Honorary Diploma

2016 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Eleanor Thompson

June 1, 2016 • Written by

Eleanor Thompson

A longtime community leader will be recognized with the College’s highest academic honour for the lasting impact she’s had on the lives of children and families.

Eleanor Thompson, Director of Development at Urban Circle Training Centre, received RRC’s 2016 Honorary Diploma in Community Development/Community Economic Development.

As co-founder of Urban Circle, Eleanor has worked tirelessly for nearly 30 years to provide accessible, culturally appropriate education and training to Indigenous people in Winnipeg.

She’s a strong advocate for programs that are grounded in Indigenous culture, and that lead to employment in stable sectors with potential for growth. As such, Urban Circle partners with RRC on certificate programs in heath care, family support and early childhood education — many of which lead to advanced studies in social work and education.

In recent years, Eleanor served as one of the driving forces behind the development of the Makoonsag Intergenerational Centre on Selkirk Avenue, a 52-space early learning facility for the children of Urban Circle students. She’s also a member of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship.

“She has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to providing culturally relevant and respectful educational opportunities to empower the social and economic development of her community,” says RRC’s Dr. Christine Watson, Vice-President, Academic and Research.

“Her belief in the transformative power of education truly reflects the mandate and values of Red River College.”

2015 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Dave Angus

June 1, 2015 • Written by

Each year, Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements, and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

David Angus is committed to the Chamber movement. He volunteered as board chair and in 1999 was hired as President and CEO of The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

He currently serves on the Manitoba Museum Board of Governors; Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council; and JPAC (Joint Public Advisory Committee) for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a national committee of three countries working to protect the environment.

Under his leadership, the Winnipeg Chamber has increased its membership to the highest level in its history and has been recognized by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as an Accredited Chamber with Distinction. The Chamber has also received recognition by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives for being in the top 10 Chambers for membership growth.

The Chamber has been instrumental in bringing a World Trade Centre to Winnipeg; establishing Leadership Winnipeg, Yes! Winnipeg and the BOLD initiative: a grassroots public policy campaign designed to mobilize the community behind forward-thinking BOLD ideas to increase prosperity in Winnipeg.

2015 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Ace Burpee

June 1, 2015 • Written by

Each year, Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements, and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

Ace Burpee has worked in radio for over a decade in almost every capacity and is currently host of the ever popular Ace Burpee Show on 103.1 Virgin Radio.

In addition to hosting his own show, Ace hosts a nationally aired Top 20 countdown program, writes a column in Metro Winnipeg and hosts Manitoba’s top rated cooking show – Great Tastes of Manitoba.

Ace, who very proudly hails from Cooks Creek Manitoba, is also well known for the hundreds of charitable events and causes that he donates his time to every year. He is an in-demand event host, public speaker and event organizer. His initiatives have helped to raise millions of dollars for local and international charities over the last several years.

His reputation in this town is of a man who never sleeps because he’s too busy helping others. It would be difficult to name a cause in Winnipeg that has not in some way, been touched by his efforts.

For his commitment to community and making Manitoba a better place, Ace has received many acknowledgments.

Ace is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service to our community, he is the recipient of a Hero of Mental Health Award from the Canadian Mental Health Association, he has received a Volunteer Manitoba Award for Outstanding Community Leadership and last year, was recognized as a Manitoba Hero.

2014 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Larry Vickar

June 1, 2014 • Written by

Larry VickarRed River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements, and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

Larry Vickar has been in the automobile industry for 44 years, serving in numerous capacities and working his way up from office, finance, credit and sales positions to partnership in one dealership. He now heads up the Vickar Group of Automotive Dealerships, which consists of six operating companies representing four manufacturers – General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Isuzu – and employs over 300 Winnipeggers.

Larry attributes the success of his businesses to the collaborative efforts of his staff, who work together to serve their mutual customers with respect and with the attitude that they wish to be the “places” where Customers Send Their Friends. That, as their mission statement reads, says it all!

Having been taught from an early age that sharing one’s time and resources was the right thing to do, Larry has served – and continues to serve – his industry and the local and international general communities. He has previously served as President of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association and the Transcona Rotary Club, to name a couple.
Larry has worked at the local, provincial, national and international levels, championing worthwhile initiatives, some of which are focused in areas of great need. Currently, he sits on the Executive of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, The Jewish National Fund, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation and the Manitoba Hydro Electric Board.
Larry and his wife, Tova, have been instrumental in building a village for the poor in the Philippines and a water project in Israel, and more recently, have helped develop and nurture the L’Arche Tova Café in downtown Transcona – a place to showcase the talent of those with developmental disabilities.

For these and other accomplishments, Larry has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Laureate – the highest award given by the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association for extraordinary service to the community and industry; the Saul Kanee Distinguished Service Medal from the Jewish Federation; a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal; Lieutenant Governor’s Community Service Awards from both the Manitoba and Winnipeg Chambers of Commerce; and honours at the Jewish National Fund’s Negev Gala and from Winnipeg’s Filipino community.

Later this month, Larry and Family will be recognized at the Rady JCC Sportsman’s Dinner. His proudest accomplishment is his family – his wife, Tova, of 43 years; his children Sam and Lisa, and Stephen and Marie (also partners in business), and his two grandchildren.

2014 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Lisa Meeches

June 1, 2014 • Written by

Lisa MeechesRed River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements, and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

Lisa Meeches is one of the most dynamic and respected producers in the film industry, who happens to be an Ojibway from Long Plain First Nation. One of her recent projects, 4 time CSA nominee and 2 time winner We Were Children, is widely praised by residential school survivors for its power to heal, while general audiences have been moved by this truth of Canada’s colonial past.

Ms. Meeches has produced numerous projects for critical acclaim. Among them include: 500 plus episodes of The Sharing Circle, Canada’s longest running Aboriginal television series; Tipi Tales, a Parent’s Choice award winning children’s series; and Elijah, a Gemini Award winning movie-of-the-week, the 3 times nominated 2 time winner of CSA’s JACK, The list goes on…

Lisa conducts her film industry work through her three companies: Eagle Vision Inc, Meeches Video Productions, and Century Street Distribution.

Lisa also devotes considerable time to other causes. Lisa has been critical to the success of the Manito Ahbee Festival since inception 8 years ago where she has acted in the capacity of board chair on a volunteer basis until recently stepping down to assume the role of Executive Director. Lisa also sits on the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Lisa has been the recipient of many local, regional, and national awards for her exemplary contributions in culture, media, and entrepreneurship. Among her many accolades, Lisa is a past recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award.

True to her heritage, Lisa practices the customs of her faith and is a renowned champion fancy shawl dancer.

2012 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Stella Blackbird

June 1, 2012 • Written by

Stella BlackbirdEach year, Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements, and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

Known and respected throughout Canada for her wisdom, gentle spirit and tireless dedication to the community, Stella Blackbird has a special ability to build trust and understanding across cultures and nations.

An Elder and Red Eagle Woman from the Turtle Clan, Stella has served as an Elder, Traditional Healer, Medicine Teacher and facilitator for healing programs and teachings across Canada and the U.S. She has devoted years to the women of Keeseekoowenin First Nation (where she resides), and to women and men in neighbouring First Nations communities, providing counselling and healing and leading traditional ceremonies. Stella also provides teachings at Medicine Eagle Camp, which she helped establish on the sacred ceremonial grounds of the ancestors near Riding Mountain National Park.

Stella has a vast knowledge of traditional medicines, which she shares with those from all nations and backgrounds. Earlier in her career, she served as Resident Elder for the Ontario Native Education Counselor Association in Sudbury, and provided health services for the Ojibway Tribal Family Services Sacred Circle in Kenora. She also served for years in the Third Canada Rangers of the Canadian Armed Forces, providing traditional teachings and survival skills to youth and adults at Camp Borden.

Since 1995, Stella has served as Elder for Urban Circle Training Centre in Winnipeg’s North End — one of the most successful Aboriginal training centres in Canada. She provides traditional teachings that transform the lives of students and their families, and has mentored many young leaders to ensure sacred teachings and the traditional way of life are not lost.

In addition to leading the design stage of Urban Circle’s new home on Selkirk Avenue, Stella was also a driving force behind the Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre, where neighbourhood families and children can follow traditional teachings on a daily basis. Stella’s dream was that children would never again have to feel the shame that she and others experienced in the residential school system, but would instead proudly embrace their identities from the earliest stage of life.

Stella is a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who raised six children with her husband, Dan Blackbird. She has been on her healing journey for the past 35 years and lives the Seven Sacred Laws on a daily basis. We are deeply honoured that she walks among us.

Click here to learn more about Stella’s role in the creation of the Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre.

2011 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Takashi Murakami

June 1, 2011 • Written by

Takashi MurakamiEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

Widely and rightfully hailed as one of the most talented chefs in Canada, Chef Takashi Murakami, C.M., has spent the last 35 years elevating food preparation to an art form as Executive Chef of the St. Charles Country Club. Luckily, Chef Murakami’s lengthy tenure at St. Charles leaves ample room on his C.V. for the impressive array of awards and honours he’s amassed over the decades, among them a series of gold medals and a World Championship as a member and coach of Culinary Team Canada, a Chef of the Year designation by the Manitoba Chefs Association, membership in the Canadian Culinary Federation’s Honour Society, and a 2005 appointment as Member of the Order of Canada (making him one of only two chefs to receive this prestigious honour, and the only one from Manitoba).

Chef Murakami has also enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Red River College over the years, having served on the College’s Advisory Committee for the last decade (the last three of which he’s acted as Chair), as a cooperative education employer for the College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts students, and as a member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs—a capacity in which he trained Red River College culinary students taking part in the International Jeunes Chefs (Young Chefs) Rôtisseurs Competition.

A number of Red River College’s Culinary Arts instructors completed their apprenticeship training under Chef Murakami, who also developed the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) analysis for the College’s Culinary Arts program. Most recently, he has signed on as a Chef of Distinction supporting the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute—future home of the College’s Culinary and Hospitality programs, and site of its first student residence.

We are proud to celebrate Chef Murakami’s many accomplishments by awarding him Red River College’s Honorary Diploma for 2011.

2010 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Polly Craik

June 1, 2010 • Written by

Polly CraikEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

As President and CEO of FineLine Solutions, Polly Craik is leading a highly successful Winnipeg-based customer-contact company to new heights.

Under Polly’s guidance, FineLine Solutions has carved out a niche market: coordinating donor, member and subscriber relationships for large non-profit organizations – as well as commercial businesses. The quality of their work is evident, as FineLine Solutions has received the prestigious Call Center Award of Distinction from both the Association of TeleServices International and the Call Management Association.
Over the years, Polly has continued to educate herself to become an even better entrepreneur.

She has completed “Birthing of Giants” and the “Advanced Business Program” both of which were sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This combined five-year educational program is limited to only a handful of entrepreneurs from around the world and is designed to teach business owners how to make their companies great. Polly has shared her knowledge and expertise by delivering presentations on customer service, retention and loyalty at numerous trade shows and conferences.

Polly is also actively involved in the community. She was the Chair of the 2007 Women’s World Hockey Championship, past Chair of the CentreVenture Development Corporation, and is a Board Member of the Business Council of Manitoba and a Member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council.

Due to her outstanding achievements, Polly has won several awards. In 2005, she made history by becoming the first female to be named Manitoba Business Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Then in 2007, Polly was named one of the most influential women in sport and physical activity by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity.

Red River College is proud to present Polly Craik with an Honorary Diploma for the passion and innovative thinking that she exemplifies every day.

2009 Honorary Diploma Recipient – John Buhler

June 1, 2009 • Written by

John BuhlerEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

John Buhler is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Buhler Industries Inc., one of Canada’s largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment.

John’s first job was as a CPR Telegraph Operator and Assistant Station Agent. While owning an automobile dealership for 15 years, he also acted as Secretary-Treasurer for Standard Gas Engine Works. John purchased this company in 1969 and renamed the Morden factory “Farm King Ltd.”

In 1981, he also purchased the Winnipeg factory.

Known as the “turnaround king”, John acquired Standard Industries in 1983, as well as Morden Fine Foods, Birchwood Furniture, Ideal Glass and Mirror, Greensteel Industries, Riteway Industries and Craftech Manufacturing.

He amalgamated all these companies in 1994 to form Buhler Industries Inc., which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

He has been a leader within the agricultural equipment industry, serving on numerous boards and committees, including the Prairie Implement Manufacturers Association and the Canadian Farm Industrial Institute.

As a result of his business success, John has been an active and generous philanthropist, contributing over $13 million to a variety of community organizations and capital campaigns. Notable donations include $6 million for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, $3.75 million for the John Buhler Research Centre at Health Sciences Centre, and $500,000 toward construction of Red River College’s Exchange District Campus. John was the recipient of the “Manitoba Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 1997 and awarded Morden, Manitoba’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1998. In 2002, he was presented the Queen’s Jubilee Medal symbolizing the award for community service.

2008 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Bob Brennan

June 1, 2008 • Written by

Bob BrennanEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

As President and Chief Executive Officer of Manitoba Hydro, Bob Brennan has a high profile and very public position. Yet he conducts himself in a quiet manner that is respectful of the people with whom he works on various initiatives. Under his leadership, Manitoba Hydro has developed positive working relationships with First Nations communities and supported the revitalization of downtown Winnipeg by building its new head office on Portage Avenue.

Bob has spent his entire professional career with Manitoba Hydro. His prior roles include Senior Vice-President, Finance and Administration, and Chief Financial Officer. A Chartered Accountant, Bob was elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants by The Manitoba Institute of Chartered Accountants.

In addition to his professional achievements, Bob has a distinguished record of community service. He is currently Director of the YMCA/YWCA, CNIB, ICAM’s Discipline Committee, and the Canadian Electricity Association. He is past-Chair, Board of Directors at Riverview Health Centre as well as current Chair of the Riverview Health Centre Foundation.

Bob has a long history of giving back to the community in the form of involvement with such organizations as the Salvation Army, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Humane Society, CNIB, and Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba.

With Bob at the helm, Manitoba Hydro continues to cultivate a strong relationship with RRC which encompasses the provision of student scholarships and the hiring of graduates and contracting training for Hydro employees.

“Red River College is an integral and essential institute of applied learning in Manitoba and does an amazing job of providing high quality training and education to so many students every year,” says Bob. “Our province is very fortunate to have this college doing such a great job! Graduates get training and experience in very practical career paths and they get good jobs very quickly.”

He notes that he is both pleased and flattered to be receiving an Honorary Diploma from RRC: “I truly appreciate and am humbled by the recognition that I am being given from such an important institution in our community.”

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