Leaders from Red Deer College took some time earlier this week to recognize the achievements of some of their former students as well as a relationship that has helped define the college’s role in health care.
This year’s Red Deer College Community Awards, presented on Wednesday evening, honour four college alumni who have distinguished themselves in the community, including a First Nations leader (Tany Schur), two outstanding teachers (Joe Bower and Kathryn McKenzie) and a storyteller with a commitment to righting social wrongs (Andrew Kooman). The awards also honour a long-time partner, Alberta Health Services, for its contributions to training nurses and other health care professionals and technicians.
The G. H. Dawe Memorial Award is named after a co-founder of Red Deer College and is the highest level of award presented, honouring leaders who have contributed to the community in a spirit similar to its namesake.
While not limited to college alumni, it is especially fitting that this year’s recipient is a graduate of the college, said Michael Donlevy, RDC’s vice-president of enterprise and community.
G. H. Dawe winner Schur, executive director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, has combined her formal education with the traditional teachings of her Blackfoot ancestors to develop a leadership style based on collaboration and encouragement. Within and beyond her role with the Friendship Society, she has been a strong advocate of education as an inherent right of Aboriginal people and has worked with the college on projects geared toward Aboriginal students.
Schur helped create the Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, plays a leading role in the Asooahum Crossing Development and contributes to other groups, including the Alberta Government’s First Nation Women’s Economic Security Council.
The Alumni Legacy Award, not necessarily presented every year, was created by the RDC Alumni Association as a posthumous honour for a member who has played a leading role in creating a stronger community.
This year, the award was presented to the family of high school teacher Bower, 37, who died early in January from complications of a heart attack.
Bower, a teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, was an innovator and a renegade, who did not believe in giving marks.
“He did this blog called For the Love of Learning, and he got as many as 85,000 view a month,” said Donlevy.
“He called himself a social justice and education warrior. He felt that some of the approaches to education in K to 12 (kindergarten to Grade 12) need to change, and was a strong advocate for those changes.”
The award was created in 2004 to honour Phil Rauch, executive director of the Central Alberta AIDS Network, who died of heart failure at the age of 38. It was presented in 2014 to the family of Tim Guilbault, an oilfield executive and college board member killed by his own son and in 2015 to loved ones of Marlin Styner, who became a stalwart advocate for people with disabilities after being partially paralyzed in a vehicle crash.
Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to two former students who have used their education to create a better world for others.
Author and playwright Kooman was recognized for his creative approach to battling social injustice, including his work on the play and movie, She Has A Name, which investigates sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
McKenzie, a teacher, athlete and academic, is a highly sought public speaker who uses her own experience with depression to help others shift their perspectives to find hope.
Red Deer College also honoured Alberta Health Services, one of its first partners, with the Community Partner Award.
From the establishment of the nursing program in 1968, the college and AHS have continued to develop opportunities for students in an ever-widening area of health care. Collaboration with AHS includes placing students in a variety of facilities and agencies throughout Central Alberta, where they can gain practical experience as they embark on their careers.
Originally held at lunch during convocation exercises, the awards celebration was recently altered to a stand-alone event, held during May, said Donlevy.
Setting an evening aside to present the awards has enabled the college to put a stronger focus on the recipients and their contributions to the community, he said.
Red Deer College’s first class included five staff and 119 students. The college now enrols an average of 7,500 students per year on its main campus and two downtown sites, including the Donald School of Business and the Welikoklad Event Centre. It also averages 30,000 online and extension students each year.