We’re becoming a university because of you

This is my final column as president of RDC, as I am retiring.

Our new president, Peter Nunoda, starts his tenure in September. Please welcome him and his family as you did me 10 years ago.

As I reflect on my decade as president, it is clear that the future for RDC as a University is unlimited, and it is because of all of you.

Because of you, the government of Alberta finally said “yes” to RDC becoming a university. It is perhaps the most significant decision ever made to ensure our region will grow and prosper.

Because of you, our campuses have grown. The Donald School of Business and the Welikoklad Event Centre ensure downtown will be vibrant.

The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre is an iconic landmark defining our community to all who pass on the QE2.

Our new residence, clad in solar panels, and our alternative energy lab are examples of RDC/U’s leadership in becoming carbon neutral and energy independent.

Because of you, 16 new programs have been launched, which ensures more learners can remain in central Alberta to complete their education.

Our 10-year academic plan, led by Paulette Hanna, ensures we will launch even more programs, including new degrees, as we complete our university transition.

Our future as a comprehensive regional teaching university will be strengthened and enhanced by launching new programs, including trades and apprenticeship, certificates, diplomas and degrees, and we will continue to measure success by who we let in, not who we keep out.

I have always been reluctant to share my story, but it demonstrates the power of post-secondary education, and its ability to change lives.

I got kicked out of high school at 16 for reasons I won’t go into (let’s just say I didn’t like school, and school didn’t like me.)

So, 16 years of age, out of school, with no prospects and no real family, I ran away from home. With all my worldly possessions in a shopping bag, $10 in my pocket, hair down to my butt with an attitude to match, I hitchhiked west.

I stayed in hostels, hustled pool, made money where I could – and saw people at their worst, including myself. Lots happened in those years, but that really isn’t the point of the story.

Fast forward eight years and, with the help of a few people who had faith in me, just as there are many of you who helped others along the way, I went to university.

I was put on probation and I needed to prove I could handle the work for one semester and, if I was successful, I would be allowed to continue. Well, I graduated and the doors of possibility flew open.

It is at college that I learned the transformative power of education to change lives. I was given a second chance, and for that I am grateful. The experience taught me to never give up, keep learning, and it taught me to stand up for what I believed.

It is because of you, and what RDC does, that second chances are given, lives are changed, and society benefits.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as the 10th president of RDC/U. Please accept my sincere thanks for your support of our college and the work we will do together to ensure RDC becomes a great university for all.

Joel Ward is president and CEO of Red Deer College.

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