A tradition has been established at Selkirk College. Each year on the evening prior to the annual graduation ceremony, the Board of Governors gathers to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life.
The recipients of these Board Awards are in very good company with past award winners including ex-MLA Corky Evans, Nelson Mayor John Dooley, Chartered Accountant Ron Anderson and J.J.Verigin Jr., head of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC).
The college awards honorary diplomas, recognizes distinguished educators and distinguished alumni. “It is through these awards that Selkirk College is able to formally recognize members of what we consider to be our extended family and honour the impact they have had on Selkirk and on the lives of others,” said Angus Graeme, college President and CEO.
On the evening of April 19, members of the college’s board and administration, award recipients, their families and nominators gathered on the Castlegar campus to present the awards to the 2012 recipients.
The first award, the Honorary Diploma, was awarded to an individual with deep roots at Selkirk College. Dr. Leo Perra was a long time president of Selkirk College and has remained a strong supporter since his departure in 2000. He received his Honorary Diploma in Contemporary Music and Technology in recognition of initiating the development of the music program for the college in the late 1980’s. It was the first program of its kind at the time and a model on which many others have been fashioned. It continues to be one of Selkirk’s most successful programs today.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award went to Garry Merkel, a class of 1979 Forestry graduate. Since graduation Mr. Merkel has distinguished himself nationally and internationally in the fields of business development, First Nations capacity building, education and nation governance. He is the Chair of the Columbia Basin Trust and the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation and has committed personal time over the past 15 years to speak to Selkirk students concerning First Nations treaty negotiations and capacity building.
This year, the nominees for Distinguished Educator were of such high caliber that it was not possible to select one over the other. As a result, Distinguished Educator awards were presented to both Mr. Don Wilson and Mr. Fred Wah.
Mr. Wilson’s post-secondary teaching career spanned over a period of 38 years, and traces the history of post-secondary education in the West Kootenay region. An English instructor, he began teaching at Notre Dame University in 1965 and continued until his retirement from Selkirk College in 2004. During that time he taught more than 7,000 students in 31 different courses. Mr. Wilson left his mark on many with his innovative and creative teaching style.
Mr. Wah began his teaching career in 1967, the very first days of Selkirk College and continued through till 1989. Mr. Wah built a reputation as a pioneer of innovative teaching methods and theories of higher education. He distinguished himself, and made Selkirk very proud, when appointed as Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Aside from making important contributions to Canadian literary arts, he continues to support Selkirk College; this summer he will participate in the Elephant Mountain Literary Arts Festival in Nelson.
The Board Award recipients were again honoured the following day at the graduation ceremony. The recognition of these distinguished individuals at this ceremony seemed very appropriate as the college celebrated students who have successfully completed their studies and at the same time those who have gone before and done so with such a positive impact on the college and the community.