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Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates


Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates

Each year, Ontario presents awards in six categories to acknowledge the social and economic contribution college graduates make to the province and throughout the world. The awards were launched in 1992 to mark the 25th anniversary of the province's colleges. The Ontario government is pleased to partner with Colleges Ontario, which administers the awards.

Chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario's 24 colleges, nominees demonstrate outstanding career success related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their community.

The 2014 recipients of the Premier's Awards are:

Business - Mr. Peter van Stralen, Humber College; graduated in 1990

As CEO of Sunshine Brands, Peter van Stralen joined his brother's landscaping business after graduating from Humber College and developed two franchise brands, the Grounds Guys and the Sprinkler Guys.  In 2008, van Stralen negotiated a partnership with an organization in the U.S. that brought the Grounds Guys to the U.S. As a result of his leadership, the multimillion-dollar company has 180 locations across Canada and the U.S.

Community Services - Ms. Jessica Lynn Whitbread, George Brown College; graduated in 2009

As global director of the International Community of Women Living with HIV, Jessica Whitbread is managing the organization's transfer to Nairobi, Kenya. She is the youngest and first queer woman to be elected as the organization's chair and founded its first international chapter for young women, adolescents and girls. After being diagnosed with HIV at 21, Whitbread began doing advocacy work around sexual health and HIV. Last year, she published a book that contains personal letters from women living with HIV.

Creative Arts and Design - Mr. Tibor Madjar, Sheridan College; graduated in 1999

The founder and president of an e-commerce company, Tibor Madjar had a leadership role in developing 3D sculpting software used to create visual effects for Oscar-winning films, such as King Kong, Avatar and the Life of Pi. Last year, he received an Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement for developing the software that reduces the time and money it takes to produce complex visuals effects. The software has been adopted by the entertainment world and many industries where digital modelling is used.

Health Sciences - Captain Rebecca Patterson, Niagara College; graduated in 1987

A registered nurse, Rebecca Patterson is Commander of the Health Services Group with the Canadian Armed Forces in Edmonton where she leads military medical units from northern Ontario to British Columbia and the Arctic. During her 27-year nursing career, she oversaw the care of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who were injured during conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Croatia, Bosnia and Rwanda. She also served as National Senior Medical Planner for military combat operations in Afghanistan.


Technology - Dr. James Forbes, Sheridan College; graduated in 1971

As a Chief Design Engineer with National Steel Car Ltd., James Forbes is an award-winning expert in rail car design with 108 patents. During his 25-plus year career, he advanced the safety and productivity of railway freight cars used in North America. Forbes developed a car for CP Rail to carry highway trailers that reduced the time for loading and the risk of worker injuries. He also mentored more than a dozen engineers and teaches part time in Sheridan College's Mechanical Engineering program.

Recent Graduates -

Ms. Candice Ekonomakos, Humber College; graduated in 2012

Candice is a cook with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel restaurant in Toronto. While she impresses some of Toronto's most discerning pallets, she is also using her culinary skills to fight hunger and poverty in the city. Just two years after graduating, she launched Cooks with a Mission, a program that invites junior chefs and cooks to donate food, equipment and time to community kitchens. Ekonomakos also serves as the National Junior Representative for the Canadian Culinary Federation, and four months ago represented North American junior chefs at the World Association of Chefs Societies conference in Oslo, Norway.

Chief Georjann Morriseau, Confederation College; graduated in 2009

As chief of the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Georjann Morriseau is the second woman and the youngest person to be elected Chief, the community's highest position. A recent graduate of the Aboriginal Law and Advocacy program at Confederation College, she launched a network that helps First Nation communities across Ontario with governance, strategic planning and policy development. As chief, Morriseau has also worked towards building stronger partnerships with business and other First Nation communities.

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