Over 2,000 to graduate at Spring Convocation June 9-11

More than 2,000 graduates of Niagara College will receive diplomas, degrees or certificates during seven spring convocation ceremonies to be held June 9-11 at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

The ceremonies will take place in the gymnasium/cafeteria complex on Tuesday, June 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 10 at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Thursday, June 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

This year’s ceremonies feature a list of accomplished convocation speakers and honorees, including:

  • John Peller, President and CEO of Andrew Peller Ltd., June 9 at 2 p.m. Mr. Peller will receive an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies degree;
  • Tom Rankin, Owner and President of Rankin Construction Inc., June 9 at 7 p.m. Mr. Rankin will receive an Honorary Diploma in Construction Technology;
  • Farley Flex, Canadian music promoter, manager and Canadian Idol judge, June 10 at 10 a.m. Mr. Flex will receive an Honorary Diploma in Broadcasting;
  • Denise Burke, President of the Niagara Ice Dogs, June 10 at 2 p.m. Ms Burke will receive an Honorary Diploma in Business Administration;
  • Ruedi Hafen, President, Operations Manager and Chief Pilot of Niagara Helicopters, June 10 at 7 p.m. Mr. Hafen will receive an Honorary Diploma in Tourism Marketing and Operations;
  • Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, June 11 at 2 p.m. Ms Landsberg-Lewis will receive an Honorary Diploma in Health and Community Studies;
  • Betty Ann Baker, Executive Director of Niagara Peninsula Homes, June 11 at 7 p.m. Ms. Baker will receive an Honorary Diploma in Business Administration – Human Resources.

Further ceremony information is available at www.niagaracollege.ca/convocation. The Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus is located at 135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake.

** Bios of speakers and honorees attached.


For more information, contact:

Gordon Hunchak
Director, Marketing & Communications
905-735-2211, ext. 7567 (Office)
905-650-7820 (Cell)


John Peller – June 9 at 2 p.m.

John Peller is President and CEO of Andrew Peller Limited (formerly Andrés), a leading producer and marketer of quality wines in Canada.

After studying law at the University of Western Ontario, he began his career in 1980, practicing corporate and commercial law with the law firm Evans/Husband in Hamilton, Ontario.

Throughout the 1980s, John spent time in France, working with DeLuze, the wine subsidiary of Remy Martin, and in New Jersey working with Nabisco Brands Inc. In 1989, he joined Andrés as Vice President, Sales and Marketing Planning. He was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer in 1992, and President and Chief Executive Officer in 1993.

He is very active in his community and industry, and is past Chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Director and Chair of the Niagara Wine Auction Foundation, Director and Vice Chair of the Canadian Vintners Association, Director of RBC Life Insurance Company of Royal Bank of Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Wine Council of Ontario, the Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network, and Member of the Presidents’ Organization, the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers and the Law Society of Upper Canada.

In addition to the University of Western Ontario, he studied at Osgoode Hall and L’institute de Touraine, Tours, France.

Tom Rankin – June 9 at 7 p.m.

Tom Rankin is Owner and President of Rankin Construction, a company he co-founded as Stephens & Rankin Construction in 1978. The company, which later became Rankin Construction, has a core business of roads, bridges, municipal and seaway projects, and has grown to become one of the most innovative and successful firms in Niagara.

Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and raised in Timmins and Nova Scotia, Rankin received a three-year Engineering Diploma from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering from Nova Scotia Technical College, which is now part of Dalhousie University.

After graduation, Tom worked for Inco in Sudbury, before working as a government and municipal engineer for 12 years. In 1975 he joined D. L. Stephens Contracting, which soon became Stephens and Rankin. Tom also founded a renewable energy company 10 years ago.

Tom is very active in the community, through the Rankin Cancer Run, which raises funds for Niagara’s cancer care services. Rankin Construction also contributes to Hospice Niagara, Goodwill Niagara and Family and Children Services. The company provided title sponsorship for one of four ice rinks at the Seymour Hannah Four Pad Arena in St. Catharines, and completed major pledges for Niagara College, Brock University and the St. Catharines General Hospital.

In 2008, the Thorold Chamber of Commerce awarded Rankin Construction with the Builder Hall of Fame Award.

Farley Flex – June 10 at 10 a.m.

Farley Flex is best known as a judge on Canadian Idol. He was also the manager of Canada’s most successful rapper Maestro Fresh-Wes. He is currently President and CEO of Plasma Management & Productions Inc., a music supervisor for film and television and a radio host.

Flex was the founding music director and former Vice President of Business Development, at FLOW 93.5, Canada’s first Urban and first black-owned and operated radio station. Flex was named Media Personality of the Year and received the Special Achievement Award at the Canadian Urban Music Association Awards in 2006.

Flex has also gained recognition as a social activist, master mentor and humanitarian. He is the 2007 recipient of the Harry Jerome Award for Entertainment and Community Service and the 2005 recipient of the Bob Marley Community Role Model award. Flex has had two high school scholarships established in his name.

Flex has done extensive work motivating youth in First Nation’s and other marginalized communities. He is currently developing a youth social responsibility initiative and an online youth mentorship platform. Flex is also a partner in the Recess initiative, a social and organizational network platform, working in partnership with school boards and community organizations worldwide. This past Fall, he was announced as a National Ambassador to UNICEF, appointed to the Special Advisory Council to the League of Human Rights and awarded a second Bob Marley award for his work in education.

Denise Burke – June 10 at 2 p.m.

Born in Florida, Denise Burke quickly relocated to and grew up in Whitby, Ontario. She attended Wilfrid Laurier University, where she was captain of the ladies volleyball team, and earned a degree in Psychology and Phys Ed. It was at WLU where she met and married Bill Burke and moved to Toronto to work with Bill in his family’s printing business.

The printing industry gave Denise her first taste of surviving in a male dominated business, so she trained herself in all aspects of the company and ended her 24 year career by being the top salesperson, selling over $2 million per year for 10 consecutive years – all while raising two sons.

Denise and her husband sold their printing company, bought the Mississauga IceDogs, renamed the team and relocated to Niagara where she is currently President of the Niagara IceDogs, and the only female President in the entire Canadian Hockey League. Denise was named the Ontario Hockey League’s Executive of the year in 2007- 2008, Rex Stimers Sportsperson of the year in 2007, was selected as the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce’s Best New Business for 2007 and won St. Catharines Ad & Sales Club’s Business of the Year for 2007.

Denise prides herself on how quickly the IceDogs have become entrenched in the community, being actively involved in a variety of charitable organizations. The Burkes are proud to now call the Niagara Region home.

Ruedi Hafen – June 10 at 7 p.m.

As President, Operations Manager and Chief Pilot of Niagara Helicopters Limited in Niagara Falls, Canada, Rudolf (Ruedi) Hafen, originally of Switzerland, has strived for excellence or what he calls, “Doing it the Swiss way.”

Ruedi trained as an architect at HTL Engineering College, Brugg-Windisch and graduated in 1978 with a bachelor degree in Arts and Engineering. He decided early, however, that an indoor desk job was not for him and he began learning to become a helicopter pilot with Heliswiss.

To obtain the flying hours he would need to find employment in Switzerland, Ruedi travelled to Canada in 1981 and gained his Canadian helicopter pilot license at Pan Air Helicopters in 1982. Ruedi spent his next three years working for Pan Air and with two partners, he bought the Niagara Falls operation in 1985.

Along the way, Niagara Helicopters and Ruedi Hafen have gathered recognition for excellence. Ruedi has been honored with several designations, such as Optimist International’s Respect of Law Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service, the Niagara Regional Police and the Niagara Parks Police Corporate Citizen of the Year Award, Niagara Falls Tourism’s The Grand Misty for lifetime contribution to the Niagara Tourism Industry, and in 2006, he received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented by the Niagara Parks Commission.

From his “eye in the sky”, he has reported fires, chased criminals and rescued people trapped in the Niagara gorge. He has also worked with volunteer agencies, including Air Canada Dreams Take Flight, The Children’s Wish Foundation and various Community Living groups.

Ilana Landsberg-Lewis – June 11 at 2 p.m.

Ilana Landsberg-Lewis co-founded the Stephen Lewis Foundation with her father, Stephen Lewis, and has been its Executive Director since its inception in 2003.

Ilana is a labour and human rights lawyer and a passionate advocate for the rights of women. She spent eight years at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in New York, where she worked as the Agency’s Advisor on the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She went on to co-create a program to bring local activist women directly into the chambers of the U.N. to address the Committee for CEDAW, a tactic that proved so successful that it has been integrated into the official proceedings of that body.

Ilana was instrumental in bringing into existence and managing UNIFEM’s Trust Fund on Violence against Women, which funds grassroots women’s groups in developing countries, working on everything from FGM to the relationship between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.

In just six years, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has grown to include over 20 full-time staff and 50 volunteers and funded more than 300 projects in 15 sub-Saharan African countries.

Ilana is a recipient of the YWCA Toronto 2009 Women of Distinction Award for International Development.

Betty Ann Baker – June 11 at 7 p.m.

Betty Ann Baker’s success has come second to her desire to help meet the need for housing and employment among women with low incomes.

After graduating Niagara College with a Theatre Arts diploma, Betty started a volunteer theatre group at Welland’s All People’s United Church and was soon employed as the church’s community worker, involved in finding housing for women in need.

Betty Ann helped establish the region’s first housing co-operative, followed by Niagara Peninsula Housing Inc., a housing resource group for which she serves as Executive Director. She also spearheaded a number of employment-generation initiatives for low-income women, which led to the establishment of Niagara Presents in 1999, now a community business. As Managing Director, Betty Ann also serves as Board Chair to ensure that the company keeps its social goals as well as business goals. She also drove the creation of Niagara Women’s Enterprise Centre, a charity that delivers sector-based training to under-employed or unemployed women facing many barriers to employment throughout Niagara.

Betty Ann has received many honours, including being named one of Chatelaine magazine’s Women of the Year in 2000 and receiving the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Co-op Housing in 2002. In 2000, she received the Innovator in Community Economic Development Award from the Canadian Co-operative Association, and the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Business. In October, 2008, she received the Women in Business Award.

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