their workforce, businesses need access to authentic learning activities that keep their employees and businesses moving forward.”
Being awarded an Honorary Diploma from SLC is an important acknowledgement to Mike that skilled trades matter in a very fundamental way. “Because I received my most formal and influential education through apprenticeship, I have often been overlooked by those who hold other forms of post-secondary education,” he explains. “There still exists an educational hierarchy based on the myth that a university education is a guarantee for a life of success, and an insurance policy against unemployment. We know that isn’t always true. This diploma acknowledges the skills and experiences I received prepared me well for the workforce, and that there is added value in the college and apprenticeship model of learning.”
As the son of a Niagara grape farmer and a school teacher, Bruce Lounsbury, CEO and co-founder of newterra, learned early in his life to appreciate and respect the natural world, and the value of education.
Even though his father did not finish high school, he was what Bruce describes as a lifelong learner. “Reading and learning were always part of our lives, and there was no question we would go to university,” Bruce said. Bruce earned an Engineering degree from Queen’s University and a Masters of Management Science from Carleton University.
In 1990 Bruce and his family relocated to Brockville from Calgary so his wife, Sue could pursue a career opportunity with Shell Oil for what they thought would be an 18 month stay. They fell in love with the community, in large part because of the quality of life and access to the outdoors that Bruce has always loved. He and Sue raised their three boys in Brockville, who all went on to study Engineering at Queen’s. During this time Bruce founded the newterra Group, a leading provider of decentralized water and wastewater treatment solutions to the resource, private development and municipal markets.
Living in Brockville, Bruce also grew to understand the importance of St. Lawrence College in community. “The college to me means access to opportunities for lifelong learning, it has so much to offer.”
To that end, he has been supporting St. Lawrence College students through a generous bursary that improves accessibility to education for students with financial need. By supporting future graduates in technology, including the Energy Systems Engineering Technology, Biotechnology, and Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technology programs, newterra is helping close the skills gap, while also furthering the College’s strategic initiatives of sustainability and accessibility for our students.
Bruce has taken an active role in his community, with more than 20 years of commitment to the United Way, both locally and provincially. He is currently a director on the board of the Brockville United Way, and also served on the St. Lawrence College Board of Governors for six years, and now sits on the board of the Brockville General Hospital. Bruce continues to be an environmental visionary and entrepreneur and is dedicated to creating products that focus on sustainability and economic stability.
Bruce’s message to graduates: You’re graduating today, but this is really just the beginning of your education. Be open and receptive to life’s lessons outside the classroom. I consider it a bad day when I haven’t been exposed to something new.
It would be wonderful if someday our communities didn’t need the food bank, but with such a demand, it’s great to know Kingston has a champion like Sandy Singers. With his legacy of caring, helping and nurturing, Sandy recently celebrated his 20th anniversary at Kingston’s Partners in Mission Food Bank (PIMF). He is a critical community partner who helps both individuals and families in need through PIMF.
Sandy, an accomplished musician, grew up in Toronto and moved to Kingston in 1980. He and his wife Leslie are parents of two girls and it was the desire to spend more time with his family which led him to seek out a day job as Warehouse Manager at the Food Bank, a position he held for eight years.
“This job turned into my career, and a calling to help others,” Sandy said. “I saw firsthand the incredible need in the community; this year alone we have helped more than 6500 people in the Kingston community.” Sandy became the Executive Director twelve years ago; a position he still holds today. With innovation, talent, and creative mind, Sandy was able to foster partnerships and come up with new ways to increase awareness and assist with the growing needs of this important facility.
His music career runs parallel to his role with the PIMF and sometimes intersects, such as when his band Soul Survivor reunited after a ten-year hiatus to create a music CD with proceeds going to the Partners In Mission Food Bank. Sandy is the lead singer of the reunited band Soul Survivor, which continues to perform today.
Sandy works diligently with community partners and has been able to successfully secure and improve the facility to meet the increased need. “I try to ensure that PIMF maintains a positive and visionary profile in the community which in turn increases the sustainability of this much needed facility,” he said.
In addition to his position as Executive Director, Sandy volunteered with the Kingston Social Planning Committee, co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty Reduction, was a member of the Meal Providers Networking Group, a board member of the Food Sharing Project and involved in many additional projects.
Sandy exemplifies and instills the pay-it-forward principle and works closely with St. Lawrence College’s Enactus SLC team members and Business, Energy Systems Engineering Technology, and Community Integration through Co-operative Education students. Sandy nurtures the experiences of these students by providing them with engagement opportunities. His passion to help people’s lives continues to impact the Kingston community.
“I work with a dedicated army of volunteers who not only give of their time to build hampers and sort food, but also conduct food drives and collections,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do my work without the volunteers”. With Sandy at the helm, they have a strong leader with a powerful voice, be it belting out tunes with his band, or speaking up for all of those in need.
How many 20-somethings get their own municipal "day"? Well, when you bring home an Olympic medal, that’s what you can expect in the close-knit community of Brockville. Last summer when rower Conlin McCabe returned to his hometown after the Olympics with a silver medal win with the Men’s 8 team, he was given a well-deserved hero’s welcome by the community. August 23, 2012 was named ‘Conlin McCabe Day’, and every marquee in the community, including St. Lawrence College’s, proudly displayed a message to him.
And while Conlin may live far away in Seattle now, his heart will always be at home. “Brockville has a special place in my heart, no matter where I go or live in the world, every time I come back to Brockville it immediately feels like home,” he said. “The infrastructure might change but the consistent thing about Brockville is the people that live there. From my experiences travelling, it’s the people within a city that make it unique and exciting.”
Conlin grew up in a close family with his mother Sharon, father Michael, and two younger sisters, Mollie and Elizabeth, who are, not surprisingly, both rowers too. Sharon, also a former rower, is a graduate of St. Lawrence College from the Personal Support Worker program, and his father works at Proctor and Gamble. “Both of my parents come from large families, so there were lots of aunts and uncles and cousins around while I was growing up.”
He credits his close relationship with his family for helping him achieve his goals, as well as his phenomenal coaching at the Brockville Rowing Club. “My parents are very hard workers; my mom seems to always be working, but enjoying herself at the same time. Her attitude and kindness are tough to match. My father is extremely creative and always has unique solutions to help me clear any obstacle in the way of reaching my goals.”
Conlin rowed in many regattas during his high school years, in different seat positions depending on the crew, and was almost always in medal contention. He graduated from Brockville Collegiate Institute with a full scholarship to the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. The head coach of the rowing team recognized his sheer strength, hard work, and determination.
Conlin is currently pursuing his degree in Geography from the University of Washington in Seattle. “Getting my degree will be the second greatest accomplishment of my life when I complete it. University hasn’t been easy by any means, and is still something that I am striving to achieve every day. I know having this degree will help create opportunities for me in the future.”
The future, of course, includes training for the 2016 Olympics. “It was very rewarding to visit schools in Brockville and the surrounding area and talk to the children, aside from being asked some hilarious questions, I was touched by how enthusiastic so many of the kids were. I knew immediately that I would be committed to training for another four years to see if I could bring a gold medal back to Brockville!”
On Wednesday afternoons, as a small child, Cornwall lawyer Sean Adams would accompany his father Ron to his small satellite office in Maxville, Ontario, and there he saw firsthand the difference his father, a lawyer, made in the lives of people. “He had a small office in the King George Hotel,” Sean recalls. “People would bring him gifts of fresh produce and food, and be so thankful to him.” And, in what may sound a little like a John Grisham novel, Sean knew from a very young age that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and go into law.
Sean grew up in Cornwall with his three sisters in a very close-knit family, along with a large extended family who lived nearby. There was no shortage of family get-togethers, outings, and general camaraderie in the Adams’ clan.
Sean’s mother Ann, a teacher who stayed home to raise her children, was of Slovak origin, and he grew up being very close to his maternal grandmother. So close, in fact, that Slovak was his first language. “I spent a lot of time with a grandmother who doted on me, and heard how difficult it was for immigrants when they came to Canada in the 1920s to make a better life for themselves and their families. My grandmother was very proud of her Slovak heritage which gave me a strong appreciation of my roots.”
After graduating from General Vanier High School, Sean attended Queen’s University for two years and was accepted into law school at the University of Ottawa without first completing an undergraduate degree. This was also in line with family tradition, as his father did the same. Ronald Adams was the first graduate of the University of Ottawa Law School in 1960. “It was great to be taught by some of the very same professors who taught my father.” While in law school, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Linda, and they have a son, Nikolai, who recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with an Honours Degree in History.
After law school, Sean articled for Seguin, Landriault and Lamoureux, a mid-sized law firm in downtown Ottawa, where he gained invaluable experience. He was hired by the firm after completing his bar admission course, and practiced there for four years before heeding the call to return home to join his father’s firm in Cornwall. Tragically, his father passed away one year later, at the age of 53. “We only worked together for a short time. I am grateful for the time we did have,” Sean says.
Over the years, Sean has been very focused on giving back to the community. He has been involved with organizations such as the United Way, Knights of Columbus, Cornwall Community Hospital Foundation, Rotary Club, The Children’s Treatment Centre, The
SD & G Law Association, Heart & Stroke Foundation, The Weave Shed Arts Centre, The Patrons of St. Columban’s Foundation, as well as coaching hockey, ball hockey and lacrosse. “I’ve always believed in giving back,” Sean says. “My parents raised us to be appreciative of our good fortune. They were involved in many charitable organizations, but also did things behind the scenes that nobody saw.”
Sean has seen the transition of Cornwall from an industrial town to a modern city and believes that St. Lawrence College is a key player in that change. “I had a tour of the campus recently and was impressed by the range of technologies, the teaching facilities, the theatre; it’s a beautiful campus. A true gem for the City of Cornwall.”
“It’s such an honor to receive an honorary diploma. I am very humbled.” Sean’s advice to the graduating class: “Be passionate about what you do and put all of your energy into those endeavours. Don’t be afraid to fall. Just pick yourself up and continue on your way to reaching your goals. You can make a difference, a real difference!”
For Kingston restaurant owner and chef Clark Day, a restaurant isn’t just a business, it’s a way to make a positive impact on someone’s life. “People eat in restaurants to celebrate and mark important times in their lives,” he said, recalling a conversation with a longtime patron of his former restaurant, Clark’s on King. As a regular guest, when she found out she had cancer, she dined for possibly her last time, and came again to celebrate her recovery. “I was very moved by her story and it made me realize that restaurants are more than just places to eat, they are part of personal memories.” Clark Day grew up eating what he calls “really delicious food” and was exposed to fine dining at a very young age while growing up. His father was in the RCMP and the family spent his early childhood in Germany and Switzerland. “I was a picky child. I knew what I liked to eat, and the way food should taste,” he said. “I liked playing around with flavours and food and cooking with my mother.”
Clark’s many achievements are well known to Kingstonians, who have been enjoying his culinary delights for 30 years. But they may not know that Clark got into the restaurant business almost by accident. After running his own successful business at the age of 22, he decided to move to the Ottawa Valley where he had purchased property when he was 19. He started serving part time and found the business quite intriguing. He moved to Edmonton where he worked as a part-time server at one of the top restaurants in town called Jonathan’s. With no formal culinary or hospitality training, at the age of 25 Clark was promoted to general manager, and he had 80 staff members reporting to him. “I was completely immersed and learned everything: front of house, back of house, menu planning, and how to create flavours.”
With his new expertise and passion, Clark came to Kingston with his high school sweetheart and wife of 35 years, Laurie, in 1985. They opened what would be his first restaurant, The River Mill, in the run-down and virtually abandoned Woolen Mill building in the heart of the old industrial inner harbour. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” he says with a laugh. “But one of my favourite challenges is when someone says, ‘you can’t do that’, I always say, ‘wanna bet!’”
The River Mill was a success. Clark was pouring 100 hours a week into running it, and Laurie at least 55 hours a week. The one day a week they devoted to family time was Sunday. After a year, they decided to sell because it was important to spend more time with family. At that time, in 1987 they opened Clark’s by the Bay, and lived on Clark’s 1831 family homestead in Collins Bay, the 15 acre Bayview Farm. “I’ve always been a back-to-the-land kind of person,” he says. Clark’s maternal side of the family extends back to the United Empire Loyalists, and since that time, someone in his family has been doing business in the area, running a rafting company, a distillery, five mills and even the food business; his grandfather owned an ice cream factory, and according to family lore, was first person to make maple walnut ice cream. Clearly, food innovation is in Clark’s DNA.
Clark’s by the Bay became hugely successful and was the only CAA 4 diamond award winner between Ottawa and Toronto at the time. After a good run, Clark and Laurie decided to make Bayview Farm a full-time family home with their 3 children and they closed Clark’s by the Bay. “Our loyal customers took that one very hard,” Clark recalls. “It was then I realized how important and personal a restaurant can be to people.”
But before too long, Clark was back with Clark’s on King in downtown Kingston, which he ran successfully for six years. High blood pressure and a building that required complete masonry reworking prompted Clark to change direction. Clark found a new way to be in the business he loves by consulting. He was involved in the opening of Le Caveau in downtown Kingston, and then began to work with the Radisson (soon to be Delta) to create Aqua Terra by Clark.
Clark has always been very involved in local causes and charities. He founded Fare for Friends, the single largest fundraising activity by the United Way in Kingston, which has raised over a million dollars in 20 years. He also supports Martha’s Table, Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Hospital and Almost Home, and the innovative fundraiser Dine in the Dark with Clark to raise funds for the CNIB.
Clark understands the importance of St. Lawrence College in the community. His son, Matt, is a graduate of the Hospitality Management – Hotel and Restaurant program, and runs his own successful restaurant, Days on Front. “I’m honoured and humbled by the Honorary Diploma. It was out of the blue! It’s wonderful, but completely unnecessary.”
His advice for graduates on how to succeed: “Love what you do, care about what you do, and care about the people you do it with.”